The philosophical contradictions of the transgender worldview

(Ryan T. Anderson – Public Discourse) People say that we live in a postmodern age that has rejected metaphysics. That’s not quite true. We live in a postmodern age that promotes an alternative metaphysics. As I explain in When Harry Became Sally, at the heart of the transgender moment are radical ideas about the human person—in particular, that people are what they claim to be, regardless of contrary evidence. A transgender boy is a boy, not merely a girl who identifies as a boy. It’s understandable why activists make these claims. An argument about transgender identities will be much more persuasive if it concerns who someone is, not merely how someone identifies. And so the rhetoric of the transgender moment drips with ontological assertions: people are the gender they prefer to be. That’s the claim.

Transgender activists don’t admit that this is a metaphysical claim. They don’t want to have the debate on the level of philosophy, so they dress it up as a scientific and medical claim. And they’ve co-opted many professional associations for their cause. Thus the American Psychological Association, in a pamphlet titled “Answers to Your Questions about Transgender People, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression,” tells us, “Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identitygender expression, or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.” Notice the politicized language: a person’s sex is “assigned at birth.” Back in 2005, even the Human Rights Campaign referred instead to “birth sex” and “physical sex.”

The phrase “sex assigned at birth” is now favored because it makes room for “gender identity” as the real basis of a person’s sex. In an expert declaration to a federal district court in North Carolina concerning H.B. 2, Dr. Deanna Adkins stated, “From a medical perspective, the appropriate determinant of sex is gender identity.” Dr. Adkins is a professor at Duke University School of Medicine and the director of the Duke Center for Child and Adolescent Gender Care (which opened in 2015). Adkins argues that gender identity is not only the preferred basis for determining sex, but “the only medically supported determinant of sex.”  Every other method is bad science, she claims: “It is counter to medical science to use chromosomes, hormones, internal reproductive organs, external genitalia, or secondary sex characteristics to override gender identity for purposes of classifying someone as male or female.”

This is a remarkable claim, not least because the argument recently was that gender is only a social construct, while sex is a biological reality. Now, activists claim that gender identity is destiny, while biological sex is the social construct.

Adkins doesn’t say whether she would apply this rule to all mammalian species. But why should sex be determined differently in humans than in other mammals? And if medical science holds that gender identity determines sex in humans, what does this mean for the use of medicinal agents that have different effects on males and females? Does the proper dosage of medicine depend on the patient’s sex, or on his or her gender identity?

But what exactly is this “gender identity” that is supposed to be the true medical determinant of sex? Adkins defines it as “a person’s inner sense of belonging to a particular gender, such as male or female.” Note that little phrase “such as,” implying that the options are not necessarily limited to male or female. Other activists are more forthcoming in admitting that gender identity need not be restricted to the binary choice of male or female, but can include both or neither. The American Psychological Association, for example, defines “gender identity” as “a person’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else.”

Adkins asserts that being transgender is not a mental disorder, but simply “a normal developmental variation.” And she claims, further, that medical and mental health professionals who specialize in the treatment of gender dysphoria are in agreement with this view.  View article →