The other day I was watching a Triggernometry interview with Arielle Scarcella – it was called “Trans ideology is the new homophobia”. One of the things I found fascinating about it was the way that a lesbian woman could be called transphobic, simply because she prefers a “real” woman to a transwoman.
Everyone in the interview agreed that gay rights were a good thing – e.g. the fact that same-sex marriage is a good thing was taken as axiomatic. But there was also a general idea that things had gone ‘too far’, in particular the erasure of biological sex.
What I want to do in this piece is argue that the problems we see today with transgender and the erasure of biological sex actually originate with the gay rights movement. In particular, I think the gay rights movement has a very uncomfortable decision to make over the coming months.
Let me explain.
What is real? Pt 1 – Homosexuality
First things first, let’s think about what constitutes reality. (You may think that’s a silly question, but I like silly questions, and the point of this will become clear in a moment).
A key tenet of the gay rights movement is that reality is defined by our inward desires, not our physical bodies. Scientists have not managed to find a ‘gay gene’, for example – and it’s not because they haven’t been looking! We are complex beings, and there are probably many things which contribute to our sexual preferences. This may explain why, according to some surveys, over half of LGB people identity as bisexual.
The point is that our sexuality is not something which is binary (as in our biological sex); it is often complex, fluid, and depends on one’s own preferences. It may even change day-by-day. Many people experience their sexual attraction as something fixed (e.g. being attracted persistently only to members of the same sex); many people do not.
Why is this significant? When it comes to homosexuality, the key thing is that one’s desires are primary. Your body, in essence, is simply a vehicle for fulfilling your own desires. It doesn’t matter that our bodies are designed for male-female sexual intimacy. That is irrelevant: all that matters is that one’s desire for sexual intimacy with a particular kind of person.
So, inner desire wins out over biological function – you could say, inner desire is constitutive of reality.
You may be able to see where we are going here.
What is real? Pt 2 – Transgender
One of the axioms of the transgender movement has become the quote “gender is between your ears and not between your legs”. This is a product of thinking whereby gender is a social construct: being biologically male or female has very little to do with being a gendered man or woman.
Gender is now essentially how you decide that you want to be. In fact, given the proliferation of gender identities (according to one website there are 68 gender identities including “feminine-of-center”, “third gender”, and “two-spirit”), one could say that gender identity has turned into personal preference on steroids!
But the key thing, once again, is that inner desire is constitutive of reality. One’s desire to be a man or woman (or two-spirit, or whatever it may be) overrides the biological fact of being male or female. Your body is simply a conduit to express whatever you feel inside.
A conflict was inevitable
A conflict was therefore inevitable between gay rights and trans rights. Fundamentally, they both argue that personal preference or desire should take priority over biological reality in some sense. The only difference between them is that gay rights stop with sexual preference, whereas transgender rights cross over into gender identity. But both of them take you away from biological reality. Unfortunately, the way they take you away from biology brings them into conflict: the only question was when, not if, they would conflict.
Answering an objection
One objection which could be raised at this point is that gay rights don’t actually deny the reality of biological sex. This is a point that Arielle Scarcella makes in the interview above – she basically said she wanted a woman, not a transwoman.
I agree that gay rights activists are not denying biology in this respect: they do not deny the reality of biological sex. However, they are denying the reality of biological function at some level – the fact that male and female bodies are obviously designed for sexual intimacy together. Only a man and woman are capable of reproducing – that’s simply a basic biological fact.
All transgender activists are doing is taking their argument one step further. The transgender activists of today would not have been able to get their foot in the door if it hadn’t started with gay rights.
Is there a solution?
Is there a way to square the circle? It looks like the LGBT movement is eating itself, and I can’t see it getting better anytime soon.
I think gay rights activists would like to simply roll back the clock a few years to when we believed in both gay marriage and biological sex. But I believe this is chasing a unicorn: it was always going to be an unstable arrangement which wouldn’t last.
In my opinion, the only way this is going to be resolved is by acknowledging biological reality – it’s the only solid thing which we have to go on. However, that will cut across both transgender and gay rights.
As I said in a previous post, gay marriage ended up effectively denying the biological reality that only a man and a woman can conceive a child together. There is something unique about the relationship between a man and a woman which is written into the fabric of biology, and it is a truth which societies throughout history have acknowledged.
Perhaps the solution is one which is going to be deeply unpopular and unpalatable to our society – to acknowledge that there is something fundamental about biological sex, and that this is applicable to relationships as well as gender.
If you’d like to read a good book about the importance of our bodies from a Christian perspective, check out Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcey.