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12 Sep, 2022 14:10

Both the Left and the Right are getting the gender debate wrong

When it comes to the culture war around sex and gender, American society couldn’t be more polarized – both sides have their extremes, and both those extremes are wrong
Both the Left and the Right are getting the gender debate wrong

The gender debate has been yet another issue dividing Americans along political lines for several years now, with the dial turned up to eleven in recent months. While it’s a broad generalization to say the divide on gender issues runs along the right-left political line, it’s reasonable to describe the left as mostly pro-transgender and pro multiple genders, while the right would mostly like to keep the only two genders/sexes humans have always known and recognized, at least until recently – men and women. 

There are usually extremes on both sides of any issue, and though few people would probably consider it “extreme” to say that you can’t change your sex, or that there really are only two, the conservatives are still missing the mark, in their own way.

The difference between the terms “sex” and “gender” alone has caused much confusion and contention when it needn’t have. Many conservatives would prefer to do away with the notion of “gender” entirely, feeling it would obviate the need for conversations about multiple genders or transgenderism. Without the word “gender,” we would only be left with the stark material reality of the word “sex.” And in that reality, we would be forced to reckon with two distinct biologies that are, for better or for worse, immutable.

No one, no matter how he or she feels, or how many drugs or hormones are involved, can fully change sex. Certain sexual characteristics can be altered to resemble or imitate those of the opposite sex, but complete and seamless biological transition is currently impossible. On top of that, sex change (or sex reassignment care in more politically correct terms) is often associated with health complications. Here, the conservative adage that “facts don’t care about your feelings” is fully applicable. A baby is born male or female (or in very rare cases, intersex, which is a combination of both) and his or her sex is determined at the moment of conception.  As the fetus develops, the brain and body grow simultaneously. No one can be “born in the wrong body” because we are our bodies. Male and female bodies are distinguishable from each other even at the cellular level. The left, while eager to demand that people “follow the science” in other ways, refuse to accept this, and many have taken the stance that drugs and surgeries can change the sex of a human.

If for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, it’s easy to see how the societal pendulum would swing in the opposite direction when faced with radical concepts like transgenderism, multiple genders, etc. Which is why, on the complete opposite side of politics and culture, we have the far right. This group, however you’d like to call it, generally has a tendency to expect strict adherence to traditional gender stereotypes, citing anything outside of that as somehow immoral. I’ve certainly encountered this as a gay woman in the conservative south who doesn’t adhere to stereotypical gender norms. There are still some conservatives who view masculine-presenting women as “wrong” and who won’t tolerate effeminate men. Check the comments section of any conservative news outlet when there is a story about a lesbian who happens to have short hair and you’ll see a lot of childish “who is this dude?” remarks. These comments, while mostly harmless by themselves, reveal a growing backlash against “woke” gender ideology. This is to be expected, but letting that proverbial pendulum swing back too far will do society no good. Pushing your idea of what a woman should look like or how she should behave isn’t going to get us anywhere. It’s a shallow and unproductive stance to take. We have to be better than that. We have to accept differences, and we have to make exceptions, just as there are exceptions in all of nature.

I humbly propose a hefty dose of reality I hope both sides can accept. While sex cannot be changed, gender expression (not gender, but how it is expressed!) can vary, resulting in a minority of men exhibiting more feminine traits, and a minority of women exhibiting more traditionally masculine traits. There really isn’t anything surprising or unique about this.

There have always been little boys who prefer dancing and dress-up to football, and who among us haven’t known a few tomboys?

In adulthood, these atypical gender expressions are often associated with the homosexual population, and I don’t think it’s a wrong assumption. We all know some drag queens and butch lesbians (a word the lesbian community once readily embraced before they thought they could become men), and for a long time, we understood collectively that they simply exist as they are. They may not be typical of their sex in appearance or choice of dress, but up until recently we never doubted their biology.

Can we please return to this reasonable, grounded-in-truth world and then let people look and dress and act how they please? 

I’m sure we can all eventually live side-by-side without pushing our extreme ideologies OR our personal esthetics on each other. At the very least, we can try. In the meantime, leave children out of it. That part isn’t up for debate.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.