I am writing to respond to Rob Port's inaccurate and rhetorically dishonest opinion column, "The transgender sports issue is a debate North Dakota needs," in Jan. 23rd Forum. Port argues that the bill under consideration in the North Dakota Legislature, House Bill 1293, from Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo, gives the state a venue for having a necessary debate. I am troubled by several aspects of Port's argument, which relies nearly entirely on rhetorical fallacies.
First, it relies on scaremongering (or what are called "appeals to fear") by building a case for a problem (that trans athletes will create an un-level playing field) that neither he nor Koppelman actually prove (what is called in the study of logic and rhetoric "begging the question").
- Letter: As medical professionals, we are appalled at ND transgender bill
- Letter: Our schools deserve better
- Letter: Erasing our differences is not the answer
- Letter: Logic behind transgender athlete bill is flawed
In addition, by invoking a series of high profile discussions of transgenderism (J.K. Rowling, Salman Rushdie, Noam Chomsky, etc), none of whom were directly addressing the issue of trans students participating in athletics, Port engages in false equivalence. He also engages in false equivalence by inflating what is a non-problem into a level of political and moral crisis, drawing comparisons to several isolated incidents about a completely different issue (racial identity appropriation).
Third, all of this argument is done in the service of actually supporting a completely different ideological perspective: funding for sports in schools, which is less of a fallacy than it is unethical argumentation. Port writes that "The perfect solution is to get the financial and social burden of sports out of the schools and into private organizations where an issue like this can be settled without the need for legislative intervention," all the while pursuing a flawed line of argument about a separate and unrelated issue. In the end, it's clear Port is not at all interested in the issue of trans athletes participating in support as he is in manipulating readers to support his actual agenda, privatization of public resources.
What is actually most important on this topic is recognizing that our leading national organizations such as the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have both affirmed the dignity and rights of transgender people and have opposed discriminatory legislation like the Koppelman's bill. Because of discriminatory legislation, inadequate health and educational resources, social stigma (including harassment and abuse), and often a lack of family support, trans youth are at a higher risk of depression and suicide.
North Dakota should not institutionalize the kind of discrimination that is proposed in Koppelman's bill; nor should Port make unethical arguments intended to misrepresent issues to readers.
Holly Hassel, Fargo, is a member of The Forum's Readers Board.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.