There’s No Obligation to Speak Like a Queer Theorist. Doing so Misrepresents Reality

Dr. Phil held a debate between those who advocate gender ideology, which rests on the queer theory claim that gender is a performance, versus those who operate from a reality-based standpoint, which assumes gender is associated with sex, both of which are rooted in natural history and universal sociocultural understanding. In this blog, I explain how gender ideology obscures reality to advance a cultural-political agenda and show why sex and gender are relatively uncomplicated features of material reality.

The clip I want you to view, which starts at 13:34, is cued, but if it doesn’t automatically start from that mark, then please scroll to it. You will have to manually stop the clip at 15:`19. You can watch the entire discussion, but there is a particular point Kara Dansky, the author of The Abolition of Sex: How the ‘Transgender’ Agenda Harms Women and Girls, makes that I want to amplify in this blog. Dansky is a powerful voice on this issue and I want you hear this from her.

In the context of biology and natural history, the term “gender” was originally used to describe the genotypic differences between male and female plants and animals. The term was used at least as far back as the 17th century to describe the differences between male and female plants of the same species. The English botanist John Ray is likely the first to do so, at least we know that he did, and usage of the term became widespread among botanists in the following centuries. In 1872, the British biologist Charles Darwin used the terms “gender” and “sex” to differentiate between the female and male genotypes of animal species.

Gender ideology has, with the help of some dictionaries, redefined basic terms in this area and manufactured an overcomplicated explanation to disguise the original meaning and usages. One should always be suspicious when confronted with convoluted and jargon-laden verbiage designed to appear as if the author is conveying deep meanings that elude non-specialists. As somebody trained in the social sciences, it was obvious to me from the beginning that postmodernist language was manipulation in this way. Queer theory is founded on postmodernist epistemic. It was Michel Foucault, the godfather of queer theory, who told his devotees that sexuality is “socially constructed.”

Gender and sex is not complicated when working from the standpoint of natural history. Mammals are a class of warm-blooded vertebrate animals characterized by several distinct features, including having fur or hair, mammary glands that produce milk for their offspring, and (with few exceptions) a four-chambered heart. All mammals reproduce sexually, with males and females each producing specialized reproductive cells called gametes. Gametes are haploid cells, meaning they contain only one set of chromosomes. In mammals, male gametes are called sperm cells, while female gametes are called eggs or ova. Sperm cells are produced in the testes of male mammals through a process called spermatogenesis, while ova are produced in the ovaries of female mammals through a process called oogenesis.

During sexual reproduction, a male mammal will release sperm cells into the female’s reproductive system, where they will travel through the fallopian tubes to reach the female’s egg cell. If one of the sperm cells successfully fertilizes the egg, the resulting zygote will contain a complete set of chromosomes and will, if everything goes well, eventually develop into an embryo. Gametes thus play a crucial role in the reproduction and survival of mammalian species, allowing for genetic diversity and the continuation of life through sexual reproduction.

Mammalian species always come in two genotypes: female and male. As it is in nature, there are genetic and hormonal abnormalities (e.g., chromosomal, androgen insensitivity syndrome, congenital adrenal hyperplasia), that can affect the development of the sex of the species, but these defects are rare and anomalous and do not represent a continuum of sex in the species. Humans, like all mammals, are either female or male. The sex binary is real and unalterable.

Humans have developed language to communicate with one another, and a key feature of language is accurately and efficiently conveying the reality of the world, which is of vital necessity in collectively exploiting and navigating the environment and negotiating social interactions. Gender has become a way that individuals can discuss sexual matters a species-specific way.

Suppose you are on a farm and the farmer is telling you about his bull. A bull is the adult male of the bovine species. The pronouns follow intuitively. The bull is a he because he is a male. When the farmer is talking about the bull, you don’t need to process the information concerning the animal’s gender and sex. You instead focus on what the conversation is about, which is probably not the obvious fact that the bull is a male bovine. There are other males and females of other species on the farm, but you know which species of animal is under discussion because of the species-specific gender.

Judith Butler tells us that gender is a performance. A person many perform gender, such as when a man performs as a woman in drag, a performance that typically demands of the audience suspension of its disbelief. But gender in itself is not as a performance. It is not in its essence a social construction (albeit aspects of gender are socially constructed, which we can plainly see in cultural and historical variability in the categories). The man in drag only pretends to be a woman. He cannot be one, just as the bull cannot, even if we suppose male bovine are clever enough to perform as cows, be a cow. While a person, because he can imagine, may suppose he is many things (an alien, Jesus, a cat, whatever), he is really only what he is from an objective standpoint. One isn’t what he thinks he is unless what he thinks he is what he really is. Otherwise, he has fallen pray to delusion or illusion. It does not matter what a person thinks of himself. It matters what he is. There is no gender identity apart from the objective fact of the man’s gender. His body is not a vessel in which he travels. He cannot trade in his body for another. He is his body.

Postmodernism, the epistemic upon which Foucault and Butler stand up their arguments, is the main source of language contamination in the current period. Postmodernism rejects the possibility to objective truth, which leads to relativism, a standpoint where all ideas are deemed equally valid, regardless of their empirical validity or logical consistency. Postmodernism views all cultural practices are viewed as equally valid and worthy of respect, regardless of their impact on human rights or individual freedoms. As such postmodernism is fundamentally anti-science, viewing science as just another way of knowing, rather than as a rigorous method for uncovering objective truths about the world. Postmodernism focuses on identity politics and social justice issues at the expense of objective analysis and inquiry. With its rejections of all claims to objective truth, morality, and meaning, postmodernism promotes nihilism. Postmodernism is a corrupting force and it has left in its wake a trail of confused, broken, and ruined people.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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