In Rejection of a Manufactured Social Construct
Arguing against gender identity ideology vs Arguing that gender identity ideology is meaningless
I have been re-reading 1984 and it has admittedly taken longer than needed. It was an assigned text in high school to which I never felt the need to return. It's better reading than I remembered. I think that I sometimes forget that our cannon is made up of literature that's not just thematically important, but also masterfully written. That Orwell knew what he was doing. The reason it's taking so long is that I find it so chilling that I need to periodically stop. It generates more dread than actual horror stories might. It's not entirely clear if I missed this in the first reading because of my own relative youth and naiveté or the shrinking distance between this moment in time and the society in the book.
The erosion of the wall between our reality and the fictional reality of 1984 begins with the way that language is constructed to maintain ideological commitment and social control. The totalitarian state, Oceania, created and recreates the language of Newspeak to limit an individual's ability to articulate subversive thoughts, or thoughtcrimes. The language circumscribes what is permissible through its limited vocabulary and deliberately obscures or reverses the meanings of words. This remaking of words creates a new reality. For example, a person killed by the state becomes an unperson. An unperson never existed. Their absence is a signal to party members to remove them from their minds. The approach to language is the approach to history and current events: what the state says is happening has always been happening, especially if you remember it differently.
Dave Chapelle's final scheduled Netflix special, The Closer, generated more consternation and dialogue than the work warranted. It was neither his funniest or most insightful performance, but it had its moments. My favorite was his reference to the trans response to JK Rowling's letter in support of single sex protections for women and girls. "[T]hey started calling her a TERF. I don't even know what the fuck that was, but I know that trans people make up words to win arguments." Trans activism and gender ideology are entirely discursive in that they are not about any specific rights or concrete needs. Like Newspeak, they subvert meaning and recreate language to meme a false reality into existence. The very concept of transgenderism-- the idea that it's possible to significantly change one's sex to match a subjective self concept-- rests on something which remains essentially undefined, gender. When it is defined, it amounts to something in the individual's head. A person can change sex because he wants to.
TERF isn't actually a word, it's an acronym. It stands for Trans Radical Exclusive Feminist. JK Rowling was called a TERF because her advocacy for women and girls didn't include males who would like to be considered women and girls. The general idea is that women are exercising their privilege and power to stop males who identify as trans from being women by not accepting them as women. In fact, it's reality that excludes males from being women. When people assert that transwomen are women, it's helpful to remember that "transwoman" is a social construct. It's a subversion of fact and meaning. Like examples of Newspeak "transwoman" obscures the reality that what they are actually asserting is that "males who choose to identify as trans are women". What does that mean? Replacing the social construct with the reality it's meant to obscure makes clear that the statement means nothing. As a social construct, it can be rejected like any other, such as homophobia or sexism.
The word woman loses all meaning when applied to males and females. It's the only word for an adult human female. Cis is a word created to help assert that males identifying as trans are just a subclass of women. Like trans, it is meant to be an adjective like black, disabled, or fat. It's not clear what it actually means. When asked, trans rights advocates will say that it means you're comfortable with the gender you were assigned at birth. What they mean is that it says "not trans". Norm McDonald explained it more succinctly, "it's a way of marginalizing a normal person." Cis exists as an adjective to make women a sub-class of their sex, and in doing, make space for males to be a subclass of women because they identify as trans.
In changing the way I argue around and discuss gender identity ideology I've gained greater clarity on what it is. More importantly I began to better understand why it's so sticky and difficult to deconstruct. The changes were admittedly reactionary, and in the end instructive. I stopped using "trans-woman" because it made it easy to argue we were discussing a subclass of women, rather than males. I stopped using any variation of "transwoman/transman" because I grew annoyed by the constant demand that I write it the "correct" way as "trans-woman/man". I also had a conversation with someone who insisted that any version of "transwoman" was dehumanizing because they were women. In a sense, using their language made it possible for males identifying as trans to pretend they thought they actually were women. It also made it possible to argue that there was something inherent in the person that made them trans.
A number of people I follow on Twitter who reached these conclusions before me use Trans-identified Male (TiM). After being so reactionary I started deliberately using males or females who identify as trans. It makes clear the sex of the person being discussed even before their identity. It's virtually impossible to follow a discussion which refers to the preferred social construct of the individuals in relation to their sex based needs, like sex specific cancer screening. This seems deliberate. "Person who identifies as trans" clears that confusion. It also makes clear that the identity is a choice. This matters for a number of reasons. One of the most common refrains from activists and the media is that trans people are some of the most endangered and oppressed people in the world. No one with an opt-in identity is endangered because of that opt-in identity. Unlike being black, gay, or possessing some other immutable quality, no one is trans without choosing to be trans. As a social construct, the identity is dependent on social support. When trans activists accuse others of erasing or eradicating trans people by recognizing their biological sex, they are admitting the reality they try to deny. Sex is immutable, unless everyone pretends otherwise.
Much of the activism for what is called trans rights rests on the premise that those rights have been established. So, for instance, if you mention the negative consequences of placing male rapists in women's prisons, you may be accused of wanting transwomen raped in men's prisons. The leap in logic only makes sense if you start by assuming that those male prisoners are women. Lacking that, you're left wondering why men belong in women's prisons. Rejecting the language of the ideology reveals that everything about it is nonsense. Any direct argument for any of the consequences of the advocacy, such as men in women's prisons, would be immediately refused. This explains why its success is predicated on "no debate."
Ultimately, the issue isn't that gender identity ideology is nonsense, it's that it was never meant to make sense. The utter irrationality is a feature not a bug. This is obvious from the lack of definition of gender in The Yogyakarta Principles, pushed to replace the defined and universal concept of sex in law. It's not about gender, but "gender". "Gender" is an empty ideological box with magical transmutative properties designed to use the ostensible needs of people called marginalized to benefit elites by inventing a new minority. In large part, gender identity ideology gains structure and substance when people argue against it, rather than noting that there's nothing to argue against. In a sense, instead of arguing that the emperor has no clothes, we should make the fact that there is no emperor inescapable.