Science Won’t Settle Trans Rights

Anne Fausto-Sterling in the Boston Review:

On the eve of the new year, my Twitter feed and an academic listserv I frequent lit up with arguments about biology and society. Some people had a lot to say about scientific matters—birth sex, assigned sex, genes and chromosomes—while others appealed to social ones: employment rights, free speech, and gender diversity. I could tell that transgender rights lay at the heart of the matter, but why were the people who tagged me on Twitter raging at one another about biological truth? And why were the professionals on my listserv raising disturbing questions about free speech and material reality while also trying to relitigate the meanings of sex and gender?

This essay is for the reader who feels as buffeted and perplexed by the arguments as I sometimes do. The first thing to say is that these disputes have real consequences. I fully support the rights of transgender people to live free from the fear of violence, to use public facilities as they wish, to participate in competitive sports, and to enjoy fair and equal education and employment opportunities. At this historical moment, however, these rights often remain aspirational. Resistance to their achievement is widespread. If, as a society, we want to make progress, it is important to sort through the charged appeals to abstract notions such as scientific truth, material reality, and freedom of speech.

More here.