Recently, I heard from a woman who has a teenage daughter four years into the process of transitioning.
Throughout that time, this mom has been trying to get left-leaning media and think tanks and professional associations to take seriously the concerns coming from the left.
Instead she’s found herself and her colleagues essentially left behind by the left.
But her situation is hardly unique in today’s America.
Just last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report showing that two percent of American high school students now identify as transgender.
That’s a population-wide statistic. The percentage is even higher in particular communities and schools.
Girls are affected the most. In many western countries this has become an epidemic. Recently, the U.K. ordered an investigation into why the number of young girls seeking treatment at gender clinics increased by 4,000 percent.
Something is going on.
Too many of these young people feel unsafe, attacked, and they commit self-harm.
We need to find better ways to support them without damaging their bodies for life.
And so this mom, who wants to remain anonymous, wanted to know if The Heritage Foundation could host a conversation featuring liberals with concerns about the left’s embrace of the transgender agenda. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is currently pushing the Equality Act, which would have legal ramifications for those who don’t agree with the transgender agenda.
We were willing—and we did.
On Monday, I hosted at Heritage an event titled “The Inequality of the Equality Act: Concerns from the Left.”
Heritage’s founder, Ed Feulner, is famous for saying that it’s better to add and multiply than to divide and subtract. Undoubtedly, the people on this panel disagree about many things. I likely disagree with them about abortion, gay marriage, taxes, trade, foreign policy—just to name a few.
And that’s OK.
Just because we disagree about some things, even many things, that doesn’t mean we disagree about everything. And where we do agree, we can—and should—work together.
Because make no mistake: The current LGBT agenda is poised to affect everyone on both the left and right.
“Gender identity” refers to an individual’s inner sense of being a man or a woman or both or neither. It exists along a spectrum and can be fluid. It’s entirely arbitrary and self-disclosed. And rather incoherent, as it’s not at all clear what it means to “feel like” a woman, or how I would know if I felt like one, or why my feeling like a woman (whatever that means) would make me a woman.
As a result, if “gender identity” becomes a protected class in federal civil rights law, as Pelosi’s Equality Act would result in, there will be serious negative consequences. That’s where we agree. And that’s where we can work together.
As I spoke with that anonymous mother about the possibility of a public event, several things became clear.
First, the media wants to present the transgender cause as the next wave of civil rights and as the natural extension of the past decade of LGBT successes. If you support what the media calls gay rights, you have to support trans rights. If you support what the media calls marriage equality, you have to support trans equality.
There’s little willingness to recognize that the LGB and the T are radically dissimilar, especially as applied to children.
Second, the media wants to present this issue as one of science vs. faith. That there’s a consensus among doctors that people are born trans, that children as young as 2 or 3 can know their “true” gender identity, and that social transitioning and sex reassignment procedures—now referred to as “gender affirmation” or “gender confirmation”—are safe and effective treatment protocols. And that the only people who could think otherwise must be acting based on bigotry and blind faith.
Third, the media wants to ignore all of the costs. They don’t care about the damage being done to young people’s bodies and minds—in fact, they celebrate it as a civil right.
They don’t care about the privacy and safety and equality of girls, when boys who identify as girls can share female-only spaces—like showers and locker rooms and bathrooms—and when boys who identify as girls win female athletic competitions.
They don’t care about the ability of doctors to practice good medicine, when bad medicine becomes mandated as a civil right, and good medicine becomes outlawed as a civil wrong.
And they don’t care about the rights of parents to find the best care for their kids.
Sadly, some religious people give support to these narratives, when they agree to support “gender identity” laws, provided they get a religious exemption.
But bad public policy doesn’t become good by exemptions for oneself that do nothing for the privacy, safety, equality, and liberty of others.
“Gender identity” ideology will impact everyone. Right and left. Conservative and liberal. Religious and secular.
Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D., is the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation, where he researches and writes about marriage, bioethics, religious liberty and political philosophy. Anderson is the author of several books and his research has been cited by two U.S. Supreme Court justices in two separate cases.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Daily Signal.