Feminist Writing. Fourth Wave. For Women.

An Open Letter to Joe Biden

From a feminist concerned about all this gender malarkey

An Open Letter to Joe Biden

I grew up keenly aware of the way people would treat my male counterparts as though they were more reasonable than I was—me, a girl. Silly of me to think I could get them to take me just as seriously, right?

In middle school, a boy slapped my best friend on the butt as she reached into her locker.

In high school, I saw boys in my class whisper to each other and smile as they watched one of my classmates walk by in a short skirt. And I heard boys in all different cliques cheer each other on and give each other high fives for hooking up with girls they called sluts.

My friends threw this term around too. It was a joke. “Answer your phone, slut.” “Why are you late, whore?” I felt like I was watching the world through someone else’s eyes as I listened to my friends echo these words and tried to connect the people who could say these things to the people who stayed up with me all night talking about folk lyrics. The people who I shared pints of ice cream with and who I laughed with at stupid videos on YouTube.

I know the unconscious philosophy: “If you can’t beat them, join them.”

When I started talking about sexism, they rolled their eyes as they laughed and said I was dramatic. Everyone. Boys. Girls. My friends.

My high school, according to Title IX, was short one girl’s sport. But as much as my sideline cheer coach pushed for competitive cheer or a stunt team, the athletics director wouldn’t budge. And why didn’t we have a competitive cheerleading team in the first place? Rumor had it the previous competitive coach (male) had sex with at least one of the cheerleaders.

Fast forward to my time in college, and I think almost half of my female friends have been sexually assaulted. And if we’re honest, as women, we know we’ve all been sexually harassed— whether it was because someone thought we were attractive, or because someone thought we weren’t.

"It scares me to be alone in a room with a man I don’t know well."

It scares me to be alone in a room with a man I don’t know well. I hold my breath and my muscles tense when an elevator door closes with just me and a random man inside. I know many girls and women feel the same.

This fear is reasonable. According to RAINN, 90% of adult rape victims are female. 90% of perpetrators of sexual violence against women are men. 93% of perpetrators of sexual violence against men are men. As the Huffington Post put it, “Male violence is the worst problem in the world.”

Women had to fight for their own sports. We’re still fighting to be believed when we say we were sexually assaulted, and that’s only if we realize that what was done to us was wrong and then decide to come forward with it in the first place.

Vice President Biden, you stated that, “Transgender equality is the civil rights issue of our time. There is no room for compromise when it comes to basic human rights.” I agree that all people, regardless of gender identity or presentation, should have basic human rights. But the policies that you support, like the Equality Act, don’t do this. Your policies would, instead, eliminate women’s rights and spaces.

Why do women have to give up rights that were fought for, rights that keep us safe?

"1 billion women and girls (one in three) across the world still lack access to safe bathrooms."

Sex-segregated spaces, like bathrooms, exist for a reason. We take women’s bathrooms for granted now, but women’s rooms only emerged around the turn of the century. Access to public bathrooms gives women, who need bathrooms more than men and are at risk using facilities with men, access to the public sphere. According to WaterAid, about 1 billion women and girls (one in three) across the world still lack access to safe bathrooms. Women and girls in India are forced to hold it in for hours on end, or risk assault, trying to find a safe bathroom. This limits their access to paid labor. In New Zealand, women in male-dominated industries are taking dehydration pills to avoid having to use the bathroom with men.

Men, on the other hand, claim that they should be able to access women's restrooms to validate their gender identity. Is there really a question of which is more important here? Feelings or physical safety? Validation or access to participation in the public sphere?

On your campaign website, Vice President Biden, you talk about ensuring people be housed in shelters according to their gender identity under the Obama-Biden administration. Of course trans-identifying males deserve to be protected, but so do women.

"Between 22% and 57% of women facing homelessness reported domestic violence as the direct cause. "

Women in shelters are among the most vulnerable population; between 22% and 57% of women facing homelessness reported domestic violence as the direct cause. Housing vulnerable and traumatized women with male people compounds that trauma and reduces their ability to heal. It also opens the door up to abusers who wish to gain access to victims. Right now in Canada, our neighbor to the North, women’s shelters are being defunded because they wish to remain female-only. Is this your vision for America?

You should know this. You wrote the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, and on your campaign website, you’ve promised to make enacting the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 one of your first 100 day priorities. Your website says you are committed to “ensuring justice for survivors.” You know how high the rate of sexual and physical violence against women is. Women are an oppressed group—we need to stop pretending otherwise.

"It is thanks to Title IX that girls’ participation in sports has risen from four percent to ten times that, 40 percent."

Women have historically had fewer opportunities than men. We’ve worked to try to bridge that gap. Women worked hard to get their own athletic teams, so they could compete fairly. We know males are stronger than females in ways that matter in competitive sports. Males have advantages other than just testosterone levels such as bone strength and heart and lung strength that cannot be changed through hormone therapy or surgeries. Title IX exists to protect women’s educational opportunities—including in sports. It is thanks to Title IX that girls’ participation in sports has risen from four percent to ten times that, 40 percent.

The Equality Act, which you support, would end Title IX as we know it by making “gender identity” a protected characteristic. No one is saying trans people should not compete in sports; male people of any identity can compete on male teams, just as female people can compete on female teams. Girls and women lose opportunities when males are allowed to compete against them in athletics. Working to take away what women have fought for is not progressive.

You have stated that, “Every young person deserves to be affirmed and accepted exactly as they are—regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.” However, you have teamed up with groups that do the opposite—tell children they are in the wrong body if they fail to conform to gender norms.

How can we justify telling children they’re trapped in the wrong body simply because they don’t conform to gender stereotypes? Almost no one, if anyone, feels comfortable with every one of the gender stereotypes placed on them and are in fact probably uncomfortable with most of them. Let children grow up without gender stereotypes rather than without biological sex. Boys can wear skirts; they’re still boys. Girls can play with trucks; they’re still girls. That gender stereotypes are damaging has been a topic of discussion for decades; why are we rolling back on this and instead moving to change our bodies and definitions?

"Between 65 to 94 percent of trans-identifying children eventually desist."

Often touted as justification for this medicalization of gender non-conforming children are the high rates of depression and suicide among those with gender dysphoria. Yet, studies have shown that although sex reassignment and hormonal therapy can alleviate gender dysphoria, it doesn’t change these high rates of depression and suicide. So why are we pushing people, especially children, with healthy bodies to get life altering surgeries and/or hormonal therapy that will make them medical patients? Between 65 to 94 percent of trans-identifying children eventually desist (stop identifying as trans). Many turn out to be gay.

I grew up being ignored and belittled. I went through high school and the years shortly after being taken advantage of. This was all, and is all, because I was born female. I’ve seen lesbians called transphobic for stating their attraction is based on sex rather than gender. I’ve read about teenagers placed on hormone blockers, years before their brain is fully developed. I've noticed studies neglect to further examine whether sex reassignment surgery lowers suicide rates of trans people long term.

There is a lot of pressure right now to cave to the mob. But, please, Vice President Biden, do the right thing. For many young women, transgenderism is the ultimate “if you can’t beat them, join them.” They think, consciously or not, it’ll allow them to identify into the group with power. Men may fear being bullied for being a man wearing a skirt or lipstick or for engaging in activities traditionally engaged in by women. Wouldn’t it be better for both these groups if we changed society rather than making them change everything about themselves?

All human beings deserve equal rights and protections, and all human beings deserve to be treated with respect. I want trans people to be happy just like I want everyone else to be happy. The pursuit of happiness, though, cannot infringe on someone else’s rights, on someone else’s happiness. And the pursuit of happiness shouldn’t have to mean medicalizing a physically healthy person or ignoring biological realities.

I’m not saying no one should be allowed to get hormone therapy or reassignment surgery, but we should stop treating it as the norm and stop pretending cosmetic surgery actually makes a male female, or vice versa. Gender dysphoria is a serious health issue; surgery and medicalization is not the only option and likely should be a last resort. We shouldn’t be letting children make medical decisions that will affect their health for the rest of their lives and treating parents who resist this as abusive.

Please. Protect women’s spaces. Work toward expelling gender stereotypes.

Vice President Biden, you have long been a proponent of women. Will you protect our rights now? As a proponent of LGBT rights, will you consider the research and the immense number of people in detransition?

America needs a President who will be brave enough to protect women and girls. To be progressive is to stand against the status quo when there is reason to believe it’s not right or it’s not beneficial. Will you be progressive, or will you follow the tide because it makes you look progressive?

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