This was my contribution to the Genspect ‘The Bigger Picture’ 2023 conference on Saturday 29 April 2023. The event was a fantastic collection of presentations and robust discussions and I am thankful I was invited. Please consider supporting Genspect. Also, sorry I have not written for years, real life has got in the way.
When I was asked to contribute to this incredible event, I offered a talk entitled “A Vision for Gender in the 21st Century”. My vision for this is fairly simple: I think we should all resolve to cease using the word ‘gender’ in any form and instead describe precisely what we mean with appropriate language. For example, ‘gender identity’ becomes ‘personality’ and, if we mean sexist cultural stereotypes, we should say exactly that.
I suppose some would consider my words to be a part of a backlash against transgender politics, but I would this afternoon ask you to consider the contextualisation of transgender politics itself as a backlash.
I have recently read an interesting paper entitled “Conceptualising Backlash Politics” by Karen J Alter and Michael Zürn.
According to Alter and Zürn, there are three necessary ingredients to political backlash:
- Retrograde objective.
- Extraordinary claims, demands and tactics; and
- influencing public discourse so that objectives or tactics become normalised features of politics
I think that a moment’s thought will bring forth many ideas as to the extraordinary claims and demands being made, and the extreme tactics being used, by the transgender identity movement.
I think as well that it is clear, from the levels of public and institutional capture that the transgender identity lobbying groups have penetrated (see what I did there) public institutions, policies and discourse.
I think it is less obvious what the retrograde objective is, so I am going to put some flesh on this idea. The retrograde objective is the necessary component of backlash, and concerns itself to returning the world to a social state which existed earlier which is, for whatever reason, seen to be an superior to the present day: it is a nostalgic, emotional position that whitewashes history in its portrayal of a lost ideal.
It is worth recognising at that social change is often affected by oppressed minorities, and the retrograde backlash is going to affect the rights of those groups who have fought for their own liberation. I hope you are beginning to see what I am going with this.
Whether we are talking about liberation from negative discrimination and oppression as a result of racism, or women’s liberation from social boundaries that once were imposed foundational upon sex, or the enfranchisement of lesbians and gay men to the rights to legally recognised partnerships, property rights and employment protections, these rights were hard won and have come to reflect positive social change.
What these victories for rights share is the underlying assertion that no matter who you are and what you do, so long as you remain within the law you are free to choose your own destiny, and no longer will your skin colour, sex or sexual orientation form a brick wall to your ambitions.
An underlying message behind the post-1950s sexual revolution is that the socially imposed limits on women becoming scientists, doctors and engineers was swept aside. That is not to say that there were not women who excelled in these professions before then, for example Rosalind Franklin, Elizabeth Blackwell and Hedy Lamarr.
The difference is that now these worlds are open to all women, no matter her background, and she can be her true, authentic self: what a woman (or a man) does is not defined by what she (or he) is: what we can do is no longer defined by whether we are woman, or man.
I think this is precisely where the transgender identity lobby has gone wrong: if we can say that being a man or a woman no longer defines the social things we are able to do, instead of reaching the natural conclusion that our sex should not limit our personalities, the argument being made is that our personalities must dictate our sex.
And so, our entire personalities are distilled into ‘woman’ or ‘man’.
This is the retrograde position, and this is the attack on the rights of women, homosexuals and children.
The fundamental belief in the innate, stable ‘gender identity’ lies at the heart of the transgender belief system. The instrumentalisation of children is absolutely necessary to shore up this position if the distinction between man and woman is to be inferred from personality, known as ‘gender identity’. This belief, and its consequences, have created a tectonic destabilisation and we see its far reaching effect, from rupturing the family unit, destroying the language used around basic human concepts, and dividing entire societies.
Under the guise of ‘protect trans kids’ and claiming to support children’s rights, the lines between adult and child are blurred: yet children are not small adults. We should be absolutely clear in identifying who is making decisions to undertake irreversible and invasive hormonal and surgical processes on young people when there is absolutely no evidence base to justify these actions.
I think it is worthwhile to reflect on why it is that adults would use children this way, and I would like to finish by quoting American transgender activist Autumn Sandeen who in 2012 explained that:
“I’ve always said there are two groups that are going to make change in transgender legislation and the “gender identity and expression” related language in legislation. It’s going to be trans youth because they… demystify it and take the sex right out of the trans experience.”
[Video now deleted SUPRISE]