It can be said that 2015 was the year of transgender awareness. In June of 2015 former transgender activist Riki Wilchins announced, “We are at a social inflection point on transgender issues.” Collins English Dictionary listed “transgender” as the word of the year, and according to the Human Rights Campaign, “TV shows like Transparent and Sense8 and reality shows like I am Jazz, Becoming Us and I Am Cait have brought transgender people into living rooms across America.” Winning two Golden Globe Awards and five Emmy Awards, Transparent made history when Jeffrey Tambor became the first actor to win an Emmy for playing a transgender character, and Vogue reports, “After winning a SAG Award for being part of the Orange Is the New Black ensemble cast—as well as taking home a Daytime Creative Arts Emmy—[Laverne] Cox was immortalized as the first trans person to get a wax figure in Madame Tussauds wax museum.”
In the world of print media, Olympic icon, Bruce Jenner, graced the cover of Vanity Fair as Caitlyn Jenner in 2015. This was later named cover of the year by the American Society of Magazine Editors. Aydian Dowling, a 28-year-old trans man, was runner-up for the Men’s Health fitness cover competition. And a photospread of transgender model Andreja Pejic was featured in Vogue magazine’s article, “Has the Fashion Industry Reached a Transgender Turning Point?”
In April of 2015 the Human Rights Campaign reported that two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies offer explicit gender identity non-discrimination protections, and one-third offer transgender-inclusive health care benefits. In August of 2015 the White House appointed its first openly transgender staff member. According to the Washington Post:
Freedman-Gurspan “demonstrates the kind of leadership this administration champions,” Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, said in an e-mailed statement confirming the appointment. “Her commitment to bettering the lives of transgender Americans – particularly transgender people of color and those in poverty – reflects the values of this administration.”
The year 2015 was certainly a watershed year for transgender awareness. Similarly, the year 2016 is shaping up to be a watershed year for transgender rights. The Pentagon has announced plans to lift the ban on transgender soldiers in 2016, and within the first 10 weeks of the new year, the battle to define transgender rights, religious freedom, and personal privacy resulted in the introduction of nearly 200 legislative bills designed to protect religious organizations, businesses, and citizens from the demands of the LGBT community. Conversely, President Barack Obama’s administration has chosen to interpret laws preventing discrimination on the basis of sex to include all aspects of gender identity. Think Progress reports that on May 13, 2016:
the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a new rule regarding the implementation of nondiscrimination protections under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It guarantees that transgender people cannot be denied health care by professionals that receive federal funding, and also that it is discriminatory to refuse them access to transition-related services. … Notably, the rule does not include a blanket religious exemption for faith-based providers who would prefer not to provide such services because of their religious beliefs.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) on Monday vetoed a controversial religious liberties bill that had provoked outrage from Hollywood, sports leagues and corporations for what critics said was its discrimination against gay and transgender people. … Deal’s decision comes two weeks after the state legislature passed a bill aimed at shoring up the rights of religious organizations to refuse services that clash with their faith, particularly with regard to same-sex marriage. Deal, who had already expressed discomfort with the measure, came under enormous pressure to veto the bill after the National Football League suggested it might pass over Atlanta for future Super Bowls, and leading Hollywood figures threatened to pull production from the state.
On April 19, 2016 the Fourth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Evan Grimm, a Virginia transgender student who was born female but who desires to use the boys’ high school bathroom. According to the New York Times, “It is the first time that a federal appellate court has ruled that Title IX protects the rights of such students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.” However, this ruling stands in conflict with a North Carolina state law prohibiting cities from enacting non-discrimination policies that allow people to use the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity. This law also requires that students in the state’s schools use the bathroom and locker room that matches the gender on their birth certificate.
In response to the North Carolina law, PayPal and Deutsche Bank abandoned expansion plans in North Carolina, popular musicians cancelled performances, and the National Basketball Association threatened to move the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte if the law is not changed. Unlike Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal, North Carolina’s Governor Pat McCrory has refused to succumb to political and economic pressure. On May 5 the Department of Justice presented North Carolina with an ultimatum: Overturn the state law within three business days or lose billions of dollars in federal funding. According to the Obama administration’s interpretation of law, North Carolina’s state law violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which prohibits discrimination against workers on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion. In response the state’s university system announced its intention to defy the governor and state legislature, choosing to act “in compliance with federal law,” but the state chose to file a lawsuit, accusing the federal government of “baseless and blatant overreach” and calling the Justice Department’s position a “radical reinterpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.” The Department of Justice then counter-sued North Carolina. According to CNN, “The federal suit also says the state is in violation of Title IX, the Education Acts Amendment of 1972 that bans gender discrimination in education, and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act that outlaws discrimination on the basis of sex.”
What began as a state issue in North Carolina is now a national issue. The Obama administration is endeavoring to define the transgender community as a protected class. If the Department of Justice succeeds in forcing this interpretation of the Civil Rights Act, then every state in the nation will be required to open bathrooms and locker rooms to anyone who identifies with the gender of those facilities. Failure to comply will result in the withholding of federal funds, and there can be no exemptions for religious organizations. However, defining transgender individuals as a protected class would grant them far more than mere access to bathrooms and locker rooms. As a protected class Christian business owners and religious organizations would not be permitted to refuse to hire transgender individuals based upon their transgender lifestyle, refuse to officiate wedding ceremonies for transgender individuals, refuse health coverage for sex changes, and a host of additional issues that would compromise their religious and moral convictions.
In addition to the Obama administration’s intervention regarding transgender rights in the military, health care, and North Carolina’s state law, the Department of Education issued a “Dear Colleague Letter” on May 13, 2016 directing all public schools to allow students to use the bathroom and locker room that corresponds with their gender identity. The New York Times reports:
A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so,” according to the letter … A school’s obligation under federal law “to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex requires schools to provide transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections or concerns,” the letter states. … As soon as a child’s parent or legal guardian asserts a gender identity for the student that “differs from previous representations or records,” the letter says, the child is to be treated accordingly – without any requirement for a medical diagnosis or birth certificate to be produced. It says that schools may – but are not required to – provide other restroom and locker room options to students who seek “additional privacy” for whatever reason.
Clearly the transgender issue cannot be avoided, and it is not going away. There is no longer any merit to the common challenge, “How will the way a person chooses to present themselves, sexually, affect anyone else?” Or, as Siobhan Lynch phrased it, “Its [sic] not about you … Its [sic] about me. My experience, my reality, my body. How does it hurt for you to humor me, even if you don’t agree and your worldview is based upon a Judeo-Christian one that has erased the allowances for non-binary genders and sexes.”
Regardless of how personal a matter this may be for the transgender individual, it is no longer a private matter. It ceased to be a private matter when the transgender community began lobbying for special rights and privileges. Such requests transform this issue into a public matter, and it is unreasonable to expect that the public will not discuss, critique, debate, and at times oppose an issue and a movement which is seeking to alter such fundamental issues of society and government as the nature of sexual identity. As Carlos Flores notes in his article for the Witherspoon Institute:
LGBT activists are actively working to make it the case that the state and private businesses cover “gender-reassignment” surgeries, that men who identify as women be able to use women’s restrooms, that girls who identify as boys be able to play on male sports teams, that we consider it immoral to refer to infants as male or female lest we insidiously impose upon them a “gender” they might not identify with, that we ban therapy to treat gender dysphoria, and that we generally co-opt language and social norms to reflect pernicious falsehoods about the human body.
How a man’s identifying as a woman will personally affect me, you, or John Doe is irrelevant. What is relevant is whether we will make public policy and encourage social norms that reflect the truth about the human person and sexuality, or whether we will obfuscate the truth about such matters and sow the seeds of sexual confusion in future generations for years to come.
Be sure to read Timothy Zebell’s book Transitioning: A Biblical Understanding of Transgenderism.
1. Griggs, Brandon. “America’s Transgender Moment.” CNN, June 1, 2015, n.d. Last updated June 1, 2015, 3:06 p.m., ET. Accessed May 16, 2016. http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/23/living/transgender-moment-jenner-feat.
2. Williams, Joe. “Transgender Named as 2015 Word of the Year.” Pink News, November 2015. Accessed May 16, 2016. http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2015/11/05/transgender-named-as-2015-word-of-the-year.
3. Miller, Hayley. “Best of 2015: Transgender Visibility Continues to Break down Barriers.” Human Rights Campaign, December 9, 2015. Accessed May 16, 2016. http://www.hrc.org/blog/best-of-2015-transgender-visibility-continues-to-break-down-barriers.
4. Taylor, Trey. “Why 2015 Was the Year of Trans Visibility.” Vogue magazine, December 29, 2015. Accessed May 16, 2016. http://www.vogue.com/13383474/2015-year-of-trans-visibility.
5. Rich, Katey. “Transparent’s Emmy Wins Make Two Kinds of History.” Vanity Fair, September 20, 2015. Accessed May 16, 2015. http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/09/transparent-emmy-win.
6. Bissinger, Buzz. “Caitlyn Jenner: The Full Story.” Vanity Fair, July 2015. Accessed May 16, 2016. http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/06/caitlyn-jenner-bruce-cover-annie-leibovitz.
7. Bacardi, Francesca. “Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair Issue Named Cover of the Year.” E News, June 1, 2015, 9:17 a.m. Accessed May 16, 2016. http://www.eonline.com/news/661816/bruce-jenner-makes-public-debut-as-a-woman-on-the-cover-of-vanity-fair.
8. Taylor, “Why 2015 Was the Year of Trans Visibility.”
9. Gregory, Alice. “Has the Fashion Industry Reached a Transgender Turning Point?” Vogue, April 21, 2015. Accessed May 16, 2016. http://www.vogue.com/13253741/andreja-pejic-transgender-model.
10. Griggs, “America’s Transgender Moment.”
11. Halloran, Liz. “Survey Shows Striking Increase in Americans Who Know and Support Transgender People.” Human Rights Campaign, April 24, 2015. Accessed May 16, 2016. http://www.hrc.org/blog/survey-shows-striking-increase-in-americans-who-know-and-support-transgende.
12. Ohlheiser, Abby. “Meet the White House’s First Transgender Staffer.” News. Washington Post, August 18, 2015, 1:40 p.m, EDT. Accessed May 16, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/08/18/the-white-house-has-appointed-its-first-transgender-staffer.
13. Rosenberg, Matthew. “Pentagon Moves to Allow Transgender People to Serve Openly in the Military.” US. New York Times, July 13, 2015. Accessed May 16, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/14/us/pentagon-plan-would-let-transgender-people-serve-openly.html.
14. Griffin, Chad. “The Path Forward on LGBT Equality.” Medium Blog, March 24, 2016. Accessed May 16, 2016. https://medium.com/@ChadHGriffin/the-path-forward-on-lgbt-equality-407a73a1e755.
15. Ford, Zack. “Epic Week for Transgender Rights Expands with Health Care Protections.” Think Progress, May 13, 2016, 5:20 p.m. Accessed June 24, 2016. http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2016/05/13/3778308/transgender-health-rule.
16. Somashekhar, Sandhya. “Georgia Governor Vetoes Religious Freedom Bill Criticized as Anti-Gay.” News. Washington Post, March 28, 2016, 11:55 a.m., EDT. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/03/28/georgia-governor-to-veto-religious-freedom-bill-criticized-as-anti-gay.
17. Graham, David. “North Carolina Overturns LGBT-Discrimination Bans.” News. Atlantic, March 24, 2016. Accessed May 16, 2016. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/03/north-carolina-lgbt-discrimination-transgender-bathrooms/475125.
18. Berman, Mark, Sarah Larimer and Sari Horwitz. “North Carolina, Justice Dept. Filing Dueling Lawsuits over Transgender Rights.” News. Washington Post, May 9, 2016, 7:20 p.m., EDT. Accessed May 17, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/05/09/north-carolina-justice-dept-face-monday-deadline-for-bathroom-bill.
19. Sterling, Joe. “North Carolina, U.S., Square off over Transgender Rights.” CNN, n.d. Last updated May 10, 2016, 7:17 a.m., ET. Accessed May 17, 2016. http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/09/politics/north-carolina-hb2-justice-department-deadline.
20. Berman, “North Carolina, Justice Dept. Filing Dueling Lawsuits over Transgender Rights.”
21. Sterling, “North Carolina, U.S., Square off over Transgender Rights.”
23. Berman, “North Carolina, Justice Dept. Filing Dueling Lawsuits over Transgender Rights.”
24. Sterling, “North Carolina, U.S., Square off over Transgender Rights.”
26. Cassella, Megan. “U.S. Tells Schools to Give Transgender Students Bathroom Rights.” Politics. Reuters, May 12, 2016, 9:23 p.m. Accessed May 17, 2016. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-lgbt-idUSKCN0Y403J.
27. Hirschfeld, Julie and Matt Apuzzo. “U.S. Directs Public Schools to Allow Transgender Access to Restrooms.” Politics. New York Times, May 12, 2016. Accessed May 17, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/13/us/politics/obama-administration-to-issue-decree-on-transgender-access-to-school-restrooms.html.
28. Lynch, Siobhan. “Male vs Female: Social Construct or Biological Fact?” Good Men Project Blog, June 3, 2014. Accessed May 31, 2016. http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/malefemale-social-construct-biological-fact-hesaid.
29. Flores, Carlos. “The Absurdity of Transgenderism: A Stern but Necessary Critique.” Public Discourse, February 6, 2015. Accessed May 17, 2016. http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/02/14305.
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