[This is the final installment in a five-part essay exploring the history of the concept of “gender” in its origins and stages of development. The other parts can be found here. – Ed.]
We have observed how the “hermeneutics of confusion” has become the cornerstone of modern gender ideology (our term henceforth for what we have up until now called “gender theory”). We’ve intimated how this feature (not bug) of the ideology works to make it difficult, if not sometimes practically impossible, to criticize. We’ve seen how conveniently and continually the goalposts of the discourse can shift to suit the activists’ situation on the field. We’ve noted how, in linguistic shifts such as the change from “sex reassignment” to “gender affirmation (or confirmation)” surgery, gender and sex have become a single, nebulous ideological chimera of a concept. Now, finally, we must brace ourselves to consider the real world outcomes of this dangerous and truly deadly game.
Recall how both of the claims examined in our previous part—the idea of the “wrong brain in the wrong body” and the idea of “sex as a continuum”—equally evade certain essential challenges. Adherents of both notions reject, but can never sufficiently explain away fully, the supposedly “debunked” observation of Abigail Shrier (alluded to in the review of her book quoted earlier in this series): namely, that every cell in a female’s brain, whatever its shape or morphology, remains marked with an XX chromosome, just as every cell in a male brain is marked by an XY. This basic fact of biology militates against both concepts of there being either the “wrong brain” in a body or there being “no such thing” as a sexually dimorphic brain.
Gender ideologues will observe either that there are patterns of shape to the preoptic area of the hypothalamus in the brain that differs between males and females; or that really there’s a sort of “continuum” that isn’t divided into “male/female” by a bright line. Whichever premise they maintain, their conclusion will follow that there is a biological grounding for “gender identity” founded in the brain, either by its binary “wrongness” in the instant, or by its non-binary indeterminism. But either approach begs the question. Because neither of these observations about the brain are sufficient or necessary in telling us anything about what ought to be done with the rest of the person’s body or behaviors. Indeed, accepting either premise as true, any fair-minded and common-sensical person ought to be allowed to reason that, if there’s something in the brain that’s wrong, why shouldn’t the brain, rather than the other parts of the anatomy, be the locus of the treatment and solution?
Whatever the shapes of people’s brains, and whatever behavioral impact those varied shapes may genuinely have, the bodies to which those brains relate are still almost invariably sexually dimorphic! Excepting the rarest of genetically abnormal circumstances and disorders (like true hermaphrodism) , a female brain—however “male shaped” it may be (if indeed there even is such a “shape”!)—is nonetheless networked to a body with all the other ordinary expressions characteristic of the female sex: from wider set hips, to a more oval-shaped pelvis, to slighter bone structure, to larger breasts—not to mention the presence of ovaries, a womb, a cervix, and female genitalia.
And yet, in spite of all this, “gender affirming” doctors with breathtaking hubris continually re-stake their claim: they’ve figured it out. They can’t even agree whether there are “male brains” or “female brains”—but they are just sure about all these other anatomical parts. Based precariously on their disputed and still uncertain assertions about the brain, then, they go on to make an even bolder assertion about every other part of the body about which there is no doubt: all of these can be adapted, modified, or removed. The ovaries and cervix can be cut out; the pelvis can be broken, reshaped and reset; hips can be shaven down, breasts cut off, genitalia mutilated and grafted onto to form a reconstructed parody of a phallus; and the whole rest of the body (and brain) can be inundated with injections of exogenous chemical hormones. All of this can be done in the name of “affirming gender.” All of these other parts may have formerly been functioning perfectly well from a biological perspective; yet, on the basis of a muddy notion about the brain not being “right,” and even muddier notions about “gender” and its social demands, all of these perfectly working body parts can be cut apart and reordered. It never seems to have occured to these doctors that a problem supposed to originate in the brain may have a solution having to do with the brain that they should seek after and find instead…
It should also be remarked that it remains very unclear whether, after all this mutilation and reconstruction, the hypothalamus in an individual’s brain finds it any easier to cope and interact with the new surgical creation the doctors have given it to manage. After all, hormone injections will still be needed and sometimes must continue life-long, and prosthetic genitalia carry with them all the same risks of rejection or maladaptation that other prostheses entail. But the doctors explain away the inconvenient facts of the continual comorbidities of suicidality and depression; they might even deny and erase the very existence of the (growing) community of “detransitioners.” In their quintessential materialistic scientism (all too typical of modernity), they remake any facts they can—like the fact of the human body—to fit their theory. This is much easier, not to mention more lucrative, than finding a theory to fit the facts. And as for the body count that this dangerous ideology amasses? Well, that’s just one more fact that can be bent into service. After all, as Stalin observed, one death is a tragedy, but a million deaths are a statistic; and, as it has also been famously observed, “lies, damned lies, and statistics” are the three prongs of the forked tool always found in the hand of the every devilish tempter. All negative outcomes can be chalked up to social problems like “stigma.”
And so, in the perverse end, and even by the doctors’ own admission, all their work has done nothing to address the root intractable problem about the “social construct” of “gender”! After these new Dr. Frankensteins finish their diabolical deeds, the great irony is that the pitiable androgynous, infertile persons who result from their experiments—scarred from dozens of surgeries and still struggling to find comfort in their own bodies and in the world—find that they must continue to fight for acceptance in all the spaces of society where “gender” dominates, and that their struggle may even be worse than before.
Thus has “gender theory” come full circle to today’s gender ideology. An idea that began with the intent to change society and stop it forcing “roles” on individuals that were supposed to be unrelated to biology has ended with an ideology bent on mutilating individuals’ bodies in order to suit them for certain social roles—and biology be damned! I can’t help, in closing, recalling a prophetic observation from my favorite author, G. K. Chesterton. In 1910, in his book What’s Wrong With the World, he summarized his case by referring to the “medical mistake.” He said that the problem with those working to change society was that they spoke with scientific and medical jargon, but didn’t act like true doctors should. He observed that a good doctor must always begin with the question “what is right?,” rather than asking “what is wrong?” That is, the doctor must first have an idea of what health looks like, before he tries to restore the patient to health. If instead he begins with the malady, he will be in danger of what Chesterton called “the huge modern heresy of altering the human soul to fit its conditions, instead of altering human conditions to fit the human soul.”
Had Chesterton lived into the present, I think even he would be shocked to find how widespread “the medical mistake” and this “huge modern heresy” had become. The solution, he might say, is to be found in that proverb quoted by history’s greatest and truest Physician: “Medice, cura te ipsum!” Physician, heal thyself! Until that course of treatment is undergone, we cannot hope that any other of the diagnoses and prognoses of the modern age will do anything but leave the patient—our culture—worse off than the supposed “healers” had found it.