Loving Those Caught in Gender Ideology: The Ethics and Metaphysics of Sexual Identity
Written by Ryan T. Anderson |
Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Children who feel deep discomfort with their bodily sex should be treated with kindness, respect, compassion, and love. They need to be protected from bullying, teasing, and any form of mistreatment. But they deserve to know the truth and to be guided to embrace the truth with whatever assistance we can give to help them feel comfortable with their bodies.
Every newborn child is either a boy or a girl, just as every human adult is either a man or a woman. This is a biological reality. Boy and girl, man and woman, are just the age-specific terms for human males and females. Sex for human beings, like all other mammalian species, is binary. And stable. Sex does not exist along a spectrum, nor is it fluid. That’s why activists use different words—gender, and gender identity—to make those claims.
But stick with sex for a moment. The reason we can confidently say that sex in humans (like other mammals) is binary and stable is because there are two ways of being organized for sexual reproduction. What do I mean by that? Organisms are organized. Human beings, like other organisms, are composed of parts—organs—that work together as an integrated unit (a whole or complete entity). The various organs perform various functions, but not in a haphazard or disorganized way. They are, rather, organized. All of us humans—male and female alike—are organized the same way when it comes to our respiratory system and the function of breathing, and our circulatory system and the function of pumping blood. But we are organized differently in one key respect—sexual reproduction. So when we say there are male and female human organisms—people—we are talking about two ways of being organized sexually—that is, in respect of sexual reproduction and the reproductive system.
Sex is not “assigned at birth,” nor at a twenty-week ultrasound. It is identified, that is, recognized, based on the organization of the organism. Sex—in terms of male and female—is determined by the organization of the organism for sexually reproductive functioning. So sex as a status—male and female—is a recognition of the organization of a body to reproduce in a certain way. More than simply being identified on the basis of such organization, sex is a coherent concept based—and based only—on that organization. The fundamental conceptual distinction between a male and a female is the organism’s organization for sexual reproduction.
Why say it’s binary and stable? It’s binary because there are only two types of sexual organization, and their component parts. There are two gametes, two genitals, two sets of reproductive organs, and two reproductive systems. That is, there is sperm and egg, penis and vagina, testicles and ovaries. There is no third genital, no third gonad, no third gamete, no third reproductive organ, no third reproductive system. That’s the binary. It’s stable—rather than fluid—because unlike some other species, the human being does not—indeed cannot—change sexes, morphing from male to female and vice versa. Nor do truly “intersex” people or “hermaphrodites” exist. Yes, there are disorders of sexual development, where someone may develop without a complete reproductive system and perhaps even with vestigial aspects of the other reproductive system, but these people truly are—and they know themselves to be—male or female—that is, their bodies are fundamentally organized for either the male or female role in procreation. Not both, not neither, and not somewhere in between. (For more on this, see Chapter 4 of When Harry Became Sally.)
“Gender Identity” is Gender Ideology
Of course disorders of sexual development are not what is driving modern transgender ideology. When you see someone appeal to so-called “intersex” conditions, it is a red-herring. What’s taking place today is not the question of how to identify sex in cases where it’s not fully formed and thus hard (at least early on) to classify. No, instead a new ideological framework is being imposed, one where sex is said to be merely “assigned at birth” and then something called “gender identity”—one’s inner sense of something called “gender”—determines one’s sex. On such a theory, there is no intrinsic meaning or importance to the sexed body. Instead, subjective feelings determine reality, so that all of us must adopt a “gender identity.” The end result is that identifying as a boy or a girl, or a man or a woman—or both, or neither, or somewhere in between—is what makes you a boy or a girl, a man or a woman—or both, neither, or somewhere in between. That’s the new dogma, rather than boys being immature human males, and men being mature human males; and girls being immature human females, and women being mature human females. We’ve moved from an objective recognition of reality to a subjective assertion of identity—and to ruthless demands that everyone affirms these identities.
But what could determine this so-called “gender identity” as an inner sense of “gender” distinct from sexual identity and bodily sex? The answer is simple: Social and cultural assumptions based on stereotypes. Stereotypes about how boys and girls, men and women, are supposed to behave, what they’re supposed to be interested in, how they’re supposed to look. Some claim that with “gender identity” there’s an inner truth that is “discovered” (and then asserted) while others say “gender” is a self-created “performance.” What is discovered or performed, however, will be the result of cultural assumptions. In this sense, “gender identity” is a social construct. And today, many new “gender identities” are an explicit rejection of the stable sex binary itself: hence the rise of non-binary identities. Indeed, increasingly it appears that many young women are just opting out—rejecting—their femaleness without any real sense of what it is they’re embracing.