[This is the fourth installment in a five-part essay exploring the history of the concept of “gender” in its origins and stages of development. Part one can be found here, part two here, and part three here.—Ed.]
Thus far in this series, we’ve looked at the history of “gender theory” up to the present day, having lately arrived at the recent innovation by which “gender” and “sex” have been collapsed into a unitary, vague and imprecise concept. Now it is time to look more deeply at the present state of affairs.
The swiftness of the turnaround in gender theory and its colonization of the realm of biology has been staggering, and with it the “hermeneutics of confusion” has expanded so much that it’s nearly impossible to speak cogently about these issues.
The evidence is pretty clear to me that, contrary to the slogan “gender is a social construct” (endorsed by Shrier in large part), neurobiological evidence [sic.] has found that gender identity resides in the hypothalamus and, as such, is largely immutable. Put rather simply, it is literally true that trans individuals have the body of one sex, yet the brain of another [emphasis added].
Of course, this is quite intimidating to the layman. And it’s intended to be. I came across this article because a friend received it in a text message from a family member with whom he was disputing over the “Equality Act.” The message intended by that family member by sending the article couldn’t be clearer. It is this: “Gender identities at variance with sex are simply biological facts; the evidence for this biological grounding is indisputable. Critics of transgender ideology and policy are bigots and science deniers, and should simply vacate the field in ignominious defeat!”
But… there’s more than one side to this story. And here I’m not referring to people like Abigail Shrier and other famous critics of gender ideology. I’m referring to other pro-transgender advocates. You see, while some “gender affirming” scientists and doctors drive confidently ahead with their new slogan about people “literally having the body of one sex and the brain of another,” a whole other set of scientists and doctors—no less “gender affirming” in their principles and goals—have their own slogan which sits somewhat awkwardly (to say the least) alongside this first one.
That other trans-activist slogan? Wait for it… “there is no such thing as ‘the male brain’ or ‘the female brain.’” This is not a paraphrase; it is a quotation from author “Simón(e) D Sun” at Scientific American, in that author’s piece entitled, “Stop Using Phony Science to Justify Transphobia: Actual research shows that sex is anything but binary.”
And the fact is, “Simón(e)” isn’t alone. According to prominent neuroscientist Gina Rippon, “It’s not physically possible to say there is a male or female brain.” Rippon even acknowledges that, “Certain members of the transgender community are made very angry by [this claim],” but supports it with ample data. And still other scientists back Rippon up. According to one researcher with the European Network for the Investigation of Gender Incongruence (ENIGI), Dr. Baudewijntje Kreukels of Amsterdam University Medical Center: “I don’t think there is something like a male or female brain, but it’s more a continuum.”
This, then, is where the honest inquirer after truth will find himself in attempting to “follow the science,” if he varies his sources even just a little among pro-transgender doctors and researchers:
1) It is “literally true that trans individuals have the body of one sex, yet the brain of another”…;
2) And “there is no such thing as ‘the male brain’ or ‘the female brain’,” but rather “it’s more of a continuum.”
Confused? It’s no wonder. What is more, one might be forgiven the suspicion that such confusion is part of the point. This is how “the hermeneutics of confusion” works. This is how gender theorists have been able to have it all their own way in the public discourse, and trample any opposition. For the critic of trans-activism and gender theory who would appeal to biology, it’s a “heads, I lose; tails, you win” proposition. The gender activists can simply cherry pick which “scientific consensus” they will appeal to in arguing against the critic. They can use the sexually dimorphic brain to support their claims if it suits the needs of the moment; or, if it is more convenient, they can deny that the sexually dimorphic brain is a valid concept at all! If the stakes weren’t so high, the situation would be almost comical. After all, there’s a sort of poetic fittingness and situational irony in the way the body of research and science to which gender ideologues appeal is so difficult to pin down, malleable and shape-shifting. At least as regards the “neurobiological substrate” of “gender identity,” the supposed “consensus” the activist community has welcomed will no doubt be right at home: it’s non-binary and fluid.
However, the thing really isn’t a laughing matter in the end. If it were only ourselves and our own perplexity we had to worry about, the “hermeneutics of confusion” would have a sting weaker than that of the least nagging fly. But there are others for whom this confusion bears terrible consequences indeed, and for whom the sting comes in the form of the surgical scalpel lopping and laming them in pursuit of “affirmation.” It is for those individuals whom we must worry, they who suffer from a deep confusion about their own sex and their place in the world, who will be put from an early age on a conveyor belt of treatments beginning with puberty blockers, ultimately to undergo mastectomies, hysterectomies, and chemical and surgical castrations—all the while being reassured by references to a scientific “consensus” that simply does not exist. It is to their plight, the real flesh-and-blood victims of “gender theory”—which we may now assuredly call gender ideology—that we will turn in our fifth and final installment.