Reacting to yesterday’s historic passage of marriage equality, Nicole Theis, president of the Delaware Family Policy Council, told the Dover News Journal that the idea of gender is somehow under attack because of the advance of LGBT equality:
Nicole Theis, president of the Delaware Family Policy Council, said changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples will have broad, untold consequences for society.
“It won’t stop here. Making marriage genderless changes the way government views parents. You can expect all government’s forms to reflect this. You can also expect further attacks on gender, probably even this session,” she said, alluding to a proposal that has not yet been filed that would extend nondiscrimination laws to cover transgender individuals.
Theis isn’t entirely wrong. Gender is a socially-constructed phenomenon, and thus it is pliable. Given how many consequences it has for society — particularly ongoing inequity for women and oppression of LGBT people — there is considerable impetus to dissect gender so that it can be better understood. Conservatives like Theis argue that gender norms are important and should be maintained — that fathers should be masculine and mothers should be feminine and these gender roles impact their parenting ability. But research on parenting doesn’t bear this out at all; in fact, there is nothing to suggest that the children of same-sex couples have any different understanding of gender than anyone else.
Further, attempting to reinforce gender norms through the law isn’t going to change whether people are transgender. Protecting transgender people from discrimination doesn’t increase how many people are transgender any more than not protecting transgender people will decrease how many people are transgender. The question underlying all LGBT issues is whether everybody should have the same opportunity to achieve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, even if they are members of sexual or gender minorities. This means expanding how society understands and interacts gender instead of clinging to narrow prescriptions of the past. It’s just unfortunate that Theis sees this progress as an “attack.”