George Pyle: The only time another person’s gender identity is any of your affair

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Justin Utley, left, and Nathan Dalley, both survivors of conversion therapy, embrace after Dalley spoke on his painful and harmful experiences that he considered the worst days of his life. Equality Utah held a press conference at the Utah Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, to recognize Utah becoming the 19th state in the nation to enact a ban on conversion therapy for minors. At right is Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley, was the sponsor of the bill that helped prohibit conversion therapy.

Who’s that person over there?

Which person?

Over there. Sitting in the second row. Next to the woman who looks like Helen Black.

Well, honestly, she looks bad in any color. But I’m still not sure who you are talking about.

Right there. Short hair. Big glasses.

I don’t know. Why? Does it matter?

I just can’t figure out if that person is a man or a woman.

Why? Are you planning to invite her -- or him -- to sleep with you?

No. Of course not.

Then we’ve determined that it doesn’t matter whether that person is male or female. Or gay or straight. Or bi. Or trans. Or some other label or type or term that I’m not up on because I’m old and straight and married and don’t really pay a lot of attention to these things.

In nearly every event in most people’s lives, another human being’s sex, gender, sexuality, gender identification, stage of transition, selection of spouse or affaire de coeur is none of your affair.

If you are married to that person, or wish to be, OK. It matters. If that person is your child, then you should be aware of their status, probably. But it is not your choice to do anything other than be supportive and help, as much as you can, as that person negotiates his or her or their own way in life.

Otherwise, as Ann Landers (or was it Dear Abby?) used to say, MYOB. (Mind your own business.)

It is certainly no business of the Utah Legislature.

Last year, that body shot down a proposed bill that would have banned the cruel and unscientific practice called “conversion therapy” on minors. That’s a discredited application of anything from talk therapy to shock treatments intended to turn gay people straight.

Fortunately, Gov. Gary Herbert sometimes displays a heart, and cleverly asked the state’s regulatory and licensing body to take the same action on its own, not waiting for the Legislature to show any similar level of humanity. That rule became effective just the other day.

This year, having been frustrated in their effort to not be any help at all, some members of the Utah Legislature -- and of some other state’s legislative bodies -- are actively considering doing something that would be of great harm to a few particularly vulnerable people.

Proposed laws are being trotted out in several states that would make it a crime for doctors to help transgender youth negotiate the journey from the sex they may look like to the sex they feel they are.

Again, it is difficult to see how this is a matter that should matter to the Legislature, the governor, any civil or ecclesiastical authority or political pressure group.

Of course, the vast majority of us wouldn’t move from the sex we are to some other one for a million dollars. It’s just, well, creepy. Thus we can safely assume that any person who is driven to make such a radical change -- involving hormones, surgery and a really immense change in lifestyle -- is unlikely to be doing so as a fashion statement.

People under the age of consent should be counseled through the process, by parents, mental health pros and physicians who are specialists in the field. But saying young people who suffer greatly from what they know to be a biological misfire should wait until they reach adulthood to take action is like saying a 15-year-old who breaks her leg or comes down with cancer should wait until he is 18, or 21, to have that flaw fixed.

By then, it is really, really too late. A life of pain, all too often ending in suicide, is the wholly unnecessary result.

A related question, as to whether transgender people should be placed in sporting activities solely based on the gender written on their birth certificate, may be a bit more complex. But that could be solved through a screening process that is like the weight classifications that have always been used in boxing and wrestling or handicaps that are assigned in golf.

Apply some preliminary tests of speed, strength, agility and such, and assign athletes to competition levels based on that. And may the best human win.

And, of course, there are those pesky public toilets. A problem that will be solved, as problems sometimes are, by stalling. That is, as new buildings are built and old ones upgraded, equipping restrooms, locker rooms, etc., with individual stalls for privacy.

That would make life more safe and secure for everyone, of all gender classifications.

Which are, of course, none of your damn business.

George Pyle

George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, once tried to have his junior high school gym class declared obscene and without redeeming social value. It didn’t work.


Twitter, @debatestate