The desire to make certain views unchallengeable

Helen Dale reviews Helen Joyce’s Trans:

Trans people are, after all, a small proportion of the population, whose individual cases are riddled with complexities. And yet we’re currently being offered striking and simplistic narratives that must be upheld if one is to be considered among the morally meritorious. It’s why I don’t want to write about trans issues with the same enthusiasm I did about Brexit. If you’re interested in intellectual history, constitutional law, and parliamentary procedure, then Brexit was like Christmas morning. Apart from certain Continuity Remain conspiracists and Leaverish swear-bears – both easily avoided – the arguments for and against were finely balanced. 

Trans isn’t like that. One ‘side’ is clearly right; the other ‘side’ is clearly wrong. Yet it’s the side that punches through wrong and comes out near Young Earth Creationism that, until recently, held the upper hand in local controversies and still does in the United States.

Like Douglas Murray’s The Madness of Crowds, Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage, and Kathleen Stock’s Material GirlsTrans brings out what happens when people gain social approbation by endorsing ‘high status’ narratives. Much of this status enhancement turns on believing a mental illness requiring treatment (gender dysphoria) and the behaviour attaching to it (gender non-conformity and bodily discomfort) amount to a human rights claim requiring public and legal affirmation.

Affirmation and, more intensely, validation. We have to “validate” the delusion, on pain of shunning and punishment.

The desire to make certain views unchallengeable means disagreements – especially those covered widely in the press – must be pathologised. Misrepresentation is rife, with criticism and debate offered by dissentients given implications that weren’t there and weren’t intended. This moves to catastrophising, whereby expressing any doubt is characterised in ways that invoke extinction. Stop Trans Genocide MMA fighter McLaughlan’s shirt read last Saturday. The classic catastrophising in trans activism is ‘you are erasing my/our/their existence’. 

Helen notes that the four books have different appeals, which she spells out for us so that we can pick just one. Murray and Stock both have a dry wit, she tells us.

If, however, you look to grasp the extent to which gender identity ideology, both academic and popular, bears comparison with the worst sort of pseudoscience, then Joyce is your pick. I suspect Richard Dawkins endorsed Trans because, as is his wont, he spotted a quasi-religious movement whose ultimate target is not Labour’s all-women shortlists or women’s sports or even feminism as a political ideology, but Charles Darwin and evolutionary biology and beyond that the scientific method itself.

I think it’s simpler and more basic than that. I think Dawkins, like so many of us, does not like being ordered to “validate” a lie. I’ve always liked this about him, though the liking was a bit occluded during the Elevatorgate era. I think it’s not limited to evolution or even science but to the much broader category of bullshit. We (those of us who do) think it’s bullshit, and shouting won’t make us stop thinking so.

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