The Witherspoon Institute has once again decided to dictate to us all about the proper, conservative approach to everything. This time, they take aim at National Geographic’s “Gender Revolution”: Bad Argument and Biased Ideology. Of course they’re agin’ them transgenders.
The January 2017 issue of National Geographic is dedicated to exploring what it calls the “Gender Revolution”—a post-Sexual Revolution movement that seeks to deconstruct traditional understandings about human embodiment, male-female sexual dimorphism, and gender. In an article titled “Rethinking Gender,” Robin Marantz Henig cites evolving gender norms as a justification for the Gender Revolution. But Henig’s argument is not only unpersuasive, it’s also based on a radical proposal about human nature that is at odds with both natural law and biblical anthropology.
I started reading this essay enthused about seeing their “natural law” and “biblical anthropology” arguments, both subjects I find to be nonsensical trash, and therefore ripe for mocking. To my disappointment, there is no biblical anthropology anywhere in it, and what ‘natural law’ arguments there are are sadly implicit, and just assumed. It reduces the whole essay to weak whining.
They have only one point to make, and it’s laid out in this one paragraph.
Indeed, this is the crux of the matter that plagues the transgender movement. It is based not on evidence, but on the ideology of expressive individualism—the idea that one’s identity is self-determined, that one should live out that identity, and that everyone else must respect and affirm that identity, no matter what it is. Expressive individualism requires no moral argument or empirical justification for its claims, no matter how absurd or controverted they may be. Transgenderism is not a scientific discovery but a prior ideological commitment about the pliability of gender.
The Witherspoon Institute, that deeply ideological organization, wants to argue that transgender people are wrong because they are ideological. But of course they are! So am I! So are they! If they want to claim that an “absence of scientific discovery” invalidates a whole personal and cultural phenomenon, they’re going to have to burn down the entirety of their archives, because nowhere, including in this essay, do they build a case for their ideology with science. In fact, this is the whole of their defense.
Accepting the claims of transgender ideology requires papering over one’s conscience and making a mockery of the “law written on the heart” that our bodies bear witness to in our complementary design.
They want to claim that there is a “law written on the heart” that makes the gender binary natural and proper and righteous — but they make no scientific (or biblical anthropological, which is fine, because I’d dismiss it) argument for that claim.
Here’s my proudly ideological argument against the Witherspoon’s biases.
The gender binary is a social construct: it is a set of behaviors and expectations for how people should conform within a society. It is built around biological predispositions which are real but not absolute; all we have to do is look at different cultures around the world and see that there different expectations in different societies. Real men don’t cry? Not always. Women are the sheltered, weaker sex? Not always. Men should always “pay” at the “restaurant” when they take a woman out on a “date”? I can’t even begin to unpack all the artificial cultural constructs built into that sentence. They are really trying to impose the standards of Victorian England on all of humanity, which is the kind of thing Victorians did all the time, but isn’t it about time we kicked that bullshit to the curb?
They want to argue that humans aren’t plastic, but are fixed by their biological natures. But we know that isn’t true, because we can see that human beings have thrived in a variety of different cultures without a necessary genetic difference in their makeup. Look at the United States — we have people living here who within the last few generations have come from Vietnam, Ireland, Laos, Nigeria, Peru, Sweden, Somalia, Iran, etc., etc., etc., and they have adapted, and in fact, the conservative American ideology requires that they must conform.
This is what people do. They adapt, they conform, they absorb the expectations of their surrounding culture, especially as children, and they also bring their past experiences into communities and shape their environments. The Witherspoon wants to reify masculinity and femininity to fit their ideological preconceptions, deny the reality of people’s identity, and they reject arguments against that kind of cultural imperialism because, they say, you can’t fit a person’s perception of their identity under a microscope. Well, you can’t fit Christian conservativism under a microscope either, yet you’re sinking a lot of money, time, and effort into propping it up.
Not everyone will be accommodating of your particular views. I am not comfortable, to put it mildly, with Christian conservativism — you don’t get to tell me that I am wrong in my identity, and that I must learn to love faith and oppressive authoritarianism. However, I am personally comfortable with my expected gender role — I have never questioned my conformity to maleness — but I am also capable of recognizing that not everyone else is, and that they would be as unhappy with a world that dictates that they must be a straight heterosexual man’s man as I would with a world that told me I had to participate in gay sex, and like it (although if I’d been brought up through childhood in that world where gender fluidity was more common, maybe I would…which I suspect is one of the ideas that horrifies the Witherspoon).
That the majority of people fall into one of the two broad, culturally accepted definitions of gender is not scientific evidence that these divisions are natural and necessary because, as I said, people are plastic and tend to conform to cultural norms. There have always been individuals who refuse or are unable to meet social expectations, even in Victorian England. The question is whether we punish people by demanding that their identity meet a narrow set of criteria, or whether we accept people for who they are and who they want to be. The former is a formula for widespread misery. The latter leads to greater happiness, although it does tend to piss off the authoritarian prigs who enjoy crushing the joys of others.
I have to confess to sharing a little bit of that latter attitude, because I would greatly enjoy crushing the totalitarian hopes and dreams of the Witherspoon Institute members.