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Stereotypes: Preserve or Abolish?

Wednesday, September 26, 2018


 
Nearly a year ago, I posted this. I rather think that my point still stands firm, perhaps even more so.
 
I notice that the group under the umbrella of the world’s longest acronym (which begins LGBT…) sits ill at ease with itself. I believe that there is a subgroup, particularly among the Transgender community, who have formed a movement called “Get the ‘L’ out”. Why? Essentially because Lesbians are necessarily “transphobic” i.e. they will not engage in copulation with a “person” who possesses a biologically male pudendum. According to the Transgender communities, there are biologically male pudenda which are designated female and, therefore, if one “identifies” with being a transgender lesbian (i.e. in point of fact, a heterosexual biological male) a lesbian has no business rejecting one’s sexual advances on the grounds of one’s male physiology.
 
The trouble is, that there is this gross confusion between what sex is and what gender is. They are not the same.
 
The former is biological, genetic and objectively measurable. Medicine that is designed for one sex is thus created to cater for the biochemical peculiarities of the individual. Medicine meant for a man will not be suitable for a woman and vice versa. Likewise, biology makes sexual intercourse a danger for the biological female because she can get pregnant, and pregnancy is a supreme, and sometimes extreme, sacrifice of body autonomy. A man who identifies as a woman cannot get pregnant – at least not without major medical modification.
 
The latter is based upon feeling and stereotype. I’ve noticed that there is no definition of what a woman is based upon gender. The reason is that this definition is based on stereotypes of the sexes. Is my son really a girl because he likes wearing pink, or is he actually from the late 18th Century according to Xavier de Maistre in his Voyage autour de ma chamber? Does he identify with being a woman because he likes wearing a floofy dress, or is he identifying as a typical male child from the late 19thCentury?
 
It seems to me that the existence of gender dysphoria really comes about because of the sexual stereotypes ingrained in our society. If we see a man with the physique of an overweight construction worker wearing a cocktail dress, we do indeed stare because we know something is incongruous: it goes against something deep within our experience of what it is to be a person in society. However, a cocktail dress does not a woman make. It may be feminine, but not female.
 
We know that stereotypes are built upon sweeping generalisations of sections of society. These generalisations are often unfair, unrepresentative and, even, offensive as anyone in any form of ethnic minority will say. We need only look at the 80s ITV Sitcom Mind Your Langauge! to see how stereotypes belittle in our society.
 
Take away the stereotype and we should be able to cure gender dysphoria… IF gender dysphoria is a disease.
 
That raises an interesting question. Is gender dysphoria a bone fide disease or a disability?
 
If it is, then it ought to be treated and its sufferers helped to function in a society of binary male and female people. One cannot ban people from keeping cats because a percentage of the population is allergic to cats. A disease or disability is necessarily a deviation from the norm. We cannot say that the average number of legs of a human being is 1.999 et c because of those born without legs. We base our understanding of what is normal based on the use of the Mode as average, not the Arithmetic Mean.
 
If gender dysphoria is not a disease, then it must take its place with the democratic allocation of materials to other normal stratifications of society. We cannot make everything left-handed just because a significant minority of the population is left-handed and making all things ambidextrous is not easily remedied (just how do you do ambidextrous scissors? Use your teeth?). We cannot incorporate Sharia Law into our legislation just because there is a significant minority of Muslims in Society. We cannot make all restrooms unisex (and thus deprive biological women of a safe space) on the grounds of a significant minority. That’s undemocratic.
 
It certainly seems very tempting to see gender dysphoria as a form of a psychological condition in which one believes that a stereotype has control over one’s identity. It is a diminution of the self. If one tells a sufferer of gender dysphoria that they don’t believe that a man can be a woman and vice versa, or that pudenda are peculiar to their sex, will often receive the response, “you’re denying my existence!” Given that the sufferer is reducing their identity to a stereotype, it seems that actually the “transphobic” person here is actually crediting the “transgender” person with more existence than they give themselves. The stereotype is actually quite lethal: indeed there is a disproportionate number suicides among the Transgender community than nationally.
 
Quite why that’s the case is a matter of debate: it could be due to the lack of recognition of society and rejection of the family towards the intended gender, or it could be a psychological propensity towards self-destructive tendencies. Either way, there is a brokenness here that needs to be dealt with for the sake of those who suffer from gender dysphoria.
 
I look at children’s clothes in our local store and note that the girls clothes are all pink, pretty, delicate, floofy, and completely impractical for outdoor activities such as running, jumping and climbing trees. My daughter loves running, jumping and climbing, and none of this comes from her desire to be a certain gender. She is a child who loves running, jumping and climbing. And she is a girl who wears clothing which the store designates as being “boy’s” clothes. It’s an unnecessary designation. For little children as the early 20thCentury shows, there is really no such thing as boy’s clothes and girls’ clothes. The under-fives all wore some kind of floofy dress and sported long hair.
 
In the same store, I see bikinis for the under-tens! Bikinis!
 
It seems to me that there is a complex interplay between sexualisation, marketing and corporate demand which feed off each other. What is the cause?
 
I would say it’s a chicken-and-egg situation, and we find ourselves in medias res where our society is hung up on looking sexually attractive that our children are persuaded that that’s how they ought to look, and thus put demand on the businesses who produce the clothing, use market strategies to get people to buy their product, and thus begin to persuade people that what they produce is sexually attractive… It’s a cycle in which each element feeds the other and thus is unbreakable. We are a society that is so hung up on sex that we perceive it as a right to have sex, and that destroys all of the biological, social, teleological and moral reasons for sex, namely to produce a committed, consenting, loving family in which the genes of both parents can be propagated in the children together with a nurturing respect for each member of the family as they really are.
 
To enforce a right to sex is to endorse rape, and it’s truly shocking that, until the 1990s, a husband could take his pleasure from his wife without her consent. That is certainly not what the Lord Jesus Christ intended, and it is dreadful that the Church of England rather tacitly supported the right of a husband over his wife in this way during its period of being the “Conservative Party at Prayer”. The right to sex is to enforce another stereotype, namely that of the human animal – the belief that we are nothing more than animals who copulate freely in the wild without any social mores.
 
So, should men be allowed to wear dresses and women trousers if sexual stereotypes are to be abolished? That’s a good question. I would argue that a man wearing a dress is not a woman but rather a man wearing a dress, but that he has every legal right to wear his dress. My concern really is to the extent that he wishes to pass himself off as a woman and, more importantly, what is intentions are for doing so. Bruce Jenner is perfectly within his rights to change his name to Caitlin and live “as a woman,” whatever that means, but biologically he is still a man and to deny it is to deny that there is an objective reality in which we do science and make the great discoveries that the Human Race has thus made so far. In order to go to the Moon, we have to believe that the Moon exists as something to go to. In order to cure genetic diseases such as ovarian cancer, we have to believe that the recipient of the treatment actually has ovaries and is, therefore, biologically a woman. That cannot be written out of Society!
 
I do notice that transgender activists (i.e. those who seek to impose the will of a minority onto the majority) refuse to make the definition as to what a “man” is and what a “woman” is, but rather pass the buck back to the questioner declaring that knowing what a “man” or a “woman” is is part of our enlightenment. I had rather believed that the Enlightenment was based upon Reason and Scientific progress. This form of transgender activism is, to my mind, a regression to some fablulous dark age of superstition in which one can change sex by uttering the magic spell, “I identify as…”
 
However, we are talking about real people here – people who look at themselves in a way that is not full, but reductionist. To be honest, we are all like that in some way, seeing ourselves as needing to fulfil some stereotype because we see something attractive in it. We must recognise that the doctrine of Original Sin states very clearly that we are each affected by the sin of the people around us and of those who came before us. We are all broken; we are all in need of transformation; we each see ourselves as being less than the people God created us to be. Accepting that brokenness is not enough – we have to reject it. We need to want to get better, not wallow in our deficiencies and die in them. Sometimes we need to repent, not of sins that we have actually committed, but also of the sins our society commits against its members. Repentance simply means to turn to God and to His light and accept His say and definition of who we are. If we take up self-definition to be our right, then we wrest it from God’s hand. In so doing, not only do we become empty stereotypes, but we also must take upon us the responsibility of being, and that is a responsibility that we are simply too small to bear.
 
 If the Church is to represent anything good for people with gender dysphoria, then it must do so with loving care and dignity for the individual, and recall the problems of stereotypes. One stereotype is that which I have alluded to in this text. A transgender woman is not simply a man in a dress as many would think and it would be unkind and disrespectful simply to dismiss sufferers of gender dysphoria in that way. To say a transgender woman is just a man in a dress is in itself another stereotype, or at least a reduction to an oversimplified view. There is an issue here with how that person perceives themselves. If he comes to church in a cocktail dress, or if she comes to church in a three-piece suit, then we should try hard not to react, but continue to present the transforming nature of Christ’s love to all whom we meet. What we should not do is encourage that dysphoria, particularly in our children whose perceptions of things are necessarily myopic due to their inexperience and confusion. We can do that by ensuring that our stereotypes are seen for what they are and rob them of their control over our identity. This effectively comes when we pull down the idols of our society and replace them with temples to the Living God, Trinity in Unity to Whom all praise, honour and glory belong, world without end. Amen.

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