Legally and biologically speaking, there are two genders.
I know, this an unpopular theory in some quarters. If you’re in academia, attending a protest or watching Twitch streams, yes, there are probably a whole array of genders — anywhere between 26 to 372, I would guesstimate.
However, neither your gender studies professor nor that woke guy streaming “Minecraft” at 3 a.m. on Twitch and mumbling about transphobia determines human biological realities, nor do they issue passports. Thus, except in the profoundly rare occasions where a person has intersex characteristics caused by genetic variations, a human being is either male or female.
Your chromosomal makeup is XX (female) or XY (male). No matter what you may choose to do with them, you’re born with sex organs that correspond to that chromosomal makeup. There are also physical variations between the two genders — something that’s relevant in situations where, say, ascertaining an individual’s identity is important.
All of this is science, something we’ve been told (and not infrequently, may I add) by the Biden administration is Very Important. However, this apparently isn’t the important kind of science, since the administration indicated this week it’s open to throwing it all in the dustbin to fulfill a campaign promise.
At a media briefing Monday on International Women’s Day, White House press secretary Jen Psaki, Gender Policy Council executive director Jennifer Klein and Gender Policy Council co-chairwoman Julissa Reynoso weren’t necessarily willing to definitively back a proposal to put a third gender choice on federal identification documents, but this seemed more to do with the bureaucratic logistic than the science.
According to a White House transcript, the three were asked by a reporter whether President Biden would sign an executive order to allow a third gender option on federal government IDs.
“I haven’t looked yet to see whether that requires an executive order,” Klein said.
“I mean, I would note that we are very inclusive in our definition of gender, and we intend to address all sorts of discrimination and, you know, fight for equal rights for people, whether that’s LGBTQ+ people, women, girls–“
“Men,” Reynoso interjected.
“Men,” Klein reiterated. “So, you know, that’s certainly something that we will look at. But I honestly don’t know whether that requires an executive order.”
“Because the American Civil Liberties Union is pushing for an executive order for this action,” the reporter said. “I was wondering if anything like that was under consideration at this time.”
“It sounds like we’ll have to just look into it a little bit more and see what’s required, but it’s a good question,” Psaki said before bringing the media briefing to a close.
White House officials are signaling their openness to adding a third gender option to federal IDs.
Jennifer Klein, the executive director of the White House Gender Policy Council, said she didn’t know whether it would require an executive order. pic.twitter.com/UPudbV2Nq6
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) March 8, 2021
The ACLU’s position on this, in case you were fretting about it, can be best summed up in a piece titled “They The People: The Biden Administration Must go Beyond Repealing Trump’s Attacks on Trans Rights.”
“There’s one important action this administration can take right away to show transgender people that they respect and support us: Give us identification that reflects who we are,” wrote Arli Christian, ACLU campaign strategist and former state policy director at the National Center for Transgender Equality. “That’s why one of the ACLU’s top priorities for the Biden-Harris administration is an executive order updating the process by which federal agencies change gender markers on IDs.”
“This order will ensure that all transgender people have access to an accurate ID. Currently, to update a gender marker in the social security system, on a passport, on immigration documents, or on any other federal ID or record, an applicant must submit a letter from a medical doctor attesting to appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition. This executive order would remove those burdensome medical documentation requirements so that everyone has access to the appropriate gender marker, and add an ‘X’ option so that non-binary, intersex, and other folks have an accurate designation.”
The first passport ever issued — known as “safe conduct” documents back in ye olde days — was in 1414, as Leo Benedictus noted in a 2006 piece for The Guardian. Passports as we know them now, however, didn’t really come about until the early 20th century.
I’ll freely admit these were more hidebound, less enlightened times. The court of Henry V didn’t likely discuss genderqueer individuals when issuing those first safe-conduct documents, nor did the customs officials of a century ago give much thought to those who would prefer to go by the pronoun “xir.”
However, we don’t keep the gender of a passport-bearer on there because we’re all clinging by our fingernails to the last vestiges of universal cisgender heteronormativity. Gender provides one useful biometric marker among many on the document.
Nor would the change necessarily make the passport-bearer’s life easier. We thankfully live in a country where we debate whether or not it contravenes science or removes a biometric marker in the name of wokeness. It’s worth noting a passport gives an individual passage to parts of the world that, um, aren’t quite so enlightened. Far be it from me to to endorse any kind of discrimination, but we must remember that a passport is a practical — not a simply symbolic — document.
To put it delicately, it’s unclear whether a victory for LGBT activists at home will meet with an ugly tradeoff at the immigration lines at, say, King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Passports aren’t the only documents this would affect, mind you — but it’s one of the forms of identification now-President Joe Biden promised to change as part of his campaign platform.
“Biden believes every transgender or non-binary person should have the option of changing their gender marker to ‘M,’ ‘F,’ or ‘X’ on government identifications, passports, and other documentation,” Biden’s campaign website stated. “He will support state and federal efforts to allow for this accurate representation.”
As the Washington Examiner notes, there are at least 14 states at present that allow some form of non-binary identification on drivers’ licenses. That’s not something an executive order will change, though.
As for passports and other federal IDs, while Psaki, Klein and Reynoso were noncommittal, that certainly seemed to be the way they were trending. (In fact, read one way — “I haven’t looked yet to see whether that requires an executive order” — Klein’s answer could be interpreted as meaning an executive order isn’t required at all.)
For an administration that talks about going where the science takes it, it’s interesting how its officials seem to be more willing to follow the ACLU and social media influencers than cold, hard facts on the science of sex.
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