I almost allowed myself to get snared by a Facebook trap the other day. The bait: Sex-change operations for 3-year-olds.
The subject came up because of a recent Senate hearing on Rachel Levine, a Biden Administration nominee for assistant secretary of health in the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Ms. Levine is a transgender woman.
She ducked a question from Sen. Rand Paul about whether kids ought to able to have sex-change operations. That set off a rant by Sen. Paul about how nobody ought to be talking to 3-year-olds about the subject. Which of course prompted a friend of mine to post a litmus test: If you don’t agree about this, you’re not my friend anymore.
Thing is, nobody is actually advocating sex-change operations for 3-year-olds. Ms. Levine said the entire subject is a complicated medical issue, yadda yadda yadda. She took no position. Which of course is pretty lame, but that’s the way these hearings usually are. Sen. Paul’s rant, as well as the reaction to it by some Democrats, were way overblown. Again, nobody’s actually advocating taking a scalpel to a toddler.
I didn’t fall for the trap, but let me try to be clear here: Talking to young kids about gender is fine, normal, and healthy. Talking to them about sex-change operations is for later. Actually having them go through it? That seems like something that only an adult should be able to do. I mean, if you can’t vote until you’re 18, and you can’t order a Miller Lite until you’re 21, it seems reasonable to say that you can’t alter your gender until you’re 18. We restrict young people from doing certain things because we know they need time and experience and perspective. This seems like one of those things.
The counterargument: Hey, if they change their bodies, they’re not affecting anyone else. Why should we as a society be in the business of protecting them from themselves? Fair enough, but there are many ways in which we limit choices for minors. Seems reasonable to do the same here.
While I’m on this subject, I have a principle I’d like to espouse on transgender people competing in sports. I have no problem with women competing in men’s sports. The problem is when a transgender woman — that is, a man who has become a woman — wants to compete in women’s sports.
I don’t think it should be allowed. Even if a person has gone through the entire operation, and has had hormone treatments, and so forth, that person still has an unfair advantage. That advantage, quite simply, is exposure beginning in utero to testosterone. That allows for the development of a muscular structure that women simply do not have.
To me, there ought to be two divisions: 1. Women’s sports, and 2. Anyone else.
Yes, my proposal would have prohibited Renee Richards from competing in women’s professional tennis, way back in the 1970s. Keep in mind, I have no problem with Ms. Richards’ decision to have the operation, and I admire her courage and determination to play. I would also note that she did not become some sort of dominant figure in the game. But testosterone means she — as would anyone else in the same situation — had an unfair advantage.