Activists rally in support of transgender people in New York, Oct. 24, 2018.PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
It has become rightly fashionable to ridicule the idea of “safe spaces,” places where adults can hide and sulk like children avoiding ideas they find threatening. But women need actual safe spaces—not from intellectual challenge, of course, but from physical threat of harm from men. As a biological matter, most women are physically outmatched by men. Men are stronger and faster than we are, though we’re better able to tolerate pain and tend to live longer.
House Democrats introduced a bill this month that would outlaw safe spaces for women. The Equality Act—so called because, to put it charitably, Democrats excel at branding—purports merely to extend protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to people who are gay and transgender. Insofar as it would prohibit landlords from evicting tenants and employers from firing employees based on sexual orientation, it is no doubt long overdue.
But the bill goes further, proposing to prohibit discrimination based on “gender identity.” That claim directly competes with the rights of women and girls. Any biological males who self-identify as females would, under the Equality Act, be legally entitled to enter women’s restrooms, locker rooms and protective facilities such as battered-women’s shelters. This would put women and girls at immediate physical risk.
Because courts typically interpret Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 according to the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, amending the latter would alter the understanding of the former. Biological boys who identify as girls would gain an instant entitlement to compete on girls’ teams in all 50 states. No more democratic discussion of accommodation, competing interest, sacrifice and fairness. No more debate about whether we should really allow girls’ scholarships and trophies to go to male athletes who were unable to excel on the boys’ teams. No more discussion about whether it’s right to allow, as we have, biological men to pick off championships in women’s and girls’ powerlifting, cycling, wrestling and running. These emergent public discussions would be locked away in a vault of civil rights.
Part of the reason women have been reluctant to object to these incursions into their hard-won rights has to do with embarrassment at acknowledging our biological differences, which some leading feminists have denied for years. But women are biologically different from men, as the chromosomes in every cell of our bodies readily testify. (How absurd that this is necessary to point out.) And one source of many of our physical differences resides in our glands.
Boys undergo a testosterone surge during puberty that is 10 to 40 times what girls experience, conferring lifetime physical advantages: vastly greater muscle mass, bone density, more fast-twitch muscle fiber, larger hearts and lungs—all things that provide absolute and unbridgeable advantage in strength and speed.
As long as women had their own safe spaces, such disadvantages never mattered much. But that may soon change. Not because women and men have changed, but because of the progressive left’s sudden rush to strip girls and women of separate facilities, sacrificing their rights to a group a notch or two higher on the intersectional pecking order. As Kara Dansky, media director of the Women’s Liberation Front, put it to me, the Equality Act would eliminate “women and girls as a coherent legal category worthy of civil-rights protection.” It would do so by redefining the category of “women” to include “women and those who say they are women”—which means women and people who aren’t women at all.
Activists typically counter this argument with the claim that men wouldn’t pose as men-who-believe-they-are-women unless they sincerely believed it. There are too many taboos, and the transgender life is too hard for anyone to want to fake it, they claim. But under the Equality Act, pretending to be transgender would sometimes be rational.
It doesn’t strain the human imagination to picture a male convict renaming himself “Sheila” and heading for the women’s prison. Nor would it surprise anyone if rapists began to “identify” as women—no physical alteration is required to change your gender identity—to gain free access to women’s showers. What pedophile wouldn’t want open access to girls’ bathrooms? And many a biological man with no place to sleep would prefer the quieter, gentler confines of a shelter for battered women to the dodgy enclosure of one for homeless men.
Are there sincere transgender people who ought to be accommodated with appropriate facilities? Of course. But their need, however real, doesn’t justify the immediate transfer of the hard-won rights of women and girls. No comparable sacrifice is asked of boys and men, who are unlikely to feel threatened by a biological woman in the restroom. No top male athletes are likely to lose competitions to biological women competing as men. Only women are made to sacrifice for the sake of this new “equality.” And what women and girls are being coerced to cough up isn’t an unfair privilege but a leveler they require.
The bill is unlikely to become law while Republicans control the Senate or White House. But this isn’t the first time the Democrats have introduced the Equality Act, and it won’t be the last. It’s a proposal worth taking seriously because it provides a glimpse of the left’s willingness to sacrifice women and girls to those wolves in sheep’s clothing—transgender or not—who would take advantage of them.