A Wyoming bill to ban Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was nearly defeated by fierce opposition from trans activists, on the grounds that it would outlaw genital surgery on minors for the purposes of so-called "gender reassignment."
House Bill 127 – Prohibition of female genital mutilation was brought by conservative Representative Dan Laursen. It criminalizes the cultural practice of FGM, which affects some refugees and immigrants from Africa and the Middle East imported to the United States, as aggravated assault and battery.
The bill defines FGM as the partial or complete removal of the clitoris, sewing the vaginal opening to be permanently closed, and other harmful procedures. According to the World Health Organization, over 200 million women globally have been made to suffer from this human rights violation.
In addition to the criminal provisions, the bill allows victims to bring civil claims against their mutilators for years after the commission of the crime. It also instigates a state-wide education campaign. This protects an estimated 400-600 girls in Wyoming by law, and who now have a remedy for this barbarism.
Hibo Wardere, anti-FGM campaigner and survivor, had a message for the trans activists who would have stopped the bill, leaving girls in Wyoming at risk of this deeply traumatic form of violence. She said trans activists who conflate FGM with so-called gender reassignment surgery were "disrespecting our trauma, taking over our trauma, which you shouldn't be."
"FGM is about a child being held down, against their will, and their genitals are mutilated... Stop diluting these two issues."
Initially, the bill to criminalize this atrocity against girls soared through the Wyoming house. The cause of protecting girls and women from FGM has widespread bipartisan backing among lawmakers. Ethically, it is a no-brainer, an easy issue for everyone to unite against. More than 30 states have already outlawed FGM.
This didn't deter the trans activists, however, who are hardly known for their compassion or strong moral compass. With the tunnel-vision and moral selfishness so characteristic of their movement, they are happy to support and sustain the most extreme form of discrimination against girls—with extreme lifelong physical and mental health consequences–in order to retain plastic surgeons' entitlement to profit from removing children's healthy reproductive organs, and homophobic parents' option to have a potentially lesbian girl's body altered to make her look more like a straight boy.
With so many vested interests, and with the gender lobby having such deep pockets thanks to billionaires with inherited wealth, legislating with regard to transgender medical "care" is a highly contested issue. The exemption clause in the bill dealing with "gender reassignment surgery" drove a wedge between various political groups that otherwise agree on wanting to end the violation of women's rights that is FGM.
The contested exemption clause specified that a medical procedure would not be caught by the criminal law “if the person on whom it is performed is over eighteen (18) years of age and requests and consents to the procedure.” Adult male transexuals could continue to have their bodies surgically altered if they wish. What the trans activists objected to was the fact that such surgeries would be considered FGM if performed upon a girl—a human female—under the age of 18.
Although Hibo Wardere rightly objects to the conflation of African and Middle Eastern FGM with American and European gender reassignment surgery for adults of both sexes, there are undoubtedly parallels between the two cultural practices which might make separate legislation challenging to parse in practice, when the physical outcomes can be indistinguishable.
There are, of course, differences. One is a brutal assault, the other a highly managed process involving medical technology. One is performed in a non-sterile room with crude instruments of torture and no anesthetic, the other in an operating theatre under anesthetic. In one, the assault is sprung upon the unknowing girl, and is only possible if the violators restrain the child by force. In the other, well-meaning adults manufacture consent to the procedure by way of a medical pathway. In one, the woman ends up with severe lifelong health problems requiring medical intervention, greatly aggravated if a man makes her pregnant. In the other, the woman will be unable to have a baby because her sexual organs have been re-sculpted, or removed entirely.
One is criminalized in many countries, e.g. in the UK, where it was outlawed in 1985 but only successfully prosecuted for the first time in 2019. The other is criminalized in some countries, e.g. Thailand, which was a GRS tourist destination for sixteen year olds like the male child of the founder of pediatric transitioning lobby group Mermaids, before that country imposed a ban. The mother engaged in acts which would be criminal, had she been an African or Middle Eastern woman taking her child abroad for FGM.
In one, there is no pretense of consent. The atrocity is inflicted on a completely unwilling, terrified girl who is tortured and made to suffer appallingly. In the other, the adults who supposedly care for her collude in the manufacturing of informed consent to lifelong sterilization, bone loss, heart problems and cognitive deficits. The atrocity is inflicted on her in a medical setting, while she believes they are acting in her long-term best interests.
Yes, the two phenomena are different by degrees, and should not be conflated. But, from a legal perspective, how do you ban one without doing a grave disservice to the girls who are left with no recourse when they realize what has been done to them?
One of the bill's sponsors, Senator Affie Ellis (R-Cheyenne), said she would withdraw her name if trans 'rights' were up for debate as part of the process. “For that very narrow reason [of ending FGM] I signed on to this bill,” she said. Ellis did finally vote in favour of the bill.
Tara Muir, policy director of the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said “Wyoming can not be the first state with such draconian limits on transgender people.” This statement is confusing. After all, the bill only imposed limits on who gender reassignment surgery can be performed on: it drew the line at under-18s. My idea of a "Draconian limit" would be to ban all ideologically-motivated elective surgeries for which there is no evidence of curative benefit, and plenty to suggest that they can cause deeper harm.
Banning GRS for children is an obvious boon. How can any child give genuine informed consent to being sterilized, when they may desist in their transgender identification the next week? How can they be considered to consent at all, in an environment where gender affirmation comprises the only information about their options? Yet fighting against banning experimental surgery on children is now a tenet of liberal feminist dogma. In a dynamic familiar to anyone who has actively resisted the cognitive capture of gender ideology, the problem which includes males - in this case, pediatric GRS—pulls focus , resources and political energy from the problem which afflicts females only—FGM.
Ultimately, Hibo Wardere is right. There is no doubt that it was an urgent priority to protect girls in Wyoming from FGM, and grant them a remedy for it. At the same time, it remains a fact that girls not in the African and Middle Eastern immigrant communities are at risk of the violation of gender reassignment surgery, as are boys. It is impossible to ignore the similarities between the two cultural practices when broken down into the elements of criminal law, and when we consider that, in physical terms, both boil down to the cutting of a childs' healthy body.
I would not have wanted to be a lawmaker tasked with deciding whether to renew efforts to pass the Wyoming bill on female genital mutilation, with the clause criminalizing gender reassignment surgery on children removed, or whether to attempt once again to protect all children in the state, female and male—regardless of their ethnic background—from genital cutting.
With the public mood shifting towards a stance more critical of the outlandish claims of gender ideologues, the time may soon come when America not only ends FGM, but also ideologically-motivated experimental surgeries which sterilize children.
Note: an earlier version of this article said that the bill had not passed, but it has passed the Wyoming legislature and will be enacted July 1, 2020.