Some states are trying to make sex binary. Transgender people have their existence denied

(John Hanna/Associated Press)

Some states are trying to make sex binary. Transgender people have their existence denied


February 28, 2024

Mack Allen, an 18-year-old high school student from Kansas, prepares for sideways glances, questioning looks and snide comments when he has to surrender his driver’s license, which still identifies him as female.

They come from a police officer who responded to a car accident. They come from an emergency room worker who loudly uses the wrong name and pronouns. They come from the people in the waiting room who overheard.

It just feels gross because I’ve worked so hard to get where I am in my transition, and I clearly don’t look or sound like a woman, said Allen, who has taken testosterone. for two years.

Kansas passed a law last year that ended legal recognition of transgender identities. The measure says there are only two genders, male and female, which is based on a person’s biological reproductive system at birth.

This law and others introduced across the country this year, often labeled as women’s rights bills, are part of an effort by conservatives who say states have a legitimate interest in restricting transgender people’s ability to participate to sports teams or to use bathrooms that suit them. gender identity.

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Critics argue that the proposals to legally define sex as binary essentially erase the existence of transgender and non-binary people by making it as difficult as possible for them to update documents, use facilities and generally act authentically to participate in public life.

They also create uncertainty for the many intersex people born with physical characteristics that do not fit typical definitions of male or female, while the measures are unclear about how people would prove they are exempt.

Some of the measures would remove the word gender, which refers to social identity and self-identity, from the state code and replace it with sex, which refers to biological characteristics, merging the two terms. Others make gender synonymous with sex. Medical experts say the efforts rely on an outdated idea of ​​gender, defining it as binary rather than a spectrum.

You pass a law because there is a problem. The medical community does not view people with different gender identities or being born with an intersex condition as a problem for society,” says Dr. Jack Drescher, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, who edited the US newspaper’s gender dysphoria section. Psychiatric

Associations Assn.’s

diagnostic manual. The medical community can only take a step back and say, what exactly are you trying to protect with this law?

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This year, measures have been proposed in at least 13 states — Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming — and advocates expect that number to increase. The bills follow a historic push for restrictions on transgender people, especially young people, by Republican lawmakers last year. At least 23 states have banned gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors, and some states are now shifting their focus to efforts to restrict that care for adults as well. Others have moved on from toilet and exercise restrictions.

Many political observers say the Republican focus on transgender people is an attempt to rally a voting base with a wedge issue “to replace abortion rights, which the public has largely favored, especially in Kansas.”


transgender people and their allies

so worry


the efforts are

further stigmatizing and threatening a community that is already at high risk for stress, depression and suicidal behavior.

With the latest bills defining male and female, it is clear that the intent is to make it as difficult as possible for transgender people to operate within a state,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal vice president of the Human Rights Campaign, a major LGBTQ+ rights organization. group.

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It is an attempt to deny the existence of transgender people, she said.

A similar proposal in Iowa, introduced by the Republican administration. Kim Reynolds led protests at the Capitol. The bill was introduced shortly after the failure of a legislative effort to remove gender identity from state civil law law. It would narrowly define male and female and require transgender people assigned gender at birth to have their gender identity listed on their birth certificate.

Women and men are not identical; “They possess unique biological differences,” Reynolds said after the measure was introduced. “That’s not controversial


his common sense.

The sponsor of a similar bill passed by the West Virginia House

and Senate

said the legislation is needed to allow restrictions on who can use toilets, changing rooms and changing areas for men and women.

It appears the measure is awaiting the governor’s signature on 3-9-24/rb

At no time are we able to protect spaces for men and women,


Kathie Hess Crouse, the measure’s sponsor, said. If we don’t have a definition, we can’t protect them.

Jocelyn Krueger of Grinnell, Iowa, joined demonstrators at the rally


Tatehouse days after telling lawmakers she opposed the failed effort to remove gender identity from civil rights law.

Krueger said she worries about the bill’s potential impact, as identifying documents unlocks basic participation in everyday life.

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She compared it to how she was temporarily unable to get money from her bank account when she was updating her documents. Krueger worries that Iowa’s bill could pose similar challenges for trans residents, but…

in the

long term.

If you don’t have access to documentation, or to things that bother you in some way, or where your documentation doesn’t match, you’re putting yourself at risk for all those day-to-day interactions where people are looking at your documentation, Krueger said.

The Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA Law, estimates that there are 1.3 million transgender adults in the United States.

United States

. But intersex people are believed to represent 1.7% of people, which would translate to more than 5 million in the US alone.

In Alabama, the legislation added language to the law defining men and women, namely that sex can be classified as unknown in state records if sex cannot be medically diagnosed for developmental or other reasons.


West Virginia


It specifically states that someone who is intersex is not considered a third gender. But the measure says people with a “medically verifiable diagnosis of it should be accommodated.

Before this year, Kansas and Montana, North Dakota and Tennessee had passed laws defining male and female in state code. Oklahoma, where advocates say a law restricting bathroom access helped create a climate that led to the bullying of non-binary teen Nex Benedict, who died after a fight in the girls’ bathroom at a school , has already imposed a measure by executive order, as has Nebraska.

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Before Tennessee’s law went into effect, advocates organized events to help people change their names and gender identity on government documents.

There’s a lot of potential for damage that could explode at any moment, says Dahron Johnson of the Tennessee Equality Project.

In South Carolina, changes to the state constitution have been proposed to precisely define male and female. But the measures face an uphill battle to clear the Legislature before the April 10 deadline for a vote on the matter.

Opponents say attempts to codify sex are likely to face lawsuits, just like other restrictions


such as youth medical care


to have.

We have already lost this case, said Idaho Rep. Ilana Rubel, a Democrat who voted against a definition bill passed by the state’s Republican-led House and predicted the state would be sued. This is really just an unfortunate gesture that makes people in our community feel unwanted and unloved by their government.

DeMillo reported from Little Rock, Ark. ansas. Associated Press journalists Nick Ingram in Leavenworth, Kansas, contributed to this report; Hannah Fingerhut in Des Moines, Iowa; Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho; Hannah Schoenbaum in Salt Lake City; and James Pollard in Columbia, SC, contributed to this report.


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