President Joe Biden has only been in office for less than a day, but he’s already busy undoing some of his predecessor’s legacy by firing some very awful people and issuing a spree of executive orders. We truly love to see it! In a sign that Biden is doing something right, one of the executive orders he issued on Wednesday night has pissed off a cohort of some of the worst people in the world—TERFs and other supposed feminists who have made it their mission in life in recent years to loudly fight the expansion of trans rights.
Meant to tackle “discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation,” Biden’s executive order essentially calls on federal agencies to broadly apply last year’s landmark Bostock ruling, which expanded the definition of sex discrimination to include discrimination based on sexual orientation as well as gender identity. Notably, the executive order included the line, “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports,” and stated that Bostock should also apply to Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination in federally funded schools.
This has major implications for trans students, and signals an extremely welcome shift after the Trump administration, which marshaled the considerable resources of the federal government to make the lives of trans people as mean and limited as it possibly could. “It is such a relief to have a government that is committed to preventing discrimination as opposed to enabling it,” wrote the ACLU’s James Esseks, the director of the group’s LGBT & HIV Project, in a statement in response to the executive order. As the National Women’s Law Center’s Gillian Branstetter told Jezebel via email, Biden’s executive order “is a critical recognition of both last summer’s [Bostock] Supreme Court victory and the right of every person to learn, labor, and live without fear of prejudice or bias.”
But the move hit differently for all those who have spent recent years cloaking their transphobia in a shallow concern for women and girls. Biden, they croaked, is “erasing women.”
The Women’s Liberation Front, or WoLF, a small group of so-called “radical feminists” who have partnered with the religious right to campaign against trans rights, wrote that Biden’s executive order “is a disaster for women and girls in the U.S.” and an “unprecedented attack on women’s rights and civil liberties.” Abigail Shrier, the writer whose book title—Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters—tells you all you need to know about her, jumped in with her own hyperbolic take, which was retweeted widely. “A new glass ceiling was just placed over girls,” warned Shrier darkly, adding that the executive order “unilaterally eviscerates women’s sports.” Even the Brits decided to weigh in; in a since-deleted tweet, the writer Hadley Freeman bemoaned that Biden’s move was “terrible,” adding later that it “will kill women’s sport.”
That this fretting is actually anti-trans fearmongering hidden under the guise of a warped and outdated notion of feminism should be apparent. But the handwringing does, in its own way, acknowledge the potential repercussions that Biden’s executive order represents. As many have noted, it may give the many Republican legislators who are pushing bills targeting trans high school athletes a bit of pause, given that Biden’s executive order signals that the Department of Education may move to revoke federal funds from states that pass discriminatory laws against trans students. As the ACLU’s Chase Strangio put it, commenting on Montana’s bill being debated on Thursday that would bar trans girls from athletics, “The legislature is playing games with the state’s education system to attack trans young people.” He added, “Right now lawmakers are not only voting on trans lives but threatening the state’s federal funding.” Financial consequences, after all, seem to be the only ones that bigoted state lawmakers ever care about.