CW: There are sensitive issues raised in this article.
The past year has seen some major political convulsions as those who had been afraid to express their thoughts and feelings found a lightning rod for their political voice. We need to learn from this. Thoughts and feelings shape reality. Ignoring or burying feelings will not change them. Nor will it make them go away.
This is why we need to talk about the transgender movement and the way in which categories of male and female are being eroded. I suspect that there are many who feel deeply uncomfortable about this. The fall out of conceptually messing with the building blocks of all life could be far more destructive than anything we know.
By the time I was a student the term ‘gender’ had become embedded. It propagated the idea that sex differences were entirely culturally constructed. We shut our eyes to the 100% overlap between biological sex, gender identity and gender expression and accepted the idea of cultural construction without demur.
Today universities tell us that individuals should choose their pronouns. Objective reality is treated like an uninvited visitor and it is these chosen pronouns which must be obeyed. In certain instances, boys’ toilets in schools now contain sanitary bins and a male can enter many a female inner sanctum as long as he doesn’t ‘identify’ as a man. Even the British Medical Association now encourages doctors to refer to ‘pregnant parents’. The slope turned out not just to be slippery but also hideously steep.
So we need to talk about what is happening because we have no idea what could be at stake.
How has the transgender lobby been able to impose so many so many deep seated far reaching rules? We are taught that a group of people is oppressed and suffering, and because our bodies are so damnably male and female their suffering is largely our fault. And because the victims constitute the ultimate minority – the number of perpetrators in infinitely large. Therefore, it would be incredibly churlish not to make these compromises. Emotional blackmail is the hidden game.
There are a few assumptions here that we need to unpick. Firstly, if our behaviour is kind, considerate and respectful should we take responsibility for the suffering of someone else? Gabriel Rutherford tells us that transgender students suffer depression and this is the result of their oppression ‘by cultural means’. However how does Gabriel Rutherford know the cause of their depression? Even depressed people don’t know exactly why they are depressed. If you are suffering with issues of sexual identity, personal relationships will be far more challenging. To understand the transgender person’s issues, this might be a more robust place to start.
The other question I would like to ask is the extent to which strangers can be held responsible for our self-esteem. As a young woman I experienced the full gamut of sexual harassment which apparently sends my feminist sisters into safe little corners. Yet my self-esteem and self-identity remained alarmingly in-tact. It is not possible to eradicate harassment or bullying for they can morph grotesquely. Perhaps instead it is resilience that we should teach.
For Rutherford going along with the transgender emperor is “Standing against oppression and bullying”. Really? If someone looks, sounds and acts like a girl but we have to pretend they are otherwise, then we are being made to lie. Lying does not require bravery. People lie out of self-interest or because it is the easier route. University authorities which insist that we do this are colluding in deception. If an unambiguous male says he is transgender but we call him a ‘he’ we will have the weight of the university authorities and quite probably public opinion against us. Just try it and see which is easier – lying or telling the truth.
The biggest humbug in the transgender argument is that it turns a blind eye to the costs that are involved. Identity provides us with a structure. Once we have established it we can go exploring. It lies at the foundation of everything else. While a tiny minority of children and an even tinier minority of adults may not feel at home with the sex of their body we should not deny what is of fundamental importance to everyone else.
Sex differences are essential to biology and medicine. And I believe if we paid more attention to sex differences, rather than ignoring them, some of the basic differences between men and women, for example mental rotation, could, more easily be overcome.
Finally, I would like to question whether encouraging a non-binary identity does any favour to the individual male or female. For many children, gender confusion is a condition which resolves. And for those who go so far as to opt for surgery the outcomes are surprisingly poor. And for those who insist on invented pronouns I can hardly believe that their employment opportunities are likely to be enhanced.
Transgender is an outcome of gender dysphoria where a person’s gender identity does not match their sex. However, this needs to be understood in a context where gender identity has become increasingly narrowly defined. It appears that as gender roles have become more homogenous our identities and bodies have become the site where sex difference is expressed. Contrast the soft, sometimes effete body of the 1950’s male with the muscular physique expected in our ideal man of today. Or the not so rare caricature of a female with implants in her buttocks and her breasts. There is even empirical evidence to suggest that our personalities have become increasingly differentiated by sex.
So when transgender individuals want to reject our gender identities actually they have a very good point. However, could not these individuals rather than rejecting the categories which are so invaluable and essential to us, simply adopt them, expand them, be creative and even change them. But please also make them your own.
Belinda Brown is a writer for The Conservative Woman
Photo Credit: Elliot Owen
We Need to Talk About the Transgender Movement | Belinda Brown Reviewed by Student Voices on 14:30 Rating: