Collision: Gender Dysphoria & Stereotypes

Every time I think about gender-affirming surgery I get cognitive dissonance. I think I have discovered why.

Thirty-six years ago, while practicing my first landings, I lined up and made my approach. I was having cognitive dissonance but didn’t know why until my instructor who was seated beside me asked, “Are you really going to land on the taxiway?”

There was an aircraft on that taxiway waiting for clearance to take off! I was lined up on it! That pilot was in a rising panic as the tower radio channel soon revealed. He was thinking, “Shall I stay and hope that idiot moves over to the runway, or should I move onto the runway and hope he doesn’t? Either way, I could be dead.”

This is the same panic thousands of schoolchildren are feeling today. And it isn’t only children!

Where Goals Crash Into One Another

One much-advocated goal is that we should all accept one another for what we are without judgment about worthiness, value, or relevance. It’s about becoming blind to stereotypes. Another objective is to make everyone comfortable, especially in their own body. Those are all wonderful goals!

But when you lay these goals down beside each other like the runway and the taxiway, you see something is wrong with the transgender “in their own body goal”.

In this case, the question is “If we need to accept one another for what we are, shouldn’t we each accept ourselves for what we are? Are we really going to cut off organs to fit some arbitrary stereotype?”

The only way you can say that a girl is trapped in a boy’s body is to choose some stereotype to represent a girl. And then you have to compare that stereotype to the boy in order to say there’s a girl trapped in a boy’s body. It boils down to establishing a stereotype and it has to be done correctly! And then you have to try to determine whether the boy fits that stereotype. Both of these processes are extremely complex, impossible to define with any precision, fraught with opportunities for misjudging, and therefore inherently dangerous. Any reasonable risk assessment forbids this often disastrous process. And a mistake may create a mutilated, irreversible body with a deeply troubled person trying to survive in it.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Notice that if we make gender stereotypes illegal or forbidden, gender dysphoria disappears. Furthermore, judging a person against a stereotype is the height of exclusion. It is saying “There is something fundamentally wrong with you.” And the inference is “You don’t belong in our society the way you are.” This is why we don’t like stereotypes. So why are we even talking about gender dysphoria?

I have already pointed out that just asking “What is your gender?” is bullying. Can you find a more insidious form of bullying? Can you think of a better way to emotionally traumatize a child? He doesn’t know what choice to make because there has no solid data. All he has is fear. He is trapped alright, but in a manufactured false dichotomy.

The truth is you can not become six feet tall by saying “I am six feet tall.” You can’t get blue eyes by saying “I have blue eyes.” And, if you use the traditional definition of gender, you can’t become a girl by saying “I am a girl.” Under that definition, the child doesn’t have a gender choice and telling him he has to choose is profoundly confusing and deeply troubling. The power behind the bullying that can occur from the question, “What is your gender?” is that the word “gender” in this question is being used in both the traditional and the new modern senses. It is, in fact, what a logician would call an improper question sort of like “Have you quit beating your wife?”

Sticking with the traditional definition of gender, if my son runs from a fight and likes to play with dolls, is he a girl trapped in a boy’s body? No, he is just a boy who hates violence and loves people. Maybe he’s the beginning of a man who will help put an end to war. We are chopping the buds off our rose bushes before they can bloom. We are holding up stereotypes as standards of worth, and destroying lives while claiming to save them.

Diversity says leave him alone he is just a bit diverse. Inclusion says leave him alone and accept him as he is. And does equity say there’s a there’s a girl trapped in a boy’s body, we have to fix that body so it matches a stereotype?

Jackson Pemberton
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