Nonsequitur: The Central Question of Gender Identity
May 11, 2016
It seems to me that the fuss about who gets to use which bathrooms is more than just an argument over competing rights. It is an argument about how we know who we are. Is gender defined by the body or by the mind?
The conservative view is that gender is a physical trait. You are born with a specific gender. This gender is confirmed by society and by law. Unless you use science and technology to change that physical trait, that is your identity. (A few people have the physical trait of both genders. Generally, a medical procedure alters this condition soon after birth.)
The Progressive view is that gender is a psychological trait. You “identify” as a specific gender, or genders, or alternating genders. Regardless of your body, you decide what you are. Society and law have no say in this identification (although Progressives do want society and law to protect self-identification).
If gender is a psychological trait, one wonders about other identifiers. Is age a psychological trait? If I “identify” as older or younger than my physical age, what is my “real” age and how does that affect my right to certain age restrictions or benefits? If I was born 50 years ago, but I “identify” as 65, am I now eligible for Medicare? If I am only 16, but I “identify” as 18, can I vote? Is race a psychological trait? Regardless of the race of my parents, I may “identify” as Hispanic. Am I eligible for minority-targeted scholarships?
One suspects that Progressives would affirm that the mind does supersede the body. Progressives argue that despite being born out of the country and coming to the country without documentation, anyone who “identifies” as a citizen should be able to vote. Progressives also argue that marriage is defined by the individuals involved, not by society or tradition.
The irony of the Progressive view is that it sets up competing identification. Liberal policies have led to liberal laws that protect minority classes. These classes have been identified by physical characteristics. In this way, Affirmative Action, targeted scholarships, non-harassment laws, and other protective mechanisms only work if the traditional definition is applied.
Consider this case. Title IX protects students from gender discrimination. Largely, it has been used to strengthen women’s sports so that women athletes are given the same opportunities as male athletes. But if men can “identify” as women, they can compete in women’s sports. Most likely, given the size and speed advantages that most male athletes have, these men who “identify” as women will perform better, receive more play time, win team captain roles, and be awarded more scholarships. Women who want to play women’s sports will have been hurt, or discriminated against, by allowing male athletes to “identify” as female. (Here’s a real life example.)
Of course, the Progressive view undercuts rule of law. If society cannot identify individuals based on what is objectively seen and experienced, then laws cannot be enforced objectively. But Progressives, apparently, cannot be objective as they believe subjectivity defines reality.