In the past I have risked the ire of many by publishing essays on religion, politics and other controversial issues. Well here I go again! I have been reluctant to do so, but now I feel compelled to delve into gender politics. Most ordinary Australians are more interested in their economic well-being, the educational opportunities for their children, their health care and many other things than gender politics.
But left-wing academics, the media and those besotted with identity politics keep assailing us with dogmatic diatribes on the subject. The obsession with gender politics has now resulted in bizarre outcomes.
Consider this. If I were to declare that I was an Olympic athlete people would fall about laughing when they saw my aged, puny, neglected, abused body. Or if I said I was the “come again” Messiah, I would more than likely be assigned to a mental institution. But if, despite my male genitalia, my body hair, and general coarseness, I proclaimed I was female, in some states of Australia, my contention could not be legally contested.
This bizarre concept has also been supported by law in New Zealand and the UK.
One of the more disconcerting trends in modern society is the tendency of so-called progressives to keep identifying more and more minority groups who must need somehow to be treated as victims resulting in our society turning itself inside out to accommodate and to ameliorate their perceived hurts. Dominant among such groups are those that want to identify about aspects of gender. In recent times those professing to be transgender are clamouring for recognition and consequently special attention.
Genetics is really a lottery that nobody seems to win. Most people will complain about some of their genetic inheritance – they are not tall enough, they have protruding ears, they are balding, they wish their breasts were bigger, they would like to have blue eyes instead of brown, or whatever. And some people are uncomfortable with their biologically allotted gender.
It is said that such people suffer from gender dysphoria. As a result of this rather problematical diagnosis, they decide they would rather be a member of the opposite sex. What’s more they are encouraged to do so at a young age and are encouraged to physically alter their bodies as a result, even without parental consent. The number of diagnoses of gender dysphoria has increased in recent times. A recent press report indicates that in 2019 up until October, 375 young people up to the age of 17 presented themselves for medical assessment at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne with concerns relating to gender dysphoria. Two thirds of those presenting were born biologically as female.
I am reminded here of a wonderful essay by the American philosopher Thomas Nagel, What is it Like to be a Bat? which I shared with you in a previous essay. The answer to Nagel’s question is – “We have no idea!”
And of course the question of what is it like to be a member of the opposite sex is almost as open-ended! We might be able to talk to members of the opposite sex about our subjective experiences related to our gender but they cannot in any real sense be shared. So there is little ground to support any attempt to manipulate our bodies to alter and contort them to appear to be other than what they are. And now we have the tragedy of young people being offered irreversible surgical procedures to modify their bodies in the hope their gender confusion might somehow be ameliorated. And more than this the subjective feeling of being either male or female is likely to be more determined by the biology of their brains than the nature of their bodies.
Now, even though we know girls mature earlier than boys it is still a fact that even girls, in their teens, have significant cognitive development ahead, and consequently they are ill-equipped to make decisions about such complex issues with such long-term impacts.
In my generation there were girls who seemed to shy away from their femininity. They climbed trees and enjoyed the rough and tumble of boys’ games. They were colloquially termed “tomboys”. As they matured, many grew through this phase and eventually assumed the feminine mantle their biology would have generally predicted. But even if they didn’t they were able to reconcile with their biologically determined gender.
It seemed harder for effeminate boys. They were teased and bullied mercilessly. However, whilst not often succeeding on the sports field many found comfort and fulfilment in the arts. Of course in those days any hint of homosexuality meant ostracism.
But as Jordan Peterson pointed out the gender identity movement, which is now clamouring for the rights of transgender people, is based on a major contradiction. Most of the gender activists have maintained that gender is socially constructed. They maintain that we shouldn’t give boys trucks to play with, or girls dolls. This they assert is just conforming gender stereotypes. Yet if a person is unsatisfied with their biological birth gender they don’t suggest we should seek to help them adjust to their natural biology through social or psychological influence but to artificially change their bodies!
It all seems rather futile to me. We come into this world as we are and who we are is largely determined by genetic and social factors over which we have no control. In an atmosphere of love and positive regard, most of us will reconcile with who we are. We might have preferred to be different. Perhaps we would have liked to have blonde hair, to have been taller or even have been a member of the other sex. But when we are loved for what we are (not what we might have preferred to be) we are encouraged to accept ourselves.
We did not choose our parents and thus our genetic makeup is beyond our control. A lot of who we are is determined by our early socialisation, and we had no influence over that either. As a consequence we all are faced with having to live with a persona that was largely gifted to us by chance.
I have no issue with those unfortunates who are born with grotesque craniofacial deformities seeking surgical remedies to have them live more normal lives.
And indeed I have no issues with mature informed adults wanting to endure surgery to reconstruct their bodies to better resemble the other sex if that is their choice. But I do object to those encouraging teenagers to do so before they are mature enough to make such decisions and without the approval of their parents.
If a teenager was to front up to a surgeon and complain, “I can’t stand my left arm! Would you please amputate it for me,” I don’t believe any reputable surgeon would contemplate doing so. But if a teenage girl goes to a doctor and says, “My psychiatrist has diagnosed me with gender dysphoria as a result I want you to perform a double mastectomy,” it seems some would be prepared to do so.
This dysfunctional attitude is promoted by those who want to make a greater issue of gender than most normal people would agree with.
From my own point of view, I don’t see much evidence that people prosper from avoiding the hand they have been dealt. Indeed over the last two decades or so I have advised the people that I coach that a large part of coming to grips with our lives is just “turning up” – and by that I mean confronting each day with a realistic understanding of who we are, and dealing with it. From time to time many of us might have wished to be otherwise. In most cases that is a futile wish and distracts us from getting on with life.
Indeed, in general, identity politics in total is a distraction. When you realise who you really are, personal identity as defined by race, gender, nationality, religion, politics or whatever fades from awareness. As you would have gathered from other essays, I have little regard for identity politics and I abhor the thought that one of its latest offshoots might lead to immature and inexperienced young people making decisions that they might regret for the rest of their lives.