On June 15, 2022, President Joe Biden released the “Executive Order on Advancing Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Individuals.” Ostensibly, this order is issued to protect “LGBTQI+” people from various forms of discrimination. However, there are a number of ways in which this order is sloppily written and potentially harmful.
First, “LGBTQI+” is a bloated acronym, representing disparate demographic groups with unrelated—and in many cases, conflicting—needs and demands. Worse, not all these letters even represent defined concepts. For example, what is the proper definition of “transgender” or “queer” (or even “gender” itself, for that matter)? What does the “+” at the end include? This statement doesn’t say.
There are more issues with definitions found in Section 3 of this order, which deals with so-called “conversion therapy.” This section attempts to crack down on “conversion therapy” by empowering the department of Health and Human Services to re-evaluate the use of federal funds for this practice; it also empowers the The Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether “conversion therapy” warrants consumer warning labels. However, we are deeply concerned about the definition of “conversion therapy” offered in this order, namely, “efforts to suppress or change an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.” The inclusion of “gender identity” in this definition is quite troubling because it is such a nebulous, undefinable concept. If “gender identity” is something different than biological sex, what does it actually mean?
Indeed, the addition of “gender identity” protection in the conversion therapy definition opens up a whole new can of worms. A crucial part of psychotherapy is to challenge patients’ internal narratives regarding themselves; hamstringing the ability of therapists to question any sort of “identity” is extremely problematic. Another role that therapists can play is encouraging a healthy attitude towards one’s body. Is it “conversion therapy” for a counselor to help a gender-dysphoric patient accept his/her biological sex rather than undergoing physical medical transition? The answer could very well be “yes,” especially given the lack of clarity in Biden’s statement.
To be clear, we have always maintained that any conversion therapy aimed at trying to change someone’s sexual orientation is immoral and ineffective. We also object to attempts to change someone’s “gender expression,” insofar as we believe the medical profession has no business reinforcing gender norms and stereotypes, and we firmly believe everyone should be free and encouraged to express themselves outside the constraints of these sexist gender roles. However, for the aforementioned reasons, we believe “gender identity” needs to be left out of potential conversion therapy restrictions.
We are also alarmed by Section 2a, which empowers the Secretary of Health and Human Services to “protect LGBTQI+ individuals’ access to medically necessary care from harmful State and local laws and practices.” But what constitutes “medically necessary” care and “harmful State and local laws and practices”? We strongly suspect that this passage is a Trojan horse designed to prevent State and local governments from protecting minors from dangerous and potentially permanent surgeries and hormonal therapies. Although it uses the ubiquitous “LGBTQI+” term, it is clearly focused on trans-identifying individuals, of which many are heterosexual, and has nothing to do with lesbian, gay or bisexual LGB people nor with healthcare relating to same-sex orientation.
We would like to emphasize that executive orders are not authorized by any Congressional vote. President Biden could revise or rescind his order as easily as he issued it. We call on the Biden Administration to heed our concerns and reconsider this order.
To read the full text of President Biden’s “Executive Order on Advancing Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Individuals,” click here.