Last week, I did something I’ve never done before and hope never to do again: I testified before the United States Senate. I don’t particularly like public speaking, and I loathe traveling for work, away from my family. But I paid for my own ridiculously expensive ticket and boarded a plane, all because a very bad bill—the Equality Act—had sailed through the House; it seemed about to become law. Women were on the verge of losing the entire edifice of girls’ sports opportunities and protective spaces without much of a fight.
This was not my first invitation to testify before a legislature. I have many times been asked to testify on behalf of legislation restricting medical transition of minors, and in every instance, I have turned those requests down. First, I dislike politics. Second, I am neither a physician, nor do I wish to tie their hands. Although I’ve written extensively about the risks of these procedures, I did so without any specific public policy goals in mind.
But I am a lawyer, and the Equality Act is a bill with terrible flaws, full of consequences almost no one was talking about. On its face, the bill seemed noble: full civil rights for gay and transgender Americans. Witnesses brought to the Senate Judiciary Committee by the bill’s sponsors talked about the importance of protecting the employment and public housing rights of gay and transgender Americans. They talked about guaranteeing the rights of LGBTQ Americans to sit at lunch counters and use Ubers and taxis—things no decent person could conceivably oppose. As I said in my remarks, I would have publicly supported a bill that did all those things.
But by enshrining Gender Ideology into law – that is, by insisting that anyone who self-identified as a ‘woman’ be immediately granted the full panoply of rights and legal entitlement to enter all of women’s protective spaces – the law would be ripe for abuse. I said in my testimony, and I’ll say again now: my concerns have nothing to do with transgender Americans (overwhelmingly good people who pose absolutely no threat to women’s safety) and everything to do with opportunistic men who might ‘self-identify’ as female in order to take advantage.
On the question of girls’ sports, the issue is one of basic fairness. After male puberty, an athlete – irrespective of identity or even later use of hormonal treatments – retains massive and unbridgeable physiological advantages over females. Changing the rules of girls’ sports to make eligibility gender-identity based (rather than sex-based) is a fatal blow to the foundation of Title IX and the stunning feminist achievement that is the girls’ athletics movement.
Still, I want to see transgender-identified youth happy and healthy – and that means involving them in sports. I’d like to see legislators and schools explore ways to include transgender athletes that do not place girls in dangerous or demoralizing contests with post-pubescent male bodies. One solution I’ve suggested is to create a “women’s team” and an “Open team” for each sport. Another solution: to force men’s teams to be fully accommodating and welcoming of male-bodied athletes who identify as women, non-binary, or any other gender. There may be other fine solutions to the girls’ sports conundrum that I haven’t considered; the only thing I am certain about is that the Equality Act is no solution at all. It asks girls and women – and only girls and women – to sacrifice everything. (There is no fairness obstacle to trans men—natal females—competing on the men’s team, if they so choose.)
I was given exactly five minutes for my opening statement, and I tried to hit many of these points. Other points, I was able to make during subsequent questioning by the senators. I’ve posted my statement below so that you can decide if I did so successfully.
But for the sin of standing up for women, I was immediately defamed. One blogpost asked: “Abigail: Why must you fantasize about sexual harm to children? And why do you groom other adults to do the same?” With no less aplomb, the author accused me of having a known affiliation with “white supremacy.” (Um, no.) The headline said it all: “Abigail Shrier Goes to Washington to Fantasize About Sex Crimes with Children.” Challenging as it is to put forward a prima facie case of defamation in the U.S.A., I believe the blogger has managed it.
GLAAD placed me on a blacklist. More absurdity: I fully support the civil rights of gay and transgender Americans. I fully support the right of mature adults to elect medical gender transition. Gay and ally organizations have been among the most vociferous supporters of my writing on the Equality Act and my testimony. (See here, here, and here).
I don’t know if testifying was a wise career move for me. I am constantly accused of writing what I do to earn great riches, which I hope gives every freelance journalist the world over a good laugh. Still, I wouldn’t do anything different, even now. I couldn’t stand the thought that Congress would undermine the structure of women’s rights built over decades, without so much a peep from the women who still believed in them.
So now I’m on blacklists and publicly accused of child predation. And yet, I can’t shake the feeling that one day, we’ll all awaken from this crackbrained spell. We’ll admit it was a terrible mistake to want to wrench open women’s protective spaces and decimate women’s sports for any male who declared a female identity. We’ll remember all the female athletes we once worshipped—Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Mary Lou Retton, Martina Navratilova, Mia Hamm, and Simone Biles. We’ll think how foolish we were to have considered surrendering their legacy to a phalanx of raging bullies.
And to those who’ve asked: No, this won’t stop me.