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“But he hasn’t got anything on at all”

As I frequently say I am in the business of questioning assumptions and I don’t think there should be things that cannot be said. This must be said. So let it be said.

At some point in the past fifty years or so someone decided that there was a thing called gender that differed from biological sex. From this all sorts of unlikely thinking has arisen. As with everything else it is necessary to go back to first principles and question everything.

In the 1940s John Steinbeck wrote his novel East of Eden. At one point a little girl tells her uncle that she would like to be a boy and could he help her become one. The uncle points out to her that it isn’t possible for her to be a boy and she has to accept what she is. Over time she does so. She grows up and becomes a woman.

Imagine this same conversation today. I still think most parents would try to convince their little girl that it wasn’t possible for her to become a boy. But there is always the chance that someone would eventually agree with the little girl. They would take seriously the idea that she felt that she was really a little boy and they would set about making her dream come true. Would this story have a happy ending?

Let’s look at the ideas involved in modern day assumptions. It is assumed that gender can be different from biological sex. The little girl’s biological sex is female but her gender is really that of a boy. But how do we determine this gender? Is there anything empirically that we can point to in order to determine if it is true? All we have is the little girl’s statement that she feels like a boy and wants to become one. But how does she know that she feels like a boy? How does she know what being a boy feels like? I do not know what it feels like to be any other person. I only know what it feels like to be me.

Moreover, if what matters is that someone says they feel like something else, what if the little girl had said I feel like a cat and want to become a cat? Should we take that statement seriously and set about turning her into a cat? Why can’t we make a similar distinction between our biology as homo-sapiens and our feelings that we are cats? This is clearly analogous to the distinction between being biologically a little girl and feeling like a little boy. It may not be technologically possible to turn people into cats, but this is a mere medical limitation. One hundred years ago no-one thought it possible to turn a girl into a boy. So we could work towards a time when we could fulfil the little girl’s desire to be a cat, meanwhile accepting that although she is biologically a human being she is really a cat.

If however we accept that there is a distinction between biological sex and gender why ought there to be a need to change biological sex. If gender is determined by how someone feels, why not say you can feel as you please, no-one is stopping you. But why then do you feel the need to change your biological sex? There is a contradiction here. Either whether someone is a girl or a boy is something objective or it is not. If it is a matter of how someone feels, there need be no need to get medicine involved. If on the other hand it is something objective, then it ought to be determined objectively. But how is it that we determine the sex of infants? This is either the criterion of who is boy and who is a girl or it isn’t. You can’t have it both ways.  There is nothing hindering you being subjectively a little boy even if you were born a little girl. But subjectivity is not truth and ought not to determine reality. Once you go down the route of making subjectivity the master of thought then you can quite soon believe absolutely anything, no matter how unlikely. This unfortunately is the case throughout much of the Western world. We have reached the stage where “black” will soon mean “white” if that is what the latest PC fad suggests. Moreover we all must conform or else face censure. Soon we will be commanded to believe that 2 + 2 = 5 and we will all do so willingly.

With regard to the sex that someone is assigned at birth, there are no doubt instances of people who have a medical condition that requires intervention, but these are few and far between. However, in the vast majority of cases it is simply unhelpful to make a false distinction between gender and biological sex. In the world we live in today I suspect 99% of the population understands sex as an objective matter that is almost always determined at birth. Only in the West have we got ourselves into a terrible muddle by making a distinction where there is no difference. The correct response to someone who says they were born with the wrong gender is to point out that they are simply mistaken. You may feel like a boy, but you are not a boy. You may feel like a cat, but you are not a cat. It is better to be what you are than to try to be what you are not and can never become. That way only lies unhappiness, because it is to try to build a house on the foundations of falsity.

It is unreasonable to base our whole theory of identity on a few people who describe themselves as transgender. The norm for nearly everyone is that there is no distinction between sex and gender. Creating a distinction where there is none because of a small group of people who are objectively mistaken is clearly odd and lacking in logic. Moreover it is I believe harmful. Many little girls who would grow up to be women and little boys who would grow up to be men are being confused by an assumption which has no evidence behind it. It is quite simply something a few academics made up out of their heads mainly because they are sophists who have fallen for the old lie that “man is the measure of all things”.  Plato showed the folly of this position thousands of years ago. There is truth and it is objective otherwise what I am writing right now would be self-defeating and pointless.

There are objective qualities and there are subjective qualities. For the vast majority of us it is simply a fact that we are male or female, black or white. I cannot say that I feel like a black woman and therefore I am a black woman. This quality of being black is objective. To fail to realise this rapidly leads to the nonsense of someone pretending to be black even though their parents were white.  For the self-same reason I cannot say that I feel like I am a man, therefore you ought to help me become a man. It is more correct to simply say to me, “I’m very sorry but you are mistaken. You are a woman. Accept it for this is something you cannot change.” If we really thought that the idea of someone being a girl or a boy was subjective we wouldn’t determine it in the way that we do at birth, but rather we would wait for every infant to become eighteen before giving it a name or deciding what sex it was.

There are exceptions to every rule and we must be kind and understanding. But we do not define words by how they are used by a tiny minority. The fact is that for nearly everyone in the world there is no distinction between sex and gender. We determine both by looking at someone when they are naked.  The whole theory of gender being distinct from biological sex falls down upon a simple examination. It’s a wonder that so many people believe in it. But then there is a lot of pressure on them to do so. But I’m very sorry, I may be something of a lone voice here, but I feel the need to point out that the emperor has no clothes on at all.

This post was originally published by the author 23 September 2016: http://effiedeans.blogspot.com/2016/09/but-he-hasnt-got-anything-on-at-all.html

About Effie Deans

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Effie Deans is a pro UK blogger who works at the University of Aberdeen. She spent many years living in Russia and the Soviet Union, but came home to Scotland so as to enjoy living in a multi-party democracy! When not occupied with Scottish politics she writes fiction and thinks about theology, philosophy and Russian literature.

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