Democrats Should Defend Sex-Based Rights for Women and Girls
New national poll of 1,262 registered voters shows strong consensus in favor of female-only spaces and services.
This piece originally appeared in The Liberal Patriot, which I highly recommend:
In recent years, the Democratic Party has made it a priority to redefine women and girls as a subjective, self-declared “gender identity” group rather than an objective, biologically material sex class. On January 20, 2021, his first day in office, President Biden issued Executive Order 13988, demanding that all federal agencies redefine the word sex to include the amorphous, sexist concept of “gender identity.” The practical effect of this is to erase women and girls as a coherent category in law and policy.
Over the course of 2021, numerous federal agencies did exactly that, and women and girls have been paying the price ever since. Biden’s initial order, and all the policy directives that flowed from it, was based on a misconstruing of the Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County. The District Court for the Northern District of Texas explained why in the matter of Neese v. Becerra, where a doctor sued the federal government over its policy of prohibiting discrimination on the basis of “gender identity”—a policy that led to the doctor being unable to provide sex-specific medical care to his male patient who was at risk for prostate cancer. That patient claimed that he could not possibly have a prostate because he “identifies as a woman.”
The Democrats in Congress are equally determined to erase sex in law and policy. The Equality Act, first introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in 2015, would redefine the word sex to include “gender identity” for all purposes under U.S. civil rights law. This would mean that all women’s bathrooms and locker rooms in places of public accommodation (including restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, etc.) would be open to men who claim to have “female gender identities.”
It’s happening at the state level too. Democrats like California governor Gavin Newsom are signing laws that allow male convicted rapists and murderers to be housed in women’s prisons and demand to be strip-searched by female correctional officers. In New Jersey, at least twenty-seven male prisoners have been housed in the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, thanks to a 2021 settlement agreement entered into between the ACLU of New Jersey and Democratic governor Phil Murphy.
Democrats at the state and federal level, including U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel (Richard) Levine, champion laws and policies that permit the administration of harmful hormones and surgeries on young people, including adolescents.
But are these initiatives, as Biden claims, “the civil rights issue of our time?”
I serve as president of the U.S. chapter of Women’s Declaration International, the largest global organization advocating for the rights of women and girls as a sex class. WDI USA and other feminists who, like us, object to policies favoring “gender identity” over sex are frequently threatened on the internet or assaulted at our public events by fringe elements, and slurred regularly by influential media outlets, institutions, and elected officials.
This July, the National Organization for Women published a blog post naming WDI USA as a group of “anti-trans bigots disguised as feminists.” Even President Biden described bills to protect the female sex category in sports and prevent children from undergoing irreversible medical interventions as “hateful legislative attacks” which “spur discrimination” and “can stoke violence.”
On the day WDI USA’s annual convention began in San Francisco this September, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin commented: “A lot of folks choose San Francisco for right-wing hate.”
As a lifelong Democrat (except for a short stint as a Green), I don’t recognize myself or my fellow mostly liberal, mostly Democratic feminist colleagues in these fantastical depictions.
Caring about the sex-based rights of women and girls is entirely consistent with liberalism and equal treatment for all people. One can both stand up for the distinct rights of women and girls and support equal protection for all people under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Protesters at our San Francisco City Hall lesbian rights event chanted, “No TERFS! No KKK! No fascist USA!” But this is wildly inaccurate; in reality, people they call TERFs are simply in favor of women’s sex-based rights, which originated on the left.
And as new polling shows, these positions are thoroughly mainstream.
A survey of 1,262 registered voters across the nation, conducted by top-rated polling firm SurveyUSA between September 25 and 27, 2023, on behalf of WDI USA, found that four in five respondents said that the description of women as “adult humans who are female” is closest to their own definition of the term compared to only 16 percent who said women are “adult humans who are either female or male and consider themselves women.” (The survey included an introduction noting that all questions would use the words “female” and “male” to describe each person’s biological sex.)
This included more than two out of three Democrats and a full 84 percent of black voters—the highest figure among any racial or ethnic group surveyed.
What’s more, two thirds of voters surveyed said they define “gender” and “sex” as synonyms describing whether one is female or male. When writing law and policy, adjudicating disputes, or gauging public support for measures based on “gender,” elected officials and the courts must be aware that most Americans understand that word to mean “sex,” not “gender identity.”
When asked about specific situations facing girls and women, survey respondents supported mainstream positions even more.
Thinking about an all-female high school basketball team, just 10 percent of respondents thought their opponents should be either female or male, as long as they considered themselves girls.
Considering the use of a women’s restroom by a 10-year old girl in a restaurant, 85 percent of respondents, including 76 percent of Democrats and 91 percent of black voters, agreed that the facility should be for female users only. Support for female-only women’s locker rooms was similar: 85 percent of respondents, including 75 percent of Democrats, agreed that a women’s locker room should be for females only.
Just 9 percent of respondents thought a home health care agency should be able to assign either a female or female-identifying male aide to an elderly or disabled woman who requested a woman to help her with showering. And just 9 percent of respondents thought that a patient who requests a woman nurse for her breast exam or Pap smear should be provided either a female or female-identifying male nurse.
Only 10 percent of respondents thought that a women’s shelter for victims of rape or domestic violence should employ and accommodate both female and female-identifying male people.
Nearly 9 in 10 respondents agreed that a girls’ cabin at summer camp should accommodate female campers only.
Only 11 percent of respondents thought a female airline passenger should be patted down by either a female or female-identifying male TSA officer.
On these and several other questions about specific situations, large majorities supported preserving female-only spaces, opportunities, and certain employment conditions in which sex functions as a bona fide occupational qualification.
This included large majorities of Democrats and people who describe themselves as politically liberal. Even among the cohort who self-described as “very liberal,” the female-only answer option won majority support on every question.
When it comes to pediatric medical intervention, the public is also in notable disagreement with Democratic Party orthodoxy: when asked what adults should do when female children say they are boys, “non-binary,” or something else other than girls, just 12 percent of respondents, including 17 percent of Democrats, thought they should seek immediate medical intervention for a 15-year old, and only 7 percent (including 11 percent of Democrats) supported immediate medical intervention for an 8-year old.
President Biden and the Democratic Party are currently out of step with the opinions of most voters—including rank-and-file Democrats—when it comes to gender identity policies affecting women and girls. And they know it. Feminists have been telling them for years that “gender identity” harms women and girls.
While Republicans are pushing back against “gender identity” at the federal level—and a handful of Democrats are bucking the party trend at the state level—Republican support on this issue hardly makes them a party of women’s and girls' liberation either.
Our federal Democratic lawmakers won't even acknowledge women and girls as a coherent category, while Republicans readily acknowledge what a woman is only to turn around and continue limiting our bodily autonomy and reproductive choices.
Neither party currently supports policies that would improve the material reality of our lives, putting leftist radical feminists in the difficult position of having to take a stand against the party that most of us have supported our whole adult lives.
Most Americans believe that women and girls exist as a sex class, not an identity. Unlike our detractors, nearly four in five voters don’t think it’s “hateful” for us to say so. In our deeply divided country, that’s a rare consensus. It’s time for Democrats to admit it and defend their historic role in support of equal rights and liberties for the female sex.