Earlier today, I wrote about how the issue of gender ideology might be one on which the Democratic Party is Corbynizing itself — that is, staying pure to the radicalism of its leadership, but getting way too far ahead of the public. I want to write something specifically about transgenderism, and why critical Attention Must Be Paid. None of this is being talked about outside relatively narrow circles. It is never in the mainstream media, which, as we know, will not waver from its agenda to advocate for and normalize transgenderism. Many priests and pastors won’t touch it, nor will Republican politicians, because they are all terrified of being labeled as bigots.
But this is a very big deal.
As many of you know, I am a great booster of the Mars Hill Audio Journal, regarding the quarterly interview show as the single most valuable resource available to small-o orthodox Christian intellectuals who want to understand the modern world. I can’t say enough good things about it, but let me point out here that we are one week away from Christmas, and if you know a bookish Christian — Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox — who likes podcasts, you can hardly do better than to buy him or her a gift subscription. I have found nothing else like it. In fact — this is a topic for another time — I would love to know who else in my city, Baton Rouge, subscribes to the Journal. I would love to start getting together regularly a couple of weeks after each volume comes out, to talk about it.
Anyway, Journal editor and host Ken Myers has been putting a lot of his resources into developing the Journal app, leaving the website kind of bare-bones-y. Even if you don’t subscribe, you should have the MHAJ app on your phone, because Ken puts some free stuff on there a fair amount. Today I listened to a recent interview he did with Margaret Harper McCarthy, assistant professor of theological anthropology at the JP2 Institute in Washington, on the question of transgenderism, the law, and our culture. I was mistaken earlier; you can’t stream it on the website, so get the app and listen to it on your smartphone.
It’s a 28-minute segment, Ken’s interview with Prof. McCarthy is, though alas, there’s no transcript. Listening to it will clarify a lot of things for both opponents and supporters of gender ideology. Most of the people I know think of transgenderism entirely in terms of individual rights and autonomy. This makes sense, because that’s how our entire culture trains people to think. Opponents of gender ideology, in my experience, tend to be active Christians who frame their stance in religious liberty terms. This, says Prof. McCarthy, is a big mistake. There is a religious dimension to the debate, of course, but it is not in its essence a religious question. It is rather a question of: What does it mean to be human? That is something that concerns everyone, not just religious believers.
I found this essay about transgenderism by Prof. McCarthy on Public Discourse. In it, she covers a lot of the ground that she does in her Mars Hill interview. She’s talking here about the case SCOTUS heard earlier this year regarding the owner of a funeral home that fired an employee who said he was a transgendered female, and demanded the right to show up at work presenting as a woman. Excerpts:
What is at stake here is much more than the right of an individual to free self-expression or an employer’s freedom of religion to hold and act on such “stereotypes.” Since everyone in the workplace of that individual employee will be asked to accept that he is “a woman,” what is at stake is whether or not their—and, by extension, every person’s—pre-ideological, innate knowledge of oneself as a boy or girl, imbibed quite literally at the maternal breast, will be for all practical and public purposes officially overruled as false, a “stereotype.”
Conversely, what is at stake is whether or not the alternative will be for all public and practical purposes officially true: namely, that everyone’s “identity” is arbitrarily and accidentally related to his or her body—as ghost to machine—even if the two are “aligned” in the majority of cases, as the fashionable prefix “cis” means to suggest.
There is no question about the nihilistic objectives of the new philosophy of sex. Those objectives were already in play at the beginning of the sexual revolution. This was conceived by its founder, Wilhelm Reich, to be the most comprehensive of revolutions, because it rebelled against the very principle of reality itself, rejecting the “finalistic” notion of sexual acts. But now, in addition to obscuring the objective reality of sexual acts, “gender” would prevent us from seeing what we are—a man or a woman—or, indeed, that we are anything at all. Taking the “new clothes” of the famous Emperor in a new direction, the cloak of “gender” would render invisible all the naked evidence.
Here is the newness of the ancient attempt to extricate ourselves from the given relations in which sexual difference entangles us. It is, as Hanna Arendt said, “the knowledgeable dismissal of [the visible].” David Bentley Hart suggests a compelling reason for this. If modernity is in large part post-Christian, it cannot simply revert back to paganism and its mores. It must go further back. Since the Christian God is the One who Created all things, it must get behind everything, visible and invisible, to the only “other god” left: “the Nothing” of spontaneous subjectivity. “Gender” is precisely this: the attempt to free the will from any prevenient natural order. This could not have been more clearly stated than by Butler when she channeled Nietzsche, saying: “there is no ‘being’ behind doing, effecting, becoming . . . the deed is everything.” But it was also chillingly stated two decades before when the feminist Shulamith Firestone called for the eventual elimination of the sex distinction itself.
Read it all. You need to see the entire argument, not just these excerpts.
As McCarthy tells Ken Myers, what the Supreme Court has been asked to do is to decide not on transgender rights — that is superficially what’s at stake — but more importantly, on the nature of reality. This cannot be avoided. It is undeniably true that there are some people who believe that there is a difference between their given bodies and their individual psychological and emotional orientation. But it is a matter of the greatest consequence for our civilization whether or not that subjective experience describes reality. This is not merely a matter of where transgenders get to go pee, or what pronouns you have to use. This is about human nature and our bodies.
Gays, lesbians and bisexuals all have something obvious in common: same-sex attraction. This is an alternative sexual orientation that, to some extent at least, shapes our experiences and alters our life outcomes. We typically identify with our biological sex—and in fact, sometimes have spent many years feeling trapped by it. To be gay is to understand that sex is set at birth. My sexual attraction, likewise, is based on hard-wired factors beyond my control.
Transgenderism is a separate concept. While homosexuality leads to obvious differences in real-life behavior, transgenderism offers a categorial redefinition of what it means to be a man or a woman. As Joyce describes it, a “gender identity” is a quasi-spiritual concept—almost like a soul—that is “something between an internal essence, knowable only to its possessor, and stereotypically masculine or feminine appearance and behavior.”
Gay rights activists simply want society to accept their different ways of living and loving—since gay men and lesbians pursue romantic interests and build families in ways that are at odds with conventional heterosexual expectations. Followers of radical gender theory, on the other hand, demand that we all reject our basic understanding of biological sex in favor of a recently conceptualized abstract notion of human identity.
This is something that the Democratic Party has swallowed whole. More Palumbo:
In the United States, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has passed the Equality Act, a so-called LGBT rights bill that outlaws discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. That is a noble goal that would seem to be in keeping with America’s larger civil-rights legacy. But the Act explicitly redefines biological sex under federal law according to self-defined gender identity—so it easily could allow for a whole host of adverse consequences. And as we have seen in Canada, where a trans woman tried to leverage human-rights law to force immigrant aestheticians to wax her “female” scrotum and penis, the victims of this movement tend to be women.
Even under current U.S. law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act serves to outlaw discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Activists are arguing that transgender identity is protected under the law’s reference to “sex,” even though “gender identity” is mentioned nowhere in the law. Trans activists also are demanding government support for policies that subject gender-confused children to potentially sterilizing hormones and other aggressive therapies. Their rights are being sacrificed on the altar of gender self-identification as well.
The redefinition of sex as gender is a step that most people—even the most well-meaning and humane members of society—simply will never accept, no matter what laws activists manage to get passed. And the effort to ram this doctrine down the throats of ordinary people will tarnish any movement that insists on such mantras. So long as self-described “LGBT” activists demand that a male with gender dysphoria is “really” a female, many otherwise accepting people will remain opposed to, or at least skeptical of, the wider movement.
Read the whole thing. It’s good.
I am not exaggerating when I say this movement is totalitarian, in that it will brook no dissent, and is attempting to use language to refigure our sense of reality. Twitter has suspended the account of the trans-skeptical website 4th Wave Now because it used the term “natal male” in a tweet. Look:
1/ Okay, final verdict from Twitter on the @4th_WaveNow saga: Yes, it IS “hateful conduct” to refer to someone’s natal sex if you’re then reported for it. This was very confusing. First, Twitter told me that they had erred and reversed the decision. Then, just a little while pic.twitter.com/AMTssuqwlD
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) 18 декабря 2019 г.
4/ considered “hateful conduct.”
In a lot of situations, simply describing what being trans *is* could lead to you losing your account. It’s an interesting decision and we’ll see how enforceable it is in practice.
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) 18 декабря 2019 г.
Twitter is a very important channel of communication, especially among elites in the media and in politics (ask POTUS), and, to underscore what the journalist Jesse Singal is saying, here we have Twitter deciding that you cannot even describe an actual, scientific fact about history and biology without risking censorship.
This is the world that the trans advocates and their allies want. Mind you, Twitter is a private company, and it is not obliged to allow anyone at all to use its platform. But it has now deplatformed an eloquent voice for skepticism on transgender medical interventions on youth, simply because it used the term “natal male” to describe someone who was born male.
It’s breathtaking. This is what George Orwell called Newspeak. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Party’s goal was to convince the people that reality is whatever it, the Party, says it is. That is what is going on here with gender ideology. It’s being sold as a matter of personal liberty and self-expression, and people are accepting it without seriously questioning what’s happening. But it is radical.
If we don’t wake up and speak up, we are going to be in a world of trouble. We already are.