Since announcing a gubernatorial bid in California, Caitlyn Jenner has ignited a conversation about who the qualified Republican candidate to run in the left-wing stronghold is. Jenner sat down with Sean Hannity on Fox News and ridiculed Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom for his “hypocrisy” in handling COVID-19. Jenner also released a campaign video about the “California dream” that displayed clips of the retired athlete competing in the 1976 Olympics decathlon.
Jenner deserves a fair critique and to be considered based on all his public policy proposals. The Federalist’s Emily Jashinsky laid out several key questions those in the GOP would be wise to ask him.
Still, as you may have noticed, I used the pronoun “he” to refer to Jenner. The reason for this is quite simple. Bruce Jenner was born a biological male in 1949, changed his name to Caitlyn in 2015, and is still a man regardless of any attempts to look or act like a female. It is not imprudent to adhere to science in describing his sex. It is the moral thing to do.
Some on the political right, particularly those who are more fond of fusionism or libertarianism, are quick to pump the brakes on using a biological pronoun. It is rude to the person and it is important to be friendly, the person will often plead. If they wish to be called by a false pronoun, I will honor that request. It’s a free country! One conservative I spoke with said using inaccurate pronouns for transgender identifying people is being “respectful” and “every single conservative” ought to do so.
This could not be further from the truth. In actuality, it is disrespectful to both you and the transgender person to use the anti-science pronoun. It demeans your knowledge of reality and perpetuates lies harmful to you and the transgender person, as well as to the rest of society.
Jenner is running as a Republican. This means many conservatives who determine that there are two sexes, and most do, could punch the ticket for his female name in 2022. Yet these voters should not feel obliged to forfeit their intrinsic and prescriptive understanding of sex in order to accommodate another person’s feelings about what sex he or she claims to feel like.
If a person knows Jenner can only be a male or a female, and that he is in fact a biological male, that person is contradicting his own knowledge by referring to the candidate as “she.” One should not have to abandon one’s morals and sanity to appease gender activists, those who have been brainwashed by such ideology, and those struggling with gender dysphoria. Being manipulated into telling what you know to be a lie is not good for anyone.
Second, conservatives ought to foster the common good. What is good includes what is true. It is harmful to perpetuate false gender theories. The person using a false pronoun violates the truth and obfuscates our culture’s understanding of biology. Since truth and goodness are intertwined, bowing to transgender ideology threatens both.
Given that identifying as transgender has been considered by physicians to be a mental disorder, promoting its anti-biological basis renders no ultimate good to transgender people either. One poll from 2019 found 29 percent of “transgender and non-binary youth” respondents have attempted suicide, and 47 percent of the sample underwent psychological or emotional counseling. 90 percent of transgender veterans, in particular, were found in a 2016 study by The Endocrine Society to have at least one mental health diagnosis.
It is important to be kind and recognize humans struggle with mental health, especially on the tail end of months of lockdowns. Pew Research Center data from March indicated that a fifth of Americans experienced “high levels of psychological distress” in a portion of the second year of coronavirus transmission.
But using the incorrect pronoun only furthers the false notion that biological sex is interchangeable. Biology is fixed, and human nature cannot be transformed with words. None of this means being impolite to transgender-identifying people, because being kind is part of what makes a good person. But it does mean being honest and polite, and using the pronoun that recognizes a person’s genuine sex.
Manipulating words erodes our language and therefore thinking. Graham Hillard, an English professor at Trevecca Nazarene University, made this argument in National Review a few years ago. “What is at stake, however, is the irreplaceable right to say of one thing, ‘true,’ and of another, ‘false’ — to define the basic realities from which our politics proceed,” Hillard wrote. “A man is a man. A woman is a woman. Let us not pretend otherwise.”
“When Big Brother arrives in the 21st century, he will appear not on posters but in grammar handbooks, HR manuals, and social media,” the professor concluded. “Not as a tormentor but as a disappointed neighbor or friend.”
Conservatives should seek to be kind and foster the common good, but using the wrong pronoun to refer to Jenner is neither. It is giving into perverse postmodernism and its subset known as queer theory, an academic discipline built on the subjectivism of poststructuralism.
This also does not mean Jenner is necessarily the wrong candidate for the GOP in California given other considerations in play. That is a calculation for those on the right to make based on the policies he brings to the table and the voters he must appeal to.
But in order for conservatives to faithfully engage in the ensuing culture war, which one libertarian writer claimed Wednesday gets conservatives too “worked up,” Americans have to practice what they preach. If one knows a man is a man and a woman is a woman, then referring to Jenner as feminine violates the truth. Worse, doing so concedes to a powerful left ambitious enough to attempt an overhaul of reality.
Jenner has been a public figure for decades, and his decision to enter the political sphere bolsters the number of people attentive to his transgenderism. The broad standards for the candidate require us all to critically deliberate on our positions, in any regard, including on sexuality.
One might decide to use the opposite pronoun when referring to a psychologically struggling transgender friend or family member to preserve an fragile relationship. But preserving order in the public square in discussions of someone who has chosen to become a public figure means always telling it like it is. It means ensuring we are doing our part to preserve basic and necessary human truths.
How people refer to Jenner wields immense influence on the trajectory of the culture given how it could sway, among other things, gender-dysphoric children. Reinforcing a frequent cycle of self-harm is the danger. If Americans wish to uphold the societal order, now is the time to not waver on affirming false pronouns the left recognizes can fundamentally shift hearts and minds.