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On Inauguration Day, hours after President Joe Biden’s calls for unity and promise to represent all Americans, platitudes gave way to policies. In 880 words, Biden mandated a government definition of gender discrimination and equality that guaranteed biological men access to women’s social spaces.
Biden’s executive order, “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation,” claims to ensure equality before the law. Instead, it turns gender ideology into law. Citing Bostock v. Clayton County, the Supreme Court ruling that added gender identity to the category of sex discrimination, the order establishes access to one’s choice of sex-specific space as a civil right.
Between declaring every person equal before the law and worthy of dignity and respect—affirmations with which we should all agree—the executive order condemns denying children “access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”
If you’re wondering what kind of repressive, cruel middle-school administrator prohibits a gender dysphoric 12-year-old from all restrooms, locker rooms, and school sports, you’re not alone. One can hardly imagine such an action would escape public notice without a lawsuit and an opening segment on the evening news.
But the executive order leaves out three words that would help clarify what makes it such a sweeping social edict: Biden wants transgender children to enter the restroom of their preference, enter the locker room of their preference, and join the sports team of their preference.
Under this order, a biological male has a right to compete against females in high-school sports, use the women’s locker room, and use the women’s restroom. His biology does not prevent him from entering the social spaces of his preference. In fact, to insist otherwise and deny him access to a woman’s social space is tantamount to denying him the right to use any social space.
We shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose. During his presidential candidacy, Biden pledged to make gender identity issues a priority in his administration. He stated his intent to sign the Equality Act into law within his first 100 days in office. In an October 2020 town hall, he voiced his support for children to identify as transgender, an affirmation that increasingly entails support for puberty blockers, fertility-altering hormone therapies, and irreversible surgical procedures. Among his appointees is a transgender doctor as assistant secretary of health.
But Biden’s order doesn’t just express a political philosophy. It expresses a moral one. The prevailing moral order grounds right and wrong in sentiment and feeling. As Carl Trueman describes in his intellectual history of modern culture, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, preferences have become the equivalent of truth claims, imbued with a “transcendent, objective authority.”
Imposing on a person’s preferences with an appeal to external objectivity—such as the biological differences between male and female—is a cardinal sin. Express your dissent for policies like Biden’s, and you have denied, perhaps even done “violence” to, a person’s right to authentic self-expression.
Following Jan. 20, respect for transgender persons requires nothing less than dismissing biological differences and suspending their importance for human identity. “Equality” means expecting biological females to check their privilege and consenting to a social concept of “woman” that is, ironically, defined by biological men.
In Modern Law Review, a U.K. academic journal, Alessandra Asteriti and Rebecca Bull argue that “gender self-declaration” harms women’s rights. Recognizing a woman’s “bodily integrity and autonomy” requires that she have the liberty to “choose to exclude a male (regardless of gender identity) from female-only spaces” like bathrooms, locker rooms, rape refuges, prisons, and areas providing gynecological care. A female should be free to “withhold consent” to share intimate spaces with individuals she perceives to be male.
On his first day as president, Joe Biden stripped American women and girls of the right to maintain “respect and dignity” and “be able to live without fear.” A teenage girl who objects to changing her clothes in front of a teenage boy will risk being labeled “transphobic.” Male track-and-field contestants will elbow female athletes out of awards and scholarships. A biological male can force a biological female to the ground in a wrestling match to the applause of a crowd.
If headlines are harbingers, it only gets worse: In Illinois, a female prisoner last year alleged she was raped by a male cellmate who, because he identified as a woman, had been sent to a women’s correctional center.
Advocates of the new transgender policies will likely dismiss such cases as anomalies and disdain those who reference them as scaremongers. But they are happening. And the voices of women and girls will be silenced in the name of gender equality.
—Katie McCoy serves as assistant professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas.