On May 12, 2021 the National Organization for Women (NOW) tweeted this:
Trans women are women. They deserve equal opportunity, health care, a safe community & workplace, and they deserve to play sports. They have a right to have their identity respected without conforming to perceived sex and gender identity standards. We stand with you.
It would be an understatement to say that this started a firestorm—and it only took 280 characters or less. Twitter lit up.
I tweeted a few salty words aimed at NOW, but tempered my rage by tweeting, “Mark this day in history. When women turned against women in favor of ‘women’ with penises.” One transactivist commented on my tweet, saying I was being melodramatic. Melodramatic? One of the oldest and largest feminist organizations in the United States just made the bold claim that biological men, who identify as women, are now women.
Let me unpack their tweet, line-by-line.
First, they say trans women are women. No. Full stop. Trans women are biological males, even if they go through a total top and bottom genital mutilation surgery and take the wrong sex hormones. Cutting off your penis and your testicles, having breast implants attached to your chest, and taking massively high doses of estrogen will never change a man into a woman, just as sewing fins onto your body will never make you a dolphin. Ever.
Sex is immutable. It can’t be changed. If you’re part of a crime scene and leave blood evidence, your DNA evidence will be male, and the police will report that they’re looking for a man, not a trans woman. If you dress like a woman, put on lipstick, and call yourself Debbie, but have XY chromosomes, you’re a man. Biology doesn’t lie. When did science denial become a progressive value?
Secondly, NOW argues that trans women—and by extension, I imagine they would argue all trans people—deserve equal opportunity, health care, a safe community and workplace, and they deserve to play sports.
This is sloganeering ethics at its worst. Trans people already have the same exact access to the aforementioned rights as anyone else of their sex. Our laws protect trans-identified peoples’ access to health care, a safe community and workplace, and no one is working to prevent them from participating in sports.
But here’s the rub: What trans women want are special rights, giving them access to opposite sex spaces. They want to show up at an all-women’s health care facility and demand care for their biologically male body.
They want to present themselves as women and enter women’s prisons and women’s shelters—places that have been historically safe places for women who have suffered as victims of domestic violence and abuse.
They want to force their employers to allow them to use the women’s restrooms because they dress and present themselves as a woman. This is often very unsettling to the customers of a particular business.
For example, if you run a women’s health clinic and a trans woman applies to work as an assistant at the clinic, this may not be a hire you want to make. One can imagine that if you run a women’s health clinic, women might not feel comfortable being cared for by a biological male who presents himself as a female.
And certainly no one argues that trans people can’t play sports; they just need to compete alongside and against people who share their same sex. So biological males can play football against other biological males or run track with those who share their biology.
This is what is called fairness. Identities don’t play sports: bodies do. And male bodies are at a tremendous physical advantage over female bodies, one that isn’t neutralized with the addition of synthetic hormones.
Finally, NOW asserts that trans women have a right to have their identities respected without conforming to perceived sex and gender identity standards. At first blush, having your identity respected seems reasonable and fair in a pluralistic civil society. But again, the matter of conforming to standards is the point in which the rights that trans-identified people seek infringe upon the rights of non-trans-identified people, as outlined above.
What if the trans-identified person doesn’t want to conform to sex and gender standards? Standards mean that we acknowledge some sort of normative behavior by which we all agree to live by. Nudity is a good example of such a standard: I’m required to wear clothing when I go out in public, and if I tried to assert my right to dine in restaurants naked, that would mean others in the restaurant would need to respect my right.
When the validation of one person’s identity requires the complete erasure of the identities of everyone else, that’s not fairness or equality. But thanks to the trans movement, that’s exactly what’s happening.
Words like “mother” and “breastfeeding” and “woman” are being completely erased and replaced with dehumanizing language like “birthing person,” “chestfeeding,” and “uterus haver.” How is it fair to actual women to strip them of words for their own identities and lived experiences?
I have no idea what sort of public relations campaign NOW is embarking upon. At their founding, their reason for organizing was “to take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men.”
This seems undermined by their foolish and unscientific notion that men can ever be women. It’s a massive failure for NOW, an organization that’s supposed to exist to defend women. You can’t defend what you refuse to properly define.
- Jennifer Lahl, MA, BSN, RN, is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.