July 9, 1978, Washington, DC: Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment march. L-R: Gloria Steinem, Dick Gregory, Betty Friedan; Reps. Elizabeth Holtzman, Barbara Mikulski, and Margaret Heckler.
AP Photo/Dennis Cook
John M. Grondelski writes: ERA: A Sex or Gender Amendment? Grondelski is a smart enough guy. He has a PhD from Fordham and was once associate dean of the School of Theology at Seton Hall University.
But this essay is not about the constitutional technicalities raised by the ERA. My question is more fundamental. What is the ERA about? Is it about “sex” or “gender”?
We Jews are particularly fond of answering a question with a question. It can be frustrating, even infuriating; I know. Nevertheless, suppose that it is about sex and gender. So what? Later on, Grondelski explains:
These questions apply to all Americans. But they have a particular cogency for Catholics, because what is at stake is arguably our Genesis heritage. Will Genesis 1:27—“male and female He created them”—continue to be a principle relevant to the formation of Western culture and its legal norms, or will it be relegated to some quaint, private, and “discriminatory” religious doctrine, deserving begrudged acknowledgement on the part of the deplorables that cling to it while increasingly being ruled out of order in the naked public square?
It is a familiar argument form. One that National Organization for Marriage used in its failed attempt to thwart marriage equality. Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. used it in his 2013 dissent in United States v. Windsor. Alito wrote something to the effect that he opposed same-sex marriage because then those who believe in traditional marriage would be judged “bigots or superstitious fools.”
It was a terrible argument then and it is a terrible argument now. It is partially derived from the false, self-centered notion that LGBT people seek or require the approval of others. It is an anti-gay meme that has stuck around and been re-tooled. In its current form, no one gives a ratsass whether or not someone approves of transgender people. Trans people do not ask cisgender people for their approval.
However, disapproval should not be grounds for disparate treatment. It is for that idiotic baker and his hate group lawyers because they have arrogantly concluded that service equates to approval, something they are determined to withhold.
But let’s back up for a moment. How did we get here? Some of my trans friends think that the percentage is higher but there is some consensus that transgender folks account for about 0.3% of the population. Presumably, a smaller percentage of the workforce. It does seem higher than that.
The reason that is seems higher is a change in the way psychiatrists treat gender dysphoria. A dozen years ago the shrinks tried to prevent children from transitioning. That has changed because early transition makes for more stable kids who can function at a level comparable to their cisgender peers.
I suppose that I have to interrupt my stream with an explanation of desistance rates. I will be brief. A high percentage of children who do not feel that it is necessary to transition (because their discomfort is mild) will grow out of gender dysphoria. However, when the severity of the condition is such that kids feel inexorably determined to transition, when they are acutely suffering, the desistance rates are negligible. There are ridiculous counter-arguments like “plasticity” but those are simply in defense of the faith and not supported by medical science.
Getting back to the narrative, we do have more transgender children; kids who do not wait for adulthood to obtain relief through transitioning but not more transgender people in total. This change in age demographics prompted the Obama administration to protect transgender and gender nonconforming children in public schools. That, in turn, led to an outcry from conservative Christians: “The sky is falling.” “Earth is spinning off its axis.”
Bathrooms are just a device to oppose the accommodation of transgender people without invoking religion. The truth is that the consternation of those conservative Christians is, as John M. Grondelski explains, due to a verse in Genesis.
So it seems that there are more transgender people because religious zealots have made it an issue. They cannot stop writing about it and talking about it. The truth is that the percentage of trans people in the workforce is minuscule.
Which brings me to my next rhetorical question. Why should someone’s gender conformity matter in, say, workplace equality? These folks are making an argument in the abstract. As a former CEO I can tell you that I would hire a Martian if he or she could do the best job.
Elevator assets are really the key to business success. Even at times when unemployment rates are high, finding real talent is a challenge often requiring companies to relocate people and then bear high assimilation expenses. To widen the scope, I used to hire people that others were unable to manage. The last thing I needed were sycophants.
The bottom line is that disapproval should not require anyone to discriminate in housing, employment or public accommodations. So the truth is that, should the ERA ever be ratified, I would hope that it would cover gender.
The awful truth is that, courtesy of Mr. Putin and people who were too lazy to vote in 2016, we have a douchebag for a president who has been able to put two religious conservatives on the Supreme Court. He has also packed the lower courts with ideologues. Donald Trump’s judicial legacy will last for decades even if he is impeached or sent to prison.
Sadly, I don’t think that Mr. Grondelski has much to worry about.