Transgender activists have traditionally said that gender is defined not by biological or physical traits but by how a person identifies. But on Monday, the LGBT editor of Think Progress offered several new criteria, including hair length, arm hair, and whether a person is wearing a man’s or woman’s watch.
In a Twitter exchange with me, Zack Ford said some astonishing things that absolutely undermine the key claims of transgender activists. Last week, I wrote an article arguing that if states or cities are going to compel businesses to allow transgendered people into gender-specific bathrooms and locker rooms, a definition of transgender is needed. If business owners are going to be punished for refusing bathroom or locker room access to a trans person, they have to know who is and who is not actually trans.
When a woman sees a suspicious “man in a dress” in her locker room, she needs to know when making a complaint is legitimate and when it is bigotry. Thus far, no reasonable definition has emerged. Since he’s the LGBT editor for Think Progress, one would assume Ford is somewhat expert in the area. Monday morning, however, he tweeted at me to ask what the significance of the image at the top of my piece was.
The Mount Holyoke comment is a reference to a section of my piece dealing with women’s colleges. As it turns out, most women’s colleges admit trans women. But these colleges have very different ways of determining who is a woman for purposes of applying to or attending their institutions. This is further evidence that no reasonable definition of “transgender” exists.
This is when things started to get a little strange.
I was actually kind of stunned that Ford would make such a proclamation about this person’s gender. It literally runs counter to almost everything I have read of his on this issue. The idea that he could tell this person’s real gender by looking at one photo is entirely inconsistent with his, and trans advocates’ previous statements on the issue. But then Ford doubled down!
WHAT? Setting aside the bizarre idea that “wearing a man’s watch” defines a person’s gender, the focus on hair is also very weird. Of course there are trans women with facial hair, especially among those who do not choose hormone treatments. Ford, whether he knows it or not, is misgendering thousands of people who have to shave in order to present as a woman, not to mention trans women who choose to wear facial hair.
Or, as one Twitter user put it:
On some level all of this is rather funny. But it reinforces the point of my original article. Trans access laws demand that businesses allow trans women into women’s locker rooms but do not define who is and is not trans. Is Ford suggesting that a gym owner can legally exclude a trans woman from a locker room because he has short hair and a man’s watch? All kinds of women, trans and otherwise, have short hair and wear men’s watches.
If the LGBT editor at Think Progress can’t manage to come up with a reasonable definition of who is and is not transgendered, then how is a gym manager supposed to do it? Or a police officer responding to complaints from women? Ford’s certainty that the person in the image is not a transgender woman is laughable. The idea that he can look at someone and on that basis determine his or her gender is literally the opposite of what he has been saying for years.
The simple fact is that Ford and his allies in the fight for transgender access to bathrooms and locker rooms do not have the slightest idea who is and who is not trans. They never have. This has always been sophistry. This has always been an attempt to legitimize a delusion. This has always been an effort to pigeonhole men and women into gender stereotypes. Today, inadvertently, Ford proved it.
So, just to recap. Things that make you a man: Facial hair. Short hair. Arm hair. A man’s watch. Things that don’t make you a man: Having a penis. — Zack Ford