Hardly a day goes by lately when there isn’t some news article about a “transgender” issue.

A Google search of the word “transgender” produced about 447 million results in less than a second. The Philadelphia Inquirer recently printed an article titled: “Trans students want Shapiro to declare Pa. a sanctuary state.” The Bud Light beer backlash is, perhaps, the latest instance getting national attention. Of greater importance, however, is the issue of “trans women” participating in women’s sports and entering girls’ locker rooms, and what states and various sporting authorities are doing about it.

The American Psychological Association website contains a posting under the title “Understanding transgender people, gender identity and gender expression” that contains the following: 

“Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.”

Sex is not assigned at birth. How can supposedly intelligent, educated people with graduate degrees listed after their names believe that it is? How can we, as a society, tolerate the idea that sex is nothing more than something “assigned”? Is the APA unaware that for a great many years the sex of a pre-born baby can be determined long before birth? Do they not know that the sex of that baby was established even before we are able to determine it? “Identities” may be flexible, but sex is an immutable fact.

READ MORE — Howard Lurie: “Free Press” declares war on “Free Speech”

All of which gets me to the point of saying that one cannot change one’s sex. In all but a few rare exceptions involving birth defects, a baby is either a male or a female, and that cannot be changed. One may wish to be of the opposite sex. One may even actually believe, regardless of what their body is telling them, that they are the other sex. But that wish and that belief do not change the reality. A penis and testicles is a sure sign of a male, and a vagina is a sure sign of a female. 

Surgical removal of body parts, even when accompanied by medications that alter or interfere with normal physical development, may alter the individual’s sexual appearance, but it does not change a male into a female or a female into a male. 

One simply cannot “trans” their gender. Lipstick and a dress, even following surgery and medication, does not turn a man into a woman. And a double mastectomy and medically induced facial hair does not change a woman into a man. 

Transgendered people are human beings and entitled to all the rights the rest of us enjoy. The pain and anguish that they suffer from the divergence of what their bodies and their minds tells them is real. They deserve our respect and are entitled to our compassion for the difficulties they face as a result.

With all that said, I will defend the right of anyone to claim they are transgender. They can choose whatever pronouns that they want to use for themselves, and I will not insist they do otherwise.

However, they have no right to insist I use their preferred pronouns or accept their belief as to their gender. They have no right to compel me or any of us to accept whatever they believe about themselves. If they have the right to believe what they want for themselves, do we not have the right to not accept what they believe? Their beliefs are not entitled to more respect, legally or otherwise, than anyone else’s.

There is a difference between gender identity and gender reality. The adults in the room need to realize that.

The Inquirer article tells of a recent student rally in Philadelphia at which “more than 100 students and some teachers from several Philadelphia high schools walked out of class and made their way to City Hall.” 

“At the rally, the organizers made several demands of the city, the School District of Philadelphia, and elected officials…” One of those demands was that members of the Pennsylvania House oppose legislation that would “ban transgender girls and women from participating on girls’ and women’s sports teams at public schools and colleges…”

Clearly, “transgender girls and women” are not the same as girls and women. That is what “trans” means. They have changed. They are saying they have changed. And they are demanding we accept their change.

The reality, however, is that they have not changed no matter how much they believe that they have changed. The removal of body parts or the medicinal interference with normal physical development does not change a male into a female or a female into a male. 

The rally organizers also oppose expanding “a person’s ability to sue after receiving gender-affirming treatment.” In other words, they oppose efforts to aid someone who has been harmed by “gender-affirming treatment” to sue for that harm. Apparently, it is okay to change, but not to regret the change later.

There is a difference between gender identity and gender reality. The adults in the room need to realize that.

Howard Lurie is Emeritus Professor of Law, Charles Widger School of Law, Villanova University.

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