Guest post: Is that an appropriate thing to ask?

Originally a comment by Screechy Monkey on Can you affirm my gender at 3 p.m. Tuesday?

The “gender affirming” bit is key. It seems to be what all of these fights are about, or at least most of them.

Yaniv wants these spas to give her treatments that will supposedly “affirm” her in her gender. (I’m more than a little suspicious that this is Yaniv’s only or even her main motive, but let that go for now.)

Trans women athletes want to compete with cis women because it will “affirm” their gender to be in the “women’s” event. (Again, I’m being charitable and assuming that they’re not motivated by a desire to win awards and scholarships.)

Same for arguments about having birth certificates changed — it seems to be about getting the state, or other people or businesses, to “affirm” their gender.

And… is that an appropriate thing to ask? I think other civil rights movements have wisely focused on concrete, meaningful rights that directly affect people’s lives: the right to employment, housing, legal benefits of marriage, and so on. In fact, in the gay marriage debate, it was the anti-SSM side that insisted that the liberals were gonna make you renounce your religious views about homosexuality and swear fealty to our new gay overlords. Marriage equality advocates generally kept the focus on “no, we just want the same rights as everyone else. You can think our marriage is stupid or immoral or illegitimate in your eyes or God’s, just as we have opinions about some straight people’s marriages. Just give us the damn legal rights.”

Purely as a matter of public persuasion, I think it’s a big ask to demand that the state, or people generally, certify that someone’s perceived gender identity equals their gender. I also suspect that it would be a poor legal strategy, as it opens up some possible First Amendment (in the U.S.) implications regarding compelled speech and religious freedom.

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