The Fallacy of the Slippery Slope in the Gender Wars
If we allow the slippery slope to rule our decision-making process, we'd become unable to make any decisions at all.
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All too often we hear the well-worn phrase: “If we never let X happen, then we wouldn’t be in the situation we are now.” This lament is frequently invoked in reference to the dominant cultural issues of the moment. Today, it’s common to see in the heated debate surrounding gender ideology being pushed on children. However, this is far from the first time we’ve seen this type of argument being used, and it comes in two forms: there are those who yearn for a return to a simpler, supposedly better time, and then there are those who warn that if we allow one thing to happen, then something far worse will follow. The problem with this argument, however, is that it is predicated upon uncertainty.
As I have previously noted, much of the current trans debate can be traced back to 2016, when gay marriage was legalized. Activists in the LGB&T community suddenly found themselves without a cause célèbre, until Charlotte, North Carolina, passed a Self-ID bathroom bill, to which the State responded by passing the first-ever bathroom bill. Though the bill was ultimately repealed, the damage had been done. Democrats in Charlotte had created a problem and provided a solution, even though no one had previously required a law to tell them where to use the restroom. People who identified as transgender had used bathrooms based on their presentation, and there was never much of an issue. This was the beginning of the current gender wars.
Except it wasn’t.
In reality, third-wave feminists had been fighting to integrate transwomen into feminism since the early 1990s, when Queer Theory first emerged in gender studies courses. When we inexorably tie the emergence of gender activism with the with the legalization of same-sex marriage, we ignore the fact that the trans revolution was already underway and assume that Charlotte would not have done the same thing had same-sex marriage remained illegal.
The issue with relying on the slippery slope argument to justify a position is that it necessitates the belief that refraining from doing something one believes to be morally right is justified because it might lead to something bad. But how far back must we go to determine where the slope began and when it became too steep? If we allow the slippery slope to rule our decision-making process, we would become completely paralyzed and unable to make any decisions at all. And this paralysis could, ironically, also have negative down-slope consequences. Many issues are multifaceted, and the transgender debate is no different.
Some people attribute the prominence of the trans community to the legalization of same-sex marriage, while others (not me) argue that it was women’s suffrage that paved the way. The latter slope works like this: women secured the right to vote through first-wave feminism, then were allowed into the workforce, which led to the teaching of gender studies/feminism in universities, where Queer Theory emerged in the early 1990s. In 2013, the same gender studies courses redefined “transsexual” to “transgender,” and in 2015, the Self-ID bathroom bill in Charlotte sparked the latest fight for LGBT (now adding the Q) rights and launched the fourth wave of feminism. So, for those forwarding the slippery slope argument, where should we stop? And was it feminism or gay rights that dragged trans issues into the spotlight?
I am in favor of gay marriage, so long as the state has a role on marriage in general, as well as equal rights for women. We cannot prevent ourselves from doing what we believe is right based on the fear that something worse might happen as a result. As a libertarian, I view many issues through the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) and private property rights. With limited government, we do not have to worry about the slippery slope because society will naturally find the necessary corrections and solutions. Without government involvement in marriage, the topic of gay marriage would never have been up for debate.
I believe that lawsuits for medical malpractice, which violate the NAP, will be much more effective in addressing the wrongful medicalization of children than legislation. This is because lawsuits remove incentives for doctors to “do harm.” This approach may be particularly effective in states where laws are unlikely to ever change.
The sexualization of children being done by some under the banner of the LGBT community is another issue. Critics of gay marriage used to argue that allowing same-sex couples to get married would lead to pedophiles infiltrating the “love is love” community by construing their fetish as a sexuality. This has always been an argument against allowing homosexuals from living their lives in peace, and a weak one at that. For instance, the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), founded in 1978, attempted to insert themselves in the LGBT community, but was staunchly rejected by the community. Pedophiles rebranding themselves as Minor Attracted Persons (MAPs) is not going to work either. Love is not love when it involves a child; it is rape. Current attempts to normalize pedophilia are encountering the same opposition as the first time they tried to infiltrate.
In the end, we must evaluate each step and each argument individually. If a person is not harming anyone else with their actions and decisions, that should be their right. While we may disagree with the choices that adults make for themselves, we must also acknowledge that children lack the cognitive ability to make such consequential decisions. We must not fall into the trap of believing that depriving gay individuals of the right to marry will prevent the medicalization or sexualization of minors. Only addressing these issues one at a time as a society will.
The critical question must always be, “is this the right thing to do?,” not “will this lead to something bad?”
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The real focal point should be the moment when a falsehood is propagated by the psychiatric and medical establishment as a truth, to a degree that it becomes accepted universally, and creates a cascading chain of directly observable damage. Ideally then the origin of the lie is obscured so that the lie and the damage cannot be connected.
In the case of sex and gender, and gender fluidity and “gender reassignment” the foundational lie was in a single event, the claim that the gender reassignment at infancy of David Reimer was successful. In 1966 his penis was accidentally severed during circumcision at 22 months (a treatment for phimosis, or extremely tight foreskin) and subsequently his testicles were amputated the advice of Dr John Money who asserted that his gender could be “re-assigned” to female separate from his sex, and all would be well. In 1972 the book “Man and Woman, Boy and Girl” became a college textbook on the subject including the Reimer experiment and lie, setting the stage for a dissemination of the pseudoscience of theoretical multi-focal sex categorization:
1) assigned sex and sex of rearing
2) genital morphology
3) internal reproductive structures
4) hormonal and secondary sex characteristics
5) gonadal sex
6) chromosomal sex
In reality the childhood surgical intervention was a complete failure. Reimer, who had an intact twin brother, halted all intervention after puberty as he went into suicidal depression. At that stage “treatment” included cross-sex hormone therapy, which resulted in feminization and breast development. Reimer then chose to live as a male, going through additional surgery to remove breasts. He became married and had adopted children, but the trauma he was exposed to was too much for both him and his twin brother, who was enlisted in grotesque “gender” behavior therapy as children. In the early 2000’s his brother died of suicide, and David followed not long after.
Dr. Money generally refused to discuss the matter, though it was central to the “theoretical” underpinning of the pseudo-science of gender studies.
The ideas became immediately applied to intersex children, with routine surgical genital mutilation in infancy and early childhood undertaken to “correct” genital structure and “assign” them a gender for life. Protests of the practice began escalating as these mutilated children became adults and demanded the right to choose how they would live and present themselves when adults without forced surgical manipulation.
Th 2000’s of course would be when when clinical psychiatrists, psychologists and practitioners of gender studies, who were first exposed to the lie in their clinical training in the 70’s and 80’s, would be becoming leaders and applying the falsehoods of gender fluidity and separation of gender, sex, and so on to vulnerable populations, including as a logical consequence childhood surgical and chemical interventions to “correct” perceived “imbalance”
So we have in Dr Money/Reimer the model. An unethical researcher experimenting on infants surgically in the late 60’s, propagating the abject failure as a success; training of well-meaning professionals; becoming a unquestioned standard in clinical settings; a wake of pain, despair and suicide; protests by those affected to stop. Slow realization that the process is “experimental”, and that intervention is both unnecessary and damaging.
Until the medical and psychiatric establishment formally rejects the theory, and practice of “gender reassignment” in children, and expunges it from training and literature, and as well “gender studies” acknowledges a foundation of lies, grotesque surgical mutilation and emotional and physical abuse, there is no reason to assert anything else but that the practice, as applied to children, is anything else but sex abuse. Tavistock and it’s shuttering is merely the beginning of the expungement. The issue has to be rejected at its root, in the discredited “theories” of Money and his cohorts.
When a so-called "slippery slope argument" consists of saying that doing X makes Y more likely, I do not think that's any fallacy (eg: automatically invalid); it's just an assertion which could be right or wrong. We've seen that play out in our lives. Calling it a slippery slope "fallacy" in this case is sloppy reasoning at best. (Akin to those who speak of an "arguing from false authority fallacy" implying that we should never consult knowledgeable people, when the actual fallacy is "arguing from *false* authority".
When a "slippery slope argument" asserts that doing X automatically or always leads to Y, it's very likely on shaky grounds. That's a proper thing to question.
Of course, there remains the possibility of a strawman argument in this, by treating the first case (that doing X affects the probability of doing Y) as if the speaker had asserted the second case (that X always leads to Y), so that it's easier to attack then the real assertion.
I would take a less absolutist approach - if there are rational reasons to think that doing X substantially increases the probability of Y and Y is bad, then doing X could be unwise even if in itself it has little or no harm. That's going to be a case by case evaluation; I don't think blanket decisions based on unanchored abstractions are very useful. We need more information before deciding about a specific situation.
As an example, I think that if Black reparations are implemented by Federal or State government, it's pretty near certain that there will be strong pressure for ever more future reparations demanded for other historical wrongs. It's not inevitable, but highly likely. (Of course, the stirring for other reparations are already out there in academic and activist circles, but not yet as mainstream as Black reparations). I believe that in cases like these, there may be a legitimate slipper slope risk, as the current reparations movement constantly cites past reparations for support. Of course, the cited examples like the Japanese internment in WWII, were for smaller numbers of people who were themselves interned and for smaller sums ($20K vs $200K-$5M+). If Black reparations are paid, other groups will want to stretch the concept even further, and demand at least as much money, as the latest "precedent". That's a slippery slope.
As it happens, however, I would tend to agree with the author in regard to something like same sex marriage; I do not see that as strongly leading to today's gender mess. The major themes of "gay marriage" were that LGB people are mostly very similar to heterosexual people and that their unions deserve the same respect as heterosexual unions. There's no need to invoke post modernism, critical theory, or queer theory to make that case (and some of those would spurn the institution of marriage for anybody). Gay marriage was about expanding normalacy to bring in people who want to join in ways that are very compatible (in my view) and cause no institutional damage - rather than about trying to undermine and destroy normalacy (as queer theory advocates).
I do think our culture has made a wrong turn, but it's more about many (particularly within the college educated elites) adopting Critical Social Justice (CSJ) ideology (which seeks to overthrow liberalism), as their guiding light, than about legalizing gay marriage, which fits well with traditional liberalism.
I don't think we need to unravel every liberal initiative (like gay marriage) in order to have a saner society, but there could be some we need to deconstruct. Ah, needing the wisdom to tell which is which.