Sunday, May 14, 2017

Review Course: The Birds and the Bees - David Solway

by David Solway

For the gender radicals, biology itself is irrelevant.

The birds and the bees have got it right. There's a male, there's a female, there's progeny. And the social organism thrives. In our heavily (and increasingly) sexualized culture, this appears to be less and less the case.

On any reasonable scale of values, sex is merely one of many human needs and preoccupations, fundamental but not exclusive. However, instead of simply acknowledging the natural binary and getting on with life, the focus is now on sex-related phenomena in any of their multiple forms and aberrations: sexual politics, sexual performance, sex education, sex scandals, same-sex marriage, sexual coercion (the rape culture meme), and – perhaps most notably – sex changes, cosmetic, chemical, and surgical. To top it off, the male-female divide has been reconceived as a "social construct" that must be unlearned, a relic of the oppressive and unenlightened past.

For the gender radicals, biology itself is irrelevant. In its place, they propose a metaphysics of gender, in which sexed identity is a psychic essence known through an almost mystical apprehension quite apart from the body and its chromosomes, morphology, and hormonal structure. The latest fad – amounting to an epidemic – that has come to afflict us is gender "self-identification" and transgender fluidity, spewing forth a multiplicity of different genders of choice (which can also change from day to day) and spawning a blizzard of surrogate pronouns (zir, hir, elr, zis, ze, etc.) that normal people are forced to recognize – in some places, like the province of Ontario, by law, and also as Bill C-16, now in its second reading in the Canadian Senate, stipulates. In New York City, refusal to use gendered pronouns can result in fines of up to $250,000. Transgender options and their designators continue to proliferate. Thirty-one gender pronouns – and counting – are like virgins in Islamic heaven, the reward for an act of linguistic terrorism.

As theologian Fay Voshell points out, a statement issued by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) serves to illustrate the rigid zealotry we are now dealing with. "We believe that every LGBT child is born perfect and that any young person's identity as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender should be honored, celebrated, and supported," the organization declares – thus elevating the presumed sexual orientation of a minute segment of the underage population to the level of a legitimate given, a reified perfection. The William Institute estimates that only 0.3 percent of Americans self-confirm as transgender, 1.8 percent as bisexual, and 1.7 percent as lesbian or gay. The figures of the National Health Interview Survey are in the same demographic range. This is hardly a burning social question.

Note as well that sexual orientation is, quite suddenly, no longer a matter of choice, nor is it regarded as a "social construct." It is now rooted in the genome. The hubris of the NCLR is rivaled only by its state of cognitive dissonance and taxonomic extravagance. Its members and the like-minded multitudes seem to care little that there are no legal standards and no objective tests to show that an individual suffers gender dysphoria requiring social recognition or, in some cases, surgical intervention. Rather shockingly, the latter determination depends simply on a diagnostician's acceptance of a person's current feeling and subjective assessment. As Walt Heyer, who spent years living as though he were a female and then stopped, writes in Paper Genders, the only place where sex change can be said to occur is on paper and on driver's licenses and the like.

Similarly, Paul McHugh, distinguished science professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, the institution that pioneered the idea of gender reassignment surgery (before suspending the practice), has become a gender skeptic. Writing for The Witherspoon Institute, he argues that the idea that "one's sex is fluid and a matter of choice... is doing much damage to families, adolescents and children and should be confronted as an opinion without biological foundation." Transgendered people merely become "counterfeiters or impersonators of the sex with which they 'identify.'" The hypothesis, he continues, "that gender identity is an innate, fixed property of human beings that is independent of biological sex... is not supported by scientific evidence." "Gender dysphoria," he concludes in the article, titled "Transgenderism: A Pathological Meme," "should be treated with psychotherapy." The idea of physical sex change is a hormonal fraud, no less than felt gender variance provoking multiple pronominal reference is a personal and cultural disorder.

The fact is, as any sane person knows, there are two genders and only two genders. They are, admittedly, qualified by occasional anomalies (e.g., the intersex condition in which a person is born with both sets of genitalia) and by a range of personal inclinations, impulses, and desires that stretch the boundaries of normative practice and reject but do not refute the biological imperative. This is an aspect of human freedom and marginal desire, but it does not alter the reality that there are two genders and only two genders. Personal inclinations do not alter biology and should not be institutionalized, on peril of social anarchy. Similarly, there are only two gender-specific pronouns: he and she. Anyone who believes otherwise is living in a fantasy world; is suffering from a state of traumatic confusion; is a total stranger to elenchical thought; or is, I regret to say, certifiable.

Moreover, the preoccupation with gender identity obscures personal identity, which is a much more complex and profound category. Personal identity is a spiritual and psychological dimension encompassing such modalities of being as one's relation to the Divine, one's sense of historical existence, one's adherence to or struggle with an ethical code of conduct, how one understands the mystery of love, the way one confronts the tragic dilemma of mortality – in brief, identity pertains to the essence, not the accidents, of one's being. It involves what makes us imprescriptibly human, as creatures with souls, irrespective of sex – or, to cite an analogous issue, of skin color. Even if one could actually change one's sex or skin color, the basic elements that establish one's intrinsic identity remain in force. It is not necessary to be Christian to appreciate Saint Paul's apothegm in Galatians 3:28 that, Jew or Greek, slave or bond, male or female, the soul is one.

Confusing personal identity with gender identity allows for personal identity to go undeveloped while supplanting it with what we might call genital (or, analogously, epidermal) identity. The trade-off is a mug's game, a profound reduction of the self, of the possibility of achieving moral and intellectual substance. The vectors and concomitants of desire or the socially reactive brackets and classifications one negotiates have little to do with the core phenomenon of true individual identity.

The sexual obsessions of our time are rightly understood as forms of prideful dementia, expressing the effort of human beings to create what only God or Nature can create. It is the transgression – with the emphasis on trans – that the Book of Genesis warned against: "ye shall be as gods," as the serpent insinuated, a temptation that led to the Fall, or the building of the Tower of Babel, which generated a confusion of languages, including thirty-one pronouns, no doubt.

The signs of a culture on the skids are all around us, of which gender mania and sex cathexis are both integral factors and paramount examples. Thankfully, the birds and the bees have retained their sanity, or seed dispersal would significantly decrease, and the honey jar would soon be empty.

David Solway


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