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Conservative Pundit: GLBT Equality A Matter of Eradicating Gender

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Jun 1, 2010

A conservative commentator has come up with a theory as to what the GLBT civil rights struggle is all about: the elimination of gender distinctions.

Conservative columnist and talk show host Dennis Prager, in a June 1 National Review Online article, says that the social struggle for acceptance by gays has largely been won, even though the nation's laws have yet to catch up.

"The battle for acceptance of gay people has largely been won," Prager writes. "And deservedly so: The persecution of people for being sexually attracted to members of the same sex has been as morally wrong as it has been consistent." Prager notes that he is personally opposed to marriage equality, however, and goes on to advance a theory that the GLBT civil rights struggle has become a matter of eliminating gender distinctions. Otherwise, Prager argues, why would groups advocating for equality for sexual minorities include transgendered individuals?

"What do the transgendered have to do with gays?" writes Prager in the online essay. "How and why are they connected by activists, gay and straight, on the left? Strictly speaking, gays have no more in common with transgendered people than straights do.

"To understand the answer is to understand much of what animates the sexual Left."

Prager cites several instances of transgendered people seeking the right to live as the gender with which they identify psychologically, rather than being legally compelled to live as their anatomical gender. One instance involves the Maine Human Rights Commission instructing schools in that state to allow students to use restrooms according to their own gender identities.

More recently, the Human Rights Commission in that state has taken up the question of whether transgender restroom rights falls under the rubric of existing anti-discrimination laws. In March, the Commission voted to open the deliberation to public input.

The question is part of a larger set of standards that the Commission had been developing for use by the state's schools, in order to ensure that GLBT students, teachers, and staff do not suffer discrimination.

Religious conservatives say that restroom policy should be guided by the biological gender of the people using the facilities, and call for guidelines that establish the use of "biology based bathrooms," such that individuals with male physiology would be barred form using women's restrooms and locker rooms--even if the individual's gender identification is at odds with his or her physiology.

Transgender individuals often express a persistent, deep-rooted conviction that they are actually people of the opposite sex from an early age, despite their physical gender. Young transgender boys will insist on dressing as girls, being treated as girls, and playing with toys traditionally associated with girls; transgender girls express similar convictions indicating that they view themselves as male. Many transgender people live and dress as the gender with which they identify; some individuals opt for gender reassignment surgery, and say that once the surgery is complete, they feel at home in their bodies for the first time in their lives.

The policy under consideration in Maine might encourage schools not only to allow transgender students to use the facilities according to their gender identity, rather than their physiology, but also to allow transgender students to compete on gender-appropriate athletic teams based on gender identity.

Conservatives opposed to these measures say that abuses would inevitably occur, with male sexual predators taking advantage of such accommodations to sneak into facilities for females. "There was a time when boys of easy virtue had to content themselves with sneaking a peek at the girls' swim team during practice. But social engineers may make this passé with a proposal to allow boys to use girls' bathrooms and locker rooms," began an op-ed by Selwyn Duke on the Maine proposal posted at conservative website New American on March 7.

But while the complex issue of transgender rights has been reduced to the soundbite of "biology-based bathrooms" in transgender controversies around the country, in Maine the issue has taken on a wider resonance that affects all sexual minorities; anti-gay religious website WorldNetDaily reported on March 2 that "pro-family activists" were using the issue as a springboard to launch an effort aimed at repealing all of Maine's human rights laws.

The article quoted the Maine Grassroots Coalition's Paul Madore, who dismissed the guidelines being considered by the Human Rights Commission as the work of "radical homosexual organizations." Said Madore, "The commission sought the input of these radical homosexual groups on purpose and there was no impartial and objective source of information."

In his essay, Prager declares that, "the Left seeks to obliterate the distinction between men and women. They consider this distinction to be a social construct." Adds Prager, "And that is why, on the left, changing the definition of marriage is only worth a shrug. Since there are no inherent differences between men and women, what difference could it possibly make whether a man marries a man or a woman? Or if children have two fathers, two mothers, or a father and a mother?"

Certain feminist schools of thought may promote the idea of gender roles being rooted in social constructs. However, recent scientific data indicate that transgender individuals are not the result of sexually confused people merely "fancying" themselves to belong to the other gender. Nor is the phenomenon of transgenderism a mere political construct, the data suggest, nor the result of attempts to reduce the physiological fact of gender to a political construct. Australian researchers demonstrated a genetic correlation between transgenderism and genetics a year and a half ago. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Oct. 27, 2008, on the research, noting that the study demonstrated that "male to female transsexuals are more likely than non-transsexual males to have a longer version of a receptor gene for the sex hormone androgen or testosterone." The study was published that same day in the science journal Biological Psychiatry.

"Studies in cells show the longer version of the androgen receptor gene works less efficiently at communicating the testosterone message to cells," said the study's lead author, Associate Professor Vincent Harley of the Melbourne-based Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research. "Based on these studies, we speculate the longer version may also work less efficiently in the brain," Harvey added, leading to what he called a "feminization" of the brain--a physiological result in keeping with the inner experiences of anatomical males who insist that they are actually women living in the wrong sort of body.

Similarly, studies have long indicated that there are biological bases for homosexuality. Genetic correlations, as well as variances in brain structure, point to the innate nature of same-sex attraction, as opposed to that attraction being a "choice." Other studies have confirmed an elevated incidence of gay sons being born to mothers who have already one or more male offspring, suggesting that in utero hormonal levels might affect a child's natural sexuality.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


Comments

  • Kelli Busey, 2010-06-01 18:28:08

    The biggest mistake transgender people ever made was to become associated with gays. For Instance, 160 transgender people murdered between January 2009, when Israel Luna first introduced Ticked off trannies with knives untill today. 160 killers who agree with Luna’s murdering character who shouts gleefully after dismembering a transgender woman "NOW THIS IS EXCITEMENT". http://www.transgenderdor.org/?page_id=555 http://www.transgenderdor.org/?page_id=1194


  • Kelli Busey, 2010-06-01 18:29:45

    Transgender people have nothing in common with gays. That a fact.


  • BrisLinda, 2010-06-01 21:15:37

    I am a post operative male to female transsexual in Australia. I have been invited to lecture to 3rd and 4th year psychiatry and psychology students on the topic of the linear nature of the manifestation of both human ’sexual orientation’ and ’gender difference’ at 3 Queensland Universities over the last two decades. I am also a lesbian and refute that its is not equally my right my right to my sexual orientation or my right to participate as an activist for gay and lesbian and bisexual’s complete and Equal Human Rights across the globe. Statements which insist that transgender individuals have nothing to do with gay rights or in deed, statements which invisiblize ’bisexuals’ existence can be viewed as little more than discrimination.


  • Emelye Waldherr, 2010-06-02 16:34:31

    Ms Busey forgets all the gay and lesbian trans people there are out there. Here’s a link to where I talk about Mr Prager’s reidiculous assertions: http://www.thespectrumcafe.com/?p=369


  • , 2010-06-02 20:14:31

    Where does Intersex fit into this constelation of male /female, man/ woman. Mr Melloy seems to think that gender roles and sex binaries are not the work of the human minfd and that they are imaliable. Pop on an airplane and have a look somewhere else than white middle class America. There is more to sex than Male and female and more to gender than stereotypical behaviour models. Intersex puts the lie to absolutes for both sex and gender


  • Sum, 2010-06-03 14:40:20

    As a transwoman I couldn’t care less is those on the right "understand" me. On the same token, I don’t care to understand their bigotry. The right can critique me all day long that’s their business. My issue is equality. That’s the only thing we need to justfy. I’m not trying to make people understand something they don’t want to understand. If the right wingers don’t understand the variables in human gender and sexuality or even care to because they prefer dogma and demonization to feel safe in their world that’s their journey. Just get off of my right to be human!


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