Monday, October 22, 2018

Erasing men and women

So over the weekend President Trump made liberal heads explode by...proposing to return Title IX rules to the way they were before President Obama changed them:
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law. 
A series of decisions by the Obama administration loosened the legal concept of gender in federal programs, including in education and health care, recognizing gender largely as an individual’s choice and not determined by the sex assigned at birth. The policy prompted fights over bathrooms, dormitories, single-sex programs and other arenas where gender was once seen as a simple concept. Conservatives, especially evangelical Christians, were incensed. 
Now the Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times. 
The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.
If you're a normal, ordinary sort of American, you read the piece above and shrug. "Yeah, so what? Boys will be boys and girls will be girls, at least when it comes to things like bathrooms, changing rooms, and sports teams. What's the problem?"

If, however, you are a progressive pro-trans American, you will have read the above quoted paragraphs and added the words, "The Monsters!" at every appropriate point. Because only inhumane monsters of terrifying aspect and cruel mien could possibly...require biological males to compete on boys' sports teams, and so on.

The truth is that this sort of confrontation was bound to happen, because there are roughly two ways of viewing transgenderism. A quick summary of those views follows:

View Number One: Transgenderism is the popular term for persistent gender dysphoria, a condition in which people who are clearly of one biological sex insist for a prolonged time period that they really are the opposite of their birth sex. Eventually they begin to dress, act, and live as though they are of the opposite sex because this brings some of them some psychological relief from the pain of their condition. Some may progress as far as lifelong medical treatments including surgeries that remove healthy body parts and organs. Many of them have other psychological comorbidities which can make the effective diagnosis and treatment plan for their gender dysphoria even more complicated. The general public should be sympathetic to their real sufferings and should be kind. However, it is not necessary for society to order itself in such a way that biological males living as females, or biological females living as males, must be given complete access to every space and situation which has been carved out for people whose actual biological sex matches their own rational perception of themselves--which is well over 99% of all human beings.

View Number Two: Transgenderism is the popular way to describe people who were really, actually born into the wrong bodies. At birth they were randomly assigned a sex based on a doctor's observation of their exterior genitalia, but this is a barbaric practice that should be stopped, as a not-insignificant number of people who appear to be biologically male or biologically female are not the sex they appear to be. Superficial examination of body parts, internal observation of organs such as the reproductive system, and even DNA testing cannot reveal whether a person is a boy or a girl. It is, in fact, scientifically impossible to tell whether someone is male or female at birth. There is really no way at all to tell until the child, who should be raised with no gender symbolism whatsoever, is old enough to articulate his/her/their/zir/xyr preferred sex identity, at which point his/her (etc.) preference should be embraced, applauded, and supported whatever that requires. For the child whose internal sex identity actually matches his/her (etc.) body parts, there is a certain degree of unearned privilege which, though not the child's fault, must be deplored. Other children are not so lucky and will require hormone injections, daily medications, surgeries to alter their genitals, and similar measures if they have any hope of living as a member of their true sex. Society must be radically restructured until there is no difference whatsoever between those whose apparent bodily sex matches their internal sex identity and those whose apparent bodily sex does not match their internal sex identity. This means that people who were formerly misgendered as "biologically male" must have full access to everything people born with vaginas have access to, and people formerly misgendered as "biologically female" must have full access to everything people born with penises have access to, whatever the social cost. 

I think it's fair to say that many people reading these two generalizations of the two radically different viewpoints will find the first one rational and understandable, and the second one...well, let's just use the phrase "not completely grounded in reality" to be polite. But it is imperative to know that the people who hold the second viewpoint are the ones running many things these days: schools, education associations, medical associations, sports organizations, city government offices, and all sorts of other entities, and that these people are poised to do whatever it takes to ostracize anybody who thinks the first viewpoint is more or less accurate instead of embracing and promoting the second one. There has been, in fact, a degree of bullying aimed at forcing people to accept the second viewpoint. There has even been violence done by radical trans-rights activists who label anyone who opposes them a "TERF" (which strands for "Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist") and who are inclined to prove how loving and tolerant and diverse they are by going after the TERFS in violent ways.

This has started to look just like the push for gay "marriage" from a few years back, when, suddenly, expressing the age-old notion that the thing called marriage involved two people, one a man, and one a woman, was monstrous bigotry that deserved only to be shouted down and destroyed by any thinking person. The "T" people in the LGBT alphabet are using the same playbook to demand the same kind of radical restructuring of society (though the details, naturally, differ). They are using the same tactics of insisting that anybody who opposes them, or who thinks that transgenderism is a species of mental disorder instead of proof that nobody is actually a man or a woman until he or she is old enough to say so, is a horrible bigot who must be silenced and marginalized. Only this time people aren't quite buying it; there's a big difference between asking "What does someone else's gay "marriage" cost anybody else?" when the answer requires a bit of understanding of things like philosophy and human history and social structure, and asking, "What does 'Billy' becoming 'Betsy' and dominating on the high school women's basketball team cost anybody else?" when the obvious answer is that it costs every girl the person formerly known as Billy beats owing to his (yes, his) bigger size, superior strength, greater muscle mass, bigger lung capacity, and so on.

So President Trump's move to redefine "sex" for the purpose of Title IX matters to mean actual biological sex is, in some senses, a radical move--not merely because it interrupts the trans agenda, but because it seeks to embed in government policy the scientific reality most of us already accept: the reality that biological sex actually exists and that people cannot change their biological sex. The other side of the argument does not merely say that biological sex can be changed; they say that biological sex is not real at all apart from the individual's perception of it. In their minds, people who are transgender do not change their sex by saying so or by dressing differently or acting differently or taking hormones or having repeated courses of surgery; in their minds, people who are transgender do all of those things to make their real, true biological sex as apparent to everyone else as it is to them. But in order to believe all of that, you have to believe that biological sex has no objective reality. You have to believe that when the doctor says (usually at the sixteen-week ultrasound, not at birth) "It's a girl!" or "It's a boy!" the doctor is merely imposing his cis-normative privilege on the as-yet unsexed fetus, who will not know she's a girl until she is two years old and asks when the magic fairy is going to remove her unwanted male organ, at which point her amazing femininity is supposed to be blindingly apparent to all who behold her (regardless of how long it takes to get that pesky penis removed).  

But a view of biological sex that takes this approach essentially erases biological sex altogether in the name of progress. There will be, in the trans-approved paradise, no real men or real women. Tagging on the epithet "cis" to indicate that, oh, privileged you, you identify as the same sex as your body does except that your body doesn't indicate anything, how boring...is just a way to erase the idea that there is such a thing as a man and such a thing as a woman, and that one's biology is actually a so much of a dead giveaway as to one's sex that it's possible to determine your sex even after you are dead and can't tell anybody how you feel about it all. Stopping this irrational notion in its tracks is the only way to protect the common good; it is an inescapable conclusion that the people who will suffer most if biological sex is erased are those of us who are actual biological women, and vulnerable to the invasion of our private spaces by biological males in a way that is not true when the situations are reversed.