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Of Mr. Potato Head and the new Equality Act

By Neera Kuckreja Sohoni

Mr. Potato Head was born in 1952. With a plastic kit consisting of eyes, nose, hands, feet, pipe and mustache, and female accessories added a year later, the kit enabled millions of kids to create their first piece of sculpture.

Nearly 70 years later, in the grip of WOKENESS, the traditional male-female model of Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head being no longer fashionable or even permissible, the toy’s manufacturer Hasbro felt pressured to recast the potato family. “Culture has evolved,” its spokesperson announced. “The way the brand currently exists—with the “Mr.” and “Mrs.”— is limiting when it comes to both gender identity and family structure.”

Hasbro evidently is not alone but like hundreds of other corporate, governmental and non-governmental entities, is racing to match the new frontiers of gender vagueness being pushed forth, under the garb of gender fairness and equality.

Gendered titles (Mr., Mrs. etc.) identifying someone as man or woman, wife or husband, mom or dad, sister or brother, son or daughter are no longer acceptable in some quarters. Legitimizing the trend, Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently declared that members of the Congress could no longer define themselves on the official congressional website using gendered honorifics. President Joe Biden did his bit by issuing a radical transgender executive order reflecting his administration’s support for transgender ideology. The Democrat-controlled House followed suit by passing the Equality Act 2021 on February 24. Once approved by the Senate it will put an end to gender as we know it.

The toys manufacturer Hasbro has felt pressured to make Potato Family gender neutral. (Photo: Hasbro)

Establishing a new protected class, the Equality Act will amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to explicitly prevent discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It will also substantially expand the areas to which those discrimination protections apply such as public sector institutions and amenities, businesses, sports, et cetera.

The said Act unjustly pushes the boundaries on gender and sexuality, and imposes a legal obligation on all of us to follow the gender-fluid optic. As a conservative think tank has warned, “The 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawed state-sanctioned discrimination that caused systematic economic and material harm to black Americans. The Equality Act is different: It forces every American to agree with controversial government-imposed ideology on sexuality or be treated as an outlaw”.

While no one disputes that discrimination of any kind, and in this context, on grounds of gender, transgender, lack of gender or gender ambiguity should not be allowed, the Equality Act makes mainstream beliefs about marriage, as well as basic biological facts about sex differences, and related conduct punishable under the law with ruinous financial and criminal penalties.

Even if we deny that God created Adam and Eve, but no Third Gender, all our prior existence and experience as humans has functioned under the broad identification of humans as female or male. That some don’t fall into either category is no basis for them to be ignored or discriminated against. But to allow those few to become the norm, and to place equality for some overwhelmingly above that of the rest is to defy logic and justice’s tenets. In other words, transgender and gender fluidity cannot be imposed on those of us who are happy in and committed to maintain our distinct gender identity. Law Professor Laycock rightly criticizes the Act for protecting the rights of one side, while attempting to destroy the rights of the other side. “We ought to protect the liberty of both sides to live their own lives by their own identities and their own values.”

A Congressional statute that goes contrary to biology, anthropology, and sociology cannot claim validity, let alone popular support. Defined and distinct gender identity is the common experience of human beings throughout history and evolution. Our birth identifies our gender except in rare cases where gender is unclear or not fully emerged, which leads them feeling imprisoned in a wrong body — alien to their psyche. Their biological state and status must be acknowledged and treated equally in law as well as in practice and in social behavior.  But to shame the entirety of humanity into ceding to the sensitivity and sensibility of those few with undeveloped and unclear sexuality or with preference for gender neutrality is neither practical nor rational. It is like telling us that merely because a few are eight feet tall and another few dwarf, we should stop defining ourselves as average in height. Nor should we be forced to accept that using height to describe ourselves is discriminatory, wrong and immoral.

By the same token, the transgender segments of a population must not be permitted to jump to the conclusion that somehow the rest of us are victims of socialization, and that therefore we must be awakened and taught to stand up to the oppressive societal culture that forces us to believe we are of one or the other gender. In fact, such efforts to free us of gender restrictive thinking and to re-educate and penalize us using academia, laws, and social cancel-out strategies are grossly unjust.

Law has a critical role to play in eliminating discrimination and injustice. Civil Rights and other legislation have led blacks, women and girls, gays, lesbians and other underprivileged minorities to greater opportunity and equality. The “third” or “undefined” gender deserves no less than the same protection of human dignity and parity.

But problem arises when claims for parity become disclaimers and deniers of reality. No matter how complete the biological transformation from man to woman, male genes and physical prowess cannot be reduced to a level where they match that of a female. (Even after two years on estrogen, physical bodies of biological males are found to be stronger compared to females). The Equality Act unfairly makes those who were born male and were medically assisted to become female, eligible to compete with natural born females in sports events, giving the former a clear advantage over the latter.

Under the new law, girls and women, who have practiced for years to perfect their sports performance and have become champions or champion-level athletes, must now compete against and risk losing to ‘gender-altered’ ‘originally male’ athletes. Worse, their access to training, college placement, scholarship and other opportunities that were originally designed exclusively for girls and women is compromised. By requiring biological males to be permitted to participate in female-only activities, have access to female bathrooms, changing rooms and all other facilities, the Equality Act can only provoke non-compliance. Some female high school athletes in Connecticut, in fact, are already suing the state because two boys who identify as girls defeated them in track and field and demolished the state records held by 15 other girls.

 

In addition to ignoring the emotional and material costs to girls and women, the Act fails to take into account the emotional cost of conversion to the transgendered. The desire for gender change may be genuine but there is evidence that it has an emotional toll. Apart from costly and physically debilitating surgical, medical and medicinal procedures and regimens, emotional security does not always follow the switch-over to a new identity. Post conversion, they are 19 times more likely to commit suicide. On the other hand, among children who struggle with gender identity (referred to as dysphoria), 80% of girls and 95% of boys will reconcile with their biological sex if they are allowed to go through puberty.

Equal Protection of all under law is fine. But not the growing call to make gender categories archaic.  Ensuring equality and equal access to transgenders is justice but to make the other two categories – female and male – as no longer our distinguishing marks is unjust. The potential of damage to us as a society from the above re-configuration is enormous. More worrying is the harm certain to be inflicted on generations of children who will now be forced to question the certainty of their own and their parents’ and friends’ identity. “Do I call her aunt or uncle?” a kid will wonder, as unfairly as the kid forced to wrangle over whether to view and introduce itself as a girl or boy?

Speaking definitively as a defined woman, this vile Act which seeks to wreck the biological structuring of society deserves to be consigned to the dustbin of history. Its implications are sordid and requirements prohibitive. It overrides how we wish to perceive and present ourselves and our children as female or male, or if necessary, as neither. Any compulsion to the contrary needs to be resisted through non-compliance.

And the protest has to be carried out not only in courts but in our personal conduct, in our child rearing and in our social interface.

I, for one, refuse to ask my grandkids to be tentative in stating they are boys or girls. I have no intention of referring to a lactating mother’s feeding of her baby as “chest feeding” instead of “breast feeding”. I do not want a gender-convert erstwhile male to seek shelter in the same facility where battered women seek refuge. I have no desire to ever be in a public bathroom where a gender renovated man can drop in on me. And I have every right and intent as a grandmother to push my granddaughters to resist sharing bathrooms with kids of amorphous genders.

That is surely one glorious hill to die on!

thesatime | The Southasian times

Ms. Sohoni is a freelance writer and published author.

 

By requiring biological males to be permitted to participate in female-only activities, have access to female bathrooms, changing rooms and all other facilities, the Equality Act can only provoke non-compliance.

 

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Supreme Court backs protection for LGBT workers

Washington: The top court in the US has ruled that employers who fire workers for being gay or transgender are breaking the country’s civil rights laws.

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court said federal law, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, should be understood to include sexual orientation and gender identity the BBC reported.

The ruling is a major win for LGBT workers and their allies.

And it comes even though the court has become more conservative.

Lawyers for the employers had argued that the authors of the 1964 Civil Rights Act had not intended it to apply to cases involving sexual orientation and gender identity. The Trump administration sided with that argument.

But Judge Neil Gorsuch, who was nominated to the court by President Donald Trump, said acting against an employee on those grounds necessarily takes sex into account.

“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” he wrote.

Members of the LGBT community across the US were celebrating on hearing the news.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex as well as gender, race, color, national origin and religion.

Under the Obama administration, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces the anti-discrimination law, said it included gender identity and sexual orientation. But the Trump administration has moved to roll back some protections in healthcare and other areas.

While some states in the US had already explicitly extended such protections to LGBT workers, many have not.

It’s difficult to overstate the significance of the decision.

While the court is establishing a long history of decisions expanding gay rights, this is the first time it spoke directly about the legal protections for transgender individuals.

That the ruling comes out just days after the Trump administration announced it was removing transgender health-insurance protections only puts the issue in stark relief.

Three conservative justices opposed the ruling: Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh.

The request comes a week before the highly anticipated memoir was set to be published.

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