Accompanying podcast: A Perfect Storm, with Posie Parker.
Introduction: A Premature Assumption of Knowledge
“Why is the determination to fight against a prejudice a sure sign that one is full of it? Such a determination necessarily arises from an obsession. It constitutes an utterly sterile effort to get rid of it. In such a case the light of attention is the only thing which is effective, and it is not compatible with a polemical intention.”
—Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace
When my older brother was ten, he grew his hair long and decided he wanted to be a girl. He told our sister that he wanted to be referred to as her sister when she introduced him to other people.
I would have been five at the time. As I have described elsewhere, my brother (not just despite but because of his mistreatment of me) was my first and most impacting role model. He was the boy I most wanted to be like—and be liked by. As an adolescent and an early teen, I inherited and/or adopted not only my brother’s clothes but his taste in music and movies.
Here’s another piece of anecdotal evidence: When I was born, my mother was told by the doctor, “Congratulations, it’s a boy!” Her response: “Oh, I wanted a girl.”
It’s possible our mother only wanted girls (though her first child was one), and if so, it’s also possible her desire, however it was expressed (and my mother was anything but self-contained), inspired my brother to want to self-identify as female.
Whatever motivated it, his “decision” was short-lived, and by the age of twelve he was deeply infatuated (and fully sexually involved) with a girl of his age. He grew up to be a sexual libertine with undisclosed limits (though he wrote a “tell-all” autobiography, I doubt if anyone knows the full extent of what my brother experimented with sexually). By the time he died, of a heroin overdose at (not-quite) age 48, he was famous as a “dandy of the underworld” who wore nail polish and top hats.
Had my brother been born in 2002 instead of 1962, he might very well have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and encouraged to “transition” to the opposite sex. If my principal male role model had become a “girl,” who knows how I would have navigated that labyrinth?
That didn’t happen, however. At 51, I have outlived my brother, and today I am reasonably happily married. And while I am still struggling to come to terms with my sexuality (who isn’t?), if there is one thing I am sure about, it is that being at home in my body is the most essential—and the hardest—way to contentment. That and, closely related, that rejecting reality as it is, projecting my desires onto it and forcing it to conform to them, is the surest way to suffer.
I present this as background for why the question of “transgender” feels so important to me, and why I take such an apparently firm position on it. It is based on my own life experience, which is all any of us base anything on.
The following series of essays about identity politics and gender and other body dysphoria does not aim to cover the full spectrum of experiences associated with these loose-knit groupings. That would be a very different and much larger study. This series will not question the rights of adults to change their bodies via drugs and surgery, only the ideological rationale for such decisions currently being pushed in schools, colleges, universities, law courts, government halls, and via mass media channels. In my opinion, this ideological rationale is based on scant evidence at best, at worst on outright distortions, fabrications, and self-willed delusions.
Unfortunately, questioning the assumption of knowledge around gender dysphoria and/or fluidity places this series and its author unequivocally in the “anti-trans” camp, regardless of motives or the quality or intent of the arguments, which are aimed at encouraging deeper questioning and examination. One thing is abundantly clear to me: none of the advocates of gender fluidity, etc., know what they are talking about. By this I mean, none of them can coherently explain what gender fluidity is, what causes it, or what some of the likely outcomes are of treating it as a problem of the incongruity between a hypothetical identity-self and the biology it is housed in, rather than as a psychological phenomenon to be observed, explored, and fully understood, before attempting to formulate how best to approach it.
Local Storm in a Global Teacup: SOGI & Culture Guard
(I don’t want to post any pictures of trans children here as it seems unfair to them; but a search for “transgender kindergarten” (or “kids”) will bring up ones like this and this.)
“Professor of social work, Dr. William Brennan, has written that ‘[t]he power of language to color one’s view of reality is profound.’ It is for this reason that linguistic engineering always precedes social engineering—even in medicine.”
—“Gender Dysphoria in Children,” American College of Pediatricians, June 2017
Having written about Transgender issues quite recently, I am returning to this subject matter now, with some reluctance, since it literally almost landed on my doorstep. Here’s what happened:
A Canadian group local to me called Culture Guard are currently concerned about the implementation of a massive ideological agenda in British Columbia schools, from kindergarten to universities. It is called the SOGI program, which stands for Sexual Orientation Gender Identification. Culture Guard had arranged for a public meeting about the matter two doors down from where I live, at a public hall belonging to The Royal Canadian Legion. However, when the Legion allegedly received over 900 emails objecting to the event, including threats, it caved under the pressure and canceled the meet. They were widely congratulated on Facebook for not providing a platform for hate-speakers, Christians bigots, and homophobes. I found this surprising, considering that most of the members of my community are presumably Christian, at least nominally, and I doubted if many of them had much of a clue about a subject as complex and mercurial as gender fluidity. Was this a case of a minority making so much noise it seemed like a majority?
I looked into Culture Guard. Besides the use of the term “gender deviant,” I saw no evidence of overt bigotry. Culture Guard is highly critical of SOGI and views it as part of an invasive ideological agenda only superficially concerned with tolerance, primarily aimed towards political indoctrination. It questions the dominant assumption that all sexual orientations are equal, in terms of parenting, and referred to “sexual deviants.” Obviously, this alone is enough to ring alarm bells in 2018, and I emailed Culture Guard to let them know they might want to be more careful with their use of language.
The word deviant does not have an inherently pejorative meaning (etymologically), but at this stage this is how people hear it. In its dictionary definition, it means “One that differs from a norm, especially a person whose behavior and attitudes differ from accepted social standards”— as in, to deviate from a path. Based on this definition, it’s questionable whether the word is even accurate anymore, because of how rapidly and radically social standards have changed (or been re-engineered). In 2018 in the Western world, homosexuality no longer differs from accepted socials standards and is widely represented, even promoted and celebrated, in most walks of life. Even “Trans” is being quite efficiently incorporated into those standards, via the usual channels of mass media, social policies, and education programs like SOGI.
When I looked into SOGI, here’s what I found.
On the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, observed globally on May 17, the Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia and ARC Foundation announced a major new social justice initiative funded by an ARC Foundation gift of $125,000 to the University of British Columbia. The UBC-ARC Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Fund is designed to
implement transformation towards social justice goals at a faculty-wide scale at the University of British Columbia, so as to create and maintain an LGB/T2/Q inclusive curriculum, culture, work place, and learning environment. To prioritize systemic, faculty-wide interventions that focus on sexual orientation and gender identity as critical pillars in the architecture of human rights risks, resiliencies and interventions that aim to redress inequities and enhance social sustainability. To design, innovate and implement whole-climate pedagogical approaches that recognize, and intervene to transform, the impacts of systemic discrimination. (ref)
In SOGI’s own words:
SOGI stands for sexual orientation and gender identity. Since we all have a sexual orientation and gender identity, it includes all of us. Every student understands and expresses their gender differently, with interests and choices that are common or less common for their biological sex. Some students may be unsure of their sexual orientation. Others may identify specifically as lesbian, gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit, cisgender, or other. A SOGI-inclusive school means all of these experiences and identities are embraced and never cause for discrimination.
The promotional material for the “PrideSpeaks” session for Kindergarten grade 3 (5-8 year-olds), includes:
- What is gender? Exploring gender diversity
- Reading “I Am Jazz,” a picture book about gender diversity by Jazz Jennings, a young transgender child being called “a spokesperson for transkids everywhere”
- Discussion about the story
- Empathy exercise to demonstrate what being a good friend looks like for students who come out as transgender or gender variant
- Presenters sharing coming out stories
(Queer Kids Stuff YouTube channel, not affiliated with SOGI, AFAIK)
According to Culture Guard’s SOGI Backgrounder, school districts and independent schools “have been ordered to add Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity politics to their codes of conduct, giving special rights to LGBTQ2++ political platforms, introducing one-sided “celebratory” material that fails to include statistics relating to the mental and physical health risks and issues, medical costs to taxpayers, and the social costs commonly associated with LGBTQ++ persons. Teachers are directed in the SOGI-targeted pilot schools not to use the words “mom,” “dad,” “mother” or “father” but only gender-neutral terms like “parent” and “partner.” The same applies with addressing children as “boys and girls,” instead of which teachers are instructed to use gender-neutral words like “students.”
Other social reforms extend well beyond the realm of language: Under amendments to the BC Human Rights Code, and according to the SOGI mandates of BC’s Minister of Education, “sex activist men who dress—or ‘identify’—as women . . . can now use the girls/women’s washrooms in schools, daycares, churches, mosques, museums, amusement parks, public swimming pools, or recreation centre showers; and they can join all-female gyms.”
In case you missed that, this is biologically complete men, who have not had any kind of surgical or chemical alteration, and have merely chosen to self-identify as women. In the UK, these “transwomen” are now receiving government-issued IDs to “prove” they are women and to gain access to women’s-only spaces. Women who object to this are known, whether they like it or not, as TERFs—Tran-Exclusionary Radical Feminists. They are targets of trans aggression and violence, and, at the same time, may be liable for criminal charges for “hate speech” if they express their objections, or claim that these men are not actually women.
Got all that? Let’s go back to the starting line again.
Trans-person teaches kindergarten kids about gender identity, at the Michelle Obama Library, as seen in CBS program about SOGI/Culture Guard struggle.
(Continued next Saturday)