The acceptance of non-binary and fluid gender identity recently took major steps forward in California and Oregon. For some, the progress is glacial. For others, it’s sex run amok.
I live in Massachusetts, the first U.S. state to recognize marriage equality. That was May of 2004. It took eleven years for the recognition to spread across the country. If you consider that the gay rights movement got its official start in June of 1969 with the Stonewall riots, it took 46 years just to get this far (and there’s a long way to go).
Most polls show that while only one-third of citizens agreed (at the time) with the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) 1967 decision invalidating existing laws prohibiting interracial marriage, two-thirds agreed with the 2015 decision (Obergefell v. Hodges) invalidating state marriage laws stipulating gender requirements.
Why this huge difference? Why wasn’t there a case for marriage equality heard by SCOTUS long before popular opinion was so strong? My guess: SEX.
California just passed SB179, the Gender Recognition Act, giving every state resident the right to change their legal documents to match their internal identity in terms of name and gender. Oregon let residents choose their gender on drivers’ licenses in June. In both states, the designation options are F, M, and X.
X? Really? X is the traditional mark for people who can’t sign their own names. I’ll let non-binary people weigh in on what they think of that; meanwhile, I’ll accept the progress. And New York might soon follow suit.
And here comes the push-back.
Whatever the issue, when one side makes progress, the other pushes back harder. So I’m seeing things like this, from an article posted on The Hill:
“This new law calls transsexuality good, when science, health, logic and love inform us it’s bad,” said Randy Thomasson, who heads the conservative group SaveCalifornia.com. “Science and God’s word agree you’re either male or female, not in-between.”
Let’s take this rant one error at a time.
1. The law doesn’t say anything is good, bad, or indifferent. All it says is, “You know who you are better than anyone else.” And while the law says nothing about transgender, that is the hook Thomasson hung his argument on, so let’s continue.
2. Whether someone is “transsexual” is not indicated by identifying with gender X; medical science tells us that a transsexual person has had surgery and/or hormone therapy, and by no means have all transgender individuals taken these steps. Let’s assume Thomasson meant “transgender.” But even so, the X might indicate gender queer, or gender fluid, or someone who doesn’t identify with a gender at all, none of which is the same as transgender.
3. Far from labelling trans individuals “bad,” science is beginning to understand and validate the transgender issue better all the time. One major breakthrough was seeing that a trans woman (born with a male appearance but identifying as female) has a brain structure closer to that of a woman than of a man.
4. Thomasson is right about the health issue. Here’s how we know:
- One in four trans individuals have been physically assaulted
- As of May 2016, nine trans individuals in the U.S. had been murdered
- 41% of trans individuals have attempted suicide
5. Thomasson loses on the logic issue, however. In addition to points 1-3 above, he's also contributing to the problem in point 4.
6. Love. Well, Thomasson is showing us what a lack of that looks like. But even his god wouldn’t give him the right to decide where love is and is not. And while we’re talking about his god, does he think that god makes mistakes? If no, then the trans brain structure is not a mistake. If yes, then—well, why does Thomasson worship that god? And why should the rest of us take that erroneous deity seriously?
One thing fundamentalist religions have in common is a morbid interest in other people’s sex lives. The more strenuously someone protests against LGBTQ+ rights progress, the deeper into the gutter their mind is likely to be. And the more someone protests that they aren’t obsessed with some else’s sex life, the more they sound like Hamlet’s mother: “…[thou] dost protest too much, methinks.”
So will it take eleven years for non-binary individuals to be recognized across the country as existing on the face of the plant? Or will it take 46? Or will it take….