On Biden’s first day in office, he signed an executive order promising to uphold federal protections for LGBTQ+ Americans. It was an important move, even more so because it was one of the first things Biden did as president, sending the message to queer and transgender Americans that they are a priority to his administration. But although Biden signed an anti-discrimination order, many are falsely claiming the policy is discriminatory — against cisgender women.
On Thursday, trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs), also known as “gender critical feminists,” started the hashtag #BidenErasedWomen on Twitter to express their outrage at the president for offering protection to trans people and, in particular, trans women and girls. Attacking trans women is, of course, the cornerstone of gender-critical feminism (of which J.K. Rowling is the most prominent practitioner).
Biden’s Executive Order, titled “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation,” upholds and commits to enforcing the decision in the Supreme Court case Bostock v. Clayton County, which determined that discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation was unconstitutional.
“Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love,” the order reads. “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”
It is this second sentence of this statement that anti-trans trolls have latched onto, claiming that allowing transgender women and girls to use the restroom or play on a sports team that aligns with their gender is dangerous to cisgender women and girls. This argument is based on the transphobic and inaccurate belief that trans women are actually men who are trying to infiltrate women’s spaces in order to assault and victimize them.
In reality, trans women are far more likely to be the ones harmed and assaulted while using the bathroom than cis women are. Not only that, restricting bathroom use for trans folks actually increases their sexual assault risk. Research has also shown that there is no correlation between allowing trans people to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity and safety risks for cis people, yet the harassment around this persists.
Abigail Shrier, a noted TERF, who authored Irreversible Damage (read: the cover features a drawing of a young girl with a hole cut out of her middle and includes chapters titled “The Contagion” and “Carving Up Girlhood”) took to Twitter to claim that this executive order was an assault on cis women. In her tweet, Shrier says that Biden “unilaterally eviscerates women's sports” by placing “a new glass ceiling” over girls and claiming that “any educational institution that receives federal funding must [now] admit biologically-male athletes to women's teams, women's scholarships, etc.”
But as Chase Strangio, the ACLU lawyer who worked on the Bostock case, pointed out, this is demonstrably false. “Trans girls (who are girls) have been on sports teams for years,” Strangio tweeted. “Title IX and Bostock are the source of the protection, not yesterday’s EO. Biden just agrees to enforce the law.”
Beyond that, when it comes to allowing trans girls to compete on girls’ teams, TERFs argue that they have an advantage over cis girls because they were assigned male at birth. This sexist and transmisogynist claim — that trans women and girls will dominate girls’ sports — not only underestimates the skill and athletic talent of girls, it isn’t based in reality.
If this argument were true, there would be trans women and girls dominating women’s sports at every level; the fact that there is not is a testament to the shoddy logic the argument is based on. In Connecticut, the families of three cisgender girls sued the state arguing that their daughters would never be able to beat the two trans girls who competed in their district; shortly after that lawsuit was filed, one of the cis girls did beat the trans girl she claimed she never would.
Providing protection to trans women does not erase or compromise the rights and safety of cis women. Rather, making the world safer and more accepting of trans women and girls will ultimately make it safer for all women and girls. By signing the order and promising to uphold existing protections for trans women, Biden is not erasing cis women. Instead, he is committing to protect all women — trans and cis — during his time in office.
As Biden’s EO said, “All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.” Thank you, Mr. President.