In one of his first acts as president, Joe Biden issued a sweeping executive order to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This act didn’t just reject the anti-LGBTQ+ stance taken in the actions of the Trump administration, but it made clear that gay, nonbinary, and transgender people are protected against discrimination in the workplace, schools, and in healthcare. In response, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley suggested that Biden's respect for basic civil rights apparently harms women. Specifically, Haley took issue with the executive order because it would pave the way for a federal mandate that would let “biological men” play on women’s sports teams.
“The order was framed as a matter of transgender rights. But really, it was an attack on women’s rights,” Haley, who served as an ambassador under Donald Trump, wrote for the National Review. “If this trend isn’t stopped, the achievements of so many brave women over so many years will be erased. That’s wrong. It’s insulting. And women know it, too…[but] they’re just afraid to speak out because they know they’ll be silenced and called bigots.”
In her call to action to get the backing of “those who should know better,” she left out one very important detail: studies as recent as this week show that trans-inclusive sports policies do not harm cisgender youth.
On Monday, a 41-page report released by the Center for American Progress (CAP) argued that banning the trans community from sports programs would actually deprive a whole group of people of the benefits of athletics such as lower risks of anxiety, depression, and drug use. Despite more than 20 states introducing targeted legislation preventing transgender kids from participating in sports programs according to their gender identity, the report found that this rhetoric of an “unfair advantage” does not actually hold up to data-drive scrutiny.
“These bills cloak transmisogyny in inflammatory language and scare tactics that distract from the policies’ discriminatory intent,” the report reads.
Under the guise of being a feminist and protecting women, Haley is arrantly discriminating against transgender women. And she’s not the only one. Republican Senator Mike Lee also decided to cast himself as a fervent "defender" of women in order to argue against transgender girls participating in sports programs. Citing the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, he has fought to get a bill passed that would revoke federal funding from schools that allow transgender women and girls to participate in sports according to their gender identity. He claimed it was part of a “deliberate, sadistic effort” to “harm girls.” The bill was introduced by former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Rep. Markwayne Mullin; former Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler was the bill’s lead sponsor.
Looking at Haley’s political track record, her feminist-fervor does not appear to extend beyond demanding she gets to define who is and isn’t a woman. She does not defend women’s rights when it comes to access to basic healthcare. As a governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017, she consistently supported laws that restricted women’s access to health services providing abortions.
In the one year she served as UN ambassador, Haley voted against condemning the imposition of the death penalty for homosexuality at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. She also acted as head of the delegation that sent anti-trans activist Bethany Kozma to the UN Commission of the Status of Women (CSW) – the world’s largest meeting on women’s rights and gender equality – as a senior adviser for the Office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.
But one thing is clear: this is not about women’s rights. Haley may say it is, but her actions show that she cares more about exclusion and her own narrow definition of gender than she does about actually protecting tthe people who identify as women. So let's call her what she really is here: a TERF.