Can a woman impregnate other women? Can a man have a uterus, get pregnant, and give birth? Some supporters of rights for the transgendered frequently may say “yes” to both questions, and call those who disagree with them bigots. Their tactics coarsen public discussion and may undermine their position. They should either present scientific evidence to support their assertions or resign themselves to being on the losing end of arguments with those whom they’ve offended.
Last week saw at least two news stories illustrating the problems of advocating for the transgendered. One story was headlined, “Transgender woman who impregnated 2 inmates removed from NJ’s female prison.” A “transgender woman” is a biological man who identifies as a woman. In this particular case, because of his self-identification, he was sent to a women’s prison to serve time for manslaughter, but removed once his, uh, activities involving other women were discovered and sent to a men’s facility.
The other story, captured on Youtube, told of an exchange between Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, and a law professor from Berkeley testifying before a Senate committee examining the impact on women of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. When Professor Khiara Bridges referred to “people with a capacity for pregnancy,” Hawley asked “Would that be women?”
Professor Bridges replied that “There are also trans men who are capable of pregnancy as well as nonbinary people who are capable of pregnancy.” A “trans man” is a woman who calls herself a man, and a “nonbinary” person is one who considers oneself neither male nor female. She added, for good measure that she considered Senator Hawley’s questions concerning how men can give birth to be “transphobic” and promoting violence against the transgendered.
Some commentators have ridiculed Hawley and praised Bridges for having got the best of him. But it’s also been argued that Professor Bridge’s treatment of him may have won him and his position more support among the public in general.
The most obvious problem with Professor Bridges’s response to Senator Hawley is that she chose to use a tactic common to brain-dead zealots of both the left and the right. Radical leftists have a long list of insults to fling at their critics, whom they brand transphobic, homophobic, racist, sexist, promoters of violence, etc., etc., etc. (fun fact—for my criticisms of Chinese governmental policies I’ve been accused of racism—the Chinese are people of color—and stirring up violence against Asian Americans). Their tactics are morally no different from those of right-wing zealots who’ve branded every government initiative since the New Deal—Social Security, health insurance, joining the United Nations, supporting civil rights, etc.—as “communistic” or “socialistic.” In each instance, the zealot chooses to demonize his opponent with ugly name calling and false accusations, while offering no argument based on fact or reason. A reasonable person might conclude that if one can defend a position only with over-the-top name calling, then perhaps the position is otherwise indefensible and should be rejected.
Other arguments usually given in defense of the transgendered, while lacking the irrational hysteria animating the zealots’ name calling and false accusations, nonetheless contribute little logic or knowledge to the debate. The most common defense of those who identify as something other than what biology calls them is that everyone has the right to identify as whatever he or she chooses, and thereby be more true to oneself and live a “more authentic” life. In short, one is what one says one is, regardless of objective reality. This argument, too, can, to the average mind, make no sense. Doesn’t reality count for something?
Actually, as a social libertarian, I agree with the right to self-identify oneself—up to a point. It matters not to me whether someone chooses to identify as a male, or as a female, or as a poached egg, as long as nobody else is hurt or reality is offended. Lia Thomas, a mediocre male swimmer who became a champion female swimmer, had every right to self-identify as a female, but should have had no right to compete as one and thereby deprive biological women of the opportunity to win swimming championships, scholarships, and the other honors that accrue to our most successful athletes. After all, Thomas waited until after going through puberty as a male and thereby gaining the physical advantages that the average male has over the average female before self-identifying as a female. As Abraham Lincoln is credited with noting, calling a dog’s tail a leg doesn’t make it so. And I don’t become the President of the United States simply by saying I am.
Moreover, given the thousands of years of understanding that women can give birth but men can’t, and that men can impregnate women but women can’t impregnate either other women or men, people should be free to question assertions to the contrary without eliciting name calling or false accusations of malice. Those who question what defenders of the rights of the transgendered would have us believe are entitled to arguments based on facts and logic, rather than gaseous nonsense or conspiracy theories.
In fairness to the transgendered and their advocates, it must be noted that some medical researchers claim scientific evidence in support of those who choose to self-identify as some gender other than what they appear to be, or as no gender at all. They argue that genetic anomalies, genital deformities ambiguities, hormonal deficiencies, etc., etc. can have a real and legitimate impact on how people choose to self-identify. Maybe so. Having no medical training myself, I’m in no position to support or reject such research and the ensuing conclusions. But if a case can be made on the basis of legitimate and valid research, the advocates of transgender rights should make it. To argue simply that those who disagree with them are simply hate-filled bigots will ultimately seem hate-filled, irrational, offensive, and ultimately counterproductive.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.