Men and women are different. These differences are inborn, exist on a continuum, but there are some pretty hard stops, not least with our sexual organs.
Trangenders have been fighting to get the same positive treatment gays have obtained, namely, the right to do was they will and to be accommodated in their beliefs by the broader society. But something is peculiar. What does it mean to be transgendered, if all the trappings of femaleness–femininity, attraction to men, psychological and physical characteristics–are all debatable. Meaning, what does it mean to “feel” female, in a world where femaleness has no intrinsic content. In other words, transgenders purport to feel the opposite of their sexual identity, but what does this feeling mean outside of a reference to universal and preexisting notion of what it means to be a man or woman. This too is under attack by the same sexual revolutionary thinking that brought us the transgender and gay rights movements. The “define yourself as you will” concept has no intrinsic meaning; one could be a transexual and a lesbian, at the same time. Or a heterosexual transsexual. And a million other permutations.
There are other characteristics that also appear immutable–racial background, age, physical appearance, nationality, and intellectual endowment–that seems also in the crosshairs. And an education system founded on the aggressive assertion of one’s individual will that is indifferent to some notion of “objective reality” has few weapons to resist. At its heart, the whole concept behind transgenderism is a denial of basic reality, which will swallow transgenderism whole eventually, because transgenderism depends on the same philosophical error–nominalism–that does not allow one to say what male and female is, and thus what anyone means if he says, “I am transgendered.”
Normal people, until recently, understood good sense and psychological health both as an adaptation of one’s beliefs to the objective reality of what is around him, which they took as a given. You called a horse a horse, and a tree a tree, and you understand, as you matured, finer gradations, such as that zebras are like horses in some ways and different in others. Whether digital, mechanical, or otherwise, you knew all watches had something in common, and that the class of watches included both, both excluded Big Ben for example.
So what of transgender? It reduces one’s male or femaleness to a preference, an opinion. But an opinion about what exactly, since it presupposed male and femaleness as objective categories in some sense, but not in others. Namely they mean something, but the transgender advocates says you can adopt them at will and take some parts and discard others. But why not take this approach to other socially relevant characteristics, hitherto assumed to be imparted by an objective reality which one aimed to understand and conform oneself to.
Why could one not say, for example, that a grown man is not a child? Or that a child is not a grown man? Much of our law is built on the adult and child distinction, for example. Like gender, it also has aspects of a continuum, but is highly relevant for distinctions of legal consent for both contracts and sexual relations, as well as other concerns, rights, and obligations.
Proponents of the rights of transgenders would say those cases are obviously different. And, while they are different, they are not obviously so, and may not be for much longer. Because in both cases opponents of the new trend can only point in protest to an objective reality and social necessity as important checks on the right of an individual to “define himself.” That is, nature defines in some measure childhood, race, nation, family origin, and much else. Indeed, gender seems the easier case. It’s variable where childhood begins and ends in different cultures and historical epochs, but men and women are quite different, and it’s rather obviously so; a man in a dress is not a woman, not matter how much he wishes it so. His genetic code says otherwise for starters, as does his anatomy, which can only superficially resemble the female if it is mutilated.
At the heart of the transgender movement is a fundamental philosophical error pointed out by Richard Weaver, namely, the nominalism first espoused by William of Ockham. Ockham, well known for his razor, basically denied the possibility of universals, which he considered philosophically unnecessary. The problem with this viewpoint is that it in a sense denies the possibility of either reality or knowledge; without some ability to abstract and categorize and recognize the way things are the same or different in reference to some universals–male and female, self and other, father and child, reality and opinion about reality–every datum is just one damn thing after another, an incoherent mess, a plaything for the will and preference of the observer.
Liberalism with its ipse dixit notions of rights and its purported universal rights is on a shaky foundation philosophically. In addition to its troubles with men and women, it cannot reliably say what is man (as in human), and how he is distinct from animals. And it cannot say why rights are not mere preferences and persuasive ways of saying, “I want something,” because its non-universal notions of mankind do not include an appraisal of an immutable nature, which transgenderism denies in one of its important particulars. Some liberals of the Enlightenment traditions will posit man has reason and freedom, but these too are contingent notions, and are under attack by animal rights activists and certain voices in the realm of psychology, who argue that free will itself is an illusion.
Far from being a sign of enlightenment and progress, the transgenderism view is just one more waypoint in the devolution of a healthy society. That devolution is precipitated by liberalism and philosophical nominalism. Both disavow man’s place in the universe in reference to a Transcendent God, whose existence colors our view of man’s nature, obligations, and range of choice.
The transgender movement is part of a broader unraveling of reality under the relentless logic of liberalism’s nondiscrimination principle, a principle that says distinctions itself are a type of wrong and violence, and everything must instead be a product of the liberated “free will” of individuals to “define themselves. But just as your right to swing your arm ends at your neighbor’s nose, your right to define yourself should end at objective reality. If not, why could I not define you as an insect or rat and exterminate you if you become inconvenient. Or, for that matter, and more likely in the near future, define child rape of the type promoted by NAMBLA as a fully consensual and beautiful expression of desires, which should be unmoored by any objective reality or limits. It’s coming, and, having rolled over on the transgender atrocity–extended now to young kids, whose desires, as interpreted by their parents are paramount–such a society would be able to do little more than shrug. After all, who is to say?