The transgender issue is very much like immigration. On immigration, Republicans attempt to make hay by saying Democrats want open borders, with immigrants (and drugs) streaming over without control. While there are Democrats taking such a radical position, the party overall is not. The vast majority of Democrats recognize the need for immigration controls, and Biden’s policy has certainly not been for open borders. However it has been difficult for Democrats internally to agree on language describing what their immigration policy actually is, so Republicans continue to claim it is open borders. With Biden as President, though, Democrats can at least point out that the reality is certainly not that.
Transgender issues are similar in the following sense. Democrats have been strong and unified about the defending the rights of transgender people, since they are in fact discriminated against and even attacked today. However there is a bigger issue in how the Democrats view gender in society as a whole. And since Democrats have not clarified that point, Republicans have jumped on the most radical positions expressed.
For the sake of argument there are two poles. One way of thinking says that transgender people, like homosexual people, are born that way and need to be able to live as they see themselves without fear. This is a relatively small number of people, and the role of government is primarily to defend them. The more radical view is that gender is something anyone can choose, and that children from an early age must be brought up to understand that it is up to them to decide the gender they want–and up to parents to support that decision. Republicans make hay by claiming the second option is what Democrats will impose. From Marjorie Taylor Greene’s argument for sucession: “Red states would likely ban all gender lies and confusing theories, Drag Queen story times, and L.G.B.T.Q. indoctrinating teachers, and China’s money and influence in our education while blue states could have government-controlled gender transition schools.”
Again, since there are many opinions among the Democrats, it’s hard to state where the party stands. But as with immigration, Democrats are not proposing to turn society upside down–for one thing Democrats, unlike Republicans, support personal freedoms of choice. So there is a job to do. The reality is that transgender issues are simply not the bogeyman they have been made to seem. For that we need a real statement of policy, something like this:
- There are people who legitimately believe that their birth gender does not match the person they are. In other words there are people for whom a change of gender makes sense. There is no reason to forbid a person to change gender as medically possible, and certainly no excuse for discrimination against people who do this, and anyone who harms such a person on the basis of such discrimination should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
- It is not the role of government to either encourage or discourage such changes.
- People who make such changes should be allowed to live their lives as the sex they have chosen. That includes use of restrooms. Inappropriate behavior should be prosecuted just as it is today.
- However in some cases (such as sports teams) the gender distinction is a stand-in for a statistical difference in physical capabilities between men and women. That difference will persist after the sex change and is therefor legitimate to recognize after the change. The birth sex (e.g. as determined by chromosome count) can continue to be used where appropriate in such competitions.
This position will undoubtedly make a lot of people on both the left and the right unhappy, but I don’t see any other way to go.