The Trump administration is moving forward with efforts to define gender on the basis of biological sex, reversing decisions under the Obama administration that essentially allowed individuals to choose their own sex for federal government purposes. A new memo from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services argues federal agencies need a definition of sex and gender that is defined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.”
The changes are to take place under Title IX section of a 1972 law that bars sex-based discrimination in federally funded education institutions, but could have far broader implications, in areas such as single sex settings and set aside programs.
Progressives are predictably outraged by the fact that the Trump administration will no longer allow pseudoscience to define the words “man” and “woman,” but this is a common-sense move that will help the government better protect women’s rights and avoid the confusion of trying to regulate the myriad genders that have been invented in the past several years.
It is important to understand that this change will in no way affect how trans people or anybody else choose to label themselves. Rather, it will allow the government to have an objective standard when implementing federal programs. Without such a standard, a haphazard set of rules exists as to who qualifies for legal protections under Title IX.
Frankly, this move has been a long time coming and is very obviously needed. Our government and governments around the world have been struggling to keep up with new definitions of gender that seem to pop up every day. In recent years many advocates of the idea that people can choose, or self identify, their gender have argued that its nobody’s business but the person making the choice. But this is patently false.
Questions were always bound to arise that would require the state to make a determination about a person’s sex. College athletics, where men who identify as women have unfair advantages, is one example; another is set-aside or quota programs. If government contracts require that a certain number of subcontractors on a project have to be women-run businesses, for example, then there needs to be a definition of “woman.”
Both of the above examples show how this move really does protect women. The set-aside programs are a particularly good example, as their entire point is to ensure that women, who supposedly face disadvantages in male-dominated fields, receive a leg up. It makes no sense at all that a 40- or 50-year-old man, who has enjoyed the benefits of his sex for his entire career, can decide he is a woman and receive the benefit of the set-aside at the expense of a firm helmed by a woman who is more likely to have experienced the circumstances the law aims to compensate for.
The fact of the matter is that while academics and activists have been running around willy nilly changing the definition of sex and inventing 72 (at least) new pronouns, none of this has been rooted in any kind of confirmable science. It is farcical to think that the state can somehow keep up with such changes or pursue policies regarding sex without a workable and consistent definition.
The move also means that those with the most radical views about the sexes will not be able to impose them on our society and laws. In effect, it will mean that this objective standard will replace a hodgepodge of rules, regulations, and definitions of gender as it pertains to the federal government.
What will not and should not change is individuals and non-government related institutions’ abilities to pursue whatever policies in regard to gender they choose to appear as. Nobody is being told that he can’t identify or accept the gender identity of a person however he wishes. Newspaper style guides will still be free to define gender however they wish, and obviously private individuals can make their own choices as well.
The simple fact is that there is no compelling scientific basis upon which to believe a person can change sexes. While many believe that one can do so, it’s just that: a belief. And many do not share that belief. Foisting this metaphysical assertion on all of the federal government’s actions in absence of any actual legal text to support it, as the Obama administration tried to do, was the wrong decision.
Some will call the Trump administration’s decision discriminatory or bigoted, but nothing could be farther from the truth. For government purposes, using the scientific, historical, and standard definition of sex and gender is the only sensible path, and the administration is right to follow it.