Which (if any) side of the transgender high school athletes debate seems to have the maximal amount of “respect for persons” on its side?
Deontologists often claim that we have a moral duty to always respect persons. That is, in order to be moral, we are supposed to always act with the intention to respect people, regardless of whether we actually want to or not. We are supposed to always have “good intentions” when it comes to respecting other people. We should never intentionally disrespect anyone. In fact, our primary motive during an interaction with someone should (according to deontologists) always be to demonstrate the utmost amount of respect for that person’s unique rationality, unique capacity to will, unique autonomy, etc.
These claims raise an interesting set of questions/concerns. Namely,
Is it possible to demonstrate respect for all people all of the time? It’s quite common to hear the phrase that, ‘You can’t make all of the people happy all of the time.’ Might the same be said about respecting people?
Moreover, what counts as properly respecting someone in specific situations? Does such mean that we must always allow everyone to basically ‘be who they are or want to be’, regardless if allowing such sometimes seems to place others at a disadvantage? But, hold on, wouldn’t the intent-to/act-of placing one or more people at a dis-advantage count as being dis-respectful to them? If so, then must our goal/motive always be to create conditions of “perfect fairness” between all people in order for everyone to receive the proper amount of respectful treatment? Is the notion of “perfect fairness” in terms of opportunities, treatment, etc., compatible with always demonstrating “proper respect” for all people? Is such ever actually possible or even desirable in practice?
These types of questions/concerns seem to have especial relevance to recent debate about the practice of allowing transgender high school athletes to participate in and complete with teams associated with the athlete’s self-identified gender. For example, a transgender high school athlete that is biologically male but self-identifies as female might be allowed to participate and compete on a high school’s girl track, or wrestling, or softball, etc., teams.
Supporters of this practice often claim that it’s good because it provides the transgender athlete with the opportunity to be ‘who he/she is or wants to be’. In turn, demonstrating proper respect for his/her unique rationality, unique autonomy, etc.
Some opposition to this practice claims that it’s bad because it’s unfair to other athletes and in turn hinders their opportunity to compete on a “level playing field”. In turn, demonstrating a lack of proper respect for their unique rationality, etc.
Another facet of this debate is the usage of Title IX as the (legal? moral?) justification for school policies concerning transgender athletes. One of the original intentions behind the creation of Title IX was to ensure that female athletes received equal opportunities, resources, training, etc., as their male counterparts at all institutions receiving federal monies.
1972 Statement of Title IX:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
Essentially, the intent was to demonstrate the proper amount of respect for/to female student athletes via providing them with athletic opportunities, resources, etc., equivalent to their male counterparts. Now, due to recent (2008-2016) efforts to add gender identity/transgender to Title IX’s protected areas of coverage, it seems that some female high school athletes may be receiving less than equal opportunities in sports due to biological males (but self-identified females) being added to their teams.
Possible Restatement/Interpretation of Title IX:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of race, color, religion, age, national origin, disability, sex, (transgender/gender-self-identity), or veteran status, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination or harassment under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
Might the “good” and “respectful” intentions codified in the possible restatement/interpretation of Title IX now be one of the causes of un-equal opportunity and dis-respectful treatment to some members of the very group it was originally designed to ensure equal opportunity and respect for? Some opponents to recent transgender athlete decisions seem to think so.
Finally, another aspect to this debate is the possibility that perhaps disrespect is not actually occurring in the way that many participants in this debate actually think it is. That is, perhaps adding transgender athletes to teams of their self-identified gender shouldn’t be a problem because female athletes are just as physically, athletically, etc., capable as their male counterparts. And, the very idea/assumption/insinuation that adding a biological male to a female team places the women at some especially unfair disadvantage is itself insulting and disrespectful.
As has been eluded to in each of our weekly (SE) videos, actual ethical issues & moral/ethical value conflicts are quite complex. There are always multiple aspects to all moral/ethical debates and conflicts of values. The debate about transgender high school athletes is no different.
Questions for this week’s discussion:
1) Which (if any) side of the transgender high school athletes debate seems to have the maximal amount of “respect for persons” on its side? That is, which side of this debate seems to generate the greatest amount of respectful treatment for the greatest number of people directly effected/affected by the practice of allowing transgender athletes to participate/compete on their self-identified teams? Your reasons?
2) Do you buy in to the idea that “respect for persons” should always be the top priority in all of our interactions with people? Essentially, do you buy in to deontology’s core moral value/imperative? Why/why not? If not respect for persons, then what other value/s might sometimes be more morally important to consider when interacting with persons?
3) Do you buy in to the idea that simply having the intent to be respectful to persons is sufficient to ensure that ones actions involving other people are always moral? That is, is just having the intent to be respectful enough to ensure ones actions are actually moral/ethical even if/when disrespect sometimes happens to be an unintended result? For example, assume that the “good intent” to be respectful is underlying the wording of the possible restatement/interpretation of Title IX and is what’s guiding the allowance of transgender K-12 athletic participation. Does the mere fact that “good intention” is guiding the hands of school policy makers, administrators, coaches, etc., enough to say that their actions are absolutely moral? Even if/when some female students may be placed at a dis-advantage (i.e., may be being dis-respected)?
4) Finally, does it seem practically possible for a person, administrator, policy maker, law, etc., to be respectful of all people all of the time? Your reasons?
Requirements: answer all questions
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