The Equality Act Hurts Women

Numerous members of Congress have been misled by good intentions into believing that treating gender identity as identical to biological sex is an advance in civil rights. This is false.

The unintended consequences of the "Equality Act" [1] could take away women's rights to ...

  • request female staff to provide medical services or security pat downs; 
  • to expect female-only staff and guests at any rape or domestic violence shelters [2]; 
  • or to seek legislative or judicial redress for sex discrimination. 

In violation of two different United Nations human rights standards, the "Equality Act" would ...

  • write sex stereotyping into law as a protected definition of legal sex;
  • and likely eliminate women's rights to be incarcerated separately from biological males in the event of an arrest or conviction.

Further, the "Equality Act" contains no provisions that would protect against ...

  • gender identity document changes being used to escape a connection to criminal records of violence or sexual assault;
  • nor against male-pattern crimes, such as penetrative rape using a penis, [3] being misclassified as having been committed by females in state and federal crime statistics.

It's true that everyone should be protected from discrimination based on whether or not they conform to arbitrary sex role stereotypes based on local cultural expectations. Such an understanding would equally protect gender nonconforming lesbian, gay, and transgender persons of every description from being denied equal treatment in housing, employment, and public accommodations. But that isn't what the misnamed "Equality Act" offers.

The "Equality Act" defines gender identity, or the desire to conform with a particular set of sex stereotyped behaviors, as equal to biological sex, seemingly in line with an unscientific belief that cultural sex role stereotypes are based on inborn brain differences. Such beliefs have been, and are now, used in every human society to oppress and excuse the lower status and economic marginalization of women, and to normalize violence against us, as recognized in the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women [4].  

As early as 1949, Simone de Beauvoir was able to report from contemporary social science research in her book, "The Second Sex," that as many as 75% of young girls surveyed wished to be boys. These girls listed reasons such as the following, which will be familiar to many women, including young girls suffering under the norms of sex discrimination and compulsory heterosexuality, still today:

"Boys are better: they do not have to suffer like women ... My mother would love me more ... A boy does more interesting work ... A boy has more aptitude for school ... I would have fun frightening girls ... I would not fear boys anymore ... They are freer ... Boys' games are more fun ... They are not held back by their clothes."

We have empathy for individuals with body dysphoria, or who find themselves intolerably stifled by narrow sex stereotypes about how male and female persons are supposed to act and dress. All women who are made to hate our bodies by a misogynistic culture, and are presented from childhood with endless and often contradictory restrictions based on our sex, can understand how hard that is. 

It's because of that concern that we must ask the US government to address discrimination against individuals who struggle to comply with standard sex stereotypes without declaring those same stereotypes to be innate, and without erasing the legal basis for considering the role of reproductive biology in the historical and current oppression of women by men, by declaring that a desire to live according to a set of stereotypically feminine behaviors must be considered the same in the law as having been born phenotypically female and oppressed accordingly by society from infancy.

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