Commentary on the Littleton Case

Who Art Thou, Romeo?
by Lisa Lees

In October the 4th Court of Appeals in San Antonio rendered an opinion in the case of Littleton v. Prange which effectively establishes in Texas a legal definition of sex. (The question before the court was whether a transsexual woman had legal standing as the spouse of her deceased husband and could sue her husband's doctor for malpractice contributing to his death.)

The court reviewed what little precedent and case law there is in this area and decided that of the possible criteria for determining an individual's sex, chromosomes are what matter. No amount of current medical art can alter an individual's chromosomes, therefore an individual's sex cannot be changed.

So Christie Littleton (the transsexual woman) has been, is, and always will be legally male in the state of Texas (in spite of having undergone twenty years ago what medical practice considers to be a sex change), can not have been validly married to her male husband, and therefore has no standing to sue as a surviving spouse.

Littleton had previously obtained (through the legal system) a name, birth certificate, and driver's license that indicate she is female, lives every day and hour in the social role of woman, and in 1989 married a man (in what she then believed to be a legal manner). But this is now all null and void.

Simple? Uh, I don't think so.

Does this decision mean that Littleton and others like her now must use men's restrooms and locker rooms, may go topless on the beach and marry women who, unlike themselves, are legally female? Must female-to-male transsexual persons use women's restrooms and locker rooms, wear swimsuits with tops, and marry men who, unlike themselves, are legally male?

The court ignored these questions and so has created a situation that is legally and socially absurd. The decision effectively makes transsexual people outlaws in the state of Texas, damned if they do and damned if they don't.

But do not loose sight of the fact that this decision was framed in the context of heterosexual marriage. It was to preserve the male/female aspect of marriage that the court turned an entire class of people into outcasts.

And don't bother to haul out your Holy Bibles; the court has already done so.

The court framed the question to be answered as: "Can a physician change the gender of a person with a scalpel, drugs and counseling, or is a person's gender immutably fixed by our Creator at birth?"

Church and State are not far separated in the state of Texas, it would seem; clearly it is homophobia that interprets law in the state of Texas.

Why am I reminded of the days when one drop of inherited negro blood was sufficient to relegate a person to the servant class? Why do I have no trouble seeing this court delivering its decision while wearing white sheets and hoods?

You are what you are by birth; it cannot change; your destiny is set; shut up; get in line; behave yourself; do as we say.

So far I have heard only a deafening silence from the "gay" organizations about this case, in spite of the fact that the court opinion cites "the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), [passed by Congress] just in case a state decides to recognize same-sex marriages" as a justification for its decision.

Wake up you fools! Do you realize that a court in Texas has declared that a male-to-female transsexual person is legally a gay male? Is this the future you want? Do you want the courts to define what it means to be man and woman?

Okay. Deep breath. Some of my best friends are gay. But please, we all need to work together on this gender thing!

By the way, the concurring opinion mentioned that intersexed people (born for example with other than XX or XY chromosomes) are outside the scope of this decision; their right to marry in Texas remains undefined. I'd be real worried if I were in their shoes.

It is worth your while to read the three opinions written in this case: [see 4th Court link to left]

[Written for the Winter 2000 "Sex" issue of Q-News at Michigan State University.]

Copyright 2000 Lisa J. Lees /

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Last revised: Saturday, May 06, 2000 09:31 AM

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