Utah’s Anti-Trans Bill Gives New Rights to Deep Sea Worms

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Look, I get it, lots of people hate transgender people. Like most hatred, it’s based on ignorance — ignorance of genetics (it’s either XX or Xy and that’s your gender!), biology (it’s either a penis and balls or a vagina and ovaries and that’s your gender!), etymology (“they” can never be singular!), psychology (you can’t “feel” like a gender!), sociology (just because you look like a woman doesn’t mean you’re a woman!)…you name the -ology and people who hate transgender people are probably ignorant of it. I get it. It’s easy to be ignorant in an era in which we generally think that complicated issues have easy answers we can find on Google or Twitter.

What I don’t get is moving forward with that ignorance and hatred to the point that you want to take drastic actions to make life worse for trans people, and that’s what’s happening right now in Utah. I want to point it out because A.) it’s dangerous and B.) it’s a really great illustration of how ignorant transphobes can be about basic biology.

Currently, people born in Utah can change the sex listed on their birth certificate if they get approval from a Utah court, a federal US court, or a Canadian court. That is necessary for people who were assigned the wrong sex at birth, usually transgender people.

But a new amendment would explicitly prevent transgender people from changing the sex on their birth certificate. “Instead, the bill would only allow a person to amend their birth certificate—by court order—in order to change their name or correct any factual errors.”

Because of the “factual errors” loophole, this amendment’s authors felt it necessary to include in the amendment some definitions of “male” and “female.” After all, any trans person could say “yes there was a factual error, I am not a male” and boom, they get to change their birth certificate and then the heavens open up and the four horsepeople of the apocalypse descend upon the earth, and their names are Genderfluid, Big Homo, Feminazi, and Being Nice to People, and God-fearing Utahns shall tremble before them.

So how do representatives Ralph Okerlund and Merrill Nelson (who both identify as “men”) define what a “female” is?

“…an individual with ovaries who is confirmed before or at birth to have external anatomical characteristics that appear to have the purpose of performing the natural reproductive function of providing eggs and receiving sperm from a male donor.”

Wow. Where to start? I guess we should first address the fact that Ralph and Merrill think women have an external egg sac. Now usually, if a woman has an egg-producing “characteristic” she keeps it daintily tucked away unlike most men, who dangle their testes out in the open just asking for someone to come along and give them a good swift kick.

There are females of some species with external reproductive organs, but they’re not, as Ralph and Merrill state, “providing eggs and receiving sperm from a male donor.” They’re clitorises, which are enlarged to the point that it can be hard for non-experts to tell the difference at a glance between male and female members of those species, like hyenas and lemurs. These are known colloquially as “pseudo-penises” but in the new matriarchy of course they’ll just be known as mega clitorises, and penises will be known as pseudo-clitorises.

In fact there’s only one animal known to science that can be described by Ralph and Merrill’s definition: allopasus aurantiacus, commonly known as the acorn worm that lives on the floor of the Pacific ocean off the coast of California. Oh, a neighbor!

Lady acorn worms do in fact keep their ovaries on their outsides, tucked in just under some wing flap-type of things, presumably so that when the male blows his load, they can just sail right through that spermy cloud and fertilize their little wing pits.

So if Utah passes this amendment, it will put doctors in a very peculiar position as they fill out the information for the birth certificate. There will be only three things that a doctor can put down under “sex”: male, undetermined, or deep sea worm. And if you get assigned “deep sea worm” at birth in Utah, well, good luck getting that changed.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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One Comment

  1. I wonder what the people assigned “deep sea worm” are going to use for public washrooms. I’ve not seen that designation anywhere . . mind you, I’ve not been to Utah.

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