Worriedmom is the mother of four (allegedly) adult children. She lives in the Northeastern part of the United States. Worriedmom practiced law for many years and now works in the non-profit ara. She is available to interact in the comments section of this post.
While writing a previous 4thWaveNow article about my experience as a PFLAG leader, I thought back on my longstanding personal connections with gay, lesbian and transgender people. I first became interested in this group of humans while in college in the late 1970s, on account of my then-best friend, a gay man. I remember demonstrating against Anita Bryant’s mean-spirited Florida anti-gay activism, and being filmed by the local police department, which regarded gay people and their allies as dangerous subversives. I recall that same police department barging into the local gay disco, lining up the women and men against separate walls, demanding identification and threatening to haul folks to jail and put their names in the paper. My friend told me disturbing, haunting stories about the naked aggression and harsh daily bullying he faced in high school because he was a “feminine” gay man.
I knew these experiences were but the tiniest slice of the everyday discrimination, violence and prejudice faced by gay and lesbian people in those days. For myself, even those few encounters with the unfairness and unkindness faced by gays and lesbians led me, first, to provide free estate planning for men with HIV, shortly after I got my law license; and, later, to advocate for civil union and then gay marriage in my home state. Along the way, I also became a PFLAG chapter leader and spent countless hours devoted to the cause of equal rights for sexual and gender minorities.
As I thought about my own history of advocacy, one thing that struck me was how very long a road it had been, one that has lasted my entire adult life. And what next occurred to me was that, by contrast, transgender rights, in both law and fact, have had an extraordinarily short history. Compared to the length of time it took for gay and lesbian people, and more specifically same-sex marriage, to become mainstream, transgender rights have taken center stage in a virtual blink of the eye. In both these cases, people have been asked to accept a new, expanded or different interpretation or meaning of something they’ve taken for granted: in the gay and lesbian rights area, marriage; and in the transgender rights area, gender or sexual identity.
This article briefly explores the evolution of the law and public policy in the United States as it relates to marriage, and the sexes. (For space reasons, I will have to skim over and condense an incredibly rich, interesting and complex history. There is a great deal more to say and learn about every subject covered.)
Gay marriage: An idea long in coming
Although gay and lesbian subcultures certainly existed prior to the 1950s, particularly in larger cities and in areas impacted by the World Wars, the first organized groups in support of gay rights did not emerge until the early 1950s. The Mattachine Society, for men, was founded in 1950, and the Daughters of Bilitis, for women, was founded in 1953. The first public protests in favor of gay and lesbian rights occurred in 1963 at the White House, and in 1966 in New York City (a “sip-in” against anti-gay discrimination).
Although the 1960s saw increasing efforts toward social visibility and against discrimination, the Stonewall Riots, in 1969, are largely regarded as the catalyst for the modern-day gay civil rights movement. The energy and intensity produced from Stonewall led to the creation of the first “out” gay rights groups, and within two years, virtually every large city in the U.S. had its own gay and lesbian political action group.
Activism around gay and lesbian rights grew during the 1970s alongside other movements of personal liberation, such as the women’s movement, Black Power, Chicano Pride and others – although a serious backlash ensued as some religious conservatives began to mobilize in opposition. The AIDS crisis of the 1980s, and the activism that it engendered, ensured the prominence of gay people in the public mind.
The first hint in the United States that same-sex marriage might someday become a reality was in 1993, when Hawaii’s Supreme Court ruled that denying marriage to same-sex couples violated the Equal Protection Clause of that state’s constitution. This ruling did not legalize gay marriage in Hawaii but did kick off an intensive round of anti-gay marriage lobbying and advocacy, which culminated in the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”). While it did not prohibit states from recognizing gay marriage, DOMA provided that for federal purposes marriage was to be defined as the union between one man and one woman only. Under DOMA, states were permitted to refuse to recognize gay marriages performed in other states, which temporarily settled the issue in favor of the anti-gay marriage forces. In 2004, President George W. Bush urged passage of a Federal Marriage Amendment to the United States Constitution, which would have further codified the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman only. The Federal Marriage Amendment was never adopted, although it became the subject of a raging debate.
2004 also saw tremendous activism around gay marriage in general, with anti-gay marriage amendments and statutes up for referendum in numerous state contests. It later developed that the Republican Party had adopted the strategy of introducing gay marriage as a political “wedge” issue into as many state elections as possible, with the hope of bringing more conservative, motivated voters to the polls.
Although chastened by the crushing defeat of 2004, in which anti-gay-marriage initiatives won in every single state in which they were introduced, gay and lesbian activists persisted. One bright spot was the Goodridge case in Massachusetts (2004), which legalized gay marriage for that state. Connecticut became only the second state to recognize gay marriage, in 2008. A dark spot was California’s infamous “Proposition 8,” also in 2008, when voters made same-sex marriage illegal in that state. A “middle ground” proposal to allow same-sex couples to enter into “civil unions” or “domestic partnerships” was often explored and adopted as an intermediate legal step. Many states and groups saw tremendous debate and dispute over whether civil unions were an appropriate substitute for full civil marriage, should be sanctioned by the State, or whether the concept was the proverbial “camel’s nose under the tent.”
In 2009, a team of “super lawyers” attacked Prop. 8 in California on constitutional grounds, with the goal of creating a test case that could be ruled upon by the U.S. Supreme Court to establish gay marriage as the law of the land. However, the Supreme Court declined to hear the California case in October of 2014, and as of that date just 19 states and the District of Columbia permitted same-sex marriage. Thirty-one states had laws or statutes explicitly prohibiting it. The period between October 2014 and June 2015 was one of a very rapidly evolving legal landscape, as state laws and constitutional amendments were successively ruled unconstitutional. Finally, as of June 26, 2015, the date of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states, gay marriage had been legalized in 37 states and the District of Columbia. By then, every state in the union had had court cases bearing on the issue.
Although there was some resistance in a few quarters to the Supreme Court’s decision, most notably with the Kim Davis controversy in Kentucky, by and large negative public reaction to Obergefell was muted. Whether or not people agreed that the Supreme Court had the right to alter the concept of marriage, and whether or not they agreed that the court’s application of the U.S. Constitution to the issue of same-sex marriage was correct, by the time the high court ruled in June of 2015, all sides to the conversation had had their say (and then some). In fact, gay marriage attracted so much attention, analysis, fact-finding and commentary, that eventually people on all sides of the issue actually became weary of the discussion.
The key point is that, in ruling in Obergefell, the Supreme Court did, in fact, re-define marriage as that term had previously been used and understood in American society. (To be clear, other societies in other eras have had other definitions of marriage.) Many people objected to such a re-definition because they did not agree that it was appropriate, moral, legally justified, socially desirable or for other reasons. Those arguments were heard and evaluated on their merits, and every party concerned had the full opportunity to make its case. We had a robust national conversation about the definition of marriage which lasted, even dating strictly from the Hawaii decision, for some 22 years.
Re-defining “man” and “woman”: An idea not very long in coming
Although older readers may remember the well-publicized early cases of Renee Richards (in 1976) and of Christine Jorgensen (even further back, in 1952), until very recently, transgender people were primarily regarded by most Americans as exceptionally rare oddities. Early political efforts around transgender rights and people only began to gather momentum in the late 1990s, with the first efforts to add “gender identity” to anti-discrimination laws in a few jurisdictions and the establishment of the “Transgender Day of Remembrance” in 1999 as the signal holiday of the movement. It was not until 2014, when Time magazine declared that the United States had reached the “transgender tipping point,” that many Americans began to realize the significance of the transgender movement. And most observers would agree that Bruce Jenner’s transformation into Caitlyn Jenner, in 2015, was probably the event that finally brought transgender people and their issues into wide public consciousness, if not acclaim.
Initially, the focus of the transgender movement appeared straightforward. It seemed logical to include the “T” as part of the “LGB,” in that transgender people were also often viewed as sexual minorities. Given that gay and lesbian people often were, and are, punished and discriminated against for being “gender non-conforming,” it appeared that including “gender expression” or “gender identity” as qualities to be protected under civil rights statutes was natural and appropriate. For instance, in 2009, President Obama signed a law that added anti-transgender bias to the federal hate crimes law; President Obama also banned discrimination on the basis of gender identity among federal contractors via executive order in 2014; and in June of 2016, transgender people became eligible to serve in the United States military. Efforts to enact a federal employment non-discrimination law covering transgender people (and gay and lesbian people, for that matter) have been unsuccessful to date.
In February of 2016 (just one short year before this writing, although it seems much longer), the North Carolina city of Charlotte passed an ordinance establishing certain civil rights protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people, including – most controversially – the requirement that transgender people be permitted to use the bathroom facility of the gender with which they identified. In March of 2016, in a special session, the State of North Carolina passed a bill that voided the Charlotte ordinance and affirmatively required transgender people to use restrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their birth sex. A firestorm of controversy, and needless to say litigation, followed. Then, on May 13, 2016, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice sent the now-(in)famous “Dear Colleague” letter to public school districts, informing them that under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act (which prohibits sex discrimination in education programs that receive federal financial assistance), as a condition of receiving federal funds, the districts would be required to make “sexed” school facilities, such as bathrooms and locker rooms, available to students based on the students’ “gender identity.” Schools, including colleges and universities receiving federal funding, would no longer be permitted to require that transgender students use separate facilities. According to the Dear Colleague letter, “[g]ender identity refers to an individual’s internal sense of gender” and “[a] person’s gender identity may be different from or the same as the person’s sex assigned at birth.” While enforcement of the Dear Colleague letter had been stayed pending judicial resolution as to whether it is a valid interpretation of Title IX, it has now been revoked altogether by President Donald Trump. Most observers agree, however, that the issue is far from settled.
As the “bathroom wars” illustrate, the current focus of the transgender rights movement appears, then, to have shifted, from the straightforward request that transgender (and “gender non-conforming”) people be protected against discrimination in areas such as employment, housing, and education, to a much broader proposition. Specifically, many transgender advocates now posit that transgender people must be accepted, recognized and treated, for every purpose, as members of the sex with which they identify. According to the Dear Colleague Letter, from henceforth, a person’s stated “gender identity” or internal sense of gender (gender previously thought of as the set of socially conditioned behaviors and personality traits commonly associated with a given sex) overrides or replaces that person’s biological or natal sex. In fact, the very notion that there is something called “biological sex” is increasingly rejected in favor of the view that “sex” is “socially constructed.” The short-hand for this view is the oft-heard claim that “trans-women are women.”
Such a claim has profound implications for humans’ understanding of one of their most fundamental sources of identity: their sex. The transgender claim that a person’s sex is not grounded in a set of objective, observable facts, and that it is bigoted and ignorant to believe that it is, represents a quantum shift in the way that most humans perceive reality and each other.
We cannot discuss the intellectual underpinnings of the modern transgender rights movement without a short detour into the critical theory known as post-modernism. Post-modernism was originally formulated in the 1960’s in opposition to the Enlightenment idea that: “[t]here is an objective natural reality, a reality whose existence and properties are logically independent of human beings—of their minds, their societies, their social practices, or their investigative techniques. Postmodernists dismiss this idea as a kind of naive realism. Such reality as there is, according to postmodernists, is a conceptual construct, an artifact of scientific practice and language. This point also applies to the investigation of past events by historians and to the description of social institutions, structures, or practices by social scientists.” Post-modernism also rejects the idea that “[t]he descriptive and explanatory statements of scientists and historians can, in principle, be objectively true or false.” The postmodern denial of this viewpoint—which follows from the rejection of an objective natural reality—is sometimes expressed by saying that there is no such thing as “Truth.” The transgender claim, that there is no objective category called “sex” for human beings, is thus a very post-modern way to view the world.
While post-modernism can provide an interesting and illuminating lens through which to “de-construct” theories, beliefs, and works of art, it seems to do a much poorer job at providing “words to live by.” Human beings do need to act “as if” there is “such [a] thing as Truth,” if for no other reason that it is impossible for humans to live in community and interact with one another unless they share some consensus on what constitutes reality.
This is why, I believe, the core transgender concept, that “man” and “woman” do not exist as independent qualities, but are matters of subjective belief, is so immediately foreign, if not abhorrent, to most people. A quick review of the comments on virtually every transgender-themed story on a mainstream platform, whether that is the New York Times or CNN.com, will show that the vast majority of people reject the post-modern view of sex, and in fact feel great discomfort when faced with demands that they adopt it.
Just Passing Through 18 hours ago
From dictionary dot com: de·lu·sion, noun. An idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument, typically a symptom of mental disorder. I’m a middle age man. Say I go to the closest middle school in my area and announce that in my heart, I truly believe I’m a 12 year old girl. I want to be a cheerleader, braid other girl’s hair, watch Justin Bieber videos, giggle and talk about boys. Of course, the administration with call the police and they will haul me away to the closest mental hospital. Someone will cry out, “you’re a 61 year old man, for God’s sake!” I will say, “so is Bruce/Catlin Jenner!” If a delusion is a delusion, why is one delusion celebrated and the other condemned?
Not buying it, and he’s got a lot of company.
It hardly needs saying that when we consider any other human physical qualities, whether that person is old or young, tall or short, or light or dark-skinned, we rely on what we observe or can measure to tell us where that person “fits” into any of these groupings. Modern gender theory, however, tells us that for the specific category of sex (and only for sex, so far as I can tell), we cannot and should not base our conclusions on what we see and that sex differences have no basis in what we consider to be objective reality.
To put it mildly, this is a paradigm shift. In fact, it is a paradigm shift that has substantially broader implications than does expanding “marriage” to include same-sex couples. In the case of marriage, as the well-worn slogan had it, “if you don’t like gay marriage, don’t have one.” In other words, at the end of the day, the fact that same-sex couples could now be married had few ramifications for anyone other than the people involved – and, at any rate, all of the arguments were hashed out over decades. An ancillary point is that by the time the gay marriage decision came down, most straight people knew (and knew they knew) gay and lesbian people. They could sympathize with the desire of gay and lesbian people to be included in the definition of marriage, based on their personal familiarity with their lives and struggles. And, of course, including gay and lesbian people within marriage did nothing to detract from or change the experience of marriage for people who were not gay and lesbian.
Re-defining sex as a matter of subjective belief has implications for every human. In most of our daily lives, a person’s sex is irrelevant; it does not matter whether the people with whom we work or play are male or female. However, there are important legal categories, statutes, categories and activities as to which sexual differentiation remains relevant, and if we re-define sex generally, we are re-defining it for all of these purposes. This is where so much of the conflict emerges. If we have decided that “sex matters” for some purposes, such as privacy, safety, re-dressing historic wrongs or inequities, competition in sports, religious observance and reproduction (to name just a few), re-defining what we mean by “sex” will have a ripple effect that extends to each and every one of these areas.
The 2016 Dear Colleague letter, while superficially addressed solely to educational institutions receiving federal funds, and while superficially concerned only with Title IX, codified the post-modern view of sex difference into law and federal policy. This represented an incredibly swift, forced acceptance of an entirely new view of sexual difference for most people outside of academic or theoretical circles. There has been virtually no opportunity for the public to think carefully about the issue, to research, consider, discuss, listen, or debate. Efforts to think critically about what adopting this view implies for men and women are shut down and shamed as transphobic and bigoted. Contrast this stunningly rapid adoption of the post-modern view of sex difference, with the decades-long fight of gay and lesbian people to be provided with basic rights and the evolution of society’s understanding of gays and lesbians as it related to marriage.
A social consensus may yet emerge to the effect that sex, and perhaps other human characteristics, is “in the mind of the haver.” Society may also figure out different ways of grouping people – distinctions between the sexes becoming less important as people feel more comfortable in mixed-sex groups (a current example would be naturism), or as people become increasingly distanced from their physical bodies, whether through virtual reality or radical advances in medical technology. “Sex” may simply cease to be a relevant category. But we’re certainly not there yet. When we look at how incredibly rapidly the post-modern view of sex has been imposed on our culture, it is hardly surprising that we are in a time of serious discord and dissension about it. This is, at least in part, because re-defining human institutions from the “top down” is not a healthy thing for a society. Telling the public that it must accept and internalize the post-modern approach to sex difference, long before we have had the chance to reach consensus about it, is unfair, almost certainly doomed to failure, and will result in a host of unanticipated consequences that will extend far beyond the local bathroom.
I’m convince that, when people outside the liberal bubble cotton on to whats be imposed, the backlash will hit the left in general and Gay and Lesbian people very hard. The trans ideology has hitched itself onto the coat-tails of many good causes: Feminism, LGB rights, sex education and anti-bullying. All these will be set back decades if they leave it to the right wing and bigots to expose what is going on in our name.
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the backlash will hit the left in general
It is not “the left” that is currently promoting a bill on “gender identity” in the UK parliament: it is a right-wing Tory, Maria Miller.
Who is no more a feminist than she is a lefty: it is only a few years since she was calling for a substantial reduction in the legal time-limit for abortions. That was when she was Minister for Women (!), and even the Telegraph published an article by their Women’s Editor calling her views “bizarre”.
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I hadn’t realised that, and its possibly a crack to get a wedge in.
I know its common to say that transgenderism is actually being pushed by “conservatives” who are “homophobic” but living in an area with a lot of conservatives (though it’s not conservative as a whole), I can tell you that the average conservative is not pro-trans and they consider politicians on the “right” such as the one you cite above to be hardly conservative at all.
If there’s homophobia going on, it’s unacknowledged homophobia and misogyny by progressives who want to prove to the world how virtuous they are by backing the trans agenda.
Talk to the average “liberal feminist” and they will blindly back the transgender bathroom initiatives and say stupid things like “well they’re not hurting anyone.” If you press them on what being “female” really is, they get flustered and cannot respond with any coherence.
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I think you are an American. I am British (as is gendercriticaldad) and I was writing about UK politics, which I made perfectly clear in my comment. What the conservatives in your neighbourhood think has no relevance to my point. We have a different political culture here. And in terms of UK politics, Maria Miller is a right-wing MP in a right-wing party.
In Britain, for whatever reason, some right-wingers are promoting quite an extreme transgenderist programme. This is a fact.
I did not say anything at all about “homophobia” so I cannot imagine why you are lecturing me about it.
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I think there is already a backlash within both gay rights and feminism. Many feminists, as I have discovered with my new blog, are leaving liberal feminism due to the orthodoxy of trans rights – it wasn’t the only thing that bothered me, but it was my breaking point. And frankly I am tempted to completely shut out trans gender issues from feminism, particularly regarding trans women, so we have a space in which to talk about our own issues related to being female and patriarchal oppression without constantly being diverted into a discussion about gender identity and having to make concessions to accept biological males as females. It isn’t that we don’t believe in trans rights, it is that we have lost patience and want out movement back. Lesbians, too, are feeling the isolation, and there are growing numbers of lesbians questioning whether to remain in the LGBTQIA+ movement.
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Informative post, but I don’t think what’s behind the shift you describe is postmodernism, at least in the most influential current of trans advocacy: I think it has its roots in a body of medical/scientific work which was done in the 1950s. The feminist meaning of ‘gender’ (a social role/status imposed on the basis of sex) and the one that’s now become familiar via trans activism (an innate identity which may be at odds with sex)–came into use around the same time. If anyone’s interested I’ve written about the history of the two competing meanings of ‘gender’ at https://debuk.wordpress.com/2016/12/15/a-brief-history-of-gender/
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I just wanted to take this opportunity to say how much I enjoy both your blogs.
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Debuk, thank you for posting your blog! I want to go back and read what you’ve written carefully.
I think you’re absolutely right that the development of the term “gender” has more complicated intellectual roots than simple post-modernism. What I was trying to point out in the piece was, not so much where the post-modern view of sex “came from,” but how quickly, from a society-wide perspective, it has been imposed, particularly compared to the evolving ideas around marriage.
Those of us who are familiar with trans-activist ideas are, I think, somewhat inured to how bizarre and fanciful they appear to most people!
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You nailed the whole postmodernism thing (I’m a little younger than you I call it deconstruction) and how quickly the trans movement is requiring this vast change in peoples actual sense of reality! I am certain that most people, including the late-night comedy new shows, have zero idea that this is part of trans. We need for everyone to know this.
It also goes hand in glove with the fact that we are not bigots, we are critics. Just like people criticizing the Catholic Church about various things most notably the paedophile scandal. There’s prejudice, used to be much worse, against Catholic people. But critics of the church recognize are not treated or portrayed as bigots. We are critics like they are. Including critics of the crazy notion that sex is socially constructed, biological sex doesn’t exist. The postmodern stuff.
PS you’re nowhere near hard enough on postmodernism. It is pure intellectual rubbish. I wasted years in the 80s learning all about it. 😝 😉
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All I know is that this whole situation is ridiculous. I have a 17 year old son that thinks he’s a girl and wants to dress like a girl…..but doesn’t act at all like a girl or have interests of a girl. As I write this he is busy playing an online shooter game like every other 17 year old boy. We are fighting a losing battle and I fear that as soon as he goes to college in the fall, the physical harm to his body will begin. My husband and I live in a state of perpetual fear for the future of our brilliant yet so confused son.
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Can he define “girl”?
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“but doesn’t act at all like a girl or have interests of a girl.” That you’d even say that is part of the problem. There is no such thing as “acting like” a girl or “having interests of a girl” objectively speaking. I am a female (born that way) who enjoys playing first person shooter games. It is offensive to me that you think any interest in that is “male” instead of “human.”
I am a female because my DNA tells my body to produce estrogen vs. testosterone, because I have female sex characteristics. Liking video games, dresses, make-up, or whatever, has NOTHING to do with my being female, which is an objective physiological condition designed by evolution to enable the reproduction of the species. Period.
Until people such as yourself divorce subjective, cultural gender stereotypes (“only boys play video games”) from objective biological sex, then we will have a problem.
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But if being a girl isn’t biology OR stereotypes it is literally a meaningless term. I strongly disagree with people believing that stereotypes define the sexes but at least its a coherent thought that people can discuss. So called”butch transwomen” need to be challenged on this point.
Hi Gertrude, thanks for your insights. Around here we tend to be a little bit more gentle towards parents who are coping as best they can with the upsetting, often even terrifying, situation of having a beloved child suddenly appear with a “trans” revelation. While it’s important for folks to be empathetic towards all different situations (and I understand your ire at having your video gaming categorized as a male hobby), it’s super important to be careful, too, around parents who are bewildered and being told by virtually everyone in society that they’re callously harming their own children – by refusing to let those very same children harm themselves for life.
That is a very lonely place to be.
I happen to agree with you that getting rid of all thoughts of “gendered behavior” would put everyone on a much better and healthier footing. But the real problem here is not what parents may inadvertently say about gender and behavior. It’s what activists and trans-professionals are trying to push our vulnerable children into doing.
We have to have each other’s backs here, we just do…
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I would add, though, that it’s important not to give a gender defiant or gender nonconforming kid the message that there are certain ways they must behave in order to be a legitimate girl or boy. While there are behaviors, interests, and clothing and hair styles that are more typical of one sex than another, clearly there are and have always been people who are outliers in that regard. I would agree with Gertrude that there is nothing that a boy or a girl can do, say, wear, or choose that would make them somehow less authentic in their body. It’s a shame this even has to be said in 2017, after the gains made by the women’s and gay liberation movements of the 1970s and 80s, but here we are.
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I forgot to add, being gender non conforming comes with a lot of pain. I’m deeply empathetic to people who wish to transition so they can avoid social stigma for their personality, hobbies, etc. It is offensive to me when people claim trans and ask for protections intended to protect people who are gender non conforming (AND protections intended for females at the same time). It’s an indefensible position to take.
“I’m deeply empathetic to people who wish to transition so they can avoid social stigma for their personality, hobbies, etc.”
What real, genuine stigma are we talking about? We are in the most socially liberal culture ever in the history of the world. Gay marriage is the law. I now walk outside and see dress, hair, and tattoos that would have never been considered acceptable just 20 years ago but are now mainstream. Did you see conservatives burning down the country when gay marriage became law? They bitched a little, and then said, fine, whatever, as long as you don’t force me to validate you, I don’t give a damn.
Have we gone backwards in some way? I was a child of the 70s and 80s and it was all about gender non-conforming…look at the music videos of the 80s with Boy George and Annie Lennox. The *straight* men in music videos wore make-up!
So I’m not sure this is about “avoiding stigma.” Kids by their nature are rebellious. When I was in college a lot of my friends were “goth.” This was when goth was still relatively new. They *purposefully* dressed themselves so they would not fit in. Me, I didn’t go full goth but I sure wore my Doc Martens and combat boots to death. Ooh did I feel edgy at the time.
Is part of the trans trend really about kids trying to find some way to stand out in a world where the most outrageous mohawks, piercings and tattoos would all generate a collective yawn?
Sure, I get that a lot of transkids are unfortunately probably suffering dysphoria due to abuse, one or both parents not being there, jealous of sisters getting all the attention, etc., and other psychological issues, but the *trendiness* is also a factor. Some transkids may just need some grand “identity” and culture to be a part of, and trans gives them that. Like being part of the goth crowd.
PS I wasn’t sure what you meant in your other comment but I believe sex is entirely biological and all this “gender” stuff is simply cultural and subject to change. So the only sensible categorization is biological.
I cant respond to gertrude directly re: stigma against gender non conforming youth. don’t think you know what its like to live somewhere like Utah, or Texas.
@ genderskeptics you wrote: “But if being a girl isn’t biology OR stereotypes it is literally a meaningless term. I strongly disagree with people believing that stereotypes define the sexes but at least its a coherent thought that people can discuss.”
Being female is biology. Being male is biology. Being feminine or masculine is socialized and each is a stereotype. Those stereotypes serves to give power to the masculine at the expense of the feminine. Gender stereotypes serve to keep one group of people – biological females who are socialized to adopt feminine behaviours – subservient to another group of people – biological men who are socialized to adopt masculine behaviours.
Stereotyping is NOT a “coherent thought that people can discuss” because it is an arbitrary assignation of “natural” hierarchy in the relationship between our dimorphic sexual types (which are typical of all mammals). If you look at the history of sexual stereotypes, aka “gender”, you’ll find that men have used their social power to abitrarily dictate acceptable behaviour (“femininity”) in women in order to keep us under control. There is nothing coherent about it if one believes women are fully human and worthy of the same rights enjoyed by their male counterparts.
Reproductive biology is a “coherent thought that people can discuss”. Denying biological reality is not and never will be coherent.
I think it is pretty obvious that many societies throughout time have had gender non-conforming subpopulations, some of whom lived in a role similar to that associated with the opposite sex. What makes the Western trans movement different is it’s ties to post-modernism which have turned it into a whole theology. I’m rather curious how this happened. I remember seeing a comment on Jack Halberstam’s blog about how when transgender first began to replace the word transsexual in the 1990s, the new term’s proponents saw it as more fluid identity than transsexualism. What changed?
Gerbby, that would be a great topic for research and another blog post!
Sometimes it seems like trans-theory has just suddenly emerged out of nowhere, but I know that can’t be true. It would be very interesting to trace its evolution…. I’m not sure I have the stomach for wading through the academic “discourse” at the moment though!
Personally I would bet $100 it was all just made up post hoc to justify the things the fetishists want. Like bathroom access. 😣
Which doesn’t mean there isn’t now mounds of academic blather about it.
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Reblogged this on Adventures and Musings of an Arch Druidess.
Thank you ElfKat!
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For me I end up going round in circles on this because it’s so hard to reconcile the post-modern rejection of the old sex binary with the absolute insistence on a new binary based on gender identity. My daughter/transboy is only 14 but my older son is 17 and so we’ve been thinking a lot about college. When I think about my daughter I really think she might do well at a women’s college — she has a lot of anxiety and I think that atmosphere might make her more relaxed. Of course by the time she gets to college, she will be able to define her gender identity and I had sort of assumed that women’s colleges would not admit someone identifying as male. Turns out I was wrong, and that Mt. Holyoke, for example, will admit transwomen and transmen as part of its mission to provide education for women. When I thought about it, as well as thinking about the recent controversy with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie asserting that transwomen are transwomen, it made sense to me. I think that if pressed I would conclude that transwomen are women in some way but they are also men. Trans people straddle the binary and I think that should be ok, especially because as a feminist, breaking down the gender binary and its mostly oppressive impacts on women is more important to me than privacy in bathrooms or locker rooms. So I get really confused when transpeople insist that you must proclaim them “real women” or “real men” full stop because it just flies in the face of reality. Why is that necessary? My daughter is so very deeply shaped by being female — why is it necessary to wipe that away entirely. Honestly I think that if she could actually pass as male regularly it would freak her out because she depends on being treated as a member of the community by her female friends and feels pretty alienated from most boys whom she refers to as “those boys”. Anyway I guess my point is that post-modernism is supposed to be about nuance and gray areas and exposing binary opposition as flawed, but transactivists, in trying to keep it simple, have actually embraced binary identities in a way that seems so stifling and at odds with reality that it just can’t hold. Why not take on your multifaceted identity as a badge of honor and complexity — be trans and not just insist that being trans means that your body is irrelevant. Isn’t the ultimate attack on “cisprivilege” just insisting that you are both things and two is better/more interesting/more powerful than one?
Sadly, all of the Seven Sisters, as well as some other women’s colleges, now admit men who “identify” as women. It’s sad enough other historically women’s-only schools, like Vassar and Hunter, went co-ed, but at least they didn’t pretend they were still women’s schools like these schools which more recently began admitting men. I really do regret never taking advantage of the opportunity to take a class at Smith or Mount Holyoke when I was at UMass, and be in an all-female environment. At the time, I hadn’t yet realized the specialness and importance of female-only schools and other spaces.
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I share your sadness. The speed at which the Seven Sisters folded and embraced every male demand for admission and inclusion was startling and dismaying. It’s also so upsetting that women were the ones leading the way, to force males into their all-women spaces and places. I cannot imagine that the founders of these colleges, who after all were trying to make a special place for women to learn and become leaders, in a hostile world, would be too happy with the way things have developed at these schools.
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I’m angered by this resignation to male intrusion. One of my friends, whom I consider a very strong feminist, remarked recently that we can’t keep men out. Her comment was made in reference to my wish that women’s marches be women-only events. When she said this, I was so angry. I thought, “WHY? Why can’t we keep them out? Why can’t we say NO?” I hate hearing about women acquiescing to the desires of others, especially men. This is part of our history–to acquiesce, yield, relent. This is not the way we liberate ourselves.We need to say “NO” and support each other in saying “NO.”
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But she’s not insisting on both things, is she? Your daughter is rejecting her “femaleness” and there’s a reason for it. If you go watch videos by women who have detransitioned after trying to be male, it often has to do with feelings of being powerless as a female…sometimes due to sexual abuse as a child. They fantasize that being a male will give them more power. In what ways does your daughter not feel powerful as a young woman? Or is she afraid to be a lesbian, which is also common?
This idea that she needs to identify as a man or deny being female in any way in order to break down the gender binary is ridiculous. How did it come to this? I grew up on Free to Be You and Me and (see comment above) I play video games, enjoy “male” interests as well as female ones, and don’t let any sort of gender stereotype stop me. Nor do I pander to what women are supposed to look like according to fashion magazines (never buy them).
I don’t need to reject my female body or proclaim some outward “identity” to just be unique.
Think VERY CAREFULLY about what you are teaching her and modeling to her.
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Gertrude, my kid barely makes 5 ft and is terrified of many things, partly, I think, because she is tiny and not going to get any bigger. She’s 18 and got her period at 9 and has been horrified by femaleness ever since, regardless of what I say to her and attempt to model for her. She’s dressed “nonconforming” since the beginning of high school, short hair, and I’ve supported all that. But don’t discount the influence of social media and peers in teaching kids who don’t conform to social stereotypes that they aren’t really their bio sex and they ARE really trans. (I’m also pretty sure my kid’s a lesbian and doesn’t want to deal with that. “Trans” seems so much more on-trend these days. Jeez.)
Don’t assume it’s the parents enforcing the stereotypes and forcing kids toward transness. For a lot of us here, that’s not the case at all.
Apologies…that last sentence was not worded the way I intended the message. And yes, I agree there’s a big social contagion factor going on. (I commented more on this above.) Hopefully your daughter will snap out of it soon.
I guess I am just saying that this construct of gender and sex just cannot hold and is kind of untenable. I think that my child, who suffers from depression that is primarily expressed as self loathing and criticism found some kind of relief in the idea of gender dysphoria because it explained her hostility to her body. But once she found this explanation, it became super important to her to at least look as masculine as possible so new clothes, binder, haircut, no makeup anymore (in addition to a new name and pronouns). At the same time, she does not really relate to typical masculine culture and is kind of repelled by most of the boys in her universe whom she calls “those boys”. This makes sense to her because of course she is a good feminist and there is no one way to be a boy and so that fact that she remains super sensitive and emotional is not a reason to question her gender identity because boys should cry more. BUT at the same time there is a part of her that is insecure about that. She posted this on tumblr: “im in this horrible cycle of toxic masculinity and dysphoria where i cry because im dysphoric and then im dysphoric cos im crying.” It strikes me as super sad because on the one hand I admire her for tagging as toxic the notion that if you are male you should not cry when you are sad but on the other I just wish she could see that being male is not the only answer to her dysphoric feelings and that she will lose something if she really entirely discards her female identity. So much pain under there and as a mother all I want to do is make it better. The other day she told me that she was feeling better about her body (as a form of a male body) and that she was not born in the wrong body but in “my body and I can decide what to do about it.” That somehow seems like progress even though I know that if she was 18 and not 14 what she would do is run out and get a mastectomy and testosterone. I guess I am just hoping against hope that by the time she’s 18 that not wrongness has grown into acceptance of her body regardless of how she labels it.
@losingsleep – your comment beginning with “I guess I am just saying that this construct of gender and sex just cannot hold and is kind of untenable.”
The construct of gender IS untenable because it is full dependent upon hackneyed stereotypes to define male and female. Sex – aka, the biological reality of sexual dimorphism in mammals – is NOT a construct but a material reality.
The irony of postmodernism’s “be[ing] about nuance and gray areas and exposing binary opposition as flawed” is that people rigidly and narrowly latch onto an “all binaries are verboten” which ultimate renders one unable to think about anything. Is the light on or off? Were you driving the car or were you the passenger?. Binaries, yes and no questions, are at the root of our ability to make s=decisions and to think systemically about things. It is good to interrogate the assumptions that come with categories, but I have seen this anti-binary rhetoric within the academy devolve critical thought to utter gobbledegook.
I think another explanation for your daughter’s loathing of her body is that our and most cultures hold the female body in contempt. One cannot move through the world without a constant reminder of the flaws of female human bodies. Just check the headlines of magazines in the grocery line-up. Count the number of articles aimed at “fixing” female appearances. being born female means you have a significant chance of being raped; you are a member of the group who is killed at a rate of about two per week by our male spouses or ex-spouse; if you are young and heterosexual, chances are you and your peers have learned about human sexuality from gonzo porn. I could go on.
There are numerous reasons why a young woman hates her female body. These reasons are well-documented and synthesized by feminists. Indeed feminism (and I do not include so-called 3rd-wave/post modern feminism in this category), gives a very coherent explanation of this, but to consider feminist analysis, one must be ready to give up a massive cushion of denial as to the extremely regressive time we are living in as regards the sex-based hierarchy.
Here is one essay that you might find useful for thinking this through.
It seems to me that the other replies to this comment missed your point about there being a gray area or a space between man and woman, because many started talking about “men” being allowed at “women’s” colleges. If you accept that transwomen are different from non-trans women, we can still classify them with “women” at times, considering them a type of women. So they can belong in most “women” only spaces as long as those spaces are not directly related to having ovaries.
I do want to agree that the point that many people seem to have a problem with is the idea that the binary is flawed way to look at gender. And it is. It does not mean we have to entirely throw out the concept of gender or of sex. We just have to understand that it is more complex than many of us thought.
For those of you who think in terms of this binary as “biological” or as about “sex” what qualifies someone as a “woman?” Is it chromosomes? What about people with XX chromosomes but with genitals more like what is typical of a male? Or what about people with XY chromosomes with genitals more typical of a female? Intersected conditions complicate this neat binary, especially as 1 in every 100 people is intersexed.
In addition, as we develop it is not only are genitals and chromosomes that reflect biological sex, but secondary sexual characteristics and many different areas of our brains develop slightly differently depending on different aspects on sexual development, in part related to sex hormones.
So., maybe it is useful and illuminating to deconstruct sex and gender and realize that, like everything else, these aspects of ourselves reflect a complex interplay between genetics and experience, and both our genetics (via epigenetiics) and our experience are affected by our societies.
Nature is wonderfully complex and inventive, and yes, socialization does affect our experience as gendered.
Am I a “real man” because I am a transman? What you think about this question is less important than what I think. If I have to be classified then classify me with the men, please. I do not see what is hard about that request if we are going to just have two groups. I do have to pick one of the bathrooms to go into and I do not think you would want me with my beard, flat chest, and masculine appearance in the women’s room. It would cause a lot of havoc.
Personally, I do not have a problem saying that I was socialized as a girl/woman and that affected me. However, some transmen from a very early age lived more as boys and were treated more as boys and do not feel that they really were socialized as girls. None of us, at least none that I have met, felt entirely comfortable growing up being grouped with the girls. We could debate all day about why. Is it something in my brain that said my gender identity is “boy?” or at least “not girl?” I do not think it was any trauma or abuse or misogyny. I do not know how I could prove that to any of you, though.
I guess it just seems strange to me that so many of the people on this site and elsewhere get so up in arms about the deconstruction of the gender binary, but then when you only have a binary how are transpeople supposed to live our lives?
I am all for “women’s” rights, really I am, and I have marched for them and advocated for them in the past. I am a feminist. But I am also for trans-rights and I am sorry to many of you on this site who feel aggrieved by the intrusion of transwomen into women’s spaces. Honestly, I fail to see how a transwoman showing up at a march or at a women’s college is a problem for non-transwomen. I am not sure I really understand what you are afraid of.
By the way, I have met many men since coming out as a transman and transitioning who have welcomed me in men’s spaces and these spaces included men who were accepting of all kinds of people -gay/straight, masculine or feminine, black, white, Asian, etc… Many of these men very quickly saw me as just another guy, one who was not born male in most of my physical characteristics, but just another guy, and even, (!) as another man.
I’m constantly stunned at the speed at which the transactivist narrative has taken center stage and so many otherwise intelligent, rational, skeptical-minded people have heartily embraced it. It took YEARS for the gay and lesbian community to gain even a toehold of public sympathy, support, and equal rights, and yet that process happened overnight for the trans community. It likewise took many, many years for other oppressed minority groups to go from persecuted pariahs to accepted parts of society. There are still plenty of people who remember, e.g., what life was like during Jim Crow or when numerus clausus (anti-Semitic education quotas) were completely legal.
If I were just going through puberty now, as opposed to the early Nineties, I’d be so confused at the post-modernist spiel given to human biology and the words “woman” and “man.” These people are trying to paint biological sex, and sex-linked processes like menstruation, as totally meaningless and arbitrary. Thousands of years of established biology have flown out the window. I’m particularly annoyed to discover sites like Scarleteen and Go Ask Alice have now rewritten old articles to pretend, e.g., anyone can menstruate, wear a male condom, become pregnant, get someone pregnant, or give birth. That’s not sound sex ed I could recommend to any young person anymore!
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The transactivist narrative has taken hold very fast because about 5 years ago straight men started “transing” in large numbers and have used all the political and media power of straight white men to advance their sexual fetish as an important societal “cause.” In earlier years most transsexual “women” were gay and thus marginalized. It’s the hetero men. It’s always the hetero men.
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Male privilege at its finest.
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To the best of my knowledge, the earliest detailed case-histories of people who would later have been labelled “transsexual” and now “transgender” are to be found in Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s pioneering work on sexual variations, Psychopathia Sexualis, first published in 1886 (enlarged in subsequent editions). [Link to translation of the 12th edition, 1906. Krafft-Ebing (1840-1902) was a German-Austrian psychiatrist.
Particularly striking is Case 129, most of which is reported in the first person, in letters sent to Krafft-Ebing by a colleague of his, a surgeon. Some passages:
“…at the age of twelve or thirteen, I had a definite feeling of preferring to be a young lady. A young lady’s form was more pleasing to me; her quiet manner, her deportment, but particularly her attire, attracted me. But I was careful not to allow this to be noticed; and yet I am sure that I should not have shrunk from the castration-knife, could I have thus attained my desire. If I had been asked to say why I preferred female attire, I could have said nothing more than that it attracted me powerfully…”
He later married and they had several children. “But, even on my marriage night, I felt that I was only a woman in man’s form…”
After overdosing on hashish (cannabis) he woke up next morning “feeling as if completely changed into a woman; … on standing and walking, I felt vulva and mammae!” [mammae=breasts (Latin)] From then on this hallucination was a fixed part of his consciousness.
He even hallucinated periods: “Every four weeks, at the time of the full moon, I have the molimen of a woman for five days, physically and mentally, only I do not bleed; but I have the feeling of a loss of fluid…” [molimen=period] and pregnancy: “The most unpleasant thing I experience is foetal movement.” (!)
He continued to be obsessed with women’s clothes: “My only happiness is to see myself dressed as a woman without a feeling of shame…”
Krafft-Ebing included this case in his chapter on “Homo-sexual feeling in both sexes”, but it does not seem as though Case 129 was sexually attracted to men. He speaks of experiencing “the regular occurrence of female desire, though not directed to any particular man”. He says: “contact with my wife seems possible to me because she is somewhat masculine … and yet it is more an amor lesbicus”. [amor lesbicus=lesbianism] He seems, in short, to be more or less autogynephiliac.
Krafft-Ebing presents the next case, Case 130, as a female “counterpart” to Case 129, but in that case the woman was clearly a lesbian (“She showed … unmistakable symptoms of male libido.”)
So grouping cross-dressing autogynephiles with homosexuals is not at all a recent thing: it is there in the earliest clinical literature, and that has certainly influenced subsequent developments. Krafft-Ebing was a major figure in sexology, and his book was reprinted many times.
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The relationship between all this trans stuff and post-modernism (or rather post-structuralism, which is the philosophical branch of post-modernism) is actually really weird. One of the core points of post-structuralism is that binary opposites like civilized – uncivilized and identities like black person, heterosexual person, etc. are not inherent concepts, but have a rather high degree of arbitrariness.
I think a good example for this is the identity “hispanic” in the USA. Hispanics are migrants from spanish speaking countries to the USA. It is a useful descriptor because in the last 50 years or so many spanish speaking people migrated to the USA. However, because of the Spanish colonial history, there are a lot of Spanish speaking countries, so two different hispanic persons might not have much in common. On the other hand, hispanic mostly means migrant from Middle or South America, but people from Brazil are not hispanics, as they speak Portuguese, even though they might have much in common with some hispanics. Last but not least, the concept of “hispanicness” is really US centric, outside of the US the ethnicity of a hispanic person would either be seen as their country of origin, or as US-American.
So a leason from this might be that most identities become rather shaky when you look at them closely. However, that does not mean that because “hispanic” can be seen as an arbitrary construct, hispanics don’t exist. Migrants from spanish speaking countries are an important group in the context of contemporary US-American society. And that’s the thing: Identities are arbitrary in a vacuum, but in their respective context they are a “natural” product of this context.
This is more or less what poststructuralism and its application in literature and social sciences is about, however there is a big number of people who do strange things with poststructuralism. The writing in poststructuralism is rather obscure, and one can learn powerful rethorics from poststructuralists which can be used to confuse the audience, so “wrong” application of poststructuralism is rather common. Untangling those things will surely be a field of research in the social sciences in the future.
Now I would say transgenderism is a prime example for “wrong application” of post-structuralism. Transgender thinkers use post-structuralist theories and apply them to gender, and what we get is a theory that is obsessed with building up binary differences like “male – female”(!), “cis – trans”, and identities like “gender-nonconforming”, “genderfluid”, “transgender”, etc. Here one has to look at the relationship between “tumblr” gender stuff and serious gender theory in the background. Because on the one hand serious gender theory is not as baroque as the million genders of tumblr or as striking as the PR of gender activists, but all those things have their roots at least in some gender theories.
Now one could frame transgenderism as an academic problem of bad application of philosophical theories, but as discribed above, transgenderism has seen a rise to the mainstream in the last five years. I think in some ways, transgenderism is more powerful in the mainstream than in academia because in academia, there are people who understand post-structuralism, so they see the flaws discribed above, while the general population is overrun with strange intellectual concepts and well thought PR.
Thank you so much for clearing at least some of the post-modern fog. I had hesitated to delve too far into it for this article or in my research, because I personally got so confused, so quickly. Your example with the “Hispanic” designation made things much clearer. I bet you could write a great post exploring the philosophic roots of transgender and clarifying it for “the rest of us”!
In the meantime, here is a very interesting article critiquing post-modernism: https://areomagazine.com/2017/03/27/how-french-intellectuals-ruined-the-west-postmodernism-and-its-impact-explained/
The article doesn’t specifically address any trans-related issues but it does identify a number of problems with the post-modern viewpoint, and provides more clues on why and how trans ideology has been so quickly accepted by some sectors of our society.
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Reblogged this on PetuniaCatLand and commented:
This is the post I’ve been waiting for! Worriedmom goes over the history of the struggle for gay marriage. That’s the tortoise. And then looks at the lightning fast introduction not just of transgender equal rights, but the strange and alien notion that biological sex isn’t real.
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Bravo. This is a magnificently lucid, knowledgeable and responsible post.
There’s been discussion of how the replacement of sex by “gender identity” is affecting women’s sports, but I haven’t seen any discussion of the effects it might have on attempts to encourage more young women to pursue STEM careers, an issue which is close to my heart both as an educator and as a father. There was a heartbreaking Peak Trans story on the GenderCritical subreddit a few months ago from someone whose close friend, a young lesbian who aspired to work in the video game industry, tearfully confided to her that she didn’t feel comfortable in her programming courses because “in one sense, I’m the only woman there…” I dread to imagine the Cotton Ceiling harassment she was receiving.
Thank you for your kind words Hetero!
You know I have to say, when I was doing the research about the development of trans rights, I was actually STUNNED by how fast things have caught fire. For some reason I thought the North Caroline bathroom thing was at least four years ago. Doesn’t it seem like this is just going on and ON?
I am sure you’re following the recent case involving the trans weightlifter in New Zealand. While I am extremely sorry for the women that he beat, this has got to be pretty much the worst-case scenario for the transgender lobby. How does anybody look at that and think there is anything fair about it?
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In addition to the insanity now being pushed in academia, we have a few other forces promoting Trans Inc. because they profit in numerous ways:
Big Pharma – they need new customers and what better way to profit than to have an entire generation of kids needing hormone blockers and life-long cross-sex hormones?
Unscrupulous Doctors – who can make a lot of money off of sex change operations.
Fashion Industry – they want to expand their market from women to men, which is why we not only see trans models but “men in make-up” being pushed now.
Lawyers – who see dollar signs in all the “you misprouned me” suits.
Gender Transition Consultants – who help men “act” like women.
Gay marriage does not lead to the same level of profit that transgenderism does. At best, people who make wedding cakes might have an opportunity to earn a little bit more.
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Great comment. Part of the reason transgenderism has been embraced by the establishment so rapidly is that it is not incoherent with either capitalism or patriarchy. Iran subsidizes transitioning treatments, for example. It is far less risky to say a female who does not conform to femininity is actually a man or a man who does not perform masculinity is a woman than to just say that those ascribed behaviours do not “belong” to one sex or the other.
You don’t need to have a big, expensive wedding if you get married; you are legally married if you go to the courthouse and get a license. Marriage has also helped many lesbians and gays have access to the health insurance, social security benefits, etc. that their partner has.
Being gay or lesbian doesn’t mean you need to be a lifelong medical patient on drugs that were proven unsafe. So, it’s not making money for these industries.
I also agree with gertrude’s other comment about the porn industry pushing the trans trend.
The other force pushing transgenderism is pornography. Look up “sissy hypnosis” if you dare and you’ll find men looking to fulfill a fantasy choosing to train their brains to “think like a woman” by watching porn videos and listening to actual hypnotists teaching them how to be “sissy” – which in their mind means weak, effeminate, and subservient.
This is where I do get conspiracy theorist and start to wonder if there isn’t some CIA program doing this to experiment on people and see if they can create a more docile population.
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I have only a little knowledge about postmodernism, but my first, and continuing, response is to say that the conclusion postmodern theorists draw from their observations is a logical fallacy. (I know that this is not the main thrust of your argument.) Just because people arrived at the very insightful realization that everything we think we know about objective reality is coloured and conditioned by our subjectivity, both personal and cultural, does not mean there is no objective reality. We live in bubbles that prevent us from knowing what’s outside those bubbles. Yes. But to assert that that means there is no “truth”, no “objective reality” is not only a logical fallacy, it is to fall back on modernist absolutism. “There is no such thing as truth” is asserted as if it were a Truth. So why have philosophers fallen back on what they claim to reject? I suppose because living with uncertainty is so hard. Can this be applied somehow to trans issues, and/or to the trans ideology? I suspect it can. People are forcing a truth about transness that has not been proven, and can’t at this time be proven. They’d rather have a “Truth” than live with a nebulous uncertainty. A trans person no doubt says “what am I?” What if there is no easy answer? Or what if the answer is “you are a being living in a biologically male body but that is relevent only should you wish to procreate.”
Do we have to return to the question of whether we are the body, or something noncorporeal occupying a body?
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I was initially going to illustrate this post with a picture of Pontius Pilate questioning Jesus, but then got talked out of it – maybe I shouldn’t have?
You’re absolutely right that trans doctrine becomes metaphysical in a big hurry. I guess I had hoped to make something of a utilitarian argument, brushing over a lot of the complexities of the post-modern project as they’d say, to the effect that to live in community, human beings do in a sense “have” to disagree with Pontius Pilate.
I also think that one reason many people find trans doctrine so threatening is that, why stop with our conception of physical sex? If you’re going to argue that particular physical status is purely conceptual and subjective, I don’t see any logical reason why it stops there. A lot of the ordinary folks who comment on transgender stories do seem to have cottoned on to this fact. I know sometimes people put it in a fairly ignorant-sounding light, but underneath, there is a profound discomfort that’s entirely warranted.
Lots of people are also feeling profound discomfort because transrights have begun to supercede women’s rights, and deprive women of hard-fought rights and spaces. The news stories are horrendous — transwomen in women’s sports, clobbering them, transwomen rapists put in women’s prisons, transwomen displacing women in domestic violence shelters. These things cannot be. Next it will be hospital stories — women being forced to share a room with transwomen.
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I was initially going to illustrate this post with a picture of Pontius Pilate questioning Jesus, but then got talked out of it – maybe I shouldn’t have?
Reminds me of the opening of Francis Bacon’s Essay ‘Of Truth’ (1625):
What is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer. Certainly there be that delight in giddiness, and count it a bondage to fix a belief, affecting free-will in thinking, as well as in acting.*
There were proto-postmodernists in the seventeenth century…
*What is truth? said Pilate, joking, and did not wait for an answer. Undoubtedly there are people who delight in pointless instability, and consider it oppressive to establish a firm belief, aspiring to free-will in thinking, as well as in acting.
“consider it oppressive to establish a firm belief”. I think relativism and a belief that it’s not okay to judge are also factors, particularly among the young libfems who are such staunch defenders of trans people. According to an interesting text on cognitive development I once read, “relativism” is the second stage of moral development (coming after obedience to the ideological context of the child). For young adults, it just means there’s no right or wrong, you can’t judge. But I also think the daycare generations have been explicitely taught not to judge others, but instead to be accepting and inclusive of all others. The requirement to be inclusive is oppressive and dangerous. We need to judge, of course. It doesn’t mean we can’t respect all human beings because of their simple humanity, but we can judge their behaviours according to whether they harm or help themselves or others. We can use our considered judgement to stay away from certain people, or to keep them away from us. But it seems a lot of younger women will only judge people who judge!
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