Gender Ideology’s Verbal Engineering, Part 2: An Irrational Agenda That Few Want

COMMENTARY: The terms ‘trans’ and ‘transgender’ are laden with ideological ambiguity.

Gender dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria. (photo: Billion Photos / Shutterstock)

In a recent column, I argued that we should stop using the word “trans” or “transgender.” I showed that these terms can be used to mean eight types of people. Using one term to mean so many different things is sure to cause confusion.

In this column, I will show how activists are using that confusion to promote an irrational agenda that very few people really want. I’ll also offer suggestions about what we should say.

In my previous article, I noted that the American Psychological Association defines transgender as “an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.”

The APA defines the term gender identity this way: “Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female or something else.”

Substituting the definition of “gender identity” into the definition of “transgender,” we get the following statement:

“Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose ‘internal sense of being male, female, or something else,’ gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.”

Thus, the term “transgender” is subjective, by definition. There is no reasonable way to include or exclude someone from the label. You can’t reasonably argue with someone about their “internal sense of being male, female, or something else.”

This is why you may have observed conversations like this. At the mention of the possibility of a man labeling himself “trans” so he can be housed in a women’s prison, the trans rights activist will retort, “Are you saying all trans people are predators?”

No, I’m not. I’m saying that people can don the “trans” label for any reason they want.

Or the trans rights defender might reply, “Have you no sympathy for the downtrodden? Don’t you know that trans people are …” followed by statements calculated to generate empathy. The listener’s mind jumps immediately to some of the people I mentioned in my previous column — someone like an authentic gender-dysphoric teen, or perhaps an intersexed person — who deserve our special compassion. Meanwhile, the predator smirks and gets locked in a cell in a women’s prison, where he has unfettered access to his preferred prey.

Is it unimaginable that a predator or a pretender could choose to “game the system” when the system is systematically subjective? The law of the strongest is the only way to resolve differences of opinion about whether a person is or is not “trans.” The loudest, the richest, the most influential and the most powerful will prevail. There is no room here for reason or truth.

Look at the heartbroken parents losing their children to government authorities who decide their child is “trans.” Look at the quarreling divorced parents who disagree with each other about their child’s “true” identity. Family courts, Child Protective Services and other agents of the state decide the child’s “authentic identity,” using any criteria they want.

This is why we need to stop using the terms the words “trans” or “transgender.” These terms have ideology baked into them.

If you really want to help struggling teens, call them “gender dysphoric,” if that is what is going on with this particular person. Call them “socially awkward” and “struggling for friendship” if that’s the truth.

If you want to protect women from predators, don’t use the term “trans.” Call the guy “a predatory man who says he’s a woman so he can have easy access to his victims.” If you value women’s sports, call the guy “a mediocre male athlete who wants an easy path to winning competitions he couldn’t win against male competitors.”

And for the love of God and all mankind, stop calling Bruce Jenner “Caitlyn.” Stop calling Richard Levine “Rachel.” These are most likely autogynephilic cross-dressing men who get their kicks seeing themselves as women. Let’s not encourage them. And if one of these powerful men argues with you, demand to know the objective criteria that would convince you they aren’t autogynephilic.

In short, don’t take the shortcut of saying “trans.” Use a long, clunky phrase that accurately describes the person you are talking about. This strategy has several advantages. First, that accurate phrase prevents confusion and makes it harder for the activist to deflect attention from your point. You have taken control of the rhetorical field.

Second, your long but accurate phrase slows down the mental processes that ideologically loaded terms are secretly meant to create. These are carefully crafted words that weaponize ambiguity. When accompanied by lots of noisemaking, they short-circuit a normal, logical thought process.

For instance, at the sound of the word “trans,” we are all supposed to freeze: “I know something isn’t right here, but I can’t think what to say that is both true and protects me from the mob. If I say the wrong thing, I will be subjected to a lot of unpleasant noise or worse. So, I will be silent.” Or worse, “I will conform.” The noisemaking, along with the ideological term, is an essential part of the diversion and aversion process.

When you say “trans,” you’re giving your opponent an opening to unleash the noisy mob and trigger the aversive effect. When you say “a mediocre male athlete who says he’s a woman so he can win for a change,” you’ve slowed down the conversation and that reflexive thought process. You may never persuade the truly committed activist, but the people observing the conversation have the opportunity to think through what is actually happening. Some of them will be greatly encouraged and consoled.

That is why I don’t say “trans.”