21 Jan 2016

Of Pronouns and Passports: Joining the Dots from New York's Gender Identity Laws to Parliament's Transgender Equality Report

(Based on a talk given at a meeting of Anglican Mainstream’s Marriage, Sex and Culture group, 13th Jan 2016)

Every day seems to bring another transgender-related news story. I want to zoom in on two that give us a way to get beneath the surface of the whole ‘gender identity’ thing.

American Pronouns

Legal enforcement guidance was recently published in New York City relating to laws governing non-discrimination on grounds of gender identity. Rather than create new law the guidance clarifies already existing laws, thereby revealing more of their all-encompassing, terrific power.

The guidance confirms that each person is permitted to use a self-chosen gender identity, name, title and set of third-person personal pronouns. Furthermore, nobody need ever provide legal proof of identity. Failure to conform to another person’s identity could result in a fine of up to $250,000.

According to this scheme a member of the female sex (Simone) can walk up to a stranger in Brooklyn and say “Hello, my name is Simon; I identify as male; and my preferred pronouns are he/him/his”. If you are that stranger, you would then need to call a she a he—or face a fine. That’s a quarter of a million dollars for refusing to use the ‘right’ pronoun (also known as the wrong pronoun). Likewise, if you are willing to call her him only on condition that she shows you some legal proof (or surgical scars), that too would expose you to a fine.

British Passports

Meanwhile on this side of the Atlantic the Chair of the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee, Maria Miller MP, recently expressed her support for the idea of ‘de-gendering’ British passports, driving licences and job application forms. (The Committee has since released its transgender equality report.)

This means that when I fill in a job application form I will not need to indicate that I am male, and yet, if I catch a ‘plane to New York and attend a job interview there, I can greet my interviewer with the words “Hello, my name is Danielle; I identify as female; and my preferred pronouns are she/her/hers”. And if the interviewer does not obey my mind? That will be a fine.

So…we are being told gender is of such little importance that it can be omitted from official forms, yet of such great importance that a refusal to call a he a she could cost you your livelihood. What gives? I am going to explain away this contradiction (and two others) by using cars.

Car Prices and Car Colours

Imagine an X axis and a Y axis forming a cross. The X axis plots car prices, ranging from cheap (left) to expensive (right), and the Y axis plots car colours, ranging from red (top), through orange, yellow and green, to blue (bottom). Now, suppose I think all cars should be the same colour as each other. This means I want to squeeze the Y axis from both ends, shrinking its length down to nothing. This would not affect the X axis because a car’s colour does not determine its price.

But suppose instead I think all cars should be the same colour and that—for that very reason—they should also be the same price. Again, car price has nothing to do with car colour, so why would I insist on squeezing both price and colour when I need only squeeze colour? The only logical explanation is that I am not genuinely interested in removing car colours. My real motivation is the homogenization of car prices, and I am using ‘car colour equality’ to disguise my attack on price difference.

Sexes and Socio-Cultural Gender

For the analogy to work just replace car prices with sexes, ranging from Male (left) to Female (right), and replace car colours with gender, ranging from Feminine (top) to Masculine (bottom). Here gender is taken to mean the socio-cultural manifestation of sexual difference. At the top of the Y axis we have pink, nursing, make-up and long hair, and at the bottom we have blue, doctors, tattoos and short hair. Note that the X axis is superior to the Y axis because sexes can exist without sex stereotypes whereas sex stereotypes cannot exist without sexes.

Gender theory says these stereotypes represent either a system of deliberate oppression (of females) or, at the very least, a barrier which should be overthrown in the name of choice. It follows that a genderless society would be freer, fairer and more flexible. Gender theory wants to squeeze the Y axis until it disappears, and this notion has some merit.

However, there is a problem. We are not seeing sex stereotypes disappear. Rather, they are being magnified to such an extent that were a boy to attend school wearing make-up and pink clothes his acquired female stereotypes might well earn him access to the girls’ restroom. It is as though sex stereotypes have replaced the very thing they are dependent on—sexes.

For the sake of emphasis, let’s include one more contradiction. Consider the situation of a man (Paul) who had his body mutilated in order to have the M on his passport replaced with an F. Paul will now be betrayed by a government which plans to remove M and F from all passports, including his hard-earned F. These, then, are our three mysteries:
  • How can gender be essential to identity yet irrelevant to paperwork?
  • Why is the State both removing and rewarding stereotypes?
  • Why change gender if your new gender cannot be recognised on your legal I.D?
How do we explain all of this? The answer is both simple and fitting. In the same way that the words Male and Female are now used in two ways (i.e. to represent both sex and gender), so too the word Gender now has two meanings. To illustrate them let’s return to our X and Y axes.

Sexes and Legal Gender

The first and most widely-used meaning of the word Gender is the one used by Maria Miller and others when talking about a genderless society. It signifies that sphere of life within which sexual difference is expressed in non-inherent ways. Pink is not really a female colour—it is just a colour.

But in the same way that it makes no sense to insist that all cars should be the same price just because they are the same colour, so too it makes no sense to insist that boys be allowed in the girls’ restroom just because gender consists of stereotypes. Indeed as we have seen, to allow it on the basis of a boy’s ‘feminine appearance’ is to re-enforce stereotypes. So why is the State allowing something which not only is not required by gender theory but also contradicts it? We have to conclude that the State is not implementing gender theory. The State is implementing something else. And that thing is called…Gender.

The Legal Ideology Named Gender

Here gender is the name of a legal ideology through which we are prevented from having access to legal recognition of sexual identity (Male and Female). From a legal perspective, we no longer have a sex. Instead we have a de-sexed, de-naturalized legal identity called a ‘gender identity’. Sex is physical, of the body and fixed, whereas gender is legal, of the mind and fluid. Our gender identity simply is our legal identity, so from a legal perspective we simply are our gender identity.

The phrase ‘gender ideology’ is somewhat misleading, then, because we are not talking about an ideological interpretation of something (socio-cultural) called Gender. Rather, we are referring to a purely legal concept, called Gender, which is in-and-of-itself an ideology. Presumably it is called Gender to maximize deception and confusion. For this reason I avoid saying gender ideology and instead say the ideology named Gender.

Nothing about the legal implementation of gender makes sense if we assume the State to be implementing gender theory. There are just too many contradictions. But everything slots into place as soon as we flip the picture round and recognise gender also to be the name of a legal ideology imposing itself upon society. The theory squeezes our stereotypes in society; the ideology squeezes our bodies in law.

The State is not genuinely interested in removing sex stereotypes. Its real motivation is the homogenization of legal identities, and it is using ‘gender equality’ to disguise its attack on sexual difference. It is a bit like a woman waxing her legs, if you’ll excuse the stereotype: wax goes on; wax is peeled off; hair comes off in the process. Gender goes on (in society); gender is peeled off of law; law is de-sexed in the process. Rather than bringing about a genderless society and gender-neutral language, we are witnessing the de-sexing of language, law and by implication society, with the sticking point being that our bodies remain irrevocably sexed.

Disappearing Contradictions

If we apply this disembodied legal understanding of gender to our three mysteries they disappear.

How can gender be essential to identity yet irrelevant to paperwork?

There are two ways to explain this. Firstly gender identity is too volatile to be contained on a piece of paper or an electronic file. To illustrate, suppose New Yorker Simone tries to enter the male restroom but somebody calls the police. Simone shows the police her (female) passport whilst simultaneously claiming a male gender identity. Guess what? According to New York City law, her mind is right and her passport is wrong! So the answer is this: there is never any need for Simone to prove her identity because it can never be wrong. It is not that her gender is not important enough to write down. It is that it is too important!

The second way to account for de-sexed passports and so on is more comprehensive because it highlights the fact that Everything and Nothing are two sides of the same coin, in that neither of them are Something. Paul can choose any legal identity, but so can everybody else. Therefore there is nobody for whom a particular identity is ‘out of reach’ (as is the case with sex, where males cannot be female and females cannot be male). Therefore everybody can be any identity. Therefore Paul has the same identity as everybody else—‘any identity’. Therefore nobody has an identity, in which case we can leave everybody’s I.D. blank.

Why is the State both removing and rewarding stereotypes?

The boy is permitted to enter the girls’ restroom not because of acquiring female stereotypes but despite acquiring them. It is his mind which qualifies him, not his make-up and pink clothes.

Why change gender if your new gender cannot be recognised on your legal I.D?

As with the boy, the M on Paul’s passport was changed to an F not because of surgery but despite it. Sadly, Paul had his body mutilated whilst mistakenly believing ‘gender re-assignment’ to be the same as ‘sex-change’. But given that his gender identity is only a legally recognised state of mind, he could have changed it just by changing his mind. (For an analysis of the de-medicalization of legal gender, see Jon Holbrook's essay 'Transgenderism: a top-down politics of identity'.)

Given that the State believes Paul’s identity to be ‘any identity’, he already is every (particular) identity he might wish to change to. But he cannot change into something he already is, right? Therefore Paul cannot have his new identity recognised on his legal I.D. because he has ‘changed without changing’. His legal identity can only ever be Every Identity/No Identity. It can never be Some (particular) Identity.

Fait Accompli

All of this makes apparent the fact that the recommendations made in Parliament’s transgender equality report are not requests to bring in new laws. The State approached the ‘transgender community’ neither to listen to its concerns, nor to ask for its shopping list, nor to write it a blank cheque. Rather, the nature of the ideology is such that the report’s 'recommendations' are necessary ejections of present laws. For instance: the State believes Paul’s identity to be ‘any identity’; therefore it can no longer refuse him access to, say, the female prison, because according to the ideology the male and female prison are in fact the same prison; therefore anybody can use either of them.

I call this the ‘un-doing’ of law and propose that the ideology is a by-product of abortion laws, in that an Abortion Act ejects from law all recognition of natural personhood, thereby necessitating the legal ejection of all aspects of authentic Man. Gender is best thought of not as the presence of something new (gender identity) but as the absence of something old—our body. The devil does not have his own clay.

The pre-determined aspect of the ideology means Britain can expect New York-style pronoun policing to bubble its way to the surface of law soon: we already have the laws but we do not yet realise their depth and ferocious power. In return, New Yorkers should expect their M’s and F’s to disappear from paperwork.

Those things requiring no proof ought to be those things which are so obviously true as to be incontestable, such as the fact that I am of the male sex. But we now live within a legal atmosphere which no longer requires me to prove my identity—not because it is so obviously true as to be incontestable, but because it is so subjective as to be un-provable.

Our mind can now legally over-ride anybody’s body. And that means anybody’s mind can now legally over-ride our body.