Transgenderism as a metaphysical belief

From Commentary, and article by Sohrab Ahmari

The trans movement is asking Americans to accept and indeed to make their lives and their perceptions of reality conform to a set of extraordinary ideas based on very little debate. These claims are often put forth in the language of psychiatry and psychology, and they implicate the lives of real people, many of whom suffer genuine, sometimes unbearable anguish. Which good American can say no to the cries of a suffering minority, especially when they are amplified by scientific authority?

The science isn’t there yet, in point of fact. The case for accepting and advancing the cause of transgenderism is, at root, a radical philosophical argument—one that goes to the heart of what it means to be human. Accepting the trans movement’s argument requires us to lend credence to an extreme form of mind-matter dualism, and involves severing the links between bodily sex, gender identity, and erotic desire.

But first: What do the activists claim? If there is one unshakeable tenet, it is that gender identity and expression—a person’s self-concept as a gendered being and how that person outwardly manifests it—are different from the sex organs that have distinguished male from female since the emergence of the species. They argue that while a physician might “assign” a sex to a newborn, that label may well be at odds with the baby’s true gender. As the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) puts it in a guide for journalists, a transgender person is one “whose sex assigned at birth is different from who they know they are on the inside.”…

At the same time, the activists hold—and this is their second major tenet—that gender itself is largely a social construct, since it is society that labels various traits or characteristics “masculine” or “feminine.”…

The third tenet is that gender identity and sexual desire have nothing to do with each other. According to a model school-district transgender policy drawn up by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, sexual orientation is “a person’s romantic and/or physical attraction to people of the same or opposite gender or other genders. Transgender and gender nonconforming people may have any sexual orientation.” PFLAG likewise bifurcates gender identity and sexual preference: “It is important to note that gender identity neither relates to, nor determines, sexual orientation…. People who are transgender can also identify as gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, or queer….

Now we have the necessary elements to put together the vision of the human person offered by the trans movement. Each person has a strong innate sense of gender that, according to the activists, may or may not align with his or her physical sex. When the two don’t align, we are dealing, in essence, with brains or minds that are trapped in bodies with the wrong sex organs.2 It is incumbent on the rest of us, then, to recognize the “true” self that is so trapped and help it break free from the prison of the body.

This is a profoundly metaphysical, even spiritual, vision.

See the rest of the article. As usual, a few minutes of clear thought is enough to skewer the pretensions of folly.

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