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The false promises of the Equality Act

Will the Democrats confront the erosion of women’s rights at their LGBTQ town hall?

September 20, 2019

1:49 PM

20 September 2019

1:49 PM

Nine Democratic presidential candidates, including Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris, will attend ‘The Power of Pride’ — a LGBTQ-focused town hall organized by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation — in Los Angeles on October 10. While the event is being hailed a ‘historic first,’ as it will be the first LGBTQ-focused presidential event broadcast on a major news network, the event is unlikely to be anything more than a milquetoast repetition of the status quo.

In a statement, the HRC Foundation president, Alphonso David, said:

‘We are eager to hear from this field of Democratic presidential candidates about how they plan to win full federal equality, defend the fundamental equality of LGBTQ people, and protect the most vulnerable among us — both here in the United States and around the globe — from stigma, institutional inequality, discrimination, and violence.’

Statements like these imply a noble cause — surely we want people to live free from discrimination and violence. But, couched in progressive buzzwords, it’s difficult to ascertain the actual scope of this conversation.

Undoubtedly, candidates will address the Equality Act, which sounds like a great act. Who, after all, doesn’t like equality? To counter such a bill is surely comparable to opposing sunshine or cheese plates. But these days, words like ‘equality’, ‘inclusion’, and ‘diversity’ have been co-opted in order to replace genuine equality, inclusion, and diversity with a very narrow agenda, serving the interests of those who already are equal and included, and who aren’t really very ‘diverse’ at all.

Rather than ethnic, class, or cultural diversity (or, God forbid, diversity of thought and experience), what we are talking about nowadays, when using the term (or the similarly coded, ‘inclusivity’), is, primarily, men — and not men who are poor or working class, who are persecuted immigrants, or who have struggled against serious oppression, but men who have decided their personal preference for the stereotypically feminine amounts to marginalization. What was once an effort to adjust the dominance of the socially and financially privileged and represent the interests of those who face genuine obstacles in terms of surviving and thriving in society has turned into a movement to prop up those who already hold significant power in our society, and who wouldn’t know oppression if it hit them over the head with a pleather purse.

Rude, Meghan, you might be thinking or hissing at your friend, hoping to bond over your shared hatred of ideas you refuse to understand. But, in the words of the late, great Magdalen Berns, ‘I’d rather be rude than a fucking liar.’

The truth is that what began as an effort to protect the rights of gay and lesbian people — still persecuted in many parts of the world — has been taken over by people fighting to allow men to access women’s locker rooms.

Indeed, the Equality Act states, ‘The bill prohibits an individual from being denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.’

While the bill talks a good game, not only about protecting ‘LGBTQ’ people, but women, it simultaneously nullifies the entirety of women’s rights, by replacing instances of the term ‘sex’ in federal civil rights law with ‘sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity).’

I suspect many politicians and citizens alike genuinely wish to support trans identified people and believe the way to do this is by making ‘gender identity’ a protected category under the law, but the fact is that it isn’t possible to protect women’s rights — which are sex-based, meaning that they exist to protect those born female — and ‘gender identity’. This is because gender identity is not a material thing — meaning that it only exists in the mind of the beholder, and therefore through self-declaration. It is not something one is born with, but an ideological concept, unlike sex, which is something that cannot be changed through thought, prayer or surgery. While men should be free to reject gender stereotypes and to wear clothing that isn’t necessarily designated for their sex, they should not be free to access women’s rights (and spaces) so long as they claim to be female. Changing one’s clothes does not change one’s biology.

What is the purpose of having women’s rights at all if the term ‘woman’ itself is meaningless? If men can be women, regardless of their male bodies, we don’t need sex-based rights for females, we just need ‘human rights’ for all. Which are very good and all, but among humans, there are two types: men and women. And, historically, women and girls have faced particular discrimination, vulnerability, and violence, for no reason beyond the fact they were born female. As a result, employers are, for example, barred from firing a woman because she might become or does become pregnant. Women and girls have their own sports leagues and competitions, so they may compete on fair ground, rather than be forced to compete against men, who will inevitably be stronger and often faster than they, due to their male bodies. Women also have things like transition houses and shelters — places they can go for safety and protection from male violence. And, of course, we have separate changing rooms, so that girls and women aren’t forced to get naked in front of grown men, who may or may not be creeps. Or, we did, in any case…

The Equality Act ensures any man at all will have the right to access not only women’s changing rooms, anytime he likes, so long as he says he is a woman, but women’s sports teams, prisons and shelters. And women will have no recourse at all, as any complaint will amount to discrimination based on gender identity.

I couldn’t have possibly dreamed up a better way to roll back every gain women fought for over the past century. And the Democrats — the party meant to advocate social justice — are, apparently, on board.

If any of these candidates want a real chance at the presidency, they need to stop toeing the lines a majority of Americans have grown sick of. They have to stop playing it safe, start telling the truth, and take a stand. The right knows this, and I suspect the left does too, though they’ve yet to cop to it. Despite the lessons they should have learned last go-around, the Democratic party refuses to pull its head out of the sand in order to win the support of those they are meant to represent: not the elite, but the regular Americans.

One way to do this would be to recognize gender identity legislation for what it is: the biggest backlash against women’s rights we’ve seen in decades. If ‘The Power of Pride’ is really to be a historic event, someone needs to stand up against this attack on sex-based rights, free speech, and common sense. Will anyone at CNN be brave enough to pose the question?

Meghan Murphy is a writer in Vancouver, B.C. Her website is Feminist Current.


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