In my last column, I discussed the problem of transgendered boys and men competing in athletic competitions established for girls and women. I explored the subject from the perspective of outstanding female athletes who have no chance of winning against previously male competitors who were nowhere near the top of the men’s standings in their events.
As one lady said, “It’s just not fair.”
That seems to be the overwhelming consensus on the subject among folks I know. But while I think that’s the essence of the matter, the subject deserves a broader and deeper treatment.
One appropriate context is to consider transgender issues in the context of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer issues – the LGBTQ complex so widely discussed but not addressed in necessary disaggregation and detail.
The first point is: transgender issues are characteristically different from the other four. LGBQ matters involve folks’ preferences and actions regarding persons of the same or opposite gender. Transgender issues deal with how some persons identify themselves and their desires to assume a gender other than the biological identity with which they were born.
Thus, LGBQ persons typically are generally happy with their own sexual or gender identity and they prefer the intimate company and practices of their own kind or of a mix of their own sex and the opposite sex. This is generally contrary to conventional sexual mores and religious or ethical teaching.
Social pressure against LGBQ practices still today in many societies and historically in many others, including our own, often extended to legal prohibition or other sanction. American social practice and law, as well as that in most other western societies, has been greatly liberalized in recent decades. Now, LGBQ lifestyles are celebrated, not discouraged, as part of valuing human diversity.
So, we have LGBQ holidays, parades, nightclubs, bars, literature, etc. Many more traditional people continue to resist this change, especially the supportive and celebratory aspects of it, but mainly tolerate it without objection. The issue is the distinction between, first, accepting and, second, supporting and even celebrating minority choices.
Law in this area has generally focused on requiring tolerance, but not mandatory active acceptance or celebration of minority practices. And make no mistake, the LGBQ community is decidedly a minority, varying from three to ten percent of the population, depending on age and other factors. The sticking point arises when LGBQ people seek public support, celebration or accommodation, a burden on straights beyond mere passive acceptance and tolerance.
The apparent logic is: There’s little burden on folks who oppose or only passively tolerate LGBQ practices when those practices are confined to the minority’s private life and do not intrude on the lives of the majority. And there’s significant benefit to the minority of allowing them to do their thing. Hence, the social cost-benefit analysis favors toleration and passive acceptance.
But requiring participation, active accommodation or celebration reverses the C-B analysis so that the majority suffer more burden than the benefit then accruing to the minority. This is because there are so many more people in the majority and the feelings of many of them are as strongly held as those of many LGBQ supporters.
Also, each side has strong claims it has basic rights at stake: LGBQ persons to their practices, and straights to a world that doesn’t continuously assault majority mores and cause conflict. Transgender issues confront an even bigger deficit in terms of minority numbers and sensibilities versus majority numbers. About 0.03 percent, or three in ten-thousand people have significant transgender tendencies. So, the ratio is about 9997:3.
But transgender issues aren’t only characteristically different from LGBQ issues. Some transgender desires, such as sharing locker and bathroom space or competing in athletic competitions, directly burden straights, as shown in considering transgender men in female athletics.
Even after full biological change to female, including surgery and hormones, persons born as men still have significant advantages in size, bone and muscle mass, strength, etc. As one girl said, “That unfairness doesn’t go away because of what someone believes about their gender identity.”
LGBQ issues lend themselves to mutual accommodation. In the transgender conflict of basic rights, there’s very little room to live and let live.