From The Public Discourse:
The January 2017 issue of National Geographic is dedicated to exploring what it calls the “Gender Revolution”—a post-Sexual Revolution movement that seeks to deconstruct traditional understandings about human embodiment, male-female sexual dimorphism, and gender. In an article titled “Rethinking Gender,” Robin Marantz Henig cites evolving gender norms as a justification for the Gender Revolution. But Henig’s argument is not only unpersuasive, it’s also based on a radical proposal about human nature that is at odds with both natural law and biblical anthropology.
The purpose of this essay is not to address every facet of gender that Henig explores. Rather, our goal is to address some of the more glaring errors in the piece. Many of the criticisms below apply not only to Henig’s article, but to the broader philosophical problems inherent within the transgender movement.
Gender Identity, Category Confusion, and Moral Inconsistency
First (and most problematic): Henig offers no substantive argument for why one’s internal, self-perception of his or her “gender identity” ought to determine one’s gender or have authority greater than one’s biological sex. The essay offers testimonies of people who say that their gender identity is at odds with their biological sex. But testimony is not sufficient. Asserting a claim does not demonstrate the authenticity of that claim. Readers are given no explanation for why we ought to regard the claims of one’s gender identity as reality rather than a subjective feeling or self-perception.
Indeed, this is the crux of the matter that plagues the transgender movement. It is based not on evidence, but on the ideology of expressive individualism—the idea that one’s identity is self-determined, that one should live out that identity, and that everyone else must respect and affirm that identity, no matter what it is. Expressive individualism requires no moral argument or empirical justification for its claims, no matter how absurd or controverted they may be. Transgenderism is not a scientific discovery but a prior ideological commitment about the pliability of gender.
Secondly, Henig commits a fallacy of composition by linking intersex conditions with transgenderism. These are very different categories. “Intersex” is a term that describes a range of conditions affecting the development of the human reproductive system. These “disorders of sex development” result in atypical reproductive anatomy. Some intersex persons are born with “ambiguous genitalia,” which make sex determination at birth very difficult.
It is precisely on this point that intersexuality is very different from transgenderism. Those who identify as transgender are not dealing with ambiguity concerning their biological sex. Transgenderism refers to the variety of ways that some people feel that their gender identity is out of sync with their biological sex. Thus, transgender identities are built on the assumption that biological sex is known and clear.