The core conflict here involves how a person's gender is defined. That is, how does one determine exactly who is a male, who is a female.
Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty TV program on A&E sent an email that commented on the North Carolina anti-transgender "Bathroom Bill of 2016." It began:
"... I've got a radical idea. Men should use the men’s bathroom and women should use the women’s bathroom."
Unfortunately, he did not follow up this suggestion by offering a definition of how to differentiate between men and women. Presumably he sorts people according to their gender as identified at birth.
Actually, the problem is more complex than this. If there are two properties, like male and female, then there may be as many as four possible options. A person might possibly consider themselves, or be considered by others, as:
Both Male and Female, or
Neither Male nor Female
Terms relating to transgender persons and transsexuals:
Birth identified gender: The gender that is assigned to a newborn and which appears on their birth certificate.
Gender identity: The gender which a person currently identifies themselves to be.
MTF transgender: A transgender person who was identified at birth as male and now identifies herself as female.
FTM transgender: A transgender person who was identified at birth as female and now identifies himself as male.
Intersexual: A person whose genitalia do not match a typical male or typical female design. Usually, they contain structures of both genders.
Genetic males: A person with one or more "Y" sex chromosomes in their DNA.
Genetic females: A person with no "Y" sex chromosome in their DNA.
How do people define gender?
There are three common techniques for determining gender:
1. The genders of newborns are routinely assessed shortly after birth by observing the appearance of their genitalia. The latter almost always take a form that is easily identified as either female or male. The individual's gender is subsequently recorded on their birth certificate and is usually unchanged from birth until death.
They are referred to as cisgender.
However, about one in every 2,000
newborns are intersexual. Their genitals do not match the traditional male or female design.
During late 2013, Germany became the fourth country to offer parents three options when filling out birth certificates: female, male, or indeterminate. The latter is used for intersexual newborns. That was followed by a change in German passports which have three options: M, F, and X. 1 Three other countries preceded Germany in this change: Australia, India and Pakistan.
2. The newborn's gender is assessed shortly after birth as described above, and registered on their birth certificate. However, a fraction of 1% of humans are transgender -- they identify later in life as being of the opposite gender. This change appears to be caused by two small structures within their brain that take either a female or male form. They are called the "forceps minor" and are a part of the corpus callosum -- a mass of fibers that connect the brain's two hemispheres. These structures apparently generate a person's gender identity -- what they believe their gender to be. The female and male versions of these structures differ in size and neuron density. 2Transgender individuals generally have the brain structures that are typical of the opposite sex. For a long time, transgender individuals have often described themselves as having a female brain in a man's body, or vice versa. With the discovery of these structures, this statement can now be seen to be literally true.
3. A person's gender is sometimes defined by the presence or absence of a Y sex chromosome in a person's DNA -- or less commonly, the presence of multiple Y chromosomes. Persons with a XX sex chromosome pair are genetically women, those with one or more Y chromosomes are genetically male. Most people go through life without their DNA being analyzed, and so never actually have their genetic gender confirmed.
A complexity arises with some persons who experience Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS).
This is a condition in which their body cells are partly or completely unable to respond to testosterone. This is significant only to persons who are genetic males. If a person with male sex chromosomes is completely insensitive to androgens -- a condition called Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (CAIS) -- then their genitals will appear female. That is because the genitals of all embryos start off as female. It is only when the embryo with male sex chromosomes starts producing testosterone that the vast majority embryos with male sex chromosomes start to develop male genital structures.
Babies with CAIS are generally raised as girls, with everyone unaware that they are genetically male. As they go through puberty, female secondary sexual characteristics (breasts, hair growth, etc) develop normally. Often, the first indication of AIS occurs when their periods do not start when expected. The following photograph shows 14 women with AIS who are all genetically males.
About cisgender persons, transgender persons, and transsexuals:
The vast majority of humans are cisgender; the above three methods of determining gender are in agreement throughout their life. Their birth-identified sex matches their sex chromosomes and also matches their gender identity. A small fraction of one percent of humans are transgender. There is a conflict between their birth-identified gender and their gender identity later in life.
Among transgender persons:
Most are identified as male at birth and later identify as female.
A smaller number are identified as female at birth and later identify their gender as male.
A very small minority identify as having no gender or as changing genders.
The term transsexual is sometimes used to refer to a transgender person who presents themselves in public as being of the opposite sex to their birth-identified sex. There are multiple definitions in use to differentiate between transgender persons and transsexuals.
Conflicting beliefs among the public about transgender persons and transsexuals:
As for abortion access and sexual orientation, people have different beliefs about transgender persons. Two commonly held beliefs about transsexual individuals and transsexuals are that:
They are simply "gender confused." They have a mental illness and are in need of prayer and/or counseling to resolve their gender conflicts. They are considered having a fixed gender -- the same that they were assigned at birth. They are referred to as either a "she" or a "he" accordingly, independently of how they appear, how they identify themselves, and by which personal pronouns they wish to be called.
Others view them as:
Having a gender identity opposite to their birth-identified gender. Their identity is generally fixed in adulthood. A male-to-female transgender person is sometimes referred to as MTF transgender person; a female to male transgender person is often referred to as FTM transgender person. They should be referred to as "she" or "he" in accordance with their current gender identity, not their birth-identified gender. Altering a person's gender identity through therapy has a zero or essentially zero success rate. However, some transgender persons do change their identity during childhood or teen years.
Resolving human rights disagreements:
In a rational society, these matters would be decided by dialogue among people who hold different beliefs. Dialogue is a difficult process. It requires everyone involved to suspend their natural desire to convince the "other side" that they are wrong. It requires participants to enter dialogue with an open mind, seeking only the truth, and willing to change their beliefs if they are shown to be wrong. That is beyond the capacity of some people.
Unfortunately, dialogue is simply not happening to any detectable degree over conflicts involving abortion access, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Instead, people generally join one of two opposing groups, like the pro-life and pro-choice groups on abortion. The two separate from each other, and throw (usually) verbal rocks at each other. Whichever group has sufficient political power will often either have laws passed to protect the rights of transgender individuals, or to discriminate against them.
And so, we see in the U.S. how various homophobic groups changed course almost instantly on 2015-JUN-26. This was the date when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the U.S. with the exception of the territory of American Samoa. (Most inhabitants of that territory are considered U.S. residents, not U.S. citizens. Thus decisions of the High Court do not necessarily apply in the territory.)
Many individuals and groups who were opposed to gay equality generally -- and to to gay marriage in particular-- switched from attacking equal rights for lesbians, gays and bisexuals to attacking equal treatment of transgender individuals and transsexuals. The end result has been the appearance of "bathroom bills" in various southern states, led by North Carolina. Some have been signed into law. They prohibit transgender people and transsexuals from using the public washrooms appropriate for their gender identity. Instead, they are required by law to use public washroooms that match their birth-identified gender.
Thus the women with CAIS shown above would be required to use the men's washrooms, as would the following MTF transgender women whose photographs came from various Internet sources:
And these three FTM transgender men would be required to use women's washrooms:
Webmaster's comment [bias alert]
Legislators in various states who are attempting to force these people to use washrooms opposite to their gender identity may not have thought through how impractical this would be in practice. One can imagine the disturbance one of these individuals would cause entering a washroom opposite to their gender identity and appearance.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Bill Chappell, "Germany Offers Third Gender Option On Birth Certificates," National Public Radio, 2013-NOV-01, at: www.npr.org/
More information about these brain structures is available on this web site in another essay.