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Imposing “Non-Binary” Identity Strengthens Queer Theory and Challenges Sanity

The Biden administration has announced a series of policies in support of “transgender, non-binary and gender-expansive Americans of other types”. Among these policies, Americans will now be able to have “X” as their gender listed on their passports — a benefit for those who self-identify as neither male nor female.

More than 20 states and the District of Columbia have already implemented similar measures for state-issued documents. In 2019, the New York City Human Rights Commission published a legal guideline that requires employers, property owners, and public accommodation providers to use the name and the preferred pronouns of each person, regardless of the sex “assigned” to that person at birth. This includes not only “she” for men who identify as female and “they” for women who identify as male, but also honorific titles like “srx.” and invented individual pronouns like “elu” and “ile”. [N. do T.: aqui, tive de adaptar para o vocabulário do movimento análogo da linguagem neutra em português. No inglês querem usar o plural “they” (eles) para pessoas individuais, e os pronomes inventados são outros como “ze” e “hir”.]

According to the Williams Institute, 1.2 million adults in the United States self-identify as non-binary. For Americans under 1997 years old, the number is likely much higher, considering newly published data showing that over [N. do T.: O título original, “Don’t Say ‘They’” (algo como “Não diga ‘elu’”) é uma referência a um nome difamatório dado por progressistas identitários a uma lei da Flórida que proíbe o ensino de ideias de ‘identidade de gênero’ antes dos oito anos de idade nas escolas. O nome difamatório é “Don’t Say Gay Bill”, ou seja, “projeto de lei ‘não diga gay’”. Não há menção a gays em nenhuma parte da redação da lei. O ataque da Disney à lei motivou uma retaliação dos legisladores que podem causar a perda dos privilégios fiscais da empresa no estado.] % of Gen Z (born after 1997) identify as LGBT, compared to 10% of millennials

and 4%

Progressives tend to believe that this sudden increase in numbers reflects a society more receptive to people “born this way”, but a more plausible is that young people are responding to new social suggestions and incentives. Adolescents are now often told that being “cisgender” (identifying as male or female as predicted by the organism’s reproductive characteristics) means conforming to social expectations, while identifying as anything else means nonconformity, authenticity, and courage. Given this message — and the fact that, unlike homosexuality, which implies sexual feelings and behavior, it is enough to declare oneself non-binary to be non-binary — it is surprising that only 20% of young people consider themselves part of the alphabet coalition. Either way, the Biden administration’s actions add further confusion to a conversation already marked by shallow thinking and poorly interpreted research.

Let’s start with this fact: what makes most transgender people transgender is precisely the fact that they conform to gender conventions — even though they are those of the opposite sex. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) lists conformity to “stereotypes” as a relevant criterion for diagnosing dysphoria of gender in childhood. Federal courts have ruled that transgender boys are indeed boys, and therefore deserve to use the boys’ locker room at school because they look and behave like typical boys. If gender is an “identity” completely independent of reproductive characteristics (among which there can be only two complementary sets), then there is no logical reason for there to be only two gender identities. In fact, there would be as many gender identities as there are people, as each person’s way of expressing gender is unique and irreplaceable. As a federal judge granted in a frank moment, male and female “gender identity” separate toilets are no less based on stereotypes than conventional practice.

This presents a problem for the notion of gender identity used by diversity educators, academic bureaucrats, federal judges, mainstream LGBT and progressive activism groups, and Democratic Party leaders: that gender is central, unchanging. and socially valuable of the human person. According to academic star and dean of theory queer Judith Butler, gender not

is an innate property, but a system of social oppression that gains legibility through repetitive “performance”. “Gender identity” is a “regulatory fiction,” writes Butler. A girl who seeks hormones and surgery to make her body conform to societal expectations of men is not being a courageous nonconformist, she is instead “being subservient to the knife norm.” Perhaps she is even more conformist than her “cisgender” peers, given the pain she is willing to endure to “go through” within the traditional “gender binary”. Feminists and gay rights advocates echoed this type of argument.

When the Biden administration affirms its support for “transgender, non-binary and gender non-conformity”, demonstrates that it is ignorant of this tension. As Rogers Brubaker, a sociologist at the University of California at Los Angeles, explains in a book by 2016 sympathetic to transsexuality, the category “transgender” can signify a movement between supposedly fixed and essential categories of gender or a movement beyond[N. do T.: isso é intraduzível, consiste em tirar a primeira letra dos pronomes “he” (ele) e “she” (ela) do inglês] of the genre. These concepts are not only distinct, but contradictory. Academics of transsexuality acknowledge the “philosophical tensions” between the broader “transgender umbrella”, with the claim that the language of the movement and its underlying concepts are still “evolving” and always will be.

Postmodernists may like inconsistency and self-contradiction, but we should expect better from our elected officials and officials. Imagine if the Biden administration had said it was fully committed to both aggressively promoting and completely eliminating religion from public life, all in the name of “faith diversity.” Our collective response would be confusion.

The

queer

theory , intellectual home of the non-binary, argues that gender is an oppressive social system that gains its strength by deluding us into believing that it comes from nature and that it can be known by objective science. If, however, we conceive of gender and its categories as “performances”—things that only exist because of culture-dependent and therefore arbitrary behavior—then resistance to gender becomes possible. To be untied, authentic and free is to perform gender in ways that defy social expectations and offend conventional sensibilities. It follows from this that most transgender people, whether male to female or female to male, are in the same detestable category of conformists as the rest of us: only the non-binary avant-garde sees gender as he really is.

If using “elu/ile” seems absurd and even uncomfortable, that’s the exact point of the thing. Status queer begins to look like a consciously and deliberately antisocial stance. Thus, when a teenage girl or young woman—the demographic that appears to be responsible for most nonbinary self-identification—declares that their pronouns are “elu/delu” or “ile/dile,” what she is really asking for is is that we say “I recognize that you are a courageous nonconformist and that I am too unenlightened or too weak to resist the gender system.” (Maia Kobabe, the non-binary author of the controversial book Gender Queer, uses the pronouns “e/em/eir” [N. do T.: isso é intraduzível, consiste em tirar a primeira letra dos pronomes “he” (ele) e “she” (ela) do inglês]; in their coverage of the national controversy surrounding the book’s adoption in school libraries, neither the

New York Times

nor the Washington Post bothered to use Kobabe’s “preferred pronouns” not once.)

The Biden administration is now pushing for Americans to be forced —if not directly by the government, then indirectly by employers, school districts, and organizations that are legally risk-averse or attracted to federal funds—to make self-deprecating confessions of inauthenticity. The most important example of this is the administration’s intention to resurrect Obama-era guidelines under Statute IX [Title IX, legislação de igualdade de gênero]. Through convoluted legal reasoning, these guidelines instructed schools to avoid accepting the “stereotype” that sex is a biological binary. The Biden administration has an interest in maintaining strategic vagueness about what exactly schools must do to comply with Statute IX: instructed to maintain “safe and welcoming” environments free from “discrimination” and “harassment”, risk-averse school districts they will prefer to err on the side of caution and adopt policies that go far beyond what the Department of Education would like to do with impunity. Perhaps in anticipation of the new-old regulations, school districts across the country are already implementing early childhood non-binary and “neopronouns” education.

Like most of the progressive elite, the Biden administration has come to think about these issues through the lens of therapeutic culture rather than queer

theory. . According to the therapeutic ethos, all forms of unconventional “gender identity” are expressions of a deep, emotional, healthy ego. The role of social institutions—indeed, the condition for them to be just and worthy of the respect of citizens—is to facilitate the “authentic” self-expression of the ego. Repression (that is, self-control) means injustice. We are invited to accept these ideas and attitudes not because they are true, but because failing to do so will make children want to commit suicide. Truth is thus subordinated to therapy, and critical thinking to compassion unanchored by reason.

But in practice progressive elites are demanding public approval for the profoundly subversive and nihilistic ideology of queer theory. We must treat the demands around “preferred pronouns” when they depart from the conventions of the English language (not to mention science and common sense) in the same way as we treat public professions of religious faith. If a faction of zealous Christians started lobbying the government to demand that all Americans come forward with “I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour”, the progressive left would rightly be possessed. If the Christian sect in question were to complain that refusal to adhere to its demand would increase depression and suicides among its members, the appropriate response would be that something else must be troubling these unhappy souls beyond the public’s refusal to “affirm” the their religious beliefs. Policing non-binary pronouns entails the same violation of liberal tolerance and civility, but is endorsed under the deceptive facade of “mental health” and “gender diversity.”

No one should be obliged to express allegiance to academic queer

theory. Those of us who care about true pluralism must resist this form of political theater fueled by narcissism. If unconventional pronouns have any space in our society, they should be pronounced in the context of civic friendship based on trust, self-control, and mutual respect. Above all, non-binary pronouns must be strictly voluntary, and there must be no punishments—social or legal—for those who disagree with the ideology that underlies them. Of course, the queer theory itself tells us that the very liberal principles of tolerance and civility are masks for power and oppression, so we shouldn’t have much hope of convergence on this issue.

For now, the best advice is simple: reject neutral language.

[N. do T.: O título original, “Don’t Say ‘They’” (algo como “Não diga ‘elu’”) é uma referência a um nome difamatório dado por progressistas identitários a uma lei da Flórida que proíbe o ensino de ideias de ‘identidade de gênero’ antes dos oito anos de idade nas escolas. O nome difamatório é “Don’t Say Gay Bill”, ou seja, “projeto de lei ‘não diga gay’”. Não há menção a gays em nenhuma parte da redação da lei. O ataque da Disney à lei motivou uma retaliação dos legisladores que podem causar a perda dos privilégios fiscais da empresa no estado.]

Leor Sapir is an adjunct member of the Manhattan Institute.

©2022 City Journal. Published with permissions are. Original in English.

2019

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