What is a woman? Let the people decide

What is a woman?  Let the people decide

The fight to define “woman” is coming to Denver, but not through our normal political process. A lawsuit that began in a University of Wyoming dorm has reached the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, where judges will hear arguments next month.

When the Wyoming chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma initiated a transgender-identifying man into their sisterhood and shared sorority, other members saw it as a violation of the sorority’s bylaws, which restrict membership to women only. Six claimants have filed a complaint.

Whether women-only spaces should include men who identify as women is a monumental question for the women involved, and one that must be resolved through a democratic process. If desired, KKG may update its membership rules to welcome people who are not biological women.

But it seems that the leadership of the student association did not want that. They wanted to reinvent the definition of “women” in the student union’s governing documents to include the opposite, without asking or telling anyone.

Many lawmakers and bureaucrats also do not want to use the democratic process. They would also prefer this case to be decided by Supreme Court justices or justices like Ketanji Brown Jackson, who declined to provide a definition of “woman” during her confirmation hearing.

Most Americans (57%) believe that “whether someone is a man or a woman is determined by the gender they were assigned at birth.” And most (over 60%) say that “trans women and girls should not compete in sports with other women and girls.”

For this reason, Colorado lawmakers will not pass legislation to protect women’s sports or other women-only spaces. The “Women’s Rights in Athletics” bill was defeated 8-3 in committee in the Colorado Legislature in 2023, without ever receiving a majority vote.

Likewise, special interest groups have fought hard to keep this issue off the ballots of Colorado voters. Ballot Initiative No. 160 “Public Underage Athletic Programs” would limit participation in girls’ sports to women “based on biological sex at birth.” Opponents of the measure appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, seeking to deprive voters of the opportunity to voice their opinions. Fortunately, the Court has just ruled that the initiative can proceed with the signature gathering process required for all ballot initiatives.

It’s not just student associations and sports clubs – fun stuff! – where the definition of ‘women’ matters. Women and men are segregated in prisons, locker rooms, bathrooms, domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, and dormitories.

In all these areas, there are implications for women’s safety and privacy when “women” no longer refer to a biological reality but instead to a subjective gender identity.

By simply redefining “woman” to include anyone who identifies as female, the political left (and social institutions such as youth sports leagues or women-only volunteer organizations) has achieved policy changes that the majority of Americans may not have voted for or that they did not support. . In this sense, opening up women’s space to men who identify as women represents an undemocratic or “backdoor” change – one that is likely to fuel negativity as people (rightly) do not feel they have any say in the how this change came about. .

That’s why five states have passed a “Women’s Bill of Rights,” which clarifies the definition of the word woman to match biological sex, not gender identity. Importantly — especially for a state like Colorado — the Women’s Bill of Rights does not mandate that any space or sport exclude people who identify as transgender. It simply requires that policy decisions about sex and gender identity be made and communicated clearly, through a transparent, democratic process.

Instead, forcing these heated cultural debates into the courtroom will only cause frustration as too many Americans feel like they have no say. The KKG accusers certainly felt that way when their fraternity welcomed a male member to live next door to them. They felt and feel that their privacy, safety and sisterhood are being violated by this change.

If the meaning of words can be changed after the fact, in laws or other agreements, we will lose the ability to hold anyone accountable for any contract, including the most basic social contract – that between government and the governed.

The next time Denver hosts a debate about what it means to be a woman, let’s hope it takes place in the statehouse and not a courthouse.