If it wasn’t already obvious that society has lost the plot it has become so — the Scottish government is proposing to allow 12-year-old children to change their gender. Self-professed progressives who run many of our institutions think that they are being radical and enlightened by cheering on this infantile development. They couldn’t be more wrong.
In the late Seventies the brilliant American historian Christopher Lasch wrote the bestselling book The Culture of Narcissism. He described a society that was losing its moorings. Cut adrift from religion and then politics, he prophetically argued, the trend is for people to turn inwards to find a sense of meaning.
Fast forward 40 years and we find an ever-fragmenting world of identities in which the cult of health and wellbeing sits comfortably with our vain attempts to express our selves with piercings or tattoos.
Historically a sense of self has come in large part from our engagement with and our role in the world outside ourselves — the world of other people, of institutions and organisations that we both made and were made by. Today there are few, if any, organisations that inspire adults, let alone the young. Having abandoned the outside world we have turned in on ourselves and into our bodies, as the final site of experimentation and liberation.
The idea that children have always been itching to change their gender is a total fantasy. The transgender fetish is a modern invention. It is the endpoint of our culture of narcissism.
Of course, one of the ironies of transgenderism is that rather than liberating gender, it is a caricature of it. “Don’t like all things pink and frilly? That must mean you’re a boy. Don’t like football and fighting? You must be a girl.” The transgender trend is not only inward looking — it is profoundly conservative.
Tragically just at the time when what sex you are no longer matters in the outside world, our inability to face this world has resulted in a fixation with gender. Uninspiring teachers continue to witter on about self-esteem, while empty politicians, unable to find something for us to unite around, attempt to look modern by endlessly embracing “difference”. And our children are left, indeed are encouraged, to look inside their bodies for meaning, identity and liberation. This is truly Scotland’s shame.
Stuart Waiton is a senior lecturer in sociology at the University of Abertay