Transgenderism, Nihilism, and Frankenstein
Highlighted comments in response to “Inside the Transgender Empire.”
My recent Hillsdale Imprimis speech on the structure of transgenderism sparked thoughtful debate on Substack. I’ve included the best comments here, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Theresa Mendez shares her experience studying queer theory at university, arguing that the discipline has shifted from a coherent model of gender fluidity to an incoherent concept of sex fluidity:
I learned queer theory during my time as an undergrad sociology student and while getting a master’s in English and I distinctly remember learning that disambiguating gender from sex did not annihilate biological sexual categories.
In sociology, we learned that gender roles are fluid. This means that constructions of masculinity and femininity change within a culture over time and that there are differences in construction across cultures. What’s feminine in one place and time might not be in another. Somehow . . . this concept has bled into biological sex fluidity, which, in my mind, was never the point that was made to us in college.
The point was that gender roles can be fluid, as can be our participation in them. We were encouraged to think about why certain traits were deemed “masculine” and others “feminine” and to examine how these traits are valued and placed into hierarchy. Then we talked at length about how, in order to make our identities legible to one another, we “perform” these gendered traits to people around us. The performance reinforces the binary. Whether it’s a man performing masculinity or femininity, the binary is still there. Gender presentation may be fluid, biological sex is not. Even the outliers, such as the hermaphrodite, are exceptions that prove the rule.
Perhaps this is why academics and “gender care” advocates have to do verbal acrobatics to try to fit their new theology into words. No matter how they try, they wind up reifying the gender binary they insist doesn’t exist or doesn’t need to exist.
Theresa’s point is well-taken. The performance of gender is, indeed, socially constructed to a certain extent. Standards of masculinity and femininity vary across time and space. Men can act in an archetypally feminine way; women can act in an archetypally masculine way. This is almost a truism. But the gender theorists were not content with this arrangement; they wanted to smash the conception of sex and argue against all traditional notions of human nature, including the biological reality of male and female. This has, understandably, caused enormous frustration, as there is no way to transcend the gender binary, which, as Pope Benedict explains in a wonderful book of commentary on Genesis, is not simply a matter of human biology but a matter of the structure of the cosmos.
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