On his first day in office, President Joe Biden wasted no time in ensuring the American people knew where his priorities lie. The President signed a total of 15 Executive Orders and two agency actions aimed at reversing decisions made by his predecessor, Donald Trump, across issues of climate change, pandemic response, immigration and more. Arguably his most important Executive Order on his first day as President was a promise to uphold federal protections for LGBTQ+ Americans – sending a strong message to the queer and transgender community that their safety and interests are a priority to him and his administration.
Ironically, however, despite signing an anti-discrimination order to protect the LGBTQ+ community, Biden's policy has been falsely criticised as being discriminatory against cisgender women. Trans exclusionary radical feminists, the conservative group otherwise known as TERFs, took to Twitter to express their disapproval at Biden's move, starting the hashtag #BidenErasedWomen. The basis of their outrage? A transphobic and inaccurate belief that trans women are actually men who are wanting to violate women's spaces in order to assault and victimise them.
Biden’s Executive Order, titled “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation,” is a commitment to enforcing the landmark Supreme Court ruling of Bostock v. Clayton County, which established that LGBTQ+ people are protected from employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The order requires agencies across the federal government to review existing regulations and policies that prohibit sex discrimination to ensure and clarify that "sex" includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love,” the order reads. “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”
TERFs' unqualified concerns are mainly in relation to the second sentence in the above statement, claiming that allowing transgender women and girls to occupy a space that aligns with their gender – in sport or in a bathroom for example – poses a threat or danger to cis women. The reality however, is that trans women, particularly those of colour, are far more likely to be victims of sexual assault and violence.
According to a study conducted by Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety, trans women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are almost 20 percent more likely to suffer multiple instances of sexual harassment than other women. Further, in the United States, research conducted by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law discovered that there is no link between allowing transgender people use public facilities that align with their gender identity and increased safety risks for cis people.
While it's alarming to remember that women such as Abigail Shrier, a noted TERF who authored Irreversible Damage, believe that Biden “unilaterally eviscerates women's sports” by placing “a new glass ceiling” over girls, it's equally important to acknowledge and celebrate the milestone move forward that Biden's Executive Order affords the LGBTQ+ community following four years of Trump administration policy.
Alphonso David, president of the Human Right Campaign, shared in a statement, “Biden’s Executive Order is the most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity ever issued by a United States president."
"Today, millions of Americans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their President and their government believe discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not only intolerable but illegal."