Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Published last Monday in the Hampden-Sydney Tiger, Editor in Chief Wade Bredin’s piece “Transgender Lies Become Tyrannical” is an affront to both human decency and persuasive writing.
In the interest of time and productive public discourse, we ought to focus on the former: his denial of transgender validity, Bredin’s repetition of false claims (particularly regarding a seven year old in Texas), and his assumptions about the needs and wants of women.
Additionally, this column will seek to provide basic definitions and statistics (with citations) to provide a framework for those who may want more information.
The current accepted term for an individual who identifies as a gender different from their sex assigned at birth is transgender, which is sometimes abbreviated as trans or trans*.
Gender identity is who a person knows themself to be, while sex is the biological assignment based on factors such as DNA and genitals. Someone who identifies as the gender that correlates with their sex is cisgender.
Gender identities can be binary (man or woman) or non-binary (any other gender identity). Misgendering is referring to someone as a gender that is not theirs.
According to a 2014 study from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, around .06 percent of the population identifies as transgender. It should be noted that this may be lower than the reality, as LGBTQ people and transgender people specifically may not report themselves out of safety concerns and fear of social isolation.
Sex can be assigned as female, male, or intersex (referring to a person not being clearly identifiable as male or female, typically recognized by ambiguous genitalia).
The term transsexual is mostly outdated, although some older trans individuals who have medically transitioned still use it for themselves. The terms transvestite and tranny are also outdated-and the latter is considered a slur.
The Oxford Dictionary defines transphobia as a “dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people.”
Note that this isn’t just about fear as the “phobia” part may imply, but includes prejudices against transgender people, which brings me to Bredin’s op-ed.
Although he states in his first paragraph he does not fear trans people and that he has “known and interacted with a number of transgender people in my life and have never found it difficult to treat them with the respect and dignity that all human beings deserve,” he refers to transgenderism as a “delusion” in the next sentence. He’s simply wrong: transgenderism is not a delusion.
Scientific studies also disagree with Bredin’s thinking. According to a recent study with 2,600 participants by the European Network for the Investigation of Gender Incongruence, which studied mostly pre-operation transgender individuals who had only recently began hormone treatment, brain scans indicated that individuals identifying as transgender men were neurologically closer to cisgender (not trans) men than to women (transgender or cisgender).
Additionally, the study found that transwomen brains were more similar to ciswomen brains than to men’s.
Studies regarding transgender folks are ongoing. We don’t have nearly as much data as it would be nice to have about the (at least) 1.4 million transgender Americans, but the data we do have from the majority of completed, modern and non-discredited studies agree that transgenderism is real and not a delusion.
In other words: someone’s gender is not necessarily the same as their sex. In the words of the American Psychological Association: “Sex is assigned at birth, refers to one’s biological status as either male or female, and is associated primarily with physical attributes such as chromosomes, hormone prevalence, and external and internal anatomy. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for boys and men or girls and women.”
Bredin not only rejects the existence of transgender people, but refers to their acceptance as “tyrannical” and claims it is actively damaging to society. There are two cases he attempts to make within this assessment: that children are being physically transitioned at too young of an age and that the inclusion of transwomen is harmful to (cis)women.
The lynchpin of Bredin’s argument regarding children and what he declares the inciting incident for him to write his op-ed was the custody case of a seven year old in Texas.
The social media frenzy and recent outcry in conservative media outlets is that the seven year old in question, Luna (James) Younger was being chemically castrated and given hormones. This claim is objectively false and Bredin repeated it in his op-ed.
There is no evidence, aside from the claims of the child’s father, Jeffery Younger on his website that his ex-wife Anne Georgulas is attempting to arrange for the “chemical castration and sex-change of his son.”
According to the Associated Press, “Court filings show that Georgulas [Younger’s mother] proposed a parenting plan earlier this month that said the child isn’t at an age where treatment with hormonal suppression, puberty blockers or gender reassignment surgery would be considered. The mother also asked the court to not allow any such treatment without both parents’ consent.”
Those court records sound like the opposite of the mother fighting to castrate her male child. It sounds like she was explicitly acknowledging that the child was too young for physical alteration. There was no judge order for any surgery to be performed or for the child to receive any hormones.
Luna Younger’s father is in an unpleasant custody case, unemployed and using this case online for publicity and fundraising, all while having no evidence to back his claim that Georgulas was attempting to or advocating for physical alterations in the child in any way. The evidence we do have runs directly to the contrary.
Georgulas does allow the child to go by her chosen name and pronouns, Luna and she/her. She also allows Luna to dress and get haircuts that honor her gender identity. That’s not chemically or permanently altering the child (hair grows back).
The issue of Luna Younger (who Bredin also repeatedly misgenders) is that at the crux Bredin’s argument regarding why transgenderism is a problem, but the parts he’s using aren’t true. To be fair to Bredin, the falsehoods he’s repeated are very widespread on social media thanks to Jeffery Younger. However, he should of fact checked well before he built the foundations of his argument on it.
The other half of his transphobic argument is that allowing “men” (as he misgenders transwomen) to be in women’s spaces or represent themselves as women is damaging to (cis)women.
Bredin brings up “men” (transgender women) participating in sports with ciswomen as damaging to the latter. The integration of, boundaries regarding and dialogue around this issue are important and complex, but the case is not closed that it is inherently damaging to ciswomen athletes.
Furthermore, he asserts that women athletes are afraid to speak for themselves on this issue. They aren’t. A simple Google search will reveal that there are outspoken female athletes with a variety of opinions.
More amusingly he goes on about “men in skirts” in Congress and how that would be detrimental to women (somehow?). He questions “what victory it is for women, to have a man in a dress on a board and claim gender equality has been achieved” and wonders if “we fill half the seats in Congress with men in skirts, will women finally feel as if they are being heard?” He then goes on to claim that transgender “ideology” is damaging “a century’s worth of progress towards real gender equality in our society.”
I will agree with Bredin that it’s better to be an American woman in 2019 than 1919, but completely reject the rest of his assessment. Where is this transwoman proclaiming gender inequality is solved?
Trans folks know gender inequality isn’t solved. Some of the fiercest fighters for gender equality are transgender people.
Many women, myself included, do celebrate the inclusion of transwomen and consider it a part of the long march towards gender equality. Not everybody does, however.
A marginal (but loud) group referred to as Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERF) don’t, but most women see transwomen as a part of the path to equality, not an obstacle.
No one is claiming that trans acceptance is the be-all and end-all that will solve women’s issues, and if someone is claiming that, they are in the absolute minority.
Furthermore, women don’t generally care if congressional representatives wear skirts. If anything, men or “men wearing skirts" (transgender women) could be a show of solidarity to women, and they’d finally make skirts with pockets and standardized sizing.
If women are supposedly threatened by men in skirts in Congress, then are men equally threatened by women in pants in Congress?
In any case, the odds that half of Congress will ever be transwomen or "skirt-wearing men" of any sort is abysmally low for a variety of reasons.
Women, particularly those who are taking an active interest in furthering gender equality, don’t really care about the genitalia or the fashion choices of those advancing the cause of gender equality.
Not only does Bredin demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of transgenderism, the article indicates a disconnect from what women want from allies as well. We don’t care if men wear skirts.
Most feminists (TERFs notwithstanding) accept trans women as part of our fight. My fellow marginalized person isn’t the enemy and pretending they are only delays progress.
Women want to be supported, not used as excuses for bigotry.