Anatomy Does Not Determine Gender, Experts Say

From The New York Times:

By Denise Grady
Oct. 22, 2018

Defining gender as a condition determined strictly by a person’s genitals is based on a notion that doctors and scientists abandoned long ago as oversimplified and often medically meaningless.

Researchers who have studied gender issues and provided health care to people who do not fit the typical M/F pigeonholes said that the Trump administration’s latest plan to define gender goes beyond the limits of scientific knowledge.

“The idea that a person’s sex is determined by their anatomy at birth is not true, and we’ve known that it’s not true for decades,” said Dr. Joshua D. Safer, an endocrinologist and executive director of the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery at Mount Sinai Health System in New York. He is also president of the United States Professional Association of Transgender Health.

But exactly what does determine gender identity — a person’s powerful, core knowledge of who they are — is not so clear.

“We know that there is a significant, durable biological underpinning to gender identity,” Dr. Safer said. “What we don’t know are all of the biological factors at play that explain gender identity. As far as we in the mainstream biological-medical community understand it in 2018, it is hard-wired, it is biological, it is not entirely hormonal, and we do not have identified genes, so we cannot specifically say it is genetic.”

Genetics does play a role, though. In studies of twins, if one is transgender, the other is far more likely to also be transgender if they are identical, rather than fraternal twins. Identical twins are near matches, genetically; fraternal ones are not. The findings are similar for twins who have Type 1 diabetes, which is known to have a strong genetic component.

The Trump administration’s proposal, outlined in a memo by the Health and Human Services Department, would establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance. The change would eliminate protections afforded transgender people under the Obama administration.

The agency’s proposed definition would be determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The New York Times. Whatever is on the birth certificate defines gender, “unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence,” according to the memo.

But what would constitute reliable evidence?

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The Trump Administration Is Trying to Erase Trans People, but the Law Clearly Protects Them

From The ACLU:

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project
October 22, 2018

Over the weekend, The New York Times revealed that officials within the Trump administration are pushing for a definition of the term “sex” in federal civil rights laws that would eliminate non-discrimination protections for transgender people. Transgender people and their families understandably panicked at that news.

The reality, though, is that transgender people are already protected from discrimination in many contexts under federal law. And we are already fighting in court alongside transgender plaintiffs to keep those protections from being taken away.

Federal civil rights laws bar sex discrimination by employers, schools, landlords, and health care providers, through laws such as Title VII, Title IX, and the Affordable Care Act. Federal courts have consistently ruled that the protection against sex discrimination covers discrimination against transgender people, in contexts ranging from employment to education to access to health care. Recognizing that anti-trans discrimination is a form of sex discrimination makes sense, given that you can’t describe what it means to be transgender without talking about the person’s sex.

The idea that bans on sex discrimination cover transgender people is not new and it’s not something the Obama administration made up. State courts have ruled this way going back to the 1970s, and federal courts have done so since the 1990s. Today, many federal appeals courts agree that trans people are protected from discrimination under statutes barring sex discrimination, and a wide range of federal agencies has issued rulings or regulations protecting transgender people through bans on sex discrimination. That includes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Labor.

The Trump administration is trying hard to take away these existing protections and make anti-trans discrimination legal in every context it can find. They are arguing in court that civil rights laws don’t cover transgender people and they have revoked administrative guidance that used to make clear to schools and prisons that transgender people are protected under current law. They have also made clear they will propose new regulations that would leave transgender people without recourse under federal law for discrimination they face in many contexts.

If successful, Trump’s actions would harm millions of people all across America.

Aimee Stephens, whom the ACLU represents, is one of them. She worked as a funeral director and embalmer for six years at a funeral home in Detroit. Aimee knew she was a girl from an early age. When she came out to her boss and co-workers as the woman she is, her boss fired her for being transgender. Aimee and her wife, Donna, have had to sell off their possessions just to stay afloat. This spring, a federal appeals court ruled that what happened to Aimee was not only wrong, it was unlawful sex discrimination. The funeral home has asked the Supreme Court to reverse the case and leave Aimee with no job and no remedy for the discrimination she experienced.

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice will file a brief in the case about whether it believes the federal appeals court was right to rule for Aimee. Its position won’t be a surprise: Attorney General Sessions issued a memorandum in September 2017 declaring that the very federal law Aimee sued under — Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — doesn’t protect transgender people from discrimination.

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Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes has been using the same anti-gay slur hurled in the NYC attack for at least 15 years

From The Southern Poverty Law Center:

Nick R. Martin
October 19, 2018

Back in 2011, Gavin McInnes, the writer and talk show host who would later found the Proud Boys, published his thoughts about anti-gay and racial slurs on the paleoconservative website Taki’s Magazine.

The essay, titled “I’m Not a Racist, Sexist, or a Homophobe, You Nigger Slut Faggot,” laid out a justification for using hateful words and phrases. His argument was essentially that they were simply “swear words” and that no one should assume what he means by using them.

From his essay (capitalizations his):

Using words such as “faggot,” “nigger,” and “slut” are obviously all about context. They are swear words. To go up to an old black guy and yell NIGGER in his face is exactly like going up to an old white lady and yelling CUNT in her face. It is not racist, sexist, or homophobic to swear. It’s just very rude.

What is more than rude, however, is to insist you know my motive for swearing. To police language based on thought is to police thoughts. It’s nobody’s business what our motives are.

In recent days, McInnes has been using a similar argument in response to videos that showed members of the Proud Boys viciously attacking people on the streets of New York City following a talk he gave Oct. 12 at the Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan.

In one video, a member of McInnes’ group could be heard screaming the word “faggot” as he repeatedly kicked a person curled up on the sidewalk. According to McInnes, the attack began after the victims, who he has claimed were antifascist activists, allegedly stole a “Make America Great Again” cap from a member of the Proud Boys.

“The antifa kid they beat up was in tears,” McInnes said with a chuckle during the opening minutes of his “Get Off My Lawn” podcast a day after the attack. “He was crying. Now, while this person’s crying, I’m sorry, but ‘faggot’ is a handy term.”

The Proud Boys have been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for their bigoted rhetoric disparaging women, Muslims and other groups, so such vulgarity is hardly out of character. But in an interview with Newsmax just two days later, McInnes toned it down.

“He didn’t mean it like it was some sort of homosexual attack,” McInnes said. He censored himself from repeating the word itself during the interview, using the phrase “F-word” in its place: “When someone’s adrenaline is pumping, he’s going to say, ‘Are you brave now, f-word?’”

The tactic is classic McInnes. Over the years, he has fancied himself as something of a hipster conservative. He often casts bigotry and slurs as some form of taboo-bending hijinks rather than as worn-out and stale ideas about gender, sexuality, race, religion and equality. Instead of the aging punk he makes himself out to be, his ideologies are more in line with the status quo in which straight white men reign. He’s obedient to power, not a rebel against it.

That dynamic goes a long way to explaining his frequent use of anti-gay slurs. For at least 15 years, dating back to his time as co-founder of VICE Media, McInnes has used the word in numerous essays in social media posts. He often portrays it as a term that doesn’t carry any inherent bigotry — even describing himself in one essay as “a complete fucking fag” for the emotions he felt being a dad. But even in that self-deprecating way, McInnes has routinely used the word as a synonym for weak or unmasculine. It’s a term of contempt. At times he has outright described gay men as “faggots.”

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Conservative Christian group tells members to ‘pray for the right’ to harm LGBTI children

From Gay Star News:

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council urged his followers to pray for conversion therapy to be legal and to vote for far-right politicians

20 October 2018

The Family Research Council, a designated hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is encouraging its members to ‘pray for their right’ to harm LGBTI children.

What happened?

A ‘Prayer of the Day’ email sent to members on Friday, 19 October. In the email, group leader Tony Perkins urged his followers to plead with God for ‘the right to harm LGBT children, and elect far-right Republicans.’

Praying for Conversion Therapy

Additionally, Perkins wants his supporters to pray for anti-gay conversion therapy to be allowed in most states. The practice of conversion therapy is incredibly harmful to LGBTI people, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Twelve states have banned the cruel practice so far.

‘Conversion therapy is not appropriate for dealing with sexual orientation or gender identities in children and youth,’ Judith M. Glassgold, APA’s associate executive director for public interest government relations, told Raw Story.

The ‘Prayer of the Day’

‘We must resist politicians who advocate for adults and/or children to be prohibited from seeking psychological and spiritual help when they suffer from unwanted same-sex attraction or gender confusion,’ Perkins wrote in the Prayer of the Day email. ‘Such are combatants on the front lines of the culture of death.’

‘We must support true advocates of the family who will boldly oppose every initiative across America that fosters sexual revolution, undermines God’s laws pertaining to marriage, and undermines parents’ authority to guide and educate their children according to their faith.’

‘God, as we draw near Election Day, please guide all Americans, but especially your people, to vote for men and women who will lead our cities, counties, states, and nation in a way that is pleasing to you and that will bring blessing to Your people, our nation, and all the nations,” Perkins continued.

‘May we be found worthy for you to raise up godly men and women who will honor you in public office. And to prevent those who will disregard you and your laws from gaining power in any level of government.’

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Back the Gender Recognition Act reform. It’s the feminist thing to do

From The Guardian UK:

Introducing self-identification has not led to problems in other countries. On this final day of consultation I urge feminists to support this progressive step

Fri 19 Oct 2018

Today (Friday 19, 2018) is the final day that anyone can fill in the consultation for the Gender Recognition Act. So let’s start with what the Gender Recognition Act actually is. If you want to change your gender in the UK, you need a gender recognition certificate. To obtain one, you need to have lived in your preferred gender for two years and get a diagnosis of gender dysphoria (ie be treated as mentally ill) from two different doctors.

Trans people and a growing number of experts have long argued that this process is needlessly distressing and longwinded. In fact, Amnesty International UK responded to the GRA consultation by pointing out that the process constitutes a violation of human rights. In June 2018 the World Health Organisation declassified gender dysphoria as a mental illness.

The GRA proposes replacing the current archaic system with a simpler process, whereby trans people can instead self-identify as their preferred gender. The GRA consultation will, in part, work out exactly how this should happen, but around the world where self-identification has been introduced there have been no reports of problems so far, and trans people say they are happier. Perhaps we will adopt the same process as Ireland, where a person changing their gender must sign a certificate in front of a lawyer and confirm that they understand the gender change is a serious undertaking that will last for the rest of their lives.

The GRA changes will have a negligible effect on British society, because most gender-segregated spaces already rely on self-identification. That’s why no one has ever demanded to verify your gender – whatever that might entail – before you use a public toilet. Trans people have been using toilets, accessing domestic violence facilities, playing sports, using changing rooms, and generally trying to get on with their lives for as long as they have existed (which is about as long as all people have existed). This won’t change any of that. But it does mean that if a trans person wants to get married, they don’t have to choose between getting diagnosed with a mental illness and having their day ruined by the registrar writing the wrong gender on their wedding certificate.

Supporting the updated Gender Recognition Act is a necessity for anyone who calls themselves a feminist, and in fact most feminists do support it. Trans people are more likely to experience domestic violence, sexual assault, self harm and mental health problems than cis people. Anything that can be done to remedy that should be supported in full by feminists, including making the process of changing gender easier and less humiliating. What’s more, if the problems trans people encounter sound familiar, it is because they are: cis women are also more likely to experience domestic violence, self harm, sexual assault and mental health problems.

Why? Because both trans people and cis women live in a patriarchal culture which privileges men by keeping rigid and outdated ideas about gender in place. Trans people and cis women have a shared interest in confronting patriarchal norms, and promoting a more fluid understanding of gender. The sooner we can do that, the happier, freer and safer both groups will be.

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Trump’s anti-trans proposal may increase prejudice. Here’s one way to combat it.

From Vox:

There’s one science-backed method to reduce anti-transgender prejudice. See for yourself how it works.

By Brian Resnick
Oct 22, 2018

Though they are often conflated by many Americans, and particularly Republicans, sex is not the same thing as gender.

Sex is determined by the biological configuration of chromosomes. Gender is our individual identity: one that can be fluid or fixed. Respecting and honoring this difference is key to respecting the rights of transgender people.

The Trump administration is hoping to erase these distinctions, via changing the Department of Health and Human service’s interpretation of Title IX. As the New York Times reported over the weekend, the administration “is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth,” and that “any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.”

But as Jack Turban, a resident physician in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital who researches gender identity, told me in an email, “There is no ‘scientific definition’ of gender. Things like anatomy and chromosomes just don’t cut it. The only way to know someone’s gender is to ask them.”

The administration’s insistence on using genitalia to define gender, he adds, also doesn’t make sense for people born with genitalia that are “not clearly defined as male or female.” It’s possible for some people to have XY sex chromosomes, but their bodies neither respond to testosterone nor develop into that of a typical male (known as androgen insensitivity).

So, the Trump administration’s proposal is not grounded in science, or reality. And if the government conflates sex with gender, it could mean that civil rights protections will no longer apply to the 1.4 million Americans who are trans, and that discrimination against them could increase.

They already experience a lot of prejudice: A 2017 NPR/Harvard poll found that 38 percent of transgender Americans have experience slurs, and 22 percent said they “have been told or felt they would be unwelcome in a neighborhood or building because they are transgender.” Transgender people are often targets for violence.

I don’t want to understate how painful the HHS policy changes would be. But there is some hope that the discrimination they face doesn’t have to go on forever.

It’s worth to revisit a small glimmer of hope from psychological research on changes in attitudes toward transgender people. These insights may not change the mind of the president. But they can help change the minds of our neighbors.

What it takes to reduce anti-trans prejudice

In 2016, the journal Science published a remarkable bit of insight: It’s possible to reduce prejudice and sway opinions on anti-transgender legislation with one 10-minute conversation. What’s more, the researchers found that the change of heart can last at least three months and is resistant to anti-transgender attack ads.

The study is titled ”Durably reducing transphobia: A field experiment on door-to-door canvassing,” and it was the first large-scale, real-world experimental effort that shows lasting opinion change is possible.

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The Anti-Trans Nuremberg Laws Are Upon Us

From The Forward:

By S. Bear Bergman
October 22, 2018

When I came out in 1990 as a fifteen-year-old queer (my gender-nonconforming nature required no announcement) and promptly started being public about it, my father sat me down for a talk.

My father, who attended a Hillel weekend in college that was surrounded by jeering anti-Semites from which he had to be snuck out a back door, whose own father never, ever spoke about his much-decorated service in World War II, sat me down and said: “If you do this, they will know about you forever. You will never be able to blend in and stay safe.”

I sat with that, for a moment.

It would have been characteristic of both fifteen-year-olds in general and me in particular to dismiss it out of hand. I took it seriously, though, after six summers at Camp Kinder Ring, sharing space with and being taught by Holocaust survivors, after seeing the versions of my family tree with the legend “all names in italics killed during the Shoah,” at the bottom.

“That’s okay,” I told my father in that food court, after an interval. “If we get to that point, you know I won’t be quiet anyway.”

He nodded quietly, as proud as he was resigned.

We are at the point.

The Trump regime’s memo, which purports to be a clarification of the definition of gender, is in fact a full-scale attack on the existence of transgender, nonbinary, and genderqueer people. It proposes that a person’s gender shall be based on their assigned sex at birth, and that no remedy but genetic testing shall be sufficient to change that assessment.

Besides the fact that the memo conflates sex and gender as one thing (they’re not) and appears to have no sense of how many chromosomal variations of sex there actually are (5 are fairly common, with at least 4 others known), it’s also written to create harm for any American who is transgender.

The memo is, at the base, mean.

The entire structure is designed to exclude anyone who is trans from legal protection or recourse against discrimination.

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