By Lance Chilton
Pride Month ended with a week of highs and lows for those interested in the role and discussion of sexuality in American culture. Undoubtedly, the low point was the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which essentially reversed the landmark Roe v Wade decision of 1973.
The positive development, in my opinion, is the decision by the Biden Administration to stand up for the rights of transgender students in the nation’s schools, colleges, and universities. Though the rules are not yet final, they would extend Title IX protections to transgender students. In the words of U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, “Our goal is to give full effect to the law’s reach and to deliver on its promise to protect all students from sex-based harassment and discrimination.” Title IX, now 50 years old, is the part of the Education Amendments of 1972 that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the federal government. Although sport is not mentioned in the 1972 legislation, courts have interpreted the law to require schools and colleges to give equal funding to girls’ and women’s sports.
The new draft regulations brought forward by the Biden administration would bar schools from discriminating against transgender students in use of bathrooms and locker rooms and would require schools to be certain that transgender students are not subjected to bullying. It does not address the controversy regarding transgender students’ participation in school sports. Five New Mexico Republican legislators, though, would have banned transgender students from participating in sports with their “non-biologic” gender in HB 304 (2021). Unlike a bill recently passed in Idaho, HB 304 didn’t make it out of its first committee after analysis by the NM Department of Health noted the bill had the potential to “exacerbate the stresses faced by transgender people, which include a high incidence of sexual abuse, bullying, and suicide.”
Idaho is not the only ruby-red state entering the sexuality culture wars: For a time, Texas governor Greg Abbott’s direction to his state’s child protective service department to prosecute parents who allowed their children undergo medical or surgical gender-affirming treatment for sex changes stood, until it was blocked by a federal court. And Florida’s law, called “Don’t Say Gay,” passed this year. It prohibits discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in elementary school.
In a previous positive step, the New Mexico Legislature passed and the governor signed two Democrats’ bill, 2017 Senate Bill 121, which banned the thoroughly debunked “conversion therapy,” which had been purported to reverse gender-nonconforming people’s orientation.
Finally in this tumultuous year for the divisive topics of sex and sexuality, the National Geographic, better known for its photos of exotic destinations and plants and animals, published the autobiographical photo journal of a transgender woman over the years of her transition (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/this-is-me-as-i-am-a-photographer-documents-her-own-gender-transition).
The good news is that this would never have occurred in the National Geographic issues that filled shelves in my childhood home. The bad news is that all of these positive and negative winds made 2022 Pride Month so turbulent, especially for those on the front lines of the struggle.