The goal of political correctness is starting to affect young people’s sense of self
Lately, I do not know what to think about the concept of ‘gender fluidity’ anymore. Reading Melanie Phillips’ article ‘In defence of Gender’ in this month’s edition of the Spectator has seemingly reinforced a view in my mind that we are increasingly becoming far too politically correct over gender issues. This extends as far as saying that gender is indeed ultimately determined by biology and that men and women are fundamentally different — a now taboo view.
Having studied gender as a topic for my A-Level Psychology, I am inclined to support the biological approach due to the resounding influence of genes and hormones on our gender development. And yet there is also no doubt that social influences play a significant role too. However, if gender fluidity is no more than a fad, how can we determine who actually suffers from gender dysphoria and who has decided to get caught up in the ‘trans trend’?
The path that we are on now seems precarious. It is possible to consider a future where we will all be, as the 18th-century political philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau argued, viewed as ‘blank slates’ in terms of what determines our gender from birth. Indeed, the genetic sex of a child will indicate whether they are male or female — but what from this point will determine their gender?
If gender is not considered fixed from birth, will all parents decide to raise their child as ‘neutral’ and wait until the child has reached an age where they can choose their gender themselves? This is a probable future, and cases of this actually exist in our society today. To be clear, I am not saying that this is an unwise choice in parenting style, only that it seems that the fundamental concept of biological sex is being ignored in favour of reducing sex stereotypes.
Nowadays, to describe gender as something that is binary sounds like bigotry; however, what seems even more intolerant and rather ridiculous, is that with all this discussion of gender fluidity going around, there is a continued avoidance of the persistent issue of equal pay and rights between men and women. Now if that is not bigotry, what is?
A culture of gender politics seems to be evolving, which in an academic sense is a highly thought-provoking area of political and psychological study. But what I refer to here is the phenomenon of gender becoming politicised, to the extent that it is now moving out of the realm of the private sphere and into the public sphere — thus attracting the need for government intervention on matters that have generally been perceived as personal or private.
Recently, the House of Commons Women and Equalities Select Committee has published a report arguing that transgender people are being failed by society. The report claims that people should have the freedom to change their gender merely by filling out a form and declaring what sex they feel they are, thereby enabling them to receive sex reassignment therapy. Maria Miller says that ‘We should be looking at ways of trying to strip back talking about gender’ — but why should we shut down discussion of gender, when it is such a integral part of our personal identity? Gender is something that we cannot simply cease to talk about; we cannot just ignore that it is a significant part of our existence.
Gender fluidity is a complex yet incomplete concept. Evidence from Professor Paul McHugh, the former chief psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the US which pioneered gender reassignment surgery in the 1960s, suggests that children who experience gender confusion display psychosocial issues and thus presume gender reassignment will be able to resolve them. McHugh argues that: ‘The grim fact is that most of these youngsters do not find therapists willing to assess and guide them in ways that permit them to work out their conflicts and correct their assumptions. Rather, they and their families find only “gender counsellors” who encourage them in their sexual misassumptions’.
Thus, it appears that the notion of gender fluidity also supports the view that those with confusion about their gender are being made to look at themselves as victims by those who fail to recognise their underlying psychological discomfort. McHugh also notes that amongst children at pre-teen age who begin to imitate the behaviour of the opposite sex, the treatment consists of giving them puberty-delaying hormones so as to make the sex-change transition less difficult. However, these drugs do carry serious side effects concerning growth and sterility. And yet, these are the drugs that Maria Miller wishes the specialist Tavistock gender clinic to be prescribing to children who display gender dysphoria.
There is clearly an extent to which this approach to dealing with issues of transgenderism has almost become dystopian. Gender is now becoming something that is being treated as a political statement rather than a fundamental part of our identity.
The level of sensitivity concerning gender issues has become something that is being exploited by politicians to enforce a culture where discussion of gender as binary is seen as criminal. One of my favourite novels, The Handmaid’s Tale, tells the story of Offred who is subjugated into a dystopian world of Gilead where women are categorised by a single function and so begin to lose their sense of identity in a society with state-sanctioned rape. In much the same way that the women in Gilead are typified to the point that they lose their sense of self, talk of gender fluidity appears to be becoming something that is being socially engineered by politicians attempting to make us believe that gender, actually, does not exist.