Let’s not let this story get buried under the garbage stream emanating from the White House.
The New York Times obtained a memo from the Department of Health and Human Services attempting to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance.
The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.
“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department proposed in the memo, which was drafted and has been circulating since last spring. “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”
So many things wrong. Let’s look at them one at a time.
Sex has to do with biology, gender with the social construction of one’s role. The quotes from the memo all relate to sex, although the reporter(s) seem to conflate gender with sex. So let’s focus on biological sex.
The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with
It’s possible that as many as 2% of babies have ambiguous genitalia.
Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.
There are difficulties there, too. In addition to the XX and XY chromosomes that the author(s) of the memo seem to be thinking of, people may have extra sex chromosomes, resulting in XXY and XYY combinations. Those triplets may be associated with ambiguous genitalia, or they may not.
Does this mean that all babies will have to be tested for their sex chromosomes? Will the proper sex be tattooed onto them for entry into the proper bathrooms? Or will there be a genital check before bathroom entry?
Science says that genitals may be ambiguous and we know that those additional sex chromosome combinations exist. That’s objective. So the proposed standard is neither “clear, grounded in science, objective, [nor] administrable.”
And that’s without considering gender dysphoria and the treatments that mitigate it.
Presumably the purpose of attempting to define sex once and for all at birth is to placate those who are uncomfortable with fluid gender identities. Or perhaps those writing the report themselves believe, or want to believe that sex and gender are that simple.
The Trumpies, of course, want transgender people out of the military. Vox lists a number of other actions they have taken. This is one more step toward making them nonpersons.
This article gives more of the biology and raises the question of whether we think the government should be keeping a genital registry.
It won’t hurt to write your congressional delegation about this now, but I suspect they’re distracted with the election.