In ridiculing the “transgender phenomenon,” (A Discussion on the Transgender Issue, February 5, 2018) Jim Wiggins insists that:
In species that produce two morphologically distinct types of gametes, and in which each produces only one type, a female is an individual that produces the larger type of gamete—called an ovum (or egg)—and a male produces the smaller tadpole-like type—called a sperm. [Emphasis removed, AP]
I have no problem with this for as far as “the transgender issue” is concerned, this is not the problem.
I open here primarily because the phenomenon of one physical sex experiencing a debilitating discomfort with their physical sex together with a distressing sense that they are or should be of the other physical sex, to our best current knowledge, stems from the way males differentiate from female in utero, where, if no such differentiation were to take place, we would all be born physically female regardless of what gametes we might be programmed to later produce.
Much more than that we simply do not know and there are many scientists hard at work on this very question.
I say gamete production is not the problem, secondarily, because of postmodernism, identity activism, and in this case, trans-activism, do not address themselves to the fundamental distinction between male and female.
That is not what they are about.
Aside from the enormous damage postmodernism and trans-activism continue to do to our efforts to get to the bottom of what is, at the end of the day, a medical condition, viz., gender dysphoria, dealing with it the way Wiggins does is to set up two dogmas to shout at each other about which is the True God, for he is as unscientific as many of those he accuses of it.
Notwithstanding our lack of knowledge, we do find ourselves today in a situation where we are medically capable of offering permanent relief from gender dysphoria through enabling an individual to undergo a transformation from one physical sex to the other.
Many such patients report relief from the most distressing aspects of their condition already shortly after they commence hormonal intervention, suggesting that at least part of the problem might lie within the endocrine system. Be that as it may, a great many people are returned to functional and fulfilling lives after having undergone sex reassignment intervention.
This does not mean that they are all necessarily either clear about what their bodies and minds have been through, or articulate in explaining it. They may even themselves be bogged down in a postmodernist or identity activist quagmire, where they are sitting ducks for the likes of Wiggins. None of this detracts from the reality that gender dysphoria is a real transgender condition and we are able, in this twenty-first century, to do something about it.
Note that I am pointedly avoiding the myriad of controversies attendant to postmodernist perspectives and the countless opportunities they present for downright nastiness and bigotry. All of this notwithstanding, we are nowhere close to understanding the transgender phenomenon and the scientists and doctors labouring in this area should be commended for their thankless efforts.
Striking about Wiggins’ piece is the lack of interest, firstly, in what is going on with people who suffer this distressing “issue” (the scientific question), and secondly, an a priori rejection of a recognised medical condition as the crazy concoction of postmodern identity activists.
I am probably at one with Wiggins in not expecting that we shall ever learn anything useful from either postmodernism or trans-activism. I share Wiggins’ dismay at the mess that postmodernist “thought” and identity politics are making of the world. I have no patience with either and will no longer waste my time on them. But what Wiggins offers in their place is no less mistaken.
He achieves nothing by setting up a forest of postmodernist and trans-activist straw men and then proceeding to knock them down one by one, except perhaps to take pleasure in his own slapstick victories. He has not touched trans-activists in any way, nor contributed anything to our understanding of gender dysphoria nor helped anyone suffering from it. Boldness does not confer authority.
Psychologist and university lecturer Dr Oren Amitay freely informs us that we simply don’t yet know what gives rise to the phenomenon of someone of one gender being unable to live a meaningful life unless they continue it in the other gender.
He does make the admission with authority.
Interested readers may find this short clip instructive. Not knowing, as Dr Amitay amply demonstrates, does not preclude our humanity and does not preclude our compassion. What is the point of our accomplishments if by them we cannot to improve the quality of our lives?
Wiggins sees only his self-constructed activist straw men and conflates the activists’ so-called “gender spectrum” — a potpourri of conflations — with the breadth of the terms “male” and “female” that makes language useful in practice, that is to say, outside the pages of a taxonomic encyclopaedia.
Presumably, the scientific journal Transgender Health is likewise a grand illusion stemming from scientists’ ignorance of taxonomy. In responding to Dr Debra Soh, Wiggins manages to patronise her (“clearly no slouch in the science department”), then condescend to her (“not everyone knows about taxonomy”), and finally presume to educate her:
A person either produces sperm – and is then 100% male – or “he” doesn’t – and is then 0% male. There really isn’t any “spectrum” there at all, any possibility of being other than all or none.
Wiggins fails to see that his having to employ inverted commas around “he” immediately negates the very point he is making, but he would rather be a victim of his own dogma than admit its flaws.
By insisting that “male” and “female” mean nothing other than the production of one or the other gamete, and that the lack of such production places an individual in a category outside of both “male” and “female” (100% or nothing), compels Wiggins to regard “boys” and “infertile men” not as male and “girls” and “infertile women” not as female, but as taxonomic fallacies.
Presumably defective gametes are not taxonomically permissible. Dogmatists jump tracks before their arguments run into their own contradictions, which makes it hard to label Wiggins a dogmatist. This leaves me with a bit of a taxonomic conundrum on which I would have to defer to Wiggins’ expertise. In the meantime, I shall leave the last word to Pablo Neruda:
A man says yes without knowing
how to decide even what the question is,
and is caught up, and then is carried along
and never again escapes from his own cocoon;
and that’s how we are, forever falling
into the deep well of other beings;
and one thread wraps itself around our necks,
another entwines a foot, and then it is impossible,
Impossible to move except in the well—
Nobody can rescue us from other people …
Emerging, Pablo Neruda