Last month The New York Times published an article on the latest expansion of sexual identity among students at progressive universities in the United States. LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) no longer covers it, according to a handful of students who seem to have nothing better to do than reinvent themselves. “Generation LGBTQIA” want recognition for queer, intersex and asexual proclivities as well. According to the Times, this list by no means is final but continually being added to as students “move beyond the binary of male/female”, heterosexual/homosexual and reject the normal.
Most people are unaware of the inroads made by gender theory — the ideology that has produced “Generation LBGTQIA” — or of the dangers it presents. Part of the confusion lies in the fact that there are several different theories of gender each of which is based on a false understanding of the human person. The various theories — the gender perspective, gender identity and expression, and gender queer — are not logically consistent and are continually changing, making it difficult for those who try to critique them.
The term “gender” has become ubiquitous. The forms we routinely fill out, which previously asked for our sex, now asked for our gender. Most people assumed that gender was simply a polite synonym for sex – preferable since sex has a secondary meaning, namely as a shortened form for sexual intercourse. But those pushing the use of “gender” did not do so out of an over-scrupulous sense of propriety, for them gender and sex are not synonyms.
In the past, sex referred to the totality of what it meant to be a man or a woman, and gender was a grammatical term – some words had gender – masculine, feminine, or neuter. However, in the 1950s, John Money, who was on the staff at Johns Hopkins University, promoted the idea that sexual identity could be broken down into its constituent parts: DNA, hormones, internal and external sexual organs — and gender, the sex that the person identified with. He argued that a person could be one sex physically, but identify with the other. Money promoted so-called sex change operations, in which men who believed they had the brain of a woman were surgically altered to resemble women. When Dr. Paul McHugh took over at Johns Hopkins, he commissioned a study into the outcome of these supposed sex changes and, finding that they did not address the underlying psychopathology of the clients, discontinued the practice. Unfortunately, other hospitals continued to perform this mutilating surgery.
Money also pushed the idea that if a baby boy were born with deformed genitals, he could be castrated and raised as a girl and he would never know the difference. In other words, one’s sense that one was a man or a woman was socially constructed by the way people treated you. However, studies done on these boys raised as girls found that many of them rejected the reassignment and demanded the right to live as males, even without intact genitals. In 2006 a book by John Colapinto, As nature Made Him, exposed Money as a fraud who covered up the failure of his most famous case and abused the boys brought to him for help.
The rest of this article describes some of the main developments in gender theory.
Mainstreaming the gender perspective
Before Money’s theories had been publicly discredited however, Marxist-influenced feminists combined his concept of gender as socially constructed roles with the idea that all history is the history of class struggle. According to their theory, the first class struggle was between men and women, and women were the first oppressed class. If Money were correct and the differences between men and women were not natural, but the result of socially constructed gender roles imposed by an oppressive patriarchy, then the way to eliminate the oppression of women was to eliminate all differences between men and men. This would be achieved by mainstreaming a gender perspective under which every societal recognition of the difference between men and women would be eradicated, and quotas imposed so that men and women would participate in every social activity in statistically equal numbers and receive statistically equal power and rewards. Any deviation from absolute statistical equality would be regarded as evidence of sexist discrimination.
While equality of rights, equal treatment under the law, equal opportunity, equal education, and equal access to social goods are admirable goals, men and women do differ. If allowed to act freely, they will not arrive at absolute equality. Given freedom, a percentage of women will choose to make motherhood their primary vocation, either leaving the workforce to devote themselves to their children or choosing jobs which allow them more time with their families. Thus, fewer women will participate in the paid work and a percentage of those who do will work shorter hours in less demanding fields and in the aggregate receive lower wages. Gender feminists were well aware of this and pressured governments to institute policies which would force women out of the home and into the workforce. Behind the gender perspective are anti-motherhood policies that are fundamentally anti-woman, anti-child, and anti-family.
Gender feminism has been strongly influenced by women involved in same-sex relationships. The denial of the natural differences between men and women leads to a redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples and the promotion of adoption by same-sex couples. If, as the these radicals argue, all differences between men and women are artificial constructs, imposed by an oppressive patriarchal society then why should same-sex relationships be treated differently? However, if men and women are different, if motherhood is fundamentally different from fatherhood, if children need a mother and a father, then a multitude of reason exist to privilege marriage between a man and a woman.
Gender expression and gender identity
Recently, those pushing the gender agenda have pressured governments to add the concepts of “gender identity” and “gender expression” to anti-discrimination laws. They argue that while sex is “assigned” to a baby on the basis of observation of its genitals, some people do not accept this designation. For example, a biologically male may argue that, while he has a man’s body, he believes he has a woman’s brain. He may want his body surgically altered to resemble that of a woman or simply to dress as a woman. He may demand that his birth certificate and other documents be changed and that he be allowed to marry a man. Things are more complex, however. Some of the men who have been surgically altered to resemble women are still sexually attracted to women and claim to be lesbians. Some of the “transgendered” may want to be accepted as the other sex even without surgical alterations
In the past, persons who wanted to be or thought they actually were the other sex, or who rejected the clothing and interests of their own sex and adopted that of the other sex, were considered to be suffering from gender identity disorder (GID). Recently, this designation has been dropped by the American Psychiatric Association in favor of “gender dysphoria”, reflecting the idea that there is nothing wrong with wanting to be the other sex so long as it doesn’t make you unhappy, and that if society’s refusal to pretend you are the other sex makes you unhappy then society has to change. Including gender identity and expression language in anti-discrimination laws would essentially prohibit people from refusing to pretend that people have changed their sex.
While the gender feminists fought to eliminate everything they considered a stereotype, the transgendered frequently adopt clothing and behavior which reflects narrow stereotypical concepts, almost caricatures, of what it means to be a man or a woman. Some of those who go through so-called sex changes try to wipe out their pasts and pretend they have always been the sex they want to be. However, many find this continual deception difficult to sustain. Rejection of the reality of one’s sexual identity and the pursuit of mutilating surgery suggests a severe psychological disorder. It is neither charitable nor required for others to go along with the pretence of sex change.
“GenderQueer” is an ideology founded on a rebellion against all restrictions on identity, behavior, and sexual activity. The GenderQueer claim a right to present themselves as male, female, or neither and to change their identity at any time and to have sex with persons of either sex. Riki Wilchins, author of GenderQueer: Voices from beyond the sexual binary, “Gender is the new frontier: the place to rebel, to create new individuality and uniqueness, to defy old, tired, outdated social norms, and, yes, to occasionally drive their parents and sundry other authority figures crazy.” According to the New York Times article cited earlier, the progressive universities are catering to this rebellion. For example, Jack (born Judith) Halberstam a transgender professor at University of Southern California, is the author of Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal. Society is under no obligation to encourage such rebellion against reality.
While those promoting gender theory insist that gender identity is different from sexual orientation, the two are linked. Sexual orientation describes persons based on whom they are sexually attracted to — their own sex, the other sex, or both (bisexual). Persons with same sex attraction (SSA) are among the most outspoken spokesmen for the various theories of gender. Many, but not all persons with SSA experienced gender identity disorder as children and many continue to imitate the other sex in clothing or behavior. They feel that they have been discriminated against because they do not conform to gender norms. They also oppose “heteronormality” — the belief that heterosexuality is the norm and any other combination is abnormal.
A small percentage of persons with SSA decide to pursue so-called sex change surgery. For example, a growing number of masculine-identifying women in same-sex relationships have opted for breast removal and male hormone injections. This and the increase in men who, after being surgically altered to resemble women, are still sexually attracted to women and therefore claim that they are lesbians, has lead to conflict within feminist ranks. Some of their events are limited to women, born as women and living as women.
Gender theory in whatever form it takes is a denial of the reality of sexual difference. Those who have adopted the theory into their lives are in rebellion against their own nature, which leads to feelings of alienation. Rather than recognize that their theory is fatally flawed, they denounced anyone who defends reality as a “homophobe”, “heterosexist” or a “bigot”. They demand that those who speak the truth about marriage, family, motherhood and the needs of children be silenced.
We need not surrender to this bullying. We have a right to point out the inadequacies and inconsistencies in their theory of gender. A first step towards exposing its errors is never to say “gender” when we mean “sex”.
Dale O’Leary is a US writer with a special interest in psychosexual issues and is the author of two books: One Man, One Woman and The Gender Agenda. She blogs at What Does The Research really Say?