Transgender Utah Law

Ted Eytan/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)

Transphobic bill defines ‘females’ based on if they appear able to conceive with a ‘male’

Republicans apparently don't know anything about women's bodies.

Feb 18, 2019, 12:41 pm*



Ana Valens

A new transphobic bill in the Utah state legislature claims a “female” is an individual with ovaries who appears to be able to perform “the natural reproductive function of providing eggs and receiving sperm from a male donor.”

The Utah Vital Statistics Act Amendments, or H.B. 153, is spearheaded by two Republicans: Utah state Rep. Merrill F. Nelson and state Sen. Ralph Okerlund. If the bill becomes a law, it would amend provisions for issuing and updating birth certificates in the state. In particular, it would change the gender marker “female” to claim a “female” is a cisgender woman who appears able to conceive a child with a cisgender man.

The bill also lists the term “male” as “an individual with testes who is confirmed before or at birth to have external anatomical characteristics that appear to have the purpose of performing the natural reproductive function of providing and delivering sperm to a female recipient.” Furthermore, the bill takes a cisnormative and binarist focus on one’s sex, arguing that physical sex is either “male or “female” and cannot be changed or listed as anything other than “undetermined.”

“‘Sex’ means male or female, the innate and immutable characteristics established at conception and that can be confirmed before or at birth,” the bill argues.

The legislation also strikes out a section on changing a Utah resident’s name or sex, instead saying Utah citizens may only change their name by either an “order of a Utah district court or a court of competent jurisdiction” in another state or Canadian province, or “as otherwise provided by statute.” Otherwise, the birth certificate can only be updated to correct “a mistake of fact that occurred at the time the birth certificate was completed or issued, as determined by the court.”

No new provision exists for updating one’s sex, meaning it can’t be changed on a transgender citizen’s birth certificate. Any gender marker would not just equate sex with gender, it would also equate one’s sex with their anatomical “purpose” to engage in reproductive sex. That imposes a heteronormative view onto every Utah citizen, as if women exist solely in relation to their sex organs and ability to become pregnant by a cisgender man’s penis.

The bill quickly went viral after ACLU LGBT & HIV Project Staff Attorney Chase Strangio tweeted about the legislation. Strangio brought up an important point: Because anti-transgender legislation relies on narrow, patriarchal depictions of womanhood, anti-trans bills simultaneously erase trans women, stigmatize queer women, and thrust cis women into misogynistic gender roles.

“Hey cis women—is this how you want to be defined by law?” Strangio tweeted. “Just curious because this is how anti-trans bill language reads.”

Twitter users were quick to respond.

Not to mention, the bill has an extremely ableist and narrow-minded approach to what “male” and “female” bodies should look like. Technically, cis women born without ovaries or the appearance of being able to conceive would not be able to be declared “female.” Similarly, the bill outright erases non-binary and intersex folks, as if they don’t even exist.

Oh, and ovaries aren’t on the outside of a cisgender woman.

Then again, no one ever said transphobia had to make sense. It just has to uphold the status quo.

H/T Chase Strangio

Editor’s note: This piece has been updated throughout to clarify that the bill defines a “female” as someone with anatomical characteristics that “appear” to have the purpose of performing “natural” reproduction.

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*First Published: Jan 29, 2019, 10:48 am