Transgender ideology has a simple but highly problematic flaw: It claims biology and outward signs of gender are both meaningless and meaningful. But progressives can’t have it both ways.
Over the past few years, I’ve been surprised how quickly transgender dogma has gained cultural ascent. Feeling momentum after the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, the LGBTQ lobby (I’m probably leaving a newly added letter out of the official acronym, but who can keep up?) has moved swiftly to push a trans agenda.
In their haste, however, some ideological quality control has been neglected. This is clear in a couple conflicting stances: on the meaning and significance of biology, and on outward expressions of gender.
Having a Penis Doesn’t Matter—Until It Does
A foundational tenant of transgender ideology is that the objective definition of male and female has nothing to do with biology, but is instead based on each individual’s gender “identification.” Progressives may argue that there is nothing controversial here, but reality is more problematic. Defining gender based on a shifting and unverifiable “identification” simply cannot produce an objective standard.
Thus, participation in a gender is not based on anything absolute (i.e. biological)—it is only based on an internal state. And just because someone has biologically female anatomy or appears outwardly female (based on clothing and makeup, for instance) does not mean that the person actually “identifies” as a woman.
What progressives fail to grasp is that another dogma of transgender ideology directly contradicts this understanding of biology and identity. Transgender ideology asserts that there are objective and unchanging characteristics of maleness and femaleness that individuals can use (regardless of their biological sex) to participate in a gender.
For instance, if a biological woman “identifies” as a man, she can have a penis surgically attached to her body in order to participate in the male gender. She can also take hormones to grow facial hair and wear men’s clothing. In other words: biology, genitalia, and outward gender expressions (which we just established have no meaning, per progressives) are suddenly employed to define objective, unchanging truths about gender. In the case of outward expressions of gender like clothing and makeup, this is especially rich, as the left has for decades told us how socially constructed these things are, but I digress.
If genitalia and outward appearance (clothing, hair, and makeup) are reliable guides to indicate whether an individual is male or female, how can they also be a reliable way for individuals to express their “gender identification”? If having a penis tells us nothing about the gender of an individual, how can a biological woman surgically obtaining a penis represent objective truth about “his” gender?
Outward Expressions of Gender Aren’t Important, Right?
The same goes for outward expressions of gender. If the fact that a biological woman wears dresses and makeup doesn’t actually tell us anything about her gender identification (that individual may very well be doing those things out of societal pressure, after all), then those same outward signs cannot be used to denote participation in the female gender. If there is no relationship between genitalia, chromosomes, clothing, and gender, then that relationship must be understood to be nonexistent. You can’t deride it as having no meaning in one breath, and then imbue it with meaning in the next.
This same argument can be applied to other hotly debated portions of the transgender culture wars: such as bathrooms and athletics. If gender identification is internal and the use of a bathroom or participation on an athletic team corresponding to one’s biological sex doesn’t actually mean anything, then it cannot be a matter of civil rights for transgender individuals to pick which they take part in. Participation in these activities cannot be meaningless when they correspond to an individual’s biological sex, but meaningful when they correspond to an internal gender identification.
All of this prompts another question: If there’s no meaning in genitalia, hormones, clothing, jewelry, and makeup, then why waste your time changing all those things about yourself to participate in a gender? Why is it so important to participate in a gender via genitalia and outward expressions of gender, when those very things can (per transgender ideology) be so easily cast aside? Genitalia, hormones, clothing, and the like cannot simultaneously be relativistic preferences and solid absolutes.
A Safe Space Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand
It is probably asking too much for progressives to thoughtfully consider these inconsistencies and adjust their views accordingly. After all, it is hardly the only problem with transgender ideology.
Furthermore, volumes could be (and need to be) written about the utter incoherence of modern progressivism. In the case of transgender ideology, there are significant conflicts with gay and feminist orthodoxy. The smorgasbord of ideologies trying to cohabitate on the left simply cannot survive under the same roof—at least not if intellectual consistency matters.
I suspect progressives are actually quite aware of the inconsistencies within and among their various ideological factions. It helps explain why they have moved toward demanding “safe spaces” and silencing opposing viewpoints with unending cries of “bigot.” And it’s worked pretty well for them so far, so why stop now?