14 June

‘Transgenderism’ – a liberal heresy?

Bruce Jenner, the men’s decathlon gold medal winner at the 1976 Olympics, has appeared on the July 2015 cover of Vanity Fair, with an announcement that he considers himself a woman, and is undergoing a series of surgical and hormonal procedures, commonly known as a ‘sex change’ but, in our more politically correct times, preferentially styled ‘gender transitioning’. Either way, Bruce now wants to be known as Caitlyn. Noting the media worship directed towards the Vanity Fair cover, the journalist Brendan O’Neill argues that,

[t]he photo is indeed iconic. And not just in the shallow celeb meaning of that word. It’s iconic in the traditional sense, too, in that it’s being venerated as an actual icon, a devotional image of an apparently holy human. It’s an image we’re all expected to bow down to, whose essential truth we must imbibe; an image you question or ridicule at your peril, with those who refuse to genuflect before it facing excommunication from polite society. Yesterday’s Jennermania confirms how weirdly authoritarian, even idolatrous, trans politics has become.

The announcement appeared after Jenner’s twenty-three-year marriage ended in divorce. Jenner has been married three times in total. He is father to six children, and was step-father to his last wife’s four children from a previous marriage. None of that stopped the UK’s Guardian newspaper claiming Jenner has always been a woman. O’Neill notes:

The insistence that we not only refer to Bruce/Caitlyn as ‘she’ but also project this backwards – recognising, in the words of the Guardian, that she has ‘always been a woman’ – is borderline Orwellian. It’s a rewriting of history, a memory-holing of old inconvenient facts. Strikingly, the Guardian writer says people like Bruce/Caitlyn have ‘always been women… even when they were “fathering” children’. Notice it’s the ‘fathering’ bit that is in scare quotes, suggesting it wasn’t real, while the description of Bruce as a woman is treated as an incontestable truth.

What are now standardly styled ‘LGBT issues’ seem to be constantly in the press of the sexually revolutionised West, particularly in regard of legislative changes that allow for same-sex marriage. Bruce is not the first man to undergo surgical and hormonal procedures, but no-one has ever before garnered such media coverage and acclaim. Likewise, there has never been so swift and harsh a stamping on anyone who dares question the new orthodoxy of gender ideology. However, the trans rights movement – the ‘T’ in ‘LGBT’ – is creating something of a bind. Here is a long citation from the American writer, Daniel Davis, which rather sums up the muddle:

For years, a major aim of the sexual revolution has been to deconstruct gender differences as being ‘social constructs’, mere cultural projections of what maleness and femaleness are and mean. This critique evacuated gender of any physical meaning and reduced it to an existential feeling—a feeling of being male or female, regardless of one’s sexual biology. The effect of this critique has been to relativize gender, and thus to abolish it as a meaningful category. Because you can no longer tie ‘femaleness’ to a normative set of traits or acts (for example, wearing dresses or marrying men), the category itself cannot help but lose its meaning. To call any particular act a ‘male’ or ‘female’ act would be to revert back to antiquated, repressive, patriarchal norms—norms that only serve to foster social inequality. This is the ideology that governs liberal sexual philosophy, and it collides head-on with major aspects of the transgender movement. Transgenderism is unavoidably based on a kind of gender essentialism. It recognizes gender identities as being associated with certain socially accepted norms. What does it mean, for example, that Jenner’s ‘gender’ is female? It means that he gets a sex change. It means that he poses in traditionally female attire for the cover of Vanity Fair. It means that he reaffirms traditional gender norms, even as he attempts to flee from them. This is a problem for the broader liberal sexual movement. It wants to celebrate transgenderism, but it cannot do so without referring to—and thus, at least tacitly affirming—gender norms. To celebrate Jenner’s femininity is actually to commit a liberal heresy: to revert back to a form of gender essentialism.

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. Man is woman.

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