Gender Dogma Threatens to Pulverize Women's Rights | Opinion

Earlier this month, on International Women's Day, President Joe Biden announced he will request $2.6 billion for foreign assistance programs to promote "gender equality" abroad. A week before that, during his State of the Union address, he pleaded with Congress to pass the Equality Act—a piece of legislation he vowed to enshrine as law within his first 100 days in office. The bill would, among other things, create federal protections against discrimination based on the concept of gender identity. It passed the House of Representatives last year, but is currently pending approval of the Senate.

Biden had already established the White House Gender Policy Council, tasked with "leading a government-wide effort to advance gender equity and equality both at home and abroad," and launched a National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality to address "gender discrimination" and "work to advance gender equity and equality in the law and ensure that rights on paper are fully implemented in practice."

It appears that women's rights have now become gender rights.

You would be forgiven for forgetting that the United States was a pioneer in outlawing sex discrimination through the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Today, public policies are modifying the meaning of sex to include gender identity—when they don't erase sex altogether. The Equality Act seeks to make this the national law.

Attorney and professor of sexual violence law Wendy Murphy writes for the Boston Herald:

The bill...will amend numerous civil rights laws by changing the meaning of the word sex and conflating it with gender identity, so that both become optional.... People can change their gender identity because gender identity is based on how one feels and some people feel more male than female and vice versa, but sex is not about feelings, it's about biological reality.

This poses significant problems. In the U.S., discussions about how sex and gender interact are often met with hostility and accusations of transphobia, but at last, a debate is breaking through. In the U.K., the sex and gender identity debate has come to a head, most prominently in the form of civil litigation to challenge what some feminists perceive as a systemic erosion of women's rights.

I am one of those feminists. Last month, I took my academic institution to court. I am claiming sex discrimination and negligence against the University of Bristol over what I argue were failures to uphold free speech about this issue on campus, by allowing the bullying and harassment of women who dissent from gender orthodoxy.

Women's march
The 4th Annual Women's March gathered at Columbus Circle in NYC, January 18, 2020. Barbara Alper/Getty Images

The strangeness of this situation is not lost on me. Having spent more than a decade studying Women and Gender Studies and working in women's shelters, I never expected to face intimidation for my opinions about gender—least of all from progressive people—because discussing gender and its impact on women is my life's work.

I minored in Women and Gender Studies in Utah and did a Masters Degree in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies in Oregon. Yet in January 2018, when I started my PhD at the University of Bristol's Centre for Gender and Violence Research, trans activist staff and students objected to my view that perhaps we should be critical about some gender theories, rather than swallow them whole. A years-long campaign of abuse and intimidation followed. Instead of supporting me, the university sided with the bullies, began to target me and offered me money to abandon my studies.

Originally, I accepted an invitation to chair a feminist meeting about this topic, because I was worried that allowing people to self-identify into the male or female category based on their personal preference could have detrimental effects—and that the brunt of these effects would be shouldered by women and girls.

This is not hyperbole or fearmongering. Around the world, we are witnessing the impact of substituting gender identity for sex, and of pretending that biological sex is irrelevant in life and in policy.

What this means in practice is that statistical data about violence against women are becoming skewed on a global scale, as countries slowly but surely erase sex. Women are losing out on Olympic dreams as their trophies are awarded to trans women who have a physiological advantage. Decoupling women from biology carries life-or-death consequences for half the world's population, as we are finally beginning to recognize the importance of sex differences for health issues such as the way symptoms manifest, how people process pain and the way our bodies metabolize medication.

The demand to impose gender dogma over an entire population has the potential to pulverize women's rights. Ironically, it is women like me—lifelong advocates for equality, diversity and inclusion—who are being bullied, intimidated, censored and attacked for sticking our heads above the parapet.

Yet these attempts to snuff out the debate about sex and gender identity are backfiring tremendously. In the U.K., the women's rights movement is fully revived, with unexpected leading lights such as J.K. Rowling daring to withstand the onslaught, becoming a beacon that encourages more people to speak up and be counted. Grassroots campaigning is uniting women from all walks of life and across political party lines.

What my legal case demonstrates is that, on too many university campuses, nobody is allowed to dissent from gender orthodoxy. Not even experts on gender, like me. Regardless of the outcome, I am pleased that the time of silently witnessing the erasure of our sex is over. Far too many women have endured abuse for objecting to gender doctrines, and we are saying: "enough is enough."

Raquel Rosario Sánchez is a writer, researcher, and campaigner from the Dominican Republic.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.