There is a certain intellectual consistency, at least, between the expedient fluidity of liberals’ positions on women, gays, and Islam, and their affectation that gender is a matter of private whim. For progressives, after all, neither words nor states of being are ever objectively fixed. Thus marriage is not a union between a man and a woman as determined by immemorial custom or law, but a gauzy and malleable concept to be defined and re-defined in accordance with the evolving opinion of the sneering elites.
The civilized revulsion evinced by humanity for thousands of years against abortion and infanticide are now anaesthetized when these are re-imagined, not as crimes against innocent human beings but emancipating “choices,” and the “victims” are no longer the aborted children but the mothers who were invariably “driven by circumstances” (poverty, abuse) to make their “choice”: not to kill their baby, mind you, but merely to “terminate a pregnancy,” to remove a “mass of protoplasm” – a “parasitical growth.” To progressives, tone-deaf as ever to irony, this is all within the purview of women’s “reproductive health,” even though reproduction is the last thing abortion fosters, and pregnancy is anything but a disease. In their inventiveness, the euphemisms and verbal manipulations of liberals are scarcely inferior to the Orwellisms of Soviet propaganda.
With their neoteric concept of “self-identification,” progressives have in fact undone thousands of years of genuine human progress. Since at least the age of the ancient Greeks, it has been recognized that human learning and science, indeed, all intellectual, moral, and political advancement, depend upon the distinction between subjective feeling and objective truth. In his own eyes, an observer might “self-identify” a stick immersed in water as crooked, but as Socrates pointed out in the 5th century B.C., that hardly alters the fact that objective reason knows it to be straight (no pun intended). In paying his debts to his tutor, the student of arithmetic might prefer to think that two plus two obols (a Greek currency) equals three; but self-identified mathematics has never been on.
Nonetheless, fresh from their victorious campaign to confer upon homosexuals the “civil right” to self-identify as married (by re-defining marriage to suit them, that is), the Axis of Progress has inevitably moved on to the right of self-identified gender. Self-identification is hardly a new phenomenon, of course. For as long as the race has existed, lunatic asylums have been filled with little old ladies who self-identified as the Empress Anastasia, or men who self-identified as chickens; but the dominant majority of the sane has always responded, “No you’re not!” and essayed to nurse them back to health. When in the early ‘60s I was a prepubescent of the same age as the young boys who are apparently today waking up en masse to discover that they are really young girls, any number of my friends self-identified as Ringo Starr, and proceeded to annoy the hell out of their parents and neighbours by banging a-rhythmically on their drums at two in the morning in order to prove the truth of their delusion. In most cases, with responsible parenting, professional counseling, and societal adjurations to normalcy and natural law, these fantasies proved transient.
That gender is elective and fungible (another “social construct”) is both the latest and greatest confabulation in a progressive fairy tale that seeks to prettify social and psychological pathologies as normative and healthy. As Rory Leishman has reported in these pages (“Treating ‘transgender’ children,” May 2016), the most recent edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual still identifies gender dysphoria as a mental disorder, which is successfully treatable in the overwhelming majority of cases. And in a paper presciently released the month before Obama’s diktat, the American College of Pediatricians warned: “Conditioning children into believing a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse. Endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education… will confuse children and parents, leading more children to present to ‘gender clinics’ where they will be given puberty-blocking drugs. This, in turn, virtually ensures that they will ‘choose’ a lifetime of carcinogenic and otherwise toxic cross-sex hormones, and likely consider unnecessary surgical mutilation of their healthy body parts as young adults.”
Since the depths of their hypocrisy are unfathomable, it ought not to surprise anyone that liberals reject this consensus of medical experts, even while applauding themselves as the party of science; but it is odd in the extreme that parents would want to do to their children what the communist government of the former East Germany once did to their Olympic athletes.
Surely, as despisers of everything “man-made” and lovers of everything “organic” and “natural,” progressives ought to take a step back and reflect for a moment upon the brave new world they have wrought. In their sanctimonious campaigns against artificial fertilizers, genetically-modified foods, and anthropogenic global warming, progressives have always presented themselves as the wholesome defenders of a defence-less and innocent Nature. In truth, they have waged war on nature on practically every front: aborting natural, healthy reproductive processes; normalizing contra-natural sexual relations; arbitrarily fixing the term of human life by the same “heroic” – one should say, anti-heroic – medical methods they deplore when used to extend it; and now, abolishing natural gender by injecting healthy adolescents with synthetic hormones, amputating working members, and replacing them with industrially-manufactured prostheses.
While the traditional iconography depicts Dame Nature as a matron suckling an infant at her breast, the Nature of modern progressives is a monstress in a hazmat suit, brandishing syringe, scissors, and scalpel. (Talk about inorganic.) Yet, the same gastronomic puritans who are terrified by genetically-modified crops are phlegmatic about chemically-modified human beings. The modern progressive’s Walden Pond has turned into a Monsanto laboratory for the ideological re-engineering of human biology.
That the bathroom wars are a tempest in a pee-pot makes them at the same time the perfect emblem of the universal progressive jihad against nature and normalcy. What is the next social arrangement that has worked perfectly well for centuries and millennia, but must now be defenestrated to satisfy the imperious demands of a tiny constituency (in the case of the transgendered “population,” less than one-tenth of one percent)? Conservatives must now be wondering whether there will be any battleground on which radical liberals will not demand total capitulation.
Harley Price has taught courses on religion, philosophy, literature, and history at the University of Toronto, U of T’s School of Continuing Studies, and Tyndale College. He blogs at Priceton.org. Part one of this column appeared in the October edition of this paper.