Laurel Hubbard made headlines earlier this summer after being the first openly transgender person to compete in an individual Olympic event. The 43 year old Laurel is biologically male, but ‘transitioned’ and began living as a woman in the late 2000s. This year, she made history by competing in women’s weightlifting in Tokyo.
Why is this so significant? Hubbard actually failed to advance beyond the first half of the competition, as none of her three lift attempts proved successful. This fact is being touted as proof that biological male-ness does not give trans women an advantage in sport. This claim, of course, is an a priori fallacy, a ‘proof’ given to support an already-assumed conclusion. Win or lose, however, it’s not Hubbard’s final scores that should have us concerned. The celebration of Hubbard’s Olympic appearance is symptomatic of a much bigger, and much more disturbing trend in mainstream liberal thinking.
Before proceeding any further, I should stress that I write this article with the utmost love and respect for Laurel Hubbard and other trans individuals like her. Unfortunately, we seem to have lost the art of disagreeing on important issues without taking it as a personal attack or expression of hatred. Because I don’t think Hubbard should have participated in women’s weightlifting, I feel compelled to offer a disclaimer that I don’t hate transgender people. To anyone reading this who does celebrate Hubbard’s presence in Tokyo: Suspend judgement, and hear my concerns. I am not aiming to attack or dehumanize individuals who struggle with gender dysphoria, but there are deeply-rooted issues with the ideology that landed her there in the first place.
There’s a very simple reason why men and women compete separately in most sports, and it’s a term that’s been trending lately: ‘Equity.’
One particularly high-profile conversation around equity has to do with internet access for school children. After enduring a year, or in some cases a year and half, of remote schooling, it has become clear that many kids were lagging academically due largely to a lack of access to technology. This is one of relatively few broadly agreed upon examples of equality vs. equity: Equality is sending all the kids home with a school laptop. Equity is making sure that some of them also have hot-spots to take home.
That is, equality can often be defined as sameness. Equity, typically, cannot. Instead, it must take into account the factors specific to an individual or group, and then adjust its approach to create the best result for all parties. Equality says that everyone has the right to vote. Equity is the reason we spend time and resources making sure all demographics have proper access to the vote. Equality says transgender athletes deserve to compete in high-level sports. Equity doesn’t deny them that opportunity, but it does demand that we take an honest look at the fundamental differences between a transgender woman and her competitors.
We typically don’t, though. The currently fashionable conversations around equity in the workplace and in schools make perfect sense until gender becomes part of the equation, at which point the logic starts to fall apart as female athletes are forced to compete against colleagues or classmates who bear many of the biological advantages of men. Laurel Hubbard isn’t the first instance of this – it’s already happening in high school sports, too – but the high-profile nature of this particular case makes it a good place to start a conversation around the contradictions that lurk below the surface of the ascendent gender ideology.
For one, the framework of the new take on gender is often based largely on the very gender stereotypes the left has been trying to break down. A quick perusal of the Facebook page My Trans Life, which shares stories mainly of transgender children, is instructive: A mom “just knew” her two year old-girl was different when she gravitated towards trucks. This two year old went on to socially transition at age four, and dreams of “being a boy” when she grows up. Another child, a 14 year old boy, has been living as a girl for years and talks about how happy he’ll be when he turns 16, at which point he will be able to have his male anatomy removed.
There are a few contradictory notions at play here.
On the one hand, we are told that masculinity or femininity doesn’t have to look any particular way. Gender presentation doesn’t have to conform to the traditional images of what a man or a woman should enjoy or look like.
On the other hand, we are told that if a young child exhibits an interest in something stereotypically identified with the opposite sex, it may function as evidence that they are transgender.
In other words: Girls don’t have to like pink, but if your boy toddler likes pink, then he might be a girl.
A similar contradiction animates the second child’s story. The now standard assertion that masculinity or femininity has nothing to do with one’s body grates against the concrete reality that a young boy who has come to identify as a girl cannot stand the anatomy with which he was born: Gender has nothing to do with my body, but I must mutilate my body to truly feel as if I am the gender with which I identify.
Thus, the surface messaging is devoured by the inner logic. Little girls and little boys can be whoever they want to be, it says. Your daughter can grow up to be a business executive, or a firefighter, or a scientist. So far so good. But the toy truck breaks the equation: Girls can grow up to be firefighters, but they certainly cannot be little girls who play with trucks.
In other words, although the surface messaging of this ideology sounds liberating, it is also shockingly restrictive, because no one is encouraged to explore and live out their unique femininity or masculinity. For all of the talk about gender expression, what we are left with is a culture of androgyny – the elimination of masculinity and femininity.
Perhaps this sounds overwrought and melodramatic, but it isn’t clear how else to describe the aforementioned phenomenon. At the shallow end, the culture of androgyny looks like overwriting traditional marriage on the basis that “love is love,” and at the deep end it looks like mothers being dubbed “birthing persons” in a recent budget item from the White House. On the ground, it means that our lives are ruled by a strange pathos, as the two year old is considered to be the expert on their sexuality, and to question that preoperational expertise is considered backwards and transphobic. It doesn’t seem melodramatic to suggest that this trend is migrating toward disposing of femininity and masculinity entirely.
Perhaps you don’t see that as a problem. Many times, when I speak with people about these topics, I’m met with some variation of, “Their sexuality doesn’t affect me,” or “As long as they’re happy.” This includes among conservative-leaning people, who often believe that it’s morally wrong but none of their business. The problem with this attitude is that it yields great driving power to gender radicals intent on changing our culture. The legalization of gay marriage, or hormone therapy for teenagers may not affect you personally, but it certainly affects the culture you live in, as well as the direction of the culture your children and grandchildren will live in. There are a few reasons why I think this should concern us all.
First and foremost, the culture of androgyny is pushing us towards ever greater confusion, and an astonishing lack of compassion. Let me explain. Even though the battle cry of this movement is often “love” and “tolerance,” the actual attitudes displayed don’t truly hold the interest of the individual person at heart. This can be seen in places liked North Kansas City, where a recent ban on “conversion therapy” prohibits basic talk therapy that in any way seeks to question or change a child’s gender identity. One well-known article explicitly states that this type of therapy would constitute torture per the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims. Per the gender ideology embraced by many who embrace the gender revolution, it is now unacceptable to counsel (in any capacity except one of total support) a young man experiencing same-sex attraction. Never mind if he is troubled by this fact, or if he’s experiencing it as a result of being raped by his father or some other traumatic event. Pathos and band-aid fixes rule the day, and individuals who have de-transitioned will tell you in no uncertain terms that being encouraged in their dysphoria was not the solution to their struggles – but it is difficult to access those stories, because many gender revolutionaries work extremely hard to silence the voices of de-transitioners and those who advocate for their perspectives. However well-intentioned, it seems increasingly clear that doing away with the gender binary, redefining marriage, and promoting pathos as the ultimate guide is not leading to good things. Dredge through internet forums that cater to those deep into the gender revolution and you’ll find that individuals who get sucked into this culture often come to narrowly define themselves in a way that inhibits their ability to thrive as persons.
But even if you don’t see this as a moral or philosophical issue, it represents a serious and concerning breakdown in rhetoric. The scope of this article is not to dive deeply into the culture of androgyny, but merely to point out that it is already in motion, and that it certainly has broader implications than people envision when they shrug and say, “Whatever makes them happy.” It is difficult to fully comprehend as of yet what the dangers are, because we haven’t seen how far it will go, or how radically it will redefine notions of sex and gender among people living within the mainstream of society. Although happiness, self-expression, and the freedom to feel safe in your identity are all positive things, it is important to maintain a healthy skepticism, not simply about high-profile issues such as Laurel Hubbard’s participation in the Tokyo Olympics, but also of the grandiose and totalizing claims made by gender radicals.
Clara Woodburn is a student of creative writing and linguistics at Wichita State University. She is also the Communications Manager for Dragon Master Foundation, a non-profit with a focus on creating better data-sharing infrastructure for rare disease researchers and patients. In her spare time, Clara plays in a garage band and takes long walks with her husband and their slightly neurotic chi-weenie, Ollie.
Thoughtful piece on a very difficult and controversial subject.
I’m reminded of a Bible verse: God isn’t the author of confusion. (I understand the surrounding context of this verse is a passage about speaking in tongues, but it seems it can also stand as a broader principle.)
We should certainly have compassion for those confused about sex/gender, but this also must be tempered with understanding of other important factors as well, such as age, environment, etc. that can contribute to such confusion.
I know our party is particularly against the transitioning of children, and for very good reason. Children and minors have even more limited conceptions of sex/gender than adults. Why do those on the far left entrust them with the ability to “choose” their sex/gender, when we don’t legally entrust them with any other complicated decisions?
When I was a very young girl, I was extremely tomboyish, hated Barbie and “house,” hated most girl clothes, and said I would grow up to be a boy frequently. My parents didn’t over-correct this, as they figured I’d probably grow out of it eventually.
They were right.
Sadly, many people have lost this perspective. (Yes, there’s a small minority who continue to have gender dysphoria well into adulthood. But this isn’t typical. Their life experiences are usually far more traumatic than mine, and there are things running much deeper contributing to their dysphoria than my limited and childish notions of gender that I had until I hit puberty.)
I’m very glad I grew up in the times I did (1990s). Nowadays, if I were still a very young girl, and perhaps with a different set of parents, I might be forced to transition. I would have been robbed of the hormonal changes during puberty that likely would alter my perspective.
I’m now almost 37, happily married with a child on the way, and still biologically female. I’m still quite tomboyish, rather hyper-logical, and on the autism spectrum. Many of these traits are associated with men, but I’m not a man. It’s okay for men and women to have some traits of the other, but it doesn’t fundamentally change their biology. This is what many hyperconservatives and hyperliberals fail to understand in particular: the answer doesn’t have to be either June Cleaver or gender amorphousness. I wish more still recognized this.
James G Hanink
Thanks for this thoughtful piece. You follow the arguments where they lead…to self-contradiction! And the comment is on the mark as well.