Why Do We Obsess Over Transgender Issues?

Zooey Zephyr

From the amount of discussion, you might think that a third of all fifth graders were transgender — that is, they don't identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. Actually, the transgender population is very small. Only 0.6 percent of Americans — far fewer than one out of every 100 — identify as transgender.

The fascination is fueled both by hyperactive LGBTQ advocacy and social conservatives using the "issue" to perhaps avoid tackling matters the broader public really cares about.

As for the news media, the conflict provides colorful imagery and is a lot cheaper to cover than a war. It has been most absurdly magnified by the drama surrounding Zooey Zephyr, a transgender lawmaker in Montana with a bent for exhibitionism. Zephyr was expelled from the state legislature for saying that colleagues who would restrict gender-affirming medical care for transgender kids would have "blood" on their hands.

Considerably more pointed things have undoubtedly been said in those chambers without prompting such radical sanction. But conservative legislators have their own show to put on.

We at home were arguing whether Zephyr was obviously a guy who dressed as a girl — or really a girl almost through and through. Let's just say it shouldn't matter how he or she identifies or dresses. And whatever pronoun he or she chooses to call him- or herself should probably be up to him or her.

I've known transgender men and women who were fine friends and co-workers. No one is saying that their life is easy. They deserve sensitivity and respect. But there are other things needing our attention. The states that are busy, busy, busy passing laws intended, they claim, to protect the larger society from their tiny transgender community seem unwilling to challenge the rights of lunatics to openly carry weapons of war in Walmart. So whom do we call strange?

Where might we stand on these questions? Let's start with gender-affirming medical treatments, such as puberty blockers and breast reduction surgery. We should be very very very careful about doing those interventions, particularly at the younger ages.

However, let's defer to the Montana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which called the bill under consideration "an overly broad blanket ban that takes decisions that should be made by families and physicians and puts them in the hands of politicians."

As for whether individuals born as males should be competing in women's sports, the answer should be "it depends." The Biden administration has sensibly proposed letting schools keep transgender students out of sports where they may pose unfair competition to women.

This would matter more in muscle-dominated sports like wrestling than, say, in volleyball. That's why the administration's proposal wisely rules against absolute bans. Let the schools decide.

It's true that hormone therapy can reduce testosterone levels, responsible for muscle mass, but that's a choice transgender women may or may not make. In general, people born as male have greater body strength — a reality that advocates may sneak around.

"The image of 'quote' trans women ruining the integrity of women's sports paints a false picture of life as a trans woman," Zephyr told the House Judiciary Committee. "It incorrectly claims that we have a competitive advantage. And it misses why trans people transition in the first place — which is to lead a happier life."

We call that "changing the subject."

As for whether transgender individuals born with male equipment should be allowed to use women's restrooms, I say, "Who cares." I'm sure I have shared those facilities with cross-dressers without my ever realizing it — and often.

In the end, I wish happy lives to transgender, and all other, people. Now let's change the subject.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

U.S. Court
Supreme Court

Officials at Stanford University could learn something from the New York City Police Department about defending free speech while maintaining order. When hecklers prevented an invited speaker from addressing an audience at Stanford's law school, what could have been a peaceful protest turned into an act of verbal violence. It's easier to stop people from crossing these boundaries when you've established boundaries.

In this case, the scheduled speaker was a conservative judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Stuart Kyle Duncan's views on transgender people's use of bathrooms and gay marriage are not relevant here. He was officially sanctioned to present his views, however controversial.

Stanford Law Dean Jenny Martinez won justified praise from free-speech advocates for sending an apology to the judge and issuing a 10-page rundown of what the disrupters did wrong.

"Some students might feel that some points should not be up for argument and therefore that they should not bear the responsibility of arguing them," she wrote. But that "is incompatible with the training that must be delivered in a law school."

Or, frankly, in a high school.

However, she could have gone a step further. Toward the end she did support forging a "more detailed and explicit policy" for dealing with disruptions, including enforcement "through disciplinary sanctions." Too bad she wasn't more explicit about the possibility of expelling those who forcibly prevent invited speakers from sharing their views.

There has to be punishment with teeth. The prospect of getting kicked out of an elite law school could well have deterred the self-appointed censors. (How students seeking a profession dedicated to using words for argumentation — rather than drowning out the other viewpoints with volume — got into Stanford in the first place is worth asking.)

Compare this with the sophisticated approach of the NYPD when faced with the two volatile days of Donald Trump's recent arrival and arraignment. Around both Trump Tower and the courthouse, the department had deployed a first line of experts in maintaining order and lowering temperatures. They wore bright blue slickers with the words NYPD Community Affairs written on the back.

At the courthouse they kept pro-Trump and anti-Trump demonstrators separated by erecting barriers with a path between. There were mental health issues on both sides, but here's one example of how they worked: When a fuming young Trump supporter tried to force her tantrum on the anti-Trump crowd, the Community Affairs guys surrounded her and coaxed her back to the Trump side.

And importantly, there was another layer of policing for keeping the peace: the NYPD's uniformed army. The officers carrying battle gear were largely kept in the background, but the demonstrators knew they were there. If they got violent, they knew the consequences would be arrest, not discussion of possible "disciplinary sanctions."

How did they know that? They knew because of the recent coverage of how big the NYPD was and how prepared. They knew because Mayor Eric Adams famously kicked off the events with a public address wrapped in steely promise of enforcement.

"New York City is our home, not a playground for your misplaced anger," the former police captain said, the police commissioner by his side. "While you're in town, be on your best behavior." These carefully chosen words, stripped of overt threat, effectively got the point across to the politically charged crowds descending on two cramped corners of Manhattan. Imagine the message a law school dean could deliver if she had a genuine enforcement mechanism at her disposal.

Martinez did a good job given what she had to work with. But at the end of the day, one needs muscle to preserve free speech. The dean probably already knows that.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at

Reprinted with permission from Creators.