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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.
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 Though the bill was ultimately repealed, the damage had been done.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?”