As definitions of ‘gender identity’ progressed, they became circular, vague, and often contradictory. Now, it’s morphed into something even more protean and slippery.
This is great, thanks.
For the life of me, I can never understand why one has to accept gender theory to believe that people--however they identify--deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. If adults want to alter their bodies with drugs and surgery, go ahead! I'll use their chosen names and pronouns, invite them to parties, patronize their businesses and advocate for their rights to housing and employment and the other privilegs of equal citizenship. They may have some beliefs about gender that I don't get, but then again LOTS of people in my life have beliefs I don't share. I'm an atheist but two of my closest friends are devout Catholics, and I wouldn't give up their friendship for anything.
Part of living in a pluralistic society is accepting that, although we may not all hold the same beliefs, we all deserve justice, tolerance, and the space to live as fully as we can.
Unfortunately, it's just been announced that the Governor of Massachusetts, Maura Healey, (who otherwise seemed to be a good Governor) decided to institute a new curriculum for sex education in public schools. This curriculum was designed to "update" the topic to include "gender identity" introducing the topic starting in kindergarten. I wonder if she's being pressured by the Trans Terrorists to capitulate to their agenda or face constant obstacles and attacks on her policies. It's imaginable the mental and emotional havoc it will cause 4 to 14 year olds to suggest that they might not really know what their actual identity and role in life is! The youngest being devoid of any experience to judge what is or isn't possible and the adolescents struggling with the upheaval and stress of puberty. What could go wrong?!
Good and helpful article, but you have an error in the text: "Kids now learn about gender identity at school, and read books about kids, like Jazz Jennings, who had 'a girl body but a boy brain'." You have that backwards. It is stated correctly in the illustration -- Jazz claimed to have a girl brain in a boy's body.
Excellent synopsis of where we're at. Thank you, Lisa.
Reading a book on Blue Zones... where people tend to live longer lives. One of the components is the low stress of cultural harmony. The knowing of self... who am I and what is my purpose.
The gender identity mess today is just a sub project in the larger project from two power-seeking cabals. One is the collection of socioeconomic and cultural malcontents, or left radicals, that always exist and are always trying to deconstruct the system that they cannot figure out how to integrate with. The other is the wealthy, elite managerial class that has almost everything but cannot control its driving greed to want more and more and more. Together they form a bizarre partnership with a shared interest and commitment to injecting chaos and conflict into society... even though both have different expected outcomes that are fantastically irrational.
The left radicals are involved in pushing change that will ultimately reduce their opportunities for socioeconomic achievement. If they wreck the system some might feel better about themselves by comparison, and some might ascend to greater positions of status in the increased administrative state... but most will be more miserable.
The moneyed elite will also suffer. Some will ascend in a greater corporatocracy married to the global administrative power that takes over, but most will find their paths to economic and social status opportunity depleted.
And on top of these negative long-term outcomes the chaos being pushed into society, the woke ideology that rejects traditions of gender, family, etc.. is reducing human happiness and life expectancy across the board.
It is a sad realization that the people need to rise up in aggressive defense of the direction of these two cohorts if only to save them from themselves. I do my part by continually reminding anyone I talk to about gender that there are two, and that it is biological and physically identified at birth. And that there are gender differences that are biological, and that a functioning culture needs to accept those differences and celebrate them.
Actually (speaking as the sister of a Developmental Psychologist of the research kind, who recently has talked to me about the original sense of being a particular gender is acquired -- at some length, I might add) -- Basically we are not born with any gender identity at all.
What we are born with is the rudiments of a personality (inherited, and influenced in utero). The only thing that makes anything into gender is the preferential but culture-dependent labeling of certain human characteristics (possessed by us all, in varying degrees) as "masculine" -- that is, "suitable for and/or limited to boys and men" or "feminine" -- that isn't "suitable for and/or limited to girls and women".
Let's say (just for argument's sake) a male baby is born with equal amounts of the potential for various human character qualities (nurturance, competitiveness, empathy, aggression, emotional sensitivity, kindness, bravery, etc.). Even as a small child, both consciously or unconsciously that boy will likely be reinforced in certain character qualities (the "masculine" ones) and if not actually discouraged in the "feminine" ones, they may nevertheless not be encouraged as strongly as they are in his sister.
So yes, some of what is called "feminine" or "masculine" is innate in a child, but it is not inherently anything but human.
However, it's shaped very early by the parents, and shortly, too, by their peers. into something approaching "boyness" and "girlness". Peer "instruction" and comparison of oneself with others (one's peers) of the same sex will gradually lead to internalization of a particular "gender identity" which is actually not fully the case until a child is about eight. (Asking a kindergartner what gender they think they "really" are (after explaining to them that some kids are "born in the wrong body" iis a bad idea.)
There are a few kids whose inherent personality is both resistent to early shaping, and such that the child's character qualities are, on balance, weighted more toward those society in its wisdom labelled as suitable for/limited to the other sex.
Let's say this is the case with an "effeminate" little boy, who is resistant to his father's attempts to "masculinize"him, and as a consequence prefers to play with girls and do the sorts of things provided for girls. He may eventually wonder if he is "really a girl" or he may wish he were one.
These days such kids are often transitioned socially, eventually placed on puberty blockers, and then operated on without ever having gone through male puberty.
The thing is, though, that there are 11 good studies showing that if simply allowed to be kids, and not forced in either direction, a large majority (60-90%) of these boys will stop "feeling like a girl" at puberty, and turn out to be Gay. Others just become sensitive, empathetic straight men (oh, the horror!) And a few of them will ultimately decide to transition.
Basically, transitioning effeminate little boys is absolutely a form of "conversion therapy", and what is more, among kids who present later as "Trans", a large percentage of them are same-sex attracted, too. It's criminal, all the more so because LGB folks who protest this are vilified as being disgusting, dangerous transphobes.
And of course, even though the phenomenon of "tomboys" has long been socially tolerated, plenty of "masculine" girls are getting social encouragement/pressure to transition, too. And many (not all) of them would in the normal course of events turn out to be Lesbians.
And don't even get her (my sister) started on the subject of adolescent girls who suddenly, at, or slightly after puberty, which is tough for girls, and even tougher if you happen to be on the autism Spectrum, and nearly impossible if you have other issues, decide they don't feel like girls. In addition, upper middle class, smart white (including lots of Jewish) kids are not heavily "gender socialized" on principle, and may realize they aren't particularly "feminine".
(My girls are like that. One of them thinks she's "agender", and the other is currently "nonbinary" and thinking she might be a boy. Talk about injustice -- I'm a 2nd wave Feminist, I think gender is a set of sexist prescriptions, and my kids regressively believe that patriarchal leftovers are what make you a woman, and they think I'm too backward to know anything worth listening to. Is there no God?)
Thank you so much for addressing the ambiguities surrounding the term "gender identity." I studied Stoller's work during the 1970's and thought it was helpful at first in talking about masculinity/femininity versus bio sex, but in reviewing his work recently I saw that his definition of "gender identity" changed in the nonsensical ways you described. Gender activists love confusing language, presumably for a number of reasons, most of all that they are so confused about their own identities. It is helpful to become more precise in our own understanding, so that we can recognize their efforts to transfer their confusion to us and block them.
Excellent summary. New to me was the concept of diagnosing young women who claim to identify as male as autogynophilic, a term Blanchard coined to refer to men who identify as women. I find this useful in understanding the huge surge in young women wanting to opt out of their sex in these misogynistic and homophobic times.
Suggestion for getting the word out in "woke" neighborhoods you pass through: pay it forward by ordering copies of Trans by Helen Joyce, Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier, Kara Dansky's book about 'gender" replacing sex in the law, Sex Change by Christine Benvenuto or my book, In the Curated Woods, (there are many more candidates). Then after reading, place one in those Little Free Libraries, or sneak one into a doctor's waiting room, or other table, shelf, nook or cranny. Here's my second subversive contribution across the street from PS 107, where the books are on a fancy display with front covers visible: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/ATZM7PRokJA
Excellent article, thank you so much for writing it. I’ve been struggling to put these concepts into words myself when trying to explain to people just how radically the understanding of “trans” has changed. And the fact that I’d been loosely following the subject since the nineties (beginning when I was still a teenager!) was one of the reasons I caught on to these weird shifts relatively early. The current “understanding” of trans obviates any need for a differential diagnosis which is why the damage has been so profound. Your express this point so well. ❤️
From the article: "These clinicians were working with similar, small populations: feminine boys; people with intersex conditions (then known as hermaphrodites); and transsexuals, as they were called, who were convinced they should have been, or desperately wanted to be, the opposite sex. "
Perhaps it's an omission, but interesting that masculine girls are not included. Decades ago I read a good deal about the pathologizing discourses vis a vis homosexuality and immediately noticed that they centered 99% of time on male effeminacy. Rarely were lesbians mentioned, in fact, almost never mentioned.
In terms of the number of "genders", I have read that any noun or fractions of nouns combined can be a gender. So, the number of genders is infinite. In other words, endless signifiers absent their signifieds.
I have been reading and thinking about the concept of gender for quite a while now. Last week I also attended a workshop on gender: this was run by the university I work at (I am an academic, although my field of speciality is not sex or gender). Could someone be kind enough to tell me if my analysis of the situation, as articulated below, is reasonable.
If I have understood correctly, this is how the concepts of man and woman are defined in gender identity ideology.
Woman: a feeling that can mean anything to anyone at any time.
Man: a feeling that can mean anything to anyone at any time.
These definitions are so vague that they are without boundaries. There are no longer any identifiable characteristics associated with the concepts man and woman, which makes it difficult to see how they can be meaningful, useful categories – particularly given that the same definition works for both. ‘Man’ and ‘woman’ are now inalienable feelings that have no necessary consistency across a population, meaning that a subjective ‘feeling’ that could be interpreted as ‘man’ for one person could be interpreted alternatively as ‘woman’ by another. It is now impossible to know what ‘man’ or ‘woman’ is, since the concepts are coloured by a subjective belief that is somewhat spiritual in nature, and this personal nature of belief has come to trump external, material reality.
Language matters and definitions matter a lot. There is an official UN definition of gender that seems to make more sense than others yet is usually ignored:
The UN definition of gender refers to ‘socially constructed identities, attributes and roles for women and men and society’s social and cultural meaning for these biological differences resulting in hierarchical relationships between women and men and in the distribution of power and roles favouring men and disadvantaging women.'
I wonder how closely it reflects your own thinking?
A yeoman’s effort Lisa; you’re to be commended for at least trying to separate wheat and chaff, to bring some enlightenment to the masses. However, one can’t help but get the impression that you’re starting off on the wrong foot, that you’re simply chasing your tail. Though you at least recognize what I’d regard as the root of the problem: “The fact that gender identity is now vague, unmeasurable, completely subjective ...”
Moot exactly how you and far too much of society have gone off the rails from that point, but this suggests the primary cause of it:
LSD: “Yet [transwoman] Beyer believes that she is a woman, that gender identity is a deep sense of one’s sex, and that she’s female.”
But right out the chute there’s the question of what do you MEAN by “female”? EITHER it’s an entirely subjective category based on some “je ne sais quoi” essence that anyone can claim to possess, and that there’s no one to gainsay otherwise. OR there are some objective criteria that MUST be met for anyone to qualify as a member of that category. It simply can’t be both, and certainly not simultaneously – that’s the problem: too many “thinking” that that is possible, desirable, or at all practical.
Consider what it MEANS to define a category – which is what “male” and “female” are -- and to be a member of one:
Wikipedia: “An intensional definition gives meaning to a term by specifying necessary and sufficient conditions for when the term should be used. In the case of nouns, this is equivalent to specifying the properties that an object needs to have in order to be counted as a referent of the term.”
Moot exactly what are the “necessary and sufficient conditions” that, at least, any human “needs to have in order to be counted as a referent of the term” “female”. Somewhat “arbitrary” – there’s no intrinsic meaning to that word; we can’t put it on the operating table, dissect it, and eventually track down its inner essence, its “soul”. It means what we SAY it means – it can mean anything we want it to; pay the word extra.
But currently – depending crucially on whether we go with the Kindergarten Cop definitions, with several variations in folk-biology definitions, or with those endorsed by reputable biological journals and dictionaries --- it means either “vagina-haver”, “XX-haver", “possessor of ovaries of past, present, or future functionality”, or simply “functional ovaries”. One can sort of make a case for each of those definitions – they all specify SOME objectively quantifiable property that some humans MUST have to be counted as a referent of the term “female”.
But Beyer? Under no stretch of the imagination can one reasonably say that “she” has a vagina, is an XXer, or has, had, or will ever have any ovaries, functional or not. She doesn’t meet any of those “necessary and sufficient conditions”; ergo, not a female. Whatever she means by “female” is NOT what those of us grounded in reality mean by the term. And we shouldn’t thereby grant her any of the rights, opportunities or cachet that we grant, rightly or not, to those who DO meet those “necessary & sufficient conditions”.
Refusing to face those brute facts is, maybe arguably, the proximate cause for much of the dog’s breakfast that so many have turned both “sex” and “gender” into – a simple refusal or inability, politically motivated or not, to define exactly what we mean by the terms we bandy about with gay abandon. As philosopher Will Durant put it relative to a quote of Voltaire:
Durant: “ 'If you wish to converse with me,' said Voltaire, 'define your terms.' How many a debate would have been deflated into a paragraph if the disputants had dared to define their terms! This is the alpha and omega of logic, the heart and soul of it, that every important term in serious discourse shall be subjected to strictest scrutiny and definition. It is difficult, and ruthlessly tests the mind; but once done it is half of any task."
If we really want to resolve the transgender issue then that is where we have to start.
It’s disconcerting that we are still here reading about the pseudoscience of “gender”.
The pseudoscience of gender indeed originated with non-physician East-coast Dr. John Money as a way to create a scientific gloss over genital mutilation surgery on healthy infants. The genital mutilation surgery evolved under his oversight at John’s-Hopkins to the point of fully making a eunuch of a boy who suffered from penile amputation because of an error by a doctor who made an error during “ordinary” genital mutilation. Endless genital mutilation.
Psychological and Linguistic studies have an unfortunate history of attempting to locate theoretical linguistic concepts in the tissue of the brain, gender being the latest incarnation. Noam Chomsky was a linguist who claimed the human brain had a “Language Acquisition Device” or LAD which generated language and grammar. The brain has no “gender”; no neuroanatomical object which models the linguistic term “gender”. The brain as no LAD, no neuroanatomical object which models linguistic grammar. Likewise, there is no neuroanatomical object which models linguistic concepts of tense, case, number, mood, etc.
The brain does have a neuroanatomical object which creates and regulates conscious thoughts, emotions, and voluntary actions called the prefrontal cortex.
The Nobel-prize-winning scientist Egaz Monix (not physician) who invented the specious term “psychosurgery” was another who attempted to locate and manipulate personality traits in the brain via mutilation we call prefrontal lobotomy.
Applied often to women who were unruly and homosexual men, he conceived of and was an exponent of obliterating their brain tissue mistakenly thinking that he had located a neuroanatomical region which created female unruliness or homosexuality.
Gender is an immaterial fiction, and a pseudoscience having its roots in attempts to surgically mutilate humans to make them conform to bizarre ideas of how the brain and body work.
From the article: "There are tens, maybe hundreds of purported gender identities. Per the powers that be—activist and advocacy groups influencing everything from curricula to medical guidelines—everyone has a gender identity, which is not a sense of sex but of gender."
Does this strike anyone as a newish version of recovered memories from the late 80s/early 90s fad/derangement?