Not content with dealing with one controversial topic, this blog post addresses two with the side effect of doubling my capacity to offend. As always, I am more than happy to offend on an intellectual level for: "words ought to be a little wild for they are the assault of thought on the unthinking" (prize if you know who wrote this). I do not intend to offend on a personal level but given that I'm dealing with two identity issues perhaps some form of offence is unavoidable. Either way, I am asking you to accept on trust that these are not the angry typings of an armchair bigot but reflective musings on an extremely difficult topic.
At some point soon, as the transgender movement gathers momentum, men are going to realise that they make better women than women and feminism is going to die. To rephrase with a great deal more nuance: given the male centric value system of society today, masculine behaviours in a "woman's" body are valued more highly than feminine behaviours thus giving men a home field advantage when it comes to being women.
This truth is crudely and cruelly parodied in the IT Crowd, where a transgendered woman drinks, burps and watches sport like a man and is therefore the best woman Douglas has ever met. The suggestion being that all men want is a woman's body to have sex with and a man's mind that can be easily understood. This reduces the complexity, awkwardness and mystery of heterosexual romance to nothing more than a farce. Women and men are meant to find each other difficult to understand because we are meant to be different, in how we think and feel.
Let's start with a relatively uncontroversial example of how the transgender movement will effect women. The sports which are valued the most today are the ones which men are biologically best at. The sports where the genders do compete against each other are not the popular ones. So, in four years time, at the next women's world cup, it is easy to imagine the scenario where one country from the West fields a team of transgender women. If this happens, they win as their players will be faster, stronger and have more stamina because they remain biologically men even if they identify as women. So every other team would have to follow suit to compete. And then women's football is dead and buried, with women being driven out the market by transgendered women. Ironically, women's football would only exist in the countries that were "backwards" enough not to accept the transgendered movement.
Any attack on objective notions of gender is an attack on women. Historically, I think there is a case that I can be confident that men will be no worse off from the transgendered movement. But the effects of getting rid of any solid concept of gender is going to be used to oppress women. The example from the world of sport is bad enough, what about the world of work?
Right now, women make up a tiny percentage of board members on FTSE 100 companies. All it takes is one "enlightened" company to get half it's men on the board to identify as women and this problem is technically speaking solved. Gender discrimination will be rendered irrelevant because gender as a concept will cease to be relevant. And when that happens efforts to see more women in board rooms will seem misplaced and be slowly stopped.
Indeed, transgendered women will be more employable than women for three reasons. The first is that they cannot get pregnant so will not require maternity pay or leave. The second is that they will display the masculine behaviours that are generally (and wrongly) considered more valuable than feminine behaviours. And lastly, they will meet two targets for diversity: gender and transgendered.
The argument against this might be to separate out the transgendered women from the natural women but that is the very thing that the transgendered movement is seeking to abolish. There is a history, in economics, of men getting into professions that had once been mainly women dominated and getting paid more for it, pushing women out the market. The transgendered movement will allow men to go one step further and beat women at being women.
The third area of attack will come in the realm of beauty. At the moment there is a movement to broaden society's conception of female beauty. Personally, I think this is great but until this movement seeks to ban pornography it will achieve little. The number of women a man will consider beautiful will directly increase as use of porn decreases and the unreal perfection of digital nakedness is replaced by the reality of a flawed beauty that is all the more beautiful for its slight imperfections.
The reason I mention this is that the transgender movement will reverse all progress that has been made in encouraging women, particularly young girls, to love their own bodies. Instead, the heroes of womenhood that will be on the front of magazines and called brave and courageous will be the ultimate example of the artificial. They will be as beautiful as the surgeon's knife can make them - taller, bustier, leggier, than their natural competition. A celebration of transgender is a celebration of rejecting the god given body for a replacement carved by human skill.
The tragic irony is that feminism has its own share of blame in its likely death. Rather than fighting the male centric value system it has embraced it wholeheartedly. The emphasis has been on getting women in the careers most valued by men rather than raising the value of the careers most valued by women. And while it is good for glass ceilings to be broken and sexist hiring practises reversed, this is not the heart of equality of the sexes. The heart is the inherent worth of women and men, as image bearers of their Creator God. And from that perspective, to use a stereotypical example, HR is as valuable as engineering and stay at home mothers as valuable as the high flying executives.
The battle between these two conflicting identity ideologies might be interesting to watch were the conclusion not foregone: feminism is going to lose. Transgendered rights are "in" and feminism is so last century. And it's going to lose because I don't think it is ideologically able to see this battle coming. Feminism has always seen unhappy with even having genders in the first place so it will see the transgendered movement as a natural ally, right up to the point where it gets stabbed in the back.
Yet feminism has no meaning outside of gender. Equality of the sexes has no meaning outside of gender. The fight for equality of the sexes is going to take a huge step back once men can get in on the whole being a women thing. If the patriarchy was bad, the "transiarchy" will be worse. It will cost women their jobs and be a direct attack on hard won equality.
To be clear, I am not saying that the intent of the transgendered movement is to ruin equality of the sexes. It's motives are to fight for the rights of the transgendered. But intention and motive matter little when the unintended consequences are going to so bad. The two movements stand in conflict with each other, its just that neither has got round to realising this yet.
What is the solution to all this? From a secular mindset I don't think there is one. If self-determined identity wins out over anything else then there can be no reconciling this tension between feminism and the transgendered movement. Either way, someone is going to be oppressed.
From a Christian perspective, the answer is found back at Creation when God made humanity male and female, both as bearers of his image. It is here that we find the inherent dignity and equality of the sexes. And it is here that we find that our gender identity is God given, and not up for change.
As that last sentence is extremely controversial I'll end with a difficult question asked by a lecturer on medical ethics: if a man asks his doctor to cut off his healthy left leg because he identifies as being disabled, would you cut off his leg for him? Given that most people react in horror to this - why do we cut off genitals on request and call the person a hero? As a society our conception of the transgendered movement is rife with contradictions and no one seems willing to discuss the problems that are just beginning to come to light. Yet to protect the advances of women's rights and equality these issues must be dealt with.