There is a pink and blue flag on one side of the Capitol Hill hallway, a symbol of transgender pride. Directly opposite is a sign that reads: “There are TWO genders: men and women. “Trust Science!”
“I thought we’d put our transgender flag up so she could see it every time she opened her door,” tweeted Rep. Marie Newman, D-Ill., Who has a transgender daughter.
“I thought we’d put ours up so she could look at them every time she opened her door,” tweeted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.
Their dispute is a microcosm of a larger debate on the Equal Opportunities Act, a democratic proposal to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Newman supports the bill and Greene is against it.
Proponents say the Equal Opportunities Act provides overdue anti-discrimination protection for LGBTQ Americans, who in many states may be denied housing and access to other services because of their identity. Some opponents say the proposal violates the rights of faith-based organizations.
Our neighbor @RepMTG has tried to block the equality law because she considers the ban on discrimination against trans-Americans to be “disgusting, immoral and evil”.
I thought we’d put our transgender flag up so she could see it every time she opened her door 😉🏳️⚧️ pic.twitter.com/dV8FatQFnx
– Congressman Marie Newman (@RepMarieNewman) February 24, 2021
Much of the political debate has centered around gender identity – particularly Greene’s idea that there are “two genders”. However, public health officials, doctors, and biologists say the science is clear: gender identity goes beyond men and women.
“Sex is a biological term; gender is a social construct,” said Ignacio T. Moore, a professor of life sciences at Virginia Tech. “In other words, gender can vary based on society and culture.”
The belief that there are only two genders is an oversimplification. “And what science really says is that it’s more complicated,” said Dr. Jason Rafferty, an assistant clinical professor at Brown University.
What’s in the Equal Opportunities Act?
The Equality Act, which the House passed largely partisan, would change the 1964 Civil Rights Act by banning discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Equal Opportunities Act would replace the 1993 Restoration of Religious Freedom Act, a law designed to protect religious practices from government interference. (The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that federal law did not apply to states, prompting some states to pass their own version of the law.)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California, speaks about Congressional Equality Act on Capitol Hill in Washington on February 25.
If the Equal Opportunities Act became law, publicly accessible private businesses – including retail stores like bakeries and florists – would not be able to refuse to service LGBTQ people claiming it was against their religious beliefs. The bill applies to employment, education, housing, credit, jury service, public housing, and programs that receive federal funding.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said he would put the Senate legislation to a vote, and President Joe Biden pledged to sign the equality bill.
Scientists say there aren’t just two genders
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a list of terms relating to gender and gender, recognizing that terms and definitions “may change over time”.
According to the CDC, gender refers to “the cultural roles, behaviors, activities and characteristics expected of people based on their gender”. Gender is not assigned at birth – it derives its meaning from the society in which one lives.
“Human nature is diverse in many ways, going beyond biological and anatomical differences between people. We will understand that gender is a characteristic that can be both complicated and personal,” Rafferty said. “A person’s gender identity can be male, female, a combination of both or neither, or it can change over time.”
Cisgender is the term used to describe someone whose gender matches the sex assigned to them at birth, e.g. B. biological men who identify as men. There are numerous other ways people can describe their gender identity, including non-binary (people who identify as neither male nor female) and transgender (people whose gender is different from the sex assigned to them at birth ).
A Gallup poll in February found that 5.6 percent of adults in the United States identify as LGBTQ and 0.6 percent specifically identify as transgender. Gallup noted that these numbers could underestimate the real population as older adults may be less likely to identify as LGBTQ.
Sexual orientation is often associated with gender identity and gender, said Karen Parker, director of the Research Bureau on Sexual and Gender Minorities at the National Institutes of Health. All three categories are different, however, and sexual orientation is primarily related to attraction and identity behavior, she said.
Sex is not the same as gender
The World Health Organization says sex refers to “the diverse biological and physiological characteristics of women, men and intersex individuals such as chromosomes, hormones and reproductive organs”.
One might think that sex is a trait with only two biological possibilities. However, medical research and first-hand reports indicate that exclusively male and female sexual characteristics are not the only results.
A person’s biological sex is determined in part by the configuration of chromosomes, the long strands of DNA that contain an organism’s genetic information. If you are born with two X chromosomes, most likely your biological gender is female. Biological males typically have an X and a Y chromosome.
Sometimes there is a discrepancy between a person’s sex assigned at birth and their biological, physiological, or physical characteristics. Intersex is a term used to describe any variation in sexual characteristics that can sometimes be related to chromosomes and hormones.
Moore offered a few examples that could lead to someone being intersex:
- People with Y chromosomes lacking a specific gene can develop and identify as women.
- People with testicles that do not descend into the scrotum can develop and identify as women.
- People with testosterone levels typical of a biological man, but who lack the receptor for the hormone, can develop and identify as women.
“With these factors in mind,” said Moore. “I think it becomes clear that an individual’s gender is not necessarily binary as factors can come into conflict.”
Estimates for the proportion of babies born intersex are between 0.018 and 1.7 percent, depending on how intersex is defined.
Nature offers variations in sex and humans choose how to categorize them, said Alice Dreger, a bioethicist who has studied differences in sex development. “Nature doesn’t tell us who counts as male, who as female, and who as intersex – we draw those lines,” she said.
A misunderstanding of gender identity and gender deserves clarification, experts said, as LGBTQ Americans – especially teenagers – face worse health outcomes than other Americans.
“The most important thing is that it’s not just about politics,” Rafferty said. “These are people’s lives.”