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Journal of the Plague Year, Part 9

The City Mouse

After nine years of strenuous gym workouts, the City Mouse, who lives in Hartford, had let her membership elapse.

“I feel,” she told the Country Mouse, “liberated. Good to know that the Coronavirus plague was good for something. Because gyms everywhere in Connecticut have been closed for more than a year on orders of His Excellency Governor Ned Lamont, I felt no pangs of conscience, and I managed to save $500 last year in membership fees.”

“Good for you,” the Country Mouse wrote back, but what about this: “Sex, gender and discrimination dominate arguments at the Supreme Court in a case about women’s privacy at gyms.” The Country Mouse emailed the newspaper story to the City Mouse and waited for what he imagined might be an explosive but humorously sardonic response. The City Mouse, pickled for years in temperature raising satire, is afflicted with a sense of humor – unlike Connecticut’s Supreme Court.

The case before the Court involved a suit brought by the humorless and dour state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities against the owners of two health clubs who were accused, the story said, “of breaking anti-discrimination law by providing women with private exercise areas in gyms open, otherwise, to both men and women. The ostensible purpose of the private areas is to protect women from sexual harassment by men.”

Any judicial case, or story, or cocktail conversation, or stray remark on Twitter, involving “sex” or “gender” is bound to be acrimonious and confusing – “a real can of worms,” as the City Mouse put it in  an answering email.

“The suit,” the press reporter noted, “raises questions about whether the thrust of state anti-discrimination law is to treat everyone equally or whether it was meant to redress historic persecution of some groups, such as women, by other groups, specifically men. Complicating the questions are rapidly evolving definitions of sex and gender and whether, in society’s view, they are preferences rather than biological distinctions.”

Connecticut’s Supreme Court – sometimes known as the Malloy Court, because former progressive Governor Dannel Malloy had appointed all but one justice to the High Court – has in the past stepped in front of evolving social norms, those freight trains of judicial incompetence.

The Court, a few years ago, pronounced Connecticut’s death penalty unconstitutional because the literal meaning of the statute affirming a death penalty lagged behind what the Court supposed was evolving social norms. Before anyone could blink twice, the Court, always in the vanguard of Connecticut’s shape-shifting culture, emptied death row of “eleven” convicted murderers, two of whom were on parole when they raped and murdered the wife and two young daughters of Dr. William Pettit, who later became a state Representative.

It was left to Chief Justice Richard A. Robinson to pop the important question: “There was a couple of times where you said there is a clear difference between the sexes. What does that mean? I am going to ask you. It is a simple question, but probably a very complex answer. What is sex? What is gender?”

“Sex,” the City Mouse wrote, “is the broader term, and therefore less precise. In the 1920s and 30s, when the American film industry was yet in its infancy, actors and actresses had “sex,” not “gender,” usually off camera. Comstock was everywhere. Today, actresses and actors have “sex” in nearly every film, so much so that “sex” sometimes appears to be the principal actor or actress unlisted in the credits. I don’t know that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has ever awarded an Oscar to Mr. or Mrs. or Miss Sex, a lamentable oversight.

“The lawyers for the gyms missed an opportunity to tell Chief Justice Robinson that if he really wished to comprehend crucial differences between male and female, he should consult with the two female Justices on the court.

“Gender, in an age in which permanent categories appear to be evolving, also presents certain awkward difficulties.

“There are, by some unscientific counts, 72 different genders. According to a 2014 ABC News report, 58 gender options, confirmed by Facebook, have been identified by ABC. They are:

“Agender, Androgyne, Androgynous, Bigender, Cis, Cisgender, Cis Female, Cis Male, Cis Man, Cis Woman, Cisgender Female, Cisgender Male, Cisgender Man, Cisgender Woman, Female to Male, FTM, Gender Fluid, Gender Nonconforming, Gender Questioning, Gender Variant, Genderqueer, Intersex, Male to Female, MTF, Neither, Neutrois, Non-binary, Other, Pangender, Trans, Trans*, Trans Female, Trans* Female, Trans Male, Trans* Male, Trans Man, Trans* Man, Trans Person, Trans* Person, Trans Woman, Trans* Woman, Transfeminine, Transgender, Transgender Female, Transgender Male, Transgender Man, Transgender Person, Transgender Woman, Transmasculine, Transsexual, Transsexual Female, Transsexual Male, Transsexual Man, Transsexual Person, Transsexual Woman, Two-Spirit, etc.”

Justice Andrew J. McDonald, who is a self-outed gay, asked one of the attorneys for the health clubs, who wish to provide separate accommodations for males and females, “If you had a transgender women who had not had gender reassignment surgery, is she a women for the purposes of entry into this restricted area of the gym?”

No doubt the 58 Facebook affirmed gender options discovered in 2014 by ABC news were rattling around somewhere in McDonald’s non-discriminatory brain, thought the City Mouse.

Would the chivalrous gym owners, who wish to spare female clients the indignity of being ogled by oversexed males, be willing to make separate arrangement for all the gender options listed above? And at what cost?

“Good question,” the City mouse wrote. “But such pedestrian concerns as costs have never entered into Supreme Court decisions. Unlike the common run of men and women and Pangender persons, the Justices may order remedies so costly as to drive out of business all gym owners in Connecticut who are unwilling or unable to accommodate their progressive, culturally transcendent obiter dicta.”

The City Mouse appeared to be leaning towards the now discredited doctrine, among gender fabulists, that there are only two biological genders, and some few exceptions. “The high Court” she wrote, “is high on daydreaming. If the eight members of the Court were all Lucians -- author of ‘The sale of Philosophers’ and dangerously satiric, which is to say, transcendently commonsensical -- I would trust their judgment. But, pity the rest of us, they are not.”   

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