Is There Any Solution to the Transgender Controversy?

Is There Any Solution to the Transgender Controversy? March 12, 2017

Is There Any Solution to the Transgender Controversy?


According to numerous news reports and other media items, many Americans are concerned about transgender persons and restrooms. Much of the controversy, however, seems based on confusion and, in my opinion, the media stories have not helped.

Let’s begin with a basic distinction between “gender” and “sex.” Gender is a social construct not necessarily tied to biology or physiology. Sex is a biological and physiological category. In other words, as everyone knows, a person can be sexually male but stereotypically feminine just as a person can be sexually female but stereotypically masculine.

Much of the contemporary confusion, feeding the controversy, seems to come from the change of language for persons who want to be other than they were born—both with regard to gender and sex. Earlier they were called “transsexual;” now they are called “transgender.” The former is clearer than the latter.

Media reports and stories about transgender persons are often, even usually, unclear about their sex. A transsexual person, however, is changing his or her sex by means of “gender reassignment” (something of a misnomer because it really means surgical sex reassignment). The common language for this was “sex change.” Everyone understands that. But what does “transgender” mean exactly? That is less obvious—with regard to sex.

Apparently, some self-identified transgender people want to use restrooms and locker rooms designated for the sex that they are not yet physiologically. In other words, they have not yet undergone, and perhaps do not plan ever to undergo, sex change surgery. So, to be very specific, a person with “male parts” who identifies as female wants to use the locker room designated for females.

I suspect this is really the only thing that causes concern for most people in America today. If a man wants to appear as a woman, most people may find that curious but not objectionable. We are all already used to many women appearing as men. So, I doubt that is any source of controversy.

However, I do suspect the source of controversy is the idea of a person with “male parts” using a locker room designated for girls and women. (I suspect few men really care about females using restrooms or locker rooms designated for boys and men.) To be very specific: I suspect many men and women care about anyone with “male parts” using the same restroom or locker room as their daughters and granddaughters.

So let us please look at the controversy through that lens in order to clarify it.

I propose that we distinguish between gender and sex in this controversy and insist that a person use the locker room (restrooms are really less a problem because women’s have stalls) designated for the sex he or she still is—until he or she has completed sex change hormonally and surgically. Otherwise, the specter (realistic or not) of sexually male persons claiming to be women walking around naked (locker rooms have showers) in women’s locker rooms is unavoidable.

None of what I have said here is against transgender persons; it is only intended to narrow the controversy to a point where a solution to it might be found—and to suggest a solution. Right now, as it stands, news reports and stories about transgender persons are usually unclear about the status of their sex and that seems to be a major point of both confusion and controversy.

*Note to commenters: Please keep your comments brief and civil; give reasons and do not simply make assertions.


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