Trans warriors need to put down their weapons Douglas Murray in The Times 27.08.20
The original article is here.
Earlier this week Sasha White was fired from her job working at a literary agency in New York. Her offence was writing comments on Twitter that the Tobias Literary Agency deemed anti-trans. As it happens Ms White would appear to be rather pro-trans. “Gender non-conformity is wonderful,” she says in her Twitter bio, “denying biological sex not so.” It is that second clause that got her into trouble.
It has been extraordinary watching the trans debate play out over recent years. But too rarely does anyone stop to acknowledge the underlying causes. I have tried to perform some of this delicate surgery in my own recent book. Happily, more and more people are doing the same. Notably the neuroscientist Dr Debra Soh. Her new book, The End of Gender, lays out with exceptional care not just why we have got into the current impasse, but how we might get out of it.
As Soh says, the effort to turn sex into gender and gender into some endlessly mellifluous thing is an attempt to contend with a real question. Nearly every culture has some space for between-the-sexes people: the fa’afafine in Samoa, the Kathoey in Thailand. In our own culture we have struggled with this because it has got tied up with another issue. There is now a wide societal embarrassment over the way in which gay people were treated in the past. One thing that followed from that has been a natural desire not to repeat the mistake. When gay people said that our preferences were not a choice, it took a long time to be believed. Today when trans people say they are born trans they are speaking to a highly receptive and sympathetic audience.
Turning sex into gender and gender into a “social construct” was one way to try to address our near-complete knowledge-deficit about what trans actually is. The problem is that it treads across some serious magisteria. Not least science.
My own realisation of this came when I started noticing that it was my scientist friends who were becoming most vocally nervous — in private — about where this was heading. Institutions at which they worked were demanding that they said things, and pretended to believe things, they knew not to be true.
For instance gametes exist and there are only two types: sperm cells and eggs. There are no intermediary gametes. Likewise, although rare chromosomal disorders such as Klinefelter syndrome occur, no self-respecting biologist can therefore agree that chromosomes are some figment of the heterosexual imagination. Soh herself left academia for the same reason many other scientists have been considering it: because this is the first time in their professional lives that they have been asked, indeed told, to ignore the scientific method. The first time in centuries that a dogma — religion if you will — has assumed precedence over their realm.
But the revolt is now on many fronts. The manner in which trans claims disrupt the rights of women is now understood thanks to some high-profile conflagrations. That is because the demands of trans are clearly so different from other rights movements. The successful branches of women’s liberation never insisted on ignoring biological reality entirely. They asked for equality, and demanded that certain realities were accepted but not ignored. And yet today when women, including very famous women, say “We’re happy for you to be trans but that doesn’t make you precisely the same thing as a woman” they find not just abuse but (as happened to Ms White this week) career destruction.
The same goes for gay people, who did not win their argument by saying “We’re here, we’re queer and as a result the penis is a social construct”. As the trans debate goes on there is increasing gay alarm at the claims made by trans activists about what they now term “trans children”. As the LGB Alliance and others are now trying to highlight, there exist not just old-fashioned gender stereotypes but something deeply anti-gay about current trans claims. For example, why should a slightly effeminate boy be thought to be a boy trapped in a girl’s body? Or a boyish girl be “diagnosed” as trans? At least four-fifths of children currently diagnosed as having “gender dysphoria” will grow up to be healthily gay. Is it any wonder that an increasing number of gay men and lesbians are becoming concerned about the claims made by advocates of gender dysphoria.
Despite all this, in the face of the revolt the trans activists keep digging in. And the absurdities mount. The Lib Dem leadership candidate Layla Moran recently tried to get around the impasse by claiming that she sees someone’s true gender “in their soul”. As the endless sackings and mobbings keep demonstrating, many people recognise that, among much else, to be anti-scientific nonsense.
Still, as the sackings continue, the activists seem to imagine that if they just clear all opponents from their path, they can win by insistence. Nothing could be further from the truth. Biological reality can be ignored, but not for long. Our society is struggling for a way to understand the question of trans. It is a noble aim. But if you are going to address a complex question it is unwise to discard the best analytical tools any society has developed. As Soh demonstrates, we can be humane and self-respecting, liberal-minded and respectful of the scientific method. A generation is emerging that is dedicated to that task. We must hope that they win.