Transgenderism has emerged as one of the most influential ideologies of our time. It is shaping people’s behaviour and thought in pursuit of a specific political objective – the erosion of the significance of biological sex. And it is undermining long-held cultural assumptions about what it means to be a man or a woman.
Above all, it is an intolerant, coercive force – and it has been thoroughly embraced by political and cultural elites in both the UK and the US.
In the UK recently we have seen Labour Party leader Keir Starmer criticise one of his MPs for daring to say that ‘only women have a cervix’. And we have also seen Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer condemn a gay- and lesbian-rights group for criticising trans ideas, calling it a ‘hate group’.
Even members of the Conservative Party are now exponents of the trans ideology. Indeed, the prime minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, used her sole appearance at the Conservative Party conference to urge her fellow Tories to fight for the rights of trans people – a thinly veiled rebuke to those in the party who are concerned about gender self-identification. It is clear that transgenderism is the new orthodoxy among members of the political class.
For our cultural elites, transgenderism vies with environmentalism as the cause of the 21st century. As sociologist Michael Biggs notes, the ‘transgender movement has transformed cultural norms and social institutions at breathtaking speed’.
The ease and alacrity with which trans identity has been promoted, and conventional distinctions between men and women have been eroded, have surprised even trans activists. An American law professor sympathetic to transgenderism wrote of the ‘stunning speed’ with which ‘non-binary gender identities have gone from obscurity to prominence in American public life’, citing as proof the growing acceptance of ‘gender-neutral pronouns such as “they, them, and theirs”‘, ‘all-gender’ restrooms, and the ‘increasing number of US jurisdictions… recognising a third-gender category’ (1).
The UK and parts of northern Europe have proven no less hospitable to transgenderism – they, too, have welcomed the dramatic conceptual revision of the relationship between men and women. Gender self-identification has now seemingly trumped long-standing conventions. A biological male can now identify as a female in order to gain access to women’s toilets, refuges or prisons. Even hitherto girls-only institutions, such as the Girl Guides, are now open to boys who identify as female. In the National Health Service, transgender patients can choose to be treated in either male or female wards.
Little wonder that in many areas of life now, the boundary between man and woman appears increasingly illegitimate. To the extent it still exists at all, it is presented as artificial, even oppressive. And those who choose to transgress it are celebrated by the media as brave and inspirational role models.
Transgenderism is making itself at home in the most unlikely of places. Rejecting long-held scientific assumptions, both Nature and Scientific American ‘have denied that there are clear criteria for classifying humans as male and female’ (2). The British Medical Association has also fallen in line. In its guide to ‘inclusive language’, it advises its members to use the term ‘pregnant people’ instead of ‘pregnant women’. Just recently the prestigious medical journal, the Lancet, decided to call women ‘bodies with vaginas’. It seems that, even in the scientific, medical domain, biological reality is being sacrificed at the altar of transgender ideology.
Remarkably, transgenderism has also been embraced by big business. An advert for British bank HSBC announces that ‘Gender’s just too fluid for borders’. According to HSBC’s accompanying promotional material, its customers can now choose from 10 gender titles, including ‘Ind’, ‘Misc’ and ‘Sai’.
HSBC’s willingness to transform language may look like a harmless exercise in linguistic sensitivity towards people who wish to be known as Mx or Ser. But it is one of many attempts to impose a vocabulary that not only challenges age-old linguistic norms but also the sentiments that lie behind them. As George Orwell warned, taking control of language and redefining the meaning of words is the first step taken by those seeking to control people’s thoughts.