Our previous two articles in this series dealt with the idol worship (i.e., secular religion) of Climate Change and Equity. Those symbolic Golden Calves at least have some connection to science and/or history. Although many climate initiatives are fatally flawed, and their supposed benefits grossly exaggerated, combatting atmospheric carbon dioxide accumulation is a valid objective. And although the quest for Equity for all attempts to address problems rooted in history, its methods are more appropriate to the accretion of political power than justifiable remedies.
By contrast, the Cult of Gender is an attempt to displace reality with a bizarre reimagining of humanity.
The current popular usage of the word “gender” is now a conflation of sexual attraction, an individual’s chosen persona, and biological sex which is baked into our DNA. This is a specious construction. Sex dictates or at least influences many bodily functions, characteristics, and behavior, although there is, of course, variation. Only a miniscule portion of humanity has ambiguous DNA, so sex is as innate a trait as there is.
By contrast, whom we are attracted to sexually may be a conscious choice or a deeply felt orientation, but it is independent of our sex. A lesbian does not become a male because she is attracted to women, nor is a gay man female. Similarly, the persona or identity we opt to project is very much a choice embodied in appearance and behavior. It need not align with our biology at all. Sex and gender are, therefore, not interchangeable.
Society today is increasingly tolerant of gender identities. As far as we know, nobody is attempting to pass legislation (or to enforce outdated laws) to constrain any adult’s consensual sexual practices. Likewise, there are no restrictions on how we dress or interact in private, although there are some limits when it comes to potentially offensive behavior or appearance in public, depending upon the audience. The application of social “norms” is admittedly a gray and controversial subject.
But the Cult of Gender, as practiced by today’s gender activists, is not so tolerant. It has adopted the mentality of Henry VIII, King of England, who had Sir Thomas More beheaded solely for his silence on the issue of cleaving the Church of England from Catholicism. Quiet acceptance of non-traditional gender roles is now considered insufficient, and a person can be condemned for failure to publicly acknowledge their legitimacy or to genuflect as ordered.
Regulations have been issued in schools, public institutions, and even some companies that require the use of pronouns according to personal preference. They assert the right of an individual to specify the language of others who refer to them in the third person, even when they are not present. In direct interaction, the most common pronoun is “you,” which is gender agnostic. By this logic, one could demand that others employ “His Highness” when talking about you, and it certainly does not comport with the concept of free speech.
But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of gender activism is the unquestioning acceptance of gender transition among adolescents, who are subject to a myriad of hormonal changes and psychological angst. A rare condition, gender dysphoria, has been shown to affect only an extremely small percentage of people (one in 30,000 males and one in 100,000 females), who from a very early age and without any outside influences are convinced that they are “trapped” in the wrong body. There is no known “late onset” version of gender dysphoria, so any adolescent exploring transition is likely seeking to satiate some emotional need or compulsion. Yet society recognizes that not every need or compulsion should be satisfied; pedophilia is an extreme such example.
Adults may make informed decisions about their bodies, but adolescent gender transition has taken on a fad-like popularity. Some youths see it as a solution to social disaffection or dissatisfaction with oneself. Some are responding to peer pressure. A few see a chance to evade some boundary. Others think it is “cool” without adequate understanding of it. But it seems highly questionable to allow the use of life-altering pharmaceutical and surgical options for those in the throes of adolescence. The necessary deep introspection that should accompany such momentous choices is too often bypassed by the “affirmation system” that kicks in too easily.
Some studies show that approximately 10% of those who transition either retransition or live as non-binary while others show a dramatically increased rate of suicide among those who transition (16 to 43 times normal rates). At the same time, the threat of suicide among those seeking transition is leveraged to recruit parents, counselors, and medical professionals as the Cult’s affirmation army. The “cure” may be worse than the disease, although the data remain incomplete.
The Cult has, unfortunately, had some success at lobbying to eliminate biological sex as a boundary in certain inappropriate settings. Individuals with a Y-chromosome (i.e., males) have evolved to be more muscular and powerful than females, which can be reversed only to a limited extent, even if it is attempted prior to puberty. Allowing biological males to compete against females renders the entire concept of sex-specific sports competitions meaningless. The affirmation of the small minority who transition seems to have replaced the affirmation of biological females that make up approximately half of all people. This makes no sense.
Also, barring a surgical change of sex organs and an intense regimen of hormone treatment, individuals should not be allowed in places where the segregation by sex has a legitimate purpose. The potential for sexual harassment or violation certainly dictates that in some closed venues such as prisons, sex organs do matter, and in more open settings such as school locker rooms, serious questions of harassment, not to mention reasonable modesty, remain.
The bottom line is that the Cult of Gender has gone well beyond the idea of allowing a free expression of oneself. For millennia of human history, the concept of gender has been synonymous with sex, and the differences between the sexes has been acknowledged in many ways. Demanding a mass conversion to ignoring sex in favor of gender, which is a choice, is brazen at best. We also need to remember that adolescence is replete with emotional challenges, and we should impose a high bar to irrevocably altering bodies and minds. We must also remember that free expression should not be allowed to cancel free speech.
Andrew I. Fillat spent his career in technology venture capital and information technology companies. He is also the co-inventor of relational databases. Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is the Glenn Swogger Distinguished Fellow at the American Council on Science and Health. They were undergraduates together at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology