Re: Testimony of Kara Dansky, WHRC – Equality Act: OPPOSE
March 16, 2021
The Honorable Richard Durbin
Chair, Senate Committee on the Judiciary
The Honorable Charles Grassley
Ranking Member, Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Dear Senators Durbin and Grassley,
Thank you to the Senate Judiciary Committee, for allowing me the opportunity to present this written testimony in opposition to the Equality Act as it is currently written, and to explain why.
I have three main arguments to present:
- The nation simply has not had the national conversation that we need to have about thefar-reaching implications of redefining sex to include so-called “gender identity,” which the current version of the bill would do. We need to have that conversation before any legislation is enacted that would redefine sex to include so-called “gender identity.”
- Simply put, men aren’t women, even if they say they are, and even if they claim to “identify” as such. Women and girls need separate spaces from male people, also known as men and boys. The is no credible scientific evidence to support the proposition that a person born with a Y chromosome can be a woman. It is appalling that these things need to be said in the 21st century.
- Children are being permanently harmed at the altar of so-called “gender identity,” whether the Democrats on the Committee are willing to recognize it or not.
For these reasons, we urge the Committee to vote no on sending the Equality Act to the full Senate.
The Women’s Human Rights Campaign USA, or WHRC USA, is the American chapter of an international, politically nonpartisan organization dedicated to protecting women’s sex-based rights. Our founding document is the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights, which re-affirms women and girls' sex-based rights as enumerated in the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, or CEDAW, and subsequent international agreements. I will refer to this as The Declaration. It challenges the discrimination that women and girls experience from the redefinition of the category of sex to include so-called “gender identity,” which the current version of the Equality Act would do. The Declaration is a call to law and policy makers all over the world to retain the sex-based biological definition of the word woman, which every human being, throughout the course of human history, has always understood to mean adult human female.
My name is Kara Dansky, and I serve on the Steering Committee of WHRC USA. WHRC opposes the bill before you today, because it would enshrine in law a harmful and manipulative lie, namely, that humans can literally change sex, or that people can be a sex that they are not, or that so-called “gender identity” has a coherent meaning. The bill also falsely presumes that the needs of females for sex-based legal protection should be subordinate to the claims of males to the rights and protections of the female sex. WHRC is a nonpartisan organization. Speaking solely for myself, however, I am a lifelong Democrat and I am appalled at what my party is attempting to do here. The party that is supposed to stand for human rights is throwing women and girls directly under the bus at the altar of so-called “gender identity.”
First, our nation has simply not had the conversation that we need to have about the far-reaching impacts that enshrining so-called “gender identity” in the law will have. Accordingly, we are asking that this Committee not send the bill to the full Senate. Americans, in general, do not understand what this bill would do. Americans do not understand the havoc that the bill would wreak on women’s and girls’ rights, privacy, and safety, especially lesbians. Perhaps more importantly, Americans do not understand the havoc that this bill would wreak on every single aspect of public policy where sex matters. And sex does matter.
The FBI currently maintains crime statistics through the Uniform Crime Reporting program, or UCR. Table 42 of the UCR breaks down crime statistics by sex. It shows that in 2019, 88 percent of murders, 97 percent of rapes, 84 percent of robberies, 77 percent of aggravated assaults, and 79 percent of burglaries were committed by males. If our society is going to redefine sex to include so-called “gender identity,” what will happen to our ability to track crime statistics by sex? I understand that the current bill before you today would not itself obliterate sex for crime tracking purposes, but I am also aware of President Biden’s January 20 Executive Order that effectively does what the Equality Act would do in civil rights law by redefining sex to include “gender identity” at the federal administrative level, which would affect the FBI. I am asking this Committee to send President Biden and Attorney General Garland a message – do not redefine sex to include so-called “gender identity” in any aspect of U.S. law.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, women and men experience different symptoms when they suffer a heart attack; and women do not recover at the same rate as men. This is important information. But it is only possible to collect it if health-related data collection is made on the basis of sex. What will happen to our country’s ability to track this kind of information if we redefine sex to include so-called “gender identity”?
The bottom line is that Americans do not truly understand the broad social implications of redefining sex to include so-called “gender identity” at all, in federal civil rights law or otherwise.
Second, men are not women, even if they claim to be, and the current version of the Equality Act is a misogynistic slap in the face to women and girls, including lesbians and bisexual women. As written, the Equality Act defines so-called “gender identity” as “the gender-related identity, appearance, mannerisms, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, regardless of the individual’s designated sex at birth.”
This definition is incapable of being applied in a meaningful or equitable way, because it has these four problems:
First. The definition is circular – simply put, “gender identity" is defined as "gender identity." It uses the scientifically nonsensical phrase "designated sex at birth," whereas sex is actually determined at conception and observed at or before birth.
Second. It conflates "sex", which is a biological reality, with so-called "gender identity", which is, at best, an entirely subjective feeling or belief, thereby making both "sex" and "gender identity" incoherent and incapable of being applied rationally or equitably.
Third. In stating that so-called "gender identity" is to be protected "regardless of the individual's designated sex at birth", the bill prioritizes so-called "gender identity" over "sex," with the result that when a man claims that he is a woman, which happens routinely in the U.S. and across the globe, he will be entitled to all the rights and protections of women, despite his male sex.
Fourth. The only way that so-called "gender identity" differs from "nonconformity with sex-role stereotypes" is that "gender identity" includes feelings or beliefs that are entirely subjective.
Legislation has no business protecting mere feelings or beliefs, because:
- Mere feelings and beliefs are unverifiable; and
- Mere feelings and beliefs are not discriminated against; so legislation cannot protect them, need not protect them, and should not protect them.
There are only two sexes because there are only two types of reproductive gametes. (The existence of people with disorders of sexual development does not negate the fact that humans are all either male or female.) Men are not women. A woman is not a feeling or a costume or a performance. Women simply *are* women, regardless of our feelings. Women do not “identify” into our own sex-based oppression, and we are unable to “identify” out of it. If a man can be a woman, we become unable even to speak meaningfully about our own sex-based oppression. If we are unable to describe our sex or collect sex-based data, we are unable to clearly see our oppression and therefore unable to address it. The beneficiaries of sexism cannot be permitted to claim they are the victims of sexism.
Furthermore, the definition of “gender identity” and its prioritization over “sex” eviscerates the sex-based rights of lesbians and gay men. WHRC USA fully supports the right to be free of discrimination based on sexual orientation, which is both necessary and long overdue.
The Equality Act uses the expression "LGBTQ" as a descriptor for a demographic consisting of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals of both sexes, transgender people of both sexes, and “queer” people of both sexes, whatever it might mean to be “queer.” But the groups that comprise it are not a single demographic, and do not share the same needs for protection; in fact, the rights of people who are exclusively same-sex attracted are all eviscerated by any right of a man or boy to be treated as a woman or girl, or vice versa.
Sen. Susan Collins has announced that she will not co-sponsor the Equality Act as written. She seeks exemptions for women’s domestic violence shelters, women’s homeless shelters, and a religious exemption; and she calls for a discussion about women-only sports. We are encouraged by these developments, but the position of WHRC USA is that exemptions in certain areas of public life, while helpful in reducing harmful applications of “gender identity,” miss the larger problem -- namely, that men are not women, and that replacing “sex” with “gender identity” will erase the hard-won rights that women and homosexual people have under existing law.
There is no category of public life where “gender identity” can be protected without reducing or eliminating protections for women (including lesbians) and for children. Women need separation and protection from men in their domestic violence shelters; in their prisons; on their sports teams; in their barracks. Girls and women need separation and protection from men in their locker rooms, dressing rooms, showers, and public restrooms. Lesbians need freedom from employment and housing discrimination, and also the freedom to meet with each other outside the presence of men who want to date them as well as to be them; no man is a lesbian, even if he claims to be one. And children need protection from their own limited abilities to foresee and consent to the inevitable, irreparable damage to their bodies caused by experimental surgeries and long-term exposure to puberty blockers and/or cross-sex hormones.
Failure to provide protective separation from males in public spaces results in preventable violence against women and girls, as well as diminution of access to sports trophies and scholarships, in violation of Title IX. Lesbians have a right to meet exclusively with other lesbians. Lesbians have a right to be defined as exclusively homosexual females; and to have that definition exclude males. Please do not send this misogynistic and homophobic piece of legislation to the Senate floor.
Third, children have a right to intact bodies prior to the age of majority. If children cannot get tattoos without parental consent, how can they consent to having their breasts or penis cut off? Or to taking cross-sex hormones long term, with permanent and only partially known consequences? During the Senate confirmation hearing of Dr. Rachel Levine, a man who claims to have a female “gender identity,” your colleague Senator Paul very helpfully demanded that Dr. Levine answer questions about previous support for the off-label use of puberty blockers in minor children. Dr. Levine refused to answer the questions. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of so-called “gender clinics” in the United States, and children are regularly being given dangerous hormones because our society has decided that so-called “gender identity” is real. It is not.
How long is our country going to continue to pretend that these horrors are not happening?
WHRC USA has written a bill that closely follows the format as well as the purported intention of the Equality Act. We call our bill the Equality for All Act, or the EFAA.
The EFAA creates new or expanded protections for three classes. They are approximately the same classes purported to be protected by the Equality Act, but in the EFAA they are defined rationally, scientifically, clearly, and consistent with common sense; so that the protections can be understood and applied by the public and by the courts.
The three classes are defined so that they do not conflict or undermine each other.
- "Sex" is defined as reproductive biology.
- "Sexual orientation" is based on sex and includes same-sex behaviors by lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals.
- "Nonconformity with sex-based stereotypes" is what the EFAA substitutes for "gender identity". It protects everyone who may be perceived as not sufficiently conforming to sex-role stereotypes. This protection from discrimination would apply regardless of subjective feelings of "identity," so it would protect a woman who is perceived as "butch," as well as a man who is perceived as feminine. But that man would remain a man in the eyes of the law. And that man would be given no rights or protections given exclusively to women on the basis of sex.
To summarize how our bill addresses the shortcomings of the Equality Act:
The EFAA replaces "gender identity" with "nonconformity with sex-role stereotypes". The latter protects behaviors, rather than unverifiable, subjective feelings or beliefs that are not actually discriminated against.
The EFAA removes all references to the meaningless "LGBTQ", and instead refers to lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals as applicable. It also avoids all references to "transgender", "gender identity", and "queer".
The EFAA defines "sex" as reproductive biology; and it defines both "sexual orientation" and "nonconformity with sex-role stereotypes" as sex based. Which is to say that all three protected classes are grounded in biological reality.
The EFAA connects the terms "pregnancy" and "childbirth" exclusively with females. Because only women have babies.
Finally, the EFAA defines “sex”, “sexual orientation”, and “nonconformity with sex-role stereotypes” clearly, separately, and without conflicting with each other.
Thank you for hearing me out on this matter of crucial importance. How the US handles this matter will have global repercussions. On Monday March 8, International Women's Day, the Women's Human Rights Campaign US chapter submitted a letter to Senate Majority Leader Schumer, signed by thousands of women all around the world, explaining the devastating impacts that this bill would have on women globally. If this Committee sends this bill to the full Senate, and if Majority Leader Schumer brings it to a floor vote, he will do so knowing that he is doing it over the objections of women all over the world. I ask the Democrats on this Committee not to put him in that difficult position.
The world is watching closely to see how the United States treats women, children, homosexuals, and those who do not conform to sex-role stereotypes; because the United States is a political and cultural world leader, and because, in reality, the whole world knows that men are not women.
Member, WHRC USA Steering Committee
Chair, WHRC Committee on Law and Legislation