One of the great things about being human is that we can change, adapt, grow, and otherwise alter the malleable aspects of who we are. At the same time, we are defined to some extent by what we’re born with. Autism, gender, skin color, even the built-in genetic code for how tall you can get…there are so many things that appear to be unchangeable.
Then people argue about whether or not they actually are, and we find thousands of other factors that may or may not influence the outcome of a certain trait. Your diet affects how tall you actually grow, for example, while the severity of autism appears to be affected by a large variety of different things depending on the individual. But there’s still a maximum height set by genetics, and someone whose autistic symptoms are reduced still has autism.
Humans are incredibly complex little beings who really want to figure themselves out, and we don’t seem to be doing a great job of it. Take gender and sex. Some say gender is decided from the beginning and is the same as biological sex. Some say gender and sex are two different things and they can either match or not, but they’re still fixed. Some say gender is fluid.
Today I read a new article from Matt Walsh in which he rants about the evil, self-contradictory “progressives” who support trans people and their right to change their bodies. Of course, in true Walsh style, he contradicts himself and misrepresents the beliefs of those he is attacking.
First, he displays an appalling ignorance regarding sex change surgery and entirely ignores that hormone therapy changes the body physically. He berates Fallon Fox for “pretending to be a woman” because “he” wants to beat up women. Then Walsh compares MMA fighting to domestic violence–but only because Fox was born male. Perhaps he’s really trying to say that all MMA fighting is morally wrong, whether it’s a man beating up a man, or a woman beating up a man, or a transgender woman beating up a woman. Or, in the case of the one fight that Fox has lost, a woman beating up a transgender woman. But it seems more likely that he just wants an angle for bashing trans people. So he ignores the fact that MMA fighters accept the risk of injury and fight voluntarily, and therefore the situation has nothing in common with domestic violence whether or not the fighters are or were opposite genders. He assumes that since Fox was born male, she has an unfair physical advantage in female MMA fighting. Never mind that a lot of the women in such sports have “unfair” physical advantages like…being stronger than the average woman. Never mind that Fox was beaten by a woman once out of six total fights. Never mind that Fox has had hormone therapy for eight years which has reduced muscle mass and changed her body extensively.
So as usual, Mr. Walsh starts off with a hopelessly flawed premise and a plan to attack his progressive enemies. He’s fueled by a lack of understanding of how humans work…which is understandable. We can only act on what we know, and we know very little. But perhaps it would be better to act on the knowledge that we know very little, instead of on the very little knowledge we do have. If you are a computer programmer, and your friend is having a heart attack, you would not act on whatever limited knowledge you have of medicine and try to perform open heart surgery. You would act on the knowledge that you do not know how to perform surgery, and you would call for an ambulance.
Some will argue that trans people have a mental disorder, and that a sex change is not a valid treatment, but they have no idea what it’s like to be in that situation. They’re acting on a tiny bit of knowledge about something they do not understand, like the computer programmer performing heart surgery. And many of them will define your gender by the genitalia you were born with. But if the physical is what defines gender, then you’d expect them to agree that if someone is born male and has surgery to change their body to female, they’re no longer male. Instead we find them stubbornly insisting that the person is male, as if how you were decades ago as a baby defines you better than how you are now. They are, in fact, claiming that gender is inherent in your mind regardless of your body–just like those dreaded progressives do–but then contradicting themselves by arguing that it must match your physical sex. And if you disagree, you’re screwed up and need your brain fixed.
Part of the confusion across enemy lines here is that both sides are using gender to mean different things. The main definition of gender these days is “the state of being male or female, typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones.” Simple evolution of words has separated “gender” from “sex” for the purpose of separating inherent, mostly black-and-white traits (sex) from those aspects of gender that are not essential for being defined as male or female.
The easiest way to understand this is with clothing. If you wear a dress, the “gender” of your clothing, and by extension your presence, is considered female…in other words, you are presenting as feminine. This extends to mental traits–being emotional, thinking literally vs. figuratively, enjoying conflict, etc.–because we have realized there is no distinguishable difference between male and female brains. You can be biologically male while having none of the mental attributes associated with being male. Most people fall somewhere along a spectrum, with people like me thinking and acting about 75% like the socially constructed idea of a woman, and 25% like the socially constructed idea of a man.
That’s what we call the gender spectrum. Are you more like the stereotypical woman or the stereotypical man? This usage of stereotypes to create a spectrum that defies stereotypes is why people like Matt Walsh accuse progressives of being contradictory. If gender is a socially constructed idea, then how is someone born with a gender they can’t change? Why can a boy think he’s a girl in the wrong body?
The way that you look, act, feel, and basically everything that makes you who you are, is held against the social expectations for someone with your body. If you don’t match those expectations at all, you might feel that internally you are not the same gender as your sex. Most conservatives think this is because you are messed up, that you have a mental disorder. But what if it’s not a disorder at all? What if it’s simply a different way of being? There would be no problem with it except that society tells you it’s a problem. When a boy prefers feminine clothes, society tells him “that’s a girl thing”…it’s inherent in the term feminine. And since it’s a deep and important part of who he is, he thinks “okay, then maybe I’m a girl inside.”
Maybe he would never think that if we didn’t all but tell him he’s a girl.
You were born a baby, but that changes. If you are six feet tall, you can’t be identified as a short person just because you used to be two feet tall. Our bodies and our minds change. Maybe even sex and gender can change. The argument about “I was born this way” is, perhaps, a pointless argument on both sides. You don’t stay how you were when you were born, so why should it define you now? There’s a line somewhere between the absolute fixed genetics and the traits we can alter, but we don’t know where that line is. You can argue all you want that gender isn’t a mental understanding of yourself but rather a physical thing, or you can argue the opposite.
Perhaps it would be better to let people define themselves as they are in the present. We’re not all out to get you and your precious religion too, Mr. Walsh. It’s not all about tearing down those who are different…or it shouldn’t be. But if you can’t stop fighting, don’t expect your opposition to stop either. Someone needs to stop, because that’s the only way to break the cycle, and there are a few people like me who are trying. But when you paint all liberals and progressives as mentally disturbed, psychotic, evil, and so on, most of them will end up doing exactly what you are doing, exactly what you want them to stop doing…all because of you. You want that to change? People can change, and you can be a catalyst by changing yourself.