Being Gender Critical

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Transgender women (people born biologically male who now consider themselves women) are men, and should not be called women. That’s because they are of the male sex, and adult male humans are men. Similarly, transgender men (people born female who now consider themselves men) are actually women because they are adult human females.

It’s extraordinary that such innocuous observations are branded variously as intolerant, hateful, bigoted, or ignorant when they are none of these things. Things get even worse when people respond by alleging that I am denying the very “right to exist” to trans men and women, or that I am trying to deny them human rights. On the contrary, all I am doing is telling you what I think men and women are. If I denied them the right to exist, I would be calling for their extermination, which is a horrible thing to attribute to me. It is a mere rhetorical trick to make it sound like I want to harm people. I don’t believe there is a human right for a man to be regarded by everyone else as a woman, any more than I believe a white woman has the right to be regarded by everyone else as a black woman.

I am critical of the view that gender, construed as a social construct, should make the distinction between men and women. In short, I am gender critical.

In other words, men and women (and boys and girls) are properly distinguished from one another on the basis of sex, something that is observed (not assigned) at birth and grounded in biology. If you have been told that sex (or gender) is “assigned” at birth, you’ve been misled. Ask a midwife, none of whom have ever been asked to assign gender. Sex is detected in two main ways (notice that I said “main” ways): By the type of genitalia present, and genetically (typically XX or XY, setting aside abnormalities). I deny that there is a thing called gender that may be properly used to accurately distinguish between men and women, where “gender” is a social construct, something a person may rightly identify with based on how they feel, think, and wish to act. I am critical of the view that gender, construed as a social construct, should make the distinction between men and women. In short, I am gender critical.

I don’t know how long the term “gender critical” has been around, but it is fairly new as far as I can tell. The position, however, is not new. It is a perspective that was held by virtually everyone regardless of race, sex, or creed until quite recently. I was introduced to the term when I became aware of Gender Critical Feminism, a movement of women who are concerned by the entry of males into women’s spaces, be they public toilets, changing rooms, or sports teams, and who express horror at the ease with which healthy young women/girls (and it is young women or girls more often than young men or boys) who are referred for radical surgery to remove healthy, functional body parts or to receive permanently body altering hormone therapy, because they are experiencing anxiety about their body and their sex because they don’t conform to feminine stereotypes. They also frequently give voice to their alarm about the lack of public outcry when frequent and open threats of violence, at times sexual violence, and sometimes acts of violence, are directed at them by males who are transgender (ie trans women), or their liberal allies, because they express the beliefs they do. What’s more, these violent crimes, committed by males, are now recorded as offences by women (because that is how the perpetrators identify). For example, a British member of Parliament Lisa Nandy has said that Christopher Worton, a male who raped a teenage girl five times, should be housed in a women’s prison and that his crime should be recorded as a crime perpetuated by a woman, because this male identifies as a woman. Ms Nandy was applauded for saying so. This gives rise to the further concern by women that truthful information about the differences in violent behaviour committed by males and females is made impossible to access by the fact that people are allowed to simply identify as the gender of their choice. In addition to news stories like these about such crimes, Twitter can make for unpleasant reading (not a surprise to anyone, I know) with its collections of threats of rape, assault, strangulation among other things, from male transgender people towards gender critical feminists. Hold your nose and browse a sample of this phenomenon here (note that “TERF” is a slur word used when attacking women who are gender critical, akin to “f*ggot” when attacking gay people or “n*gger” when attacking black people, and “TRA” stands for trans rights activist(s)). These are women who also frequently find themselves victims of “cancel culture,” where trans rights activists (as they see themselves) contact employers to have the jobs of these women placed in jeopardy, or have their speaking events or meetings cancelled.

While I do not regard myself as a feminist, I recognised immediately that I shared in common with these women what I take to be a commonsense view of men and women, one that is grounded in physical realities rather than popular ideology, along with a new appreciation of the consequences of that ideology, which, as some of these women were rightly pointing out, functions like a cult at times. It was also easy to sympathise with their cause when seeing the torrent of violent threats (and outright violence) perpetuated against them by trans activists, with a noticeable absence of any corresponding behaviour in the opposite direction, and very little by way of public recognition of this behaviour.

I cannot think of an elegant term for people who believe that males can be women and females can be men because of their gender, or at least, a term that nobody will take offence to. So I am going to use the term gender ideologues, because I think this represents an ideology (and a false one) based on the concept of gender. I am gender critical, and I think the gender ideologues are wrong.

Scientific common ground

If you don’t share my gender critical perspective, I (obviously) think you should. So I’ll start by sketching what ought to be a factual basis of discussion that we can all share, and then I’ll set out the challenge.

There are some true statements about how the sexes differ, if we speak carefully. On average, men are taller than women. In general, women are more interested in people and men are more interested in things. On average, men are stronger. Women tend to be better at verbal expression. Men tend to be better at spatial cognition. Not everyone likes to acknowledge that these differences have any real basis in biology, preferring to chalk it all up to social conditioning. But they exist despite such reservations, and biological explanations do, in fact, tell part of the story.

The scientific summaries are descriptions of tendencies when we are comparing the sexes as groups, and they do not tell us what we will find in the case of any particular person.

But be careful. People who are unfamiliar with what statistical claims mean can misunderstand statements about what the scientific evidence shows us here. The evidence does not warrant a claim like “because you are male and I am female, you are more violent than I am, because men are more violent than women.” The scientific summaries are descriptions of tendencies when we are comparing the sexes as groups, and they do not tell us what we will find in the case of any particular person. Take physical aggression as an easy example (not to be confused with aggression in general, as I have commented elsewhere). A man who is near the bottom of the scale of physical aggression for males (point A on the chart below) is going to be much less physically aggressive than a woman who is near the top of the scale of physical aggression among women (point B). The same is obviously true of, for example, height, and many other traits, whether physiological, behavioural, or neurological.

Distribution of aggression in females and males (for illustration of the principle, not based on actual figures)

What’s true of the characteristics of individual people, like aggression (or agreeableness, for that matter), is also true of brains. And why would they not be? After all, differences in characteristics very often exist because of differences in brains. At the extreme end, The brains of criminals are physically different from the brains of others. But even among relatively ordinary people, researchers have demonstrated a relationship between personality and brain structure. What this should suggest to us is that if some mental characteristics are more prevalent among males and others among females, then provided not all differences between the sexes are created by socialisation alone (and not all are), there will be some true generalisations about the brains of males and females, just as there are true generalisations about the behaviour of males and females.

At this point, it’s crucial to remember that these differences are not what make the sexes exist. We can only ask the question “how do the sexes differ in various behavioural or neurological ways,” for example, because there are already categories called sexes. An individual male who is less aggressive than the average man is in no sense less of a man and somehow more of a woman than other men are. Stated at the neurological level: If an individual male has a neurology that results in him behaving less aggressively than other men, that in no sense means that he has a “more female” brain, because as noted earlier, observations about differences between the sexes are statistical claims about group differences, and they do not tell you what every individual in the group is like.

The evidence is showing us that just by looking at the structure of the grey matter in someone’s head, you cannot tell if they are male or female.

“Brain mosaic” of grey matter, compared by sex.

Here the research of Daphna Joel and others is informative. They used data obtained via MRI and compared the brains of males and the brains of females in detail. While the authors of the study are careful to acknowledge that there are differences between male and female brains, they cannot be considered “dimorphic,” that is, consistently different from one another, and different in the same ways. As one example of their findings, see the “brain mosaic” image on the left. See a large version HERE. It represents a comparison of grey matter in female and male brains, females on the left and males on the right. Each column represents a different brain region and each row represents the brain of a different individual. There are more females (385) than males (240). A couple of things are apparent immediately. First, there are some differences. The male image is more yellow, which corresponds to a tendency to have the same sorts of differences in grey matter (read the article for more detail of those differences).  There are true generalisations about differences. But what’s also apparent is that for any given female individual, from the extreme greens through to the extreme yellows and everything in between, there are plenty of rows on the male side that look more or less the same, and for any given male individual, there are plenty of rows on the female side that look the same. In other words, the evidence is showing us that just by looking at the structure of the grey matter in someone’s head, you cannot tell if they are male or female.

The researchers observe:

Our study demonstrates that although there are sex/gender differences in brain structure, brains do not fall into two classes, one typical of males and the other typical of females, nor are they aligned along a “male brain–female brain” continuum. Rather, even when considering only the small group of brain features that show the largest sex/gender differences, each brain is a unique mosaic of features, some of which may be more common in females compared with males, others may be more common in males compared with females, and still others may be common in both females and males.

Recall the bell curve illustration shown above when applied to aggression. There isn’t much difference between most men and women, but the marked differences, contributing most to the differences between averages, occur in the individuals at each extreme of the distribution. As Joel et al explain in a different study  when discussing sex differences in the brain, there is a theory that brain differences are a bit like this, and that that “the brain types typical of females are also typical of males, and sex differences exist only in the frequency of rare brain types.” Their research supported this theory. They conclude:

We have recently discovered that most human brains are composed of unique mosaics of features, and concluded that human brains do not belong to two distinct types, “male” and “female,” and that one’s sex category provides very little information about the specific composition of one’s unique brain mosaic (Joel et al., 2015). The present study supports these conclusions by showing that even when biological relevance is ignored, the structure of human brains does not fit into two distinct types of brain, one typical of males and the other typical of females. Moreover, although it is possible to use one’s brain architecture to predict whether this person is female or male with accuracy of ∼80%, one’s sex category provides very little information on the likelihood that one’s brain architecture is similar to or different from someone else’s brain architecture. This is because the brain types typical of females are also typical of males, and large sex differences are found only in the prevalence of some rare brain types.

It follows that whereas both female and male participants should be used in every study of the structure and function of the human brain to better represent the entire variability of our species, the use of sex category as a variable in analyzing the results of such studies should not be the default. This is because in studies of the typical human brain (as opposed to studies of rare conditions, such as autism, schizophrenia, etc.) using sex category as a variable would not control for sex category-related variability but rather lead to the detection of chance differences between the groups of females and males in the study (Joel, 2011; Joel and Fausto-Sterling, 2016; Joel and McCarthy, 2016).

The study’s authors also analysed data of 10 gender-stereotyped behaviour in a group of university students (boxing, construction, playing golf, playing video games, scrapbooking, taking a bath, talking on the phone, watching porn, watching talk shows, cosmetics). Here in the world of behaviour, too, although there are differences in results for males and females on the whole, it was still true that

the number of participants with a mosaic of gender-stereotyped behaviors is much higher than the number of participants who show internal consistency in their gender characteristics [i.e., they have either only “female-end” (i.e., more common in females compared to males) or only “male-end” (i.e., more common in males compared to females) characteristics…

To reiterate, what the research shows us is that while there may be differences between the group of males and the group of females on average when it comes to brain structure or behaviour, it is not the case that there is a female brain or a male brain, because the brain of any given male might be similar in structure to that of any given female, and when it comes to behaviour. It is normal for people to actually have an array of behaviour, some of which conforms to gender stereotypes and some of which does not.

Another possibly clarifying way of re-stating the above is this: As a group, males look different in terms of brains and behaviour because of the extremes of male and female brains and behaviour. But for any given individual brain structure or behaviour, it is not identifiably “male” or “female,” given the ranges of brain structure and behaviour that exist for males and females.

To put some flesh on the bones: If I were to discover that my brain structure in terms of grey matter was actually more common among females than males (something I know nothing about) and that I have some traits or behavioural tendencies that are more common among females than males, say, verbal skills and expressing myself with my hands (both of which are true of me), this would in no sense at all mean that I am somehow more of a woman than other men are.

So far, I have been talking about facts that I can reasonably expect every informed person to accept. If you didn’t know them before, you do now, and they cannot be called mere opinions.

And now we approach more contentious territory.

Stereotypes, men, and women

I have said this already, but it deserves repeating. While there may be some true statements about the sexes and differences between them as groups, there is a way of abusing those differences, namely by treating personality, behavioural or neurological traits as that which makes a person male or female – In other words, using stereotypes to define what a sex looks like (which is how the concept of gender is derived). Here are some examples of stereotyping about sex, and a better informed response to those stereotypes:

  • “My boy plays with dolls, so he’s a bit girly.” Or maybe (as is the case) playing with dolls is behaviour that boys can do.
  • “She’s quite assertive, a bit of a bloke.” Or maybe assertive behaviour falls on the spectrum of behaviour that women engage in.
  • “Her son likes pink, so he is a bit girly. I wonder if he’s gay.” Or maybe liking pink is not to be like a girl at all, let alone a marker of sexual preference.
  • “My father was in touch with his feminine side – he was really caring.” Or maybe being caring is not distinctly female behaviour.
  • “She’s one of the boys really, very good with her hands and she likes cars.” Or maybe having a brain that is good at technical manual work and liking cars isn’t a male trait.

You get the idea. Some of these stereotypes are produced entirely by culture (eg the association of blue with boys or pink with girls) and some of them are understandable but misguided appeals to what we know about averages or group differences. Such stereotyping is natural and hardly an egregious offence, as long as these claims are not pressed too far and have no serious consequences.

But here is where gender ideologues differ from me. Instead of sex as the category marker of men and women, they appeal to gender, which categorises people as boys, girls, men, or women, without reference to their biology / sex. But if being a woman is not a matter of being an adult human who is female, then what is it? What does gender actually amount to? The precise answer you get will depend on who you ask, but in general, the concept of gender that I am criticising is common, and it amounts to characteristics that are associated with masculinity and femininity, where masculinity and femininity are stereotypes or “social constructs.” To the extent that you possess the characteristics of feminine gender, you are a woman, and to the extent that you have the characteristics of masculinity, you are a man. You might, in theory, be at any point along the spectrum of characteristics, but instead of regarding this merely as a spectrum of characteristics that men and women can have, gender ideologues construe this as a spectrum of genders, because your place on the spectrum tells you what your gender is.

If you are at all familiar with gender ideology you will have seen this view expressed or presupposed many times. Here are some examples of that view being expressed, or of people encountering the view expressed by others:

Example 1, from a Twitter user:

Notice that this person’s daughter experienced the pressure to accept that failure to conform to stereotypes about how teenage girls feel and behave was taken to suggest that in fact her gender is not that of a girl.

Example 2, from the organisation “Mermaids.” Mermaids is a trans rights activist organisation in the UK. Here, they show us what the gender spectrum is, where people who are male might still be women (trans women) because their gender identity is near the “Barbie” end of the spectrum:

Notice that it is conformity with stereotypes, eg being more butch and tough or being more soft and gentle, which are taken as the factors that determine how much of a man or woman you are.

Example 3, from a blog written to explain the gender spectrum:

Notice that this example goes as far as to change the terms “masculine” and “feminine” to “male” and “female,” giving the impression that to be very masculine (like the picture of Johnny Bravo) is what makes you male, while being like Betty Boop makes you female. Although at first glance this may look like a simple error on the part of whoever made the image, in reality the facts about sex are being blurred (at the administrative level, not the scientific level) in some places, where a person can have their sex changed on legal documentation to match the gender they identify with. In biological terms, of course a sex change is literally impossible. A person can have their body altered surgically by having parts removed and artificial ones added or flesh molded to look like parts that actually don’t exist, but such procedures, do not alter the sex of the body being altered.

This concept of a spectrum, not simply of traits but of gender, of man-ness and woman-ness, trades on the false notion that there is a male brain and a female brain. If you have particular traits, you’re a man – or a woman. But we know this to be false. The evidence shows quite clearly that for any given male brain (along with the psychological descriptions of a person with that brain), there are plenty of women who have one very much like it, and vice versa. That doesn’t mean that the vast majority of adults are neither male nor female. It just means that gender – a social construct based on stereotypes about the sexes – is the wrong way to categorise men and women.

Do some people have opposite-sexed brains?

At this point, it’s clear how the evidence answers this question. A man cannot have an opposite-sexed brain if there is no such thing as an opposite-sexed brain.

At present there is a book being distributed to New Zealand schools to debunk myths about differences in proficiency between men and women, as well as the myth that there is a female brain and a male brain. Physicist Laurie Winkless, supporting the campaign to distribute the book (Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong), remarked on one of the things the book highlights: “There’s not a neuroscientist on the planet who would be able to tell you whether the brain they are looking at is from a man or a woman – not one.”

Depending on who you are talking to, you might hear one of two views staunchly upheld by people who might count as “liberal” or “woke” in their outlook:

  1. Science shows that males who are transgender actually have a woman’s brain.
  2. Stop endorsing sexist stereotypes, science shows that there’s no such thing as a woman’s brain or a man’s brain.

My rather strong hunch is that there are plenty of people who would, in different conversations, express both of these views. But obviously these positions are incompatible. 2, as we have seen, is what the evidence shows us.

So why do people believe 1? From 2019 the claim has been circulating that transgender people have the brain of the sex that they identify with. This claim is based on work done by Dr Julie Bakker from Belgium and her colleagues at the Center of Expertise on Gender Dysphoria in the Netherlands. This is actually a clinic for people experiencing gender dysphoria, a distress caused by not being able to easily identify with one’s sex and the bodily expression of that sex, and drawn to ways of thinking or acting that they perceive to belong to the other sex (more on this below under “Can you feel like a woman?”). The clinic provides care for people with gender dysphoria, including hormone therapy (for example testosterone given to young women to make them more “manly”) and surgery to make clients (including 200 adolescents each year) look and feel more like the sex they identify with. If the claim about brains is true, then both the gender ideology and the treatment given at the clinic would be seen by many to be validated at least in part.

But what exactly is the claim based on? The findings are outlined in Bakker’s paper, “Transgender brains are more like their desired gender from an early age.” Here is where we see that really all the research shows is that the researchers themselves have assigned maleness and femaleness to brain characteristics which neuroscientists know do not distinguish between males and females at all. Note the terms I have highlighted in bold below, as I will be returning to them.

The researchers explain part of the rationale for their study, noting that “little is known on how early in life, or to what extent, the gender-typical characteristics of transgender people become established” [emphasis added]. They summarise their research as follows:

The study included both adolescent boys and girls with gender dysphoria and used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to assess brain activation patterns in response to a pheromone known to produce gender-specific activity. The pattern of brain activation in both transgender adolescent boys and girls more closely resembled that of non-transgender boys and girls of their desired gender. In addition, GD adolescent girls showed a male-typical brain activation pattern during a visual/spatial memory exercise. Finally, some brain structural changes were detected that were also more similar, but not identical, to those typical of the desired gender of GD boys and girls.

If you are familiar with the scientific common ground outlined previously, the terms in bold should immediately raise red flags. What exactly is a “gender-specific activity”? It does not mean the release of sex hormones like estrogen or testosterone. Rather it refers to electrical activity in the brain. And what does it mean for grey matter (ie brain structure) to be “similar… to those typical of the desired gender”?

We already know that brain structure does not tell you whether or not a person is male or female, so having a brain structure that is allegedly somewhere in between the two means absolutely nothing.

What we must question here is not the accurate detection of brain responses and structure (which can easily be checked empirically), but instead the assumptions about what those responses and structure should be compared with and what similarities and differences mean. According to the gender clinic, there is such a thing as a male and female brain structure and a male and female brain response to stimulus, and they are calling the differences between these structures and responses “sexual differentiation of the brain.” If you have a certain brain structure, your brain is differentiated as female and if you have another, your brain is differentiated as male. Not only does this deny what other neuroscientists have demonstrated, as observed above, but the fact that the clinic alleges that transgender people are somewhere between the two throws the entire analysis into confusion. Between what, exactly? We already know that brain structure does not tell you whether or not a person is male or female, so having a brain structure that is allegedly somewhere in between the two means absolutely nothing. It most definitely does not mean, as the researchers appear to be suggesting, that a person with gender dysphoria is not quite a man and not quite a woman, as far as their brain goes.

In spite of this seemingly crippling shortcoming, the claims of Bakker and co are being touted by gender clinics and gender ideologues as evidence that adult human males can be women. Other studies are out there as well, but these are less noteworthy. One study shows that transexuals (people who have transitioned using hormone and/or surgical therapy) respond differently to non-transexuals when smelling steroids. But not only does this type of research potentially succumb to the neuroscientific male brain / female brain objection already noted, but the subjects have been altered. It may well be that a man who has endured hormone therapy and surgical removal of his sex organs will have different characteristics than a man who has not, but so what? This could never help to tell us that he was always a woman waiting to burst forth.

The only genuine way  a brain can be a male brain is for it to be in the head of a male.

So what was going on in Bakker’s research? Suppose a group of female subjects who identified as boys all had certain features in common – they conformed to more “masculine” stereotypes. They were, for want of a better word, butch. Neurologically, then, they might have this in common, which will show up in the results. Does this make their brains more male? No, because we know that females, too can have these brain features, and many do. But the butch-making features of their brains are being interpreted as male-making features by the researchers, and hence, we are told that their brains are male-ish brains. Whatever the scientific trappings, there is no advance here on simply defining gender as stereotype conformity. The only genuine way  a brain can be a male brain is for it to be in the head of a male.

Can you “feel like a woman”?

Let us then dispense with the idea that a woman (or a man) is just someone who conforms to socialised stereotypes about femininity (or masculinity). Part of the difficulty in having conversations about transgenderism has been that it is so fiendishly difficult to pin down with precision what people are claiming about themselves. The fact that this task is so difficult, I suspect, is part of the reason why it has become a taboo question to even raise, so that a person’s declaration about their identity is all that matters, even if there is no clear meaning to that declaration.

But what that declaration amounts to must be pressed. The person who makes that declaration wants the world to treat them as though they are what they claim to be. This requires counterintuitive use of language, and it involves making accommodations, more so in the case of males who want the world to regard them as women. And it is a careful examination of what this claim to gender identity means that has caused some people to realise that it makes a lot less sense than they had assumed, if it means anything, and to do an about face on the question of transgenderism.

Consider Sarah (who lives inside a thought experiment). Sarah is a teenage girl who has some body issues, as many teenage girls do. She lives in a culture where alternative sexualities and gender identities are virtually celebrated, and one day Sarah decides that she has arrived at the explanation for why she is uncomfortable with her body. Sarah says that she feels like a boy. What – very precisely – does this proposition mean: “I feel like a boy?” It certainly doesn’t mean “I feel like I am physically male,” because that’s not a feeling. The idea that you are physically male is a truth claim, and in Sarah’s case it is a false claim. Does it mean “I would rather be physically male?” If so then that’s really not the feeling that you are a boy. That’s just the claim that you wish you were something you’re not. Does it mean “I have feelings or attitudes that I think only a boy can have?” If so then those feelings or attitudes are probably real, but what you believe about them is certainly false. There are no feelings or attitudes that only a boy, girl, man, or woman can have. Does Sarah mean “I want people to treat me in the way that they treat boys”? If so, then stop saying that you feel like a boy. What you really want is equal treatment, and just say so. Does Sarah mean “I feel inclined to do things that are only socially acceptable for boys to do”? If so then you don’t feel like a boy (whatever that even means), you mean that you object to sex stereotypes about what boys and girls can do. Do you mean “I don’t want to have babies?” OK, fine, don’t. Not all women have babies. Do you mean “I’m not attracted to boys, I’m attracted to girls”? That doesn’t make you a boy. While same-sex attraction is hardly the norm, it obviously exists and doesn’t mean you’re not really a girl. Maybe the issue is “I’m attracted to girls, but I don’t want to be gay, so I must be a boy.” Really? Instead of experiencing an attraction that doesn’t seem right to you, you’d rather believe that your whole body is that of a female when you’re actually a boy? That – a path that will probably lead you to permanent sterilisation and surgery to damage and remove your healthy organs – seems more right or healthy than experiencing attraction that you’re uncomfortable with? And since when does “this is what I would rather be the case” amount to “this is what really is the case”?

If gender isn’t just conformity with sex stereotypes, then perhaps it’s a strong feeling of being the other sex. But there is literally no such feeling.

Right now I’m not even saying that it’s untrue that a man can feel like a woman, or that a woman can feel like a man. Rather, the claim doesn’t truly mean anything at all. There is no such thing as “feeling like a man/woman.” There may well be a genuine distress over your body and a belief that you are a different sex so you want your body to change to reflect that. It’s false, however, that you can be a different sex from your body, because you are your body. So gender enters the picture as a way of saying that you’re something else. If gender isn’t just conformity with sex stereotypes, then perhaps it’s a strong feeling of being the other sex. But there is literally no such feeling. Feelings you might be experiencing are discomfort (with your body), attractedness to the thought of being a woman (a condition called autogynephilia), loathing of yourself, a desire to be different or obtain attention, but none of these – or any other feelings – amounts to the feeling of being a particular sex. That is because being a particular sex is a physical state of affairs that is not grounded in a state of mind.

Why care?

I’m not transgender, so why do I care about the issue? That’s a fair question. It’s not always easy to investigate your own heart and correctly discern why you’re interested in things. But I’ll try.

  • I care about what’s true and what’s not.
  • This isn’t just about transgender people. It’s about the concept of gender, and everyone, according to gender ideology, has a gender, everyone including me. So in fact this is about me as much as it is about anybody.
  • Fundamental errors about human nature and identity are dangerous even when all of their dangers are not apparent.
  • Self-love and self-acceptance includes loving and accepting the body you have and looking after it.
  • There is considerable pressure exerted through various social media outlets to encourage younger people, especially girls, to consider gender dysphoria as a likely explanation for what troubles them, and they are coached at such outlets in how to obtain referrals for life-altering “treatment.”
  • I love people and I don’t want to see them harmed, which definitely includes irreversible physical mutilation and permanent loss of bodily function. I also don’t want people to have to deny realities about themselves in order to be comfortable in their own skin. A girl who doesn’t conform to stereotypes and who is insecure about her appearance should not be led down the path of having to deny her womanhood to feel comfortable. Instead she should be helped to love the woman that she is.
  • It is alarming to see the way power is ceded in society to people who aggressively promote gender ideology to the point where dissenters face serious risk if they make their dissent known.
  • Gender ideologues don’t just hold beliefs and encourage people to seriously damage themselves. They also require me to act – and will willingly see me coerced to act – contrary to my own beliefs and to declare that males are women. They do the same and worse to women when they require women to allow males into their changing rooms or sports teams. It is thus a coercive movement.

There could be other reasons, too, if I thought longer about it. But am I not really just driven by religious concerns? I am a Christian and I write about theology, so this might be a tempting ad hominem attack, to discredit me without listening. Well if that’s what you suspect, tell me what religious beliefs you have in mind. I certainly have a religious interest in truth, in self-love, in loving and caring about others, or about opposing unjust power. But I suspect you also have an interest in those things, so let’s just deal with the facts in front of us rather than try to peer into each other’s “real” motives.

So I’m gender critical. Men and women are properly distinguished by sex. Gender is a concept we should be critical of, as it does not meaningfully say anything about what you are. As you can tell if you’ve made it this far, this has nothing to do with phobia. It has nothing to do with hate, and it certainly has nothing to do with denying anybody’s right to exist. It’s just about about telling the truth because I think it matters, as does our right to openly tell the truth.

Glenn Peoples

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5 thoughts on “Being Gender Critical

  1. I am not well versed in the topic, but feel that at some point it needs to be addressed further. I don’t particularly care what adults (over 18) do with themselves, but changing sexes chemically or through surgery at earlier ages seems like a bad idea.

    As a sports fan, transgender women competing in women’s sports seems like a problem, particularly at the high school level.

    I don’t disagree with your analysis and there aren’t any outright holes in the logic. There is an unstated part here though; not being able to adequately describe what it means to feel male or female does not mean people don’t have those feelings. I don’t think our culture has the language for a lot of this. Even people moderately familiar struggle with what terms to use and usage is inconsistent. All of which makes pulling conversations and papers from around the internet difficult to consolidate and compare.

    1. “There is an unstated part here though; not being able to adequately describe what it means to feel male or female does not mean people don’t have those feelings”

      My position isn’t simply that people can’t “adequately describe those feelings.” If you think I said that somewhere I’d like to know where so that I can correct it. That is not what I sought to convey. My claim, instead was that there are no feelings to which one can point that *are* feelings of being male or female.

  2. Glenn I have a couple of questions arising:

    1) prompted by immediately thinking of that song lyric “Man I feel like a woman”. Do you think it possible to feel a strong emotional connection to the sex that you are, and if yes, could that emotion be or contribute to ‘feeling’ like the sex that you are? E.g. you want to encourage ‘self-love’ and ‘self-acceptance’ which are emotional states towards being male/female. Is there realistically any distinction between “feeling like” and “being”?

    2) Is it true, in your estimation, that the physical attributes of the body determine how the brain behaves in identifying as a gender under normal/general circumstances? If so, to what extent does the normal functioning of those attributes (including hormonal) create a healthy mental view of gender within our own body? If not, what implications does that have for separation of physical sex from gender conceptually?

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