Within living memory – until about 2010 – we thought we knew what a transsexual was. Though it was impossible for male human beings to become female human beings and vice-versa, there were nonetheless people who wished to transition to the opposite sex and who made efforts to resemble the opposite sex.
Without necessarily believing people who declared themselves to be women born in men’s bodies (or vice-versa) there was no doubting the strength of their desire to transition; and their efforts to appear like a member of the opposite sex were undeniable, though seldom altogether successful.
This view of transexuals suggested a policy of restraint and compassion towards them. It was known that aspiring male-to-female transexuals committed suicide at higher-than-average rates as a consequence of not being allowed the hormones and surgery necessary for a physical transition – so sure were they that this was their only chance of happiness.
It was also known that male-to-female transexuals who had “successfully” undergone physical transition likewise committed suicide at higher-than-average rates – so disappointed were they to discover that the yearned-for “sex change” could not alleviate a misery which had, after all, a different cause to the one they imagined.
So, in the unlikely event of our ever meeting a transexual (unlikely because there were so very few of them) we would be sure to treat them with respect and as though they truly were members of the sex they wished to belong to.
So what has changed? Well, transexuals as described above are still with us. But a once infinitesimal minority has been inflated by a host of people who believe that biological sex is either irrelevant or unreal. For them the crucial distinction is not sex but “gender” – a man being a member of the male gender and a woman being a member of the female gender.
But because gender indicates only the different kinds of behaviour typical of the two sexes, complemented by a subjective, entirely untestable, conviction that one is “really” a man or a woman – it is perfectly possible for a person of the male sex (a man according to the old sex-based definition) to be of the female gender (a woman according to the new gender-based definition).
This promotion of gender over sex has its roots in academia. One of the ideological obsessions which have come to dominate the humanities and social sciences in our universities is a hostility to “binary oppositions” – those mutually exclusive categories which are suspected of trapping us in a maze of false choices, but which in fact underpin our ability to distinguish anything in what would be an otherwise chaotic universe.
Sex is one such binary opposition: we can categorize a human being as biologically male or as biologically female, but never both. This opposition is denounced as ignoring the infinite emotional and psychological gradations to be found among human beings, whereas gender, because it is an index of behaviour, is flexible: a man is someone whose behaviour corresponds to what we expect from biological males, a woman is someone whose behaviour corresponds to what we expect from biological females.
But if someone’s behaviour is a mixture of male and female, then there are lots more genders to choose from: AFAB, Agender, Aliagender, AMAB, Androgyne, Aporagender etc. There are hundreds of such designations, but there are never enough, because no two people exhibit exactly the same mixture of male and female behaviour. To be really consistent in the recognition of gender, there would have to be a one for every human being – strung out along the spectrum between the most manly of manly-men to the girliest of girly-girls.
Most university students limit “non-binary” analysis to their semester papers – they would not dream of applying it to their own lives. Some, however, become non-binary Jesuits, using their careers in the media, public relations etc. to demoralize and confuse a society they detest, while others seize on the idea that they might belong to a gender unrelated to their biological sex as a boon to their self-confidence.
Once dismissed as sluggish, ugly and without savour, they can now identify as transgender and become the centre of anxious attention – and not just any old transgender, either. Having declared themselves “novigender”, “neutrois”, “androgyne” or whatever, they can insist on being referred to by the pronouns Zie/Zim/Zier from now on, and then denounce anyone who demurs as a horrid transphobe whom nobody should ever speak to again.
By now these “transactivists” greatly outnumber transsexuals in the traditional sense, and it is they who promote it as an ideology. Whether they regard it as a spearhead to prise apart the structure of the heteronormative, patriarchal, capitalist system at one of its weakest points, or whether they regard it as a platform for self-aggrandizement, they have a huge psychological stake in it.
If there is a social media mob out for your blood because you wrote something allegedly transphobic, or if there is a petition to have you ousted from your job, or if there is a whispering campaign to make you persona non grata with your friends and family – it is unlikely to be old-style transsexuals behind the agitation. It is more probably the Teutonic Knights of Transexualism who have you in their sights.
The most striking evidence for the ideological – rather than humanitarian – thrust of this movement is that the offences it denounces are offences against doctrine, not against people. For example, J. K. Rowling’s great crime – the one which led to her being demonized as an unfeeling monster – was to point out that the correct term for a human being with a womb was “a woman”, while Jordan Peterson’s was his refusal to use made-up pronouns.
Their statements could in no way adversely affect the well-being of male-to-female or female-to-male transsexuals, but for those dedicated to replacing the clearly-understood, tried-and-tested distinction of sex with the opaque and ultimately unintelligible notion of gender, these were unforgiveable heresies.
It is the defence of ideology, and not humanitarian concern for transsexuals, which dictates that if children – at an age when all the implications of the terms “man” and “woman” are still very vague to them – declare themselves to belong to the opposite sex, then everybody should acquiesce in their early transition.
It is the defence of ideology, and not humanitarian concern for transsexuals, which dictates that any biological male who declares himself a woman actually is a woman, and should be allowed to take advantage of all the special rules and privileges which our society reserves for women.
It is the defence of ideology, and not humanitarian concern for transsexuals, which dictates that new “genders” can be created at will, and that those who refuse to take them, or the corresponding set of pronouns, seriously, should be made social outcasts and deprived of their livelihood.
Without in any way wishing harm on transsexuals, we need to oppose the transgender lobby, before its influence, which is already having lamentable effects on our society, becomes catastrophic and irreversible. Our tolerance for old-style transsexuals did us credit. We knew – so great was the physical and social distress caused by attempting to change from one sex to another – that transition was undertaken only by those in dire need, and we did not wish to make a difficult predicament worse than it was bound to be in any case.
With no transsexuals in our own circle of acquaintance, we did not feel we had a personal stake in their plight, and if anyone inveighed against transsexuals on behalf of society, or if they inveighed against society on behalf of transsexuals, we changed the subject, thinking that the least said about the matter, the better.
In the light of the punishment meted out to some high-profile critics of transgenderism, that reticence has only increased in recent years – but at this point it does us no credit at all. Old-style transsexuals, sometimes to their great indignation, have been made the mascot of a socially destructive creed emanating from our universities and kept alive by social media, and they have also been made its shield.
For whenever the tenets of this creed are threatened by rational analysis, the cry “think of the poor transsexuals – you ought to be ashamed of yourself!” goes up, and the critic falls silent or is expelled from the conversation. The sufferings of transsexuals have been used as a spearhead against a detested social order. Resisting it will make us uncomfortable; but not as much as the shaft which follows.