The Contradiction in the Left's View of Gender
It was only a matter of time before the illogic of égalité came to head. The warm fraternité shared by progressives is suddenly dropping in temperature, focusing the “unappeasable indignation” inward. The point of contention? The same thing as always: sexual identity, and its accompanying grab bag of ires.
In a recent article for The New Yorker, reporter Michelle Goldberg documents the ongoing feud between radical feminists and the transgendered community. This is no insignificant beef between two otherwise amicable social warrior clans. If you thought two groups trying to fundamentally alter nature to meet their emotions would get along, you’d be mistaken. It turns out there is vehement disagreement between people born with vaginas, and people born wanting them.
Goldberg writes that in an age where bathroom inequality is the greatest injustice ever, “radical feminists insist on regarding transgender women as men, who should not be allowed to use women’s facilities, such as public rest rooms, or to participate in events organized exclusively for women.” The contention is clear: individuals born as males don’t have the knowledge or experience of growing up as a female. They haven’t felt the overwhelming burden of the nebulous abstraction known as patriarchy. As feminist author Janice Raymond wrote in her work The Transsexual Empire, trans women really “rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating this body for themselves.”
Radical feminism may be a lot of subterfuge about why males are the antichrist, but at least its proponents have their heads on straight when it comes to artificial gender changes. Hormone injections and invasive surgery aren’t changing the “being and essence” of self-loathing men. If anything, it lumps confusion on top of confusion, causing more bewilderment about the self. The inability to cope with one’s natural born character goes a long way in explaining the rash of suicides among transgendered individuals.
With transgenderism, the incoherent war of the sexes is finally reaching an apogee. The contradictions have always been apparent to conservative traditionalists. We only had to bide our time before the cracks in the sexual liberation infrastructure became apparent. Either the experience of oppressed womanhood is meaningful or it’s not. And if men can easily hijack that identity for themselves, then it loses some of its inherent uniqueness. It’s similar to how Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates describes the experience of black Americans. Just as white men can’t undergo race-altering surgery to understand the trials and tribulations of their black counterparts, men can’t simply drop the y-chromosome and automatically walk a mile in the heels of the fairer sex. Reality says “no” and leaves it at that.
The desire to lasso up human nature and tame it has always been the lifeblood of equality-based progressivism. To conquer capitalism -- the natural buying and selling of unequal goods and services -- was, and still is, supposed to be the end of history. On the Marxian timeline, we are always moving forward to the great utopia; a land of infinite milk and honey.
Likewise, our attitude toward certain behavior is softening and becoming more tolerant. And it’s a good thing too; since the culture wars are predominantly about sex and little else. If the bourgeoisie, God-fearing view of sex, intimacy, and fidelity can be defeated, then the next logical step is trouncing traditional sexual relations, including inborn gender. Ross Douthat, the orthodox Catholic New York Times writer, has already conceded to the forces of sexual modernity, hoping to negotiate the terms of surrender for his like-minded traditionalists. With gay marriage the new “it” issue to endorse, and transgendered rights in the early stages of being fashionable, it’s only a matter of time before the Christian view of sex goes missing from modern culture.
This is a kind of hopscotch from liberation to liberation which leaves few people content with the final result. When moral judgment loses its grip on one aspect of intimacy, it softens on others. The end result is a new dispensation where reality isn’t set in stone, but is amorphous to whatever inner feelings one happens to possess on any given day. It’s the kind of solipsism that inevitably follows from liberal secularism.
Radical feminism thrived off the idea that women are the incarnation of suffering. Supporters thought cutting the ties to two millennia of Christian understanding would set them free. Instead, they started a chain reaction of culminating into a radical redefining of marriage, gender, and biological self. They pulled up the anchor of tradition, and set adrift in the choppy seas of amoralism. If feminists are upset seeing men appropriate their sex for separate ends, they have only themselves to blame.
As I see it, the fundamental difference between cultural conservatives and revolutionary egalitarians boils down to one thing: the temperament to leave things be. It’s a difference with being fine with things and agitating for something new and better than what’s current. The danger with such forward-thinking is that it too easily confuses direction: what looks like progress may actually be regression. Teleological law can be a tough thing to discover and make sense of; tampering requires a punctilious approach to identify what’s good and bad. The Sexual Revolution has gotten ahead of itself in remolding human nature. It’s not progressing toward a new ideal, but rather falling back into pre-Christian paganism.
In the fray between feminists and transgenders, I endorse the Henry Kissinger hope for the Iran-Iraq war: “too bad they can't both lose.” Except in this case, both sides will eventually lose the war against innate reality -- especially the transgendered. You can chop off body parts, inject chemicals into your bloodstream, but a person’s essence remains. As Kevin Williamson of National Review puts it:
“Sex is a biological reality, and it is not subordinate to subjective impressions, no matter how intense those impressions are, how sincerely they are held, or how painful they make facing the biological facts of life. No hormone injection or surgical mutilation is sufficient to change that.”
I wish the transgendered and feminist communities happiness and contentment. But that will go unheard in the acrimony of trying to conquer human nature. My well-wishing will more likely be construed as tacit bigotry. Still, hope springs eternal for vexed leftists to accept reality and move on.