The ‘Transgender’ Movement and the Corporatization of the Body
The activists longing for liberation from the confines of gender and biology are more truly serving the forces of consumerism.
At Wits University recently, the faculty made the decision to remove all gender pronouns from correspondence.
A few years ago, psychologist and author, Jordan Peterson, shot to fame when he declared on YouTube his absolute opposition to students being allowed to force their professors to use their own personalised pronouns.
Something is afoot in the western world with regards to gender and sex, and I fear not enough people truly realise what is at stake.
Whatever one’s beliefs regarding the current gender controversy, it is undeniable that the propagation of the human species depends on the sexual transaction between male and female – nor is it deniable that it is a biological fact that every human is born with a sexual identity.
There are some genetic disorders, which are extremely rare and muddy the waters only slightly, but ultimately one’s sex chromosomes will always indicate either male or female. In this regard, a sex change is ultimately impossible in its deepest essence – and this is far more of a certainty than the ‘settled science’ which liberal activists claim as evidence, incontrovertible, of man-made global warming.
So, ultimately, the current push to assert that all gender identity is constructed, and not bound either by cultural or biological constraints, is not one predicated on any new knowledge about human biology. Instead, it is another push in a bid to gain apparent liberty from the fetters of socio-biological structures such as marriage (in the sense of it being between a man and a woman), and national identity (in the sense of a country having a culture and borders).
At the outset of any discussion around gender, it must be noted that, yes, of course, the bounds of gender do get somewhat murky in extreme cases, but this is exceedingly rare.
By far, the vast majority of people have genitals in accord with their sex, and experience a primary attraction to members of the opposite sex. If this offends, then you are being offended by a simple fact, visible by the stark reality that the human race is still here.
Of course, not all boys are cowboys, and not all girls are princesses. Despite their being statistical probabilities for boys and girls on average to show varying personal characteristics and tastes (it seems boys have on average a greater interest in things, and girls in people), of course each boy and girl is different, and things like emotional sensitivity or strength of body and character are not the property of male or female per se. And by telling sensitive boys and sporty girls that their qualities exist on some gender spectrum, you are indirectly implying they are less than masculine and feminine – something no classical or traditional thinker dared do in the world of Hippolyta and Dante.
Yes, hermaphroditism is an issue for some. (And that is distinct from the trans question.)
And, yes, there are people who experience gender dysphoria, a mental alienation from one’s biological sex.
But those issues are happily rare – and only exist as issues precisely because the two genders are overwhelmingly fixed, such that falling into the gap between them is to necessarily find oneself in a difficult situation.
People who face such issues deserve our compassion and our understanding and our help.
But – the drive to redefine gender as completely fluid, and some kind of pansexuality as the ultimate freedom, is not based on these few therapeutic cases. It is based on using transgenderism as a kind of bulwark to gain freedom from nature itself.
If one faces these issues with the liberal assumptions that more choice and more scope for pleasure is always good, then this push for further liberty from the body itself, must obviously be a good thing. Yes, with some pitfalls perhaps as we work out the legal and social details, but such is the nature of progress.
I, however, strongly object – upon the following grounds.
First, there is no such thing as a pure individual freedom – not in our mortal flesh, anyway.
It was Wordsworth, appalled at the radicalism and violence taking place in Europe under the banner of French Liberté during the Revolution, who once wrote, ‘Me this unchartered freedom tires, I feel the weight of chance desires.’
To give people choice about everything, down to their sexual identity, does not make them free in the truest sense of the word.
I strongly fear that thinkers on this issue are failing to reflect on why it is that massive corporations are embracing gender fluidity, and forcing diversity training at great cost upon their employees. See the James Damore affair.
Could it be that maximising choice in this most intimate of ways primes us to become consumers down to the very essence of our bodies?
If we can consume identity, then we are ready to consume anything.
The Instagramization of life is complete.
It is for this reason that I wonder why nobody is reflecting on the pressure on the medical profession to sell the drugs pushed by Big Pharma to block a child’s puberty or an adult’s hormones.
The truth is that liberalism can maximise pleasure and choice for those cushioned from the crossfire of normal, working life, because they have the money and social capital to change their identity if an assumed one is not working.
But – if you are poor, and struggling through the social chaos of a slum or a trailer park, the givenness of one’s body and social relations are absolutely vital for you to find the strength to secure a better future. A single bad drug trip, an absent father, a neglected child, one bad relationship – these things can ruin your life for good without the safety net of money and status.
Spend time with the poor or the homeless. Very often it is a seared social network which is keeping them poor and lacking capital. The ability to get out of bed and choose a new gender is not going to help them.
And worse, being told that any notion of being proud of being an at home mom, or a bread-winning dad, is now treated as suspect and possibly fascist by the new transgender activists – as though by suggesting you enjoy your own given gender you are denying others the freedom to consume sex and identity however their day to day fancy takes them.
In this regard, I’d like to quote the highly regarded socialist, Labour-supporting, Anglican theologian John Milbank, at length:
Liberalism, then, drives the attempt to displace the heterosexual norm – which leads to the (shockingly illiberal) criminalisation of those who do not endorse either gay practice or gay marriage. But liberalism includes capitalism: in the end, liberalism defines people as simply property-owners, narcissistic self-owners, choosers and consumers. Aquinas thought that our natural orientation to something outside ourselves was fundamental to our being. Liberalism, by contrast, denies the importance of relationships. Thereby it encourages the undoing of community, locality and beauty – and also marriage and the family.
And there is, naturally, money to be made out of all this. Husbands, wives, children and adolescents (this last an invention of the market) are more effective and exploitable consumers when they are isolated. Fluctuating identities and fluid preferences, including as to sexual orientation, consume still more, more often and more variously in terms of products and services. The fact that the market also continues to promote the nuclear family as the norm is not here to the point – of course it will make money from both the “normal” and the “deviant” and still more from their dispute. Ultimately, profits will accrue from reducing the heterosexual norm to the status of just another ‘lifestyle choice’.
The populist (as opposed to the well-heeled and ultra-liberal) faction amongst Brexiteers and Trumpists implicitly see all this – and realise that the marginalising of the family, as of secure labour, coherent community and safe environment, is not in their interests. For, as RR Reno and others have pointed out, the poor or relatively poor simply cannot afford the experimentation with sex, drugs and lifestyle that can be afforded by those cushioned by wealth. Thus the result of sexual liberalism and the decay of marriage as a norm for working people is too often women left on their own with babies, and young men (shorn of their traditional chivalric and regular breadwinning dignity) driven to suicide.
The second reason I object: the transgender movement seems to be advocating a weird split between mind and body that is not supported by science or philosophy.
I would love somebody to show me a piece of credible research that demonstrates any kind of significant discordance between the body and mind of a statistically significant segment of any society.
Just anecdotally, how many times a day do you even walk past somebody whose gender identity is difficult to ascertain. If I am honest, the only time I have ever experienced this is when I once drove around Durban’s Red Light District by accident.
As said above, the near-universal desire for men and women to mate in accordance with their gender is self-evident by the fact that we all live and breathe today in a world filled with viruses, scarcity, and predators. Clearly the drive for heterosexual coupling is very strong.
This is why so much ancient wisdom taps into this notion of a complementarity between the masculine and the feminine. Whether it is the sea and sky, the land and sea, the man and the woman, Israel and God, the Church and Christ, in the Bible, or the yin and yang of Taoism, or the Mother Earth and Father Sky of paganism, the interplay between seed and womb, male and female, the sex chromosomes built together by the double helix of DNA – all of this is built into the very mechanisms of all of the ways in which we attempt to understand reality.
To deny this basic fabric is ultimately to reject nature or reality.
Another Anglican, left-leaning theologian has criticised this.
Bishop NT Wright, writing a letter to The Times in England, said the following:
Sir, The articles by Clare Foges (“Gender-fluid world is muddling young minds”, July 27) and Hugo Rifkind (“Social media is making gender meaningless”, Aug 1), and the letters about children wanting to be pandas (July 29), dogs or mermaids (Aug 1), show that the confusion about gender identity is a modern and now internet-fuelled, form of the ancient philosophy of Gnosticism. The Gnostic, one who “knows”, has discovered the secret of “who I really am”, behind the deceptive outward appearance (in Rifkind’s apt phrase, the “ungainly, boring, fleshly one”). This involves denying the goodness, or even the ultimate reality, of the natural world. Nature, however, tends to strike back, with the likely victims in this case being vulnerable and impressionable youngsters who, as confused adults, will pay the price for their elders’ fashionable fantasies.
The Rt Rev Prof Tom Wright
St Mary’s College, St Andrews
Indeed – nature strikes back.
Most teens who experience gender dysphoria grow out if it as the hormones settle. That’s impossible to do if your parents and schools, infected by the corporate-backed transgender lobby, has encouraged you to begin transitioning gender.
(The encouragement for young people to experiment with gender and the tragically high rate of suicide amongst the gender-confused is never adequately explained. And before you say that the suicide rate is high because of bullying, note that the demographic for whom suicide rate is highest is white males.)
Read this story to be truly horrified at what some are experiencing under the pressure to change sexes.
Camille Paglia, the most radical feminist of the past century, is appalled at the transgender movement, which she describes as evil for its basic denial of reality.
In fact, she goes so far as to say that our current transgender mania is a sign of civilizational collapse. See here:
In other words, this unscientific, unphilosophical hubris of our postmodern world, in its denial of common sense and nature, is set to corrode culture from within – because culture is built on biology, and the two can never be sundered.
In conclusion, this ideology is not inevitable. There is no need to say that this is just the way the world is going.
You do not need to listen to our cultural commissars – you can assert common sense – you can assert the undeniable reality that male and female is the most obvious phenomenon in all of nature.