On July 7, Review-Journal columnist Victor Joecks wrote a column, “Transgender debate about stopping left’s attempts to redefine reality” that disparaged the transgender community. The column spread falsehoods and treated the trans community with disrespect.
In my role as the executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, I felt compelled to respond.
First, identifying as transgender is not a right or a left issue. It’s a human issue. When we can get past the politics and see the people who are struggling to be accepted and live authentic lives, then we can begin to see them as equal members of our community.
Mr. Joecks stated that trans people are “demanding that society treat someone’s gender identity — aka their feelings — as being on par with the scientific and objective reality of gender.” In addition, the column stated that the Clark County School District is creating a plan “that may include requiring teachers to use a student’s preferred pronoun and allowing biological boys to change in a girls’ locker room.” Unbeknownst to Mr. Joecks, we already demand that society treat someone’s gender identity as our “objective reality of gender.”
Over the past decades we’ve learned more and more about the difference between biological sex and gender, which is one of the fundamental pieces of information that helps to shape the discussion. In basic form, sex is the anatomy of one’s reproductive systems, whereas gender is based upon one’s concept of themselves or their role in society. For a small percentage of people, the biological sex they were assigned at birth does not match their gender identity.
When we don’t understand something, we become fearful of that something — or that someone. Unfortunately, as we have seen so often, critics take a needed conversation about human rights and gender inclusivity to a place of fear and bring up an issue such as bathroom usage to alarm people. On the flipside, using the bathroom can be, and usually is, the most fearful part of a transgender person’s day. As a result, they avoid using the bathroom for fear of scrutiny, mistreatment and violence.
At the very least, Mr. Joecks is sorely misguided when it comes to understanding the needs and challenges of transgendered individuals in our community. At worst, Mr. Joecks is spreading dog-whistle rhetoric to advance a political agenda.
When we think about making changes to our world through legislative action, we must put people first, then think about the purpose for the policy. The end result of the policy should be based upon equality, inclusion and acceptance — not discrimination, segregation and disregard.
At The Center, we support and promote activities directed at furthering the well-being, positive image, and human rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community, its allies, and low- to moderate-income residents in Southern Nevada. We don’t discriminate. We celebrate.
Instead of dividing the community, the Review-Journal’s editorial page should join with us in making Southern Nevada a more inclusive and caring community. I invite Victor Joecks to The Center to join me and a few transgender identified people to engage in a meaningful dialogue about the needs of their community.
Andre Wade is executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada.