The ‘Trans’ movement is causing as much disorder in our time as the various ‘Zero’ movements. But there is a difference between them. The ‘Zero’ movements, as Jordan Peterson puts it, depend on ‘lies, damn lies, statistics, and computer models’. In a word, on evidence: or, rather, on ‘evidence’. The ‘Trans’ movement depends on logic: or, rather, on ‘logic’. (Inverted commas are a useful distancing device here.)
The Daily Sceptic has many more articles on the subjects of COVID and CLIMATE, than it has on the various species of WOKERY. This is because it is easier to be sceptical about scientific claims than identitarian claims. It is easier to be sceptical about evidence than it is about logic. This is because the sceptic can always find evidence against the original evidence: so that all the evidence and counter-evidence can be brought together to battle it out within the same framework of logic. It is harder to be sceptical about logic itself, because what we have is entire frameworks coming into contradiction. This is especially true of what happens when we try to think about ‘Trans’.
The ‘Trans’ movement bases its claims not on evidence but on logic. This is to say that it prefers to appeal to a false or dubious a priori, rather than to a false or dubious a posteriori. We are not in the world of ‘evidence-based’ science. Everyone knows that the ‘Trans’ movement is completely indifferent to evidence. It depends on logic. This logic is not a very good logic, but, no matter what you think of it, it is a logic, and it has a coherence of its own. Let us call it TRANSLOGIC.
Although this logic is not our logic, many of us (or at least those of us who call ourselves liberals) find that we get tangled up in TRANSLOGIC, whether we want to or not. It is easy to get tangled up in TRANSLOGIC: and this is why I propose a way out of confusion by distinguishing this form of logic from two older forms of logic.
Before I sketch the logics, it is important to draw attention to the importance of history in all of this. TRANSLOGIC is a logic about a difficult and dangerous subject which, for not much more than a century, we have classified under the category of ‘sex’. But it is very important to note that ‘sex’ is a modern thing. There was no clear ancient or medieval word for what we mean by ‘sex’. For thousands of years there was marital love on the one hand, and porneia or ‘fornication’ and unnatural acts on the other: one good, and one evil. What we have come to call ‘sex’ was, of course, usually related to and also subordinated to another something else – namely, love. It was about our duties to others rather than about our rights against others.
Love and sex, sex and love (along with appetite, desire, pleasure, respect, care, reverence): one has to consider these subjects with caution for three reasons. The first is that they are fundamental: life depends on them. The second is that they are almost spectacularly existential for us once we are alive: they concern what we suppose, or know, we are, and what we know, or suppose, we want. The third is that they are not necessarily always commensurable: there is an element of unpredictability about the relation between love and sex: nothing is fixed. It has to be fixed. And if the relation between love and sex is so shape-shifting and paradoxical it is no wonder that there is so much potential for confusion.
Philosophers and theologians from Plato and St. Paul downwards tried to bracket out sex for the sake of love; and this was always the doctrine, more or less, right down to the time of the extremely Enlightened figures of the late nineteenth century such as Havelock Ellis, Edward Carpenter and Sigmund Freud, who, through their researches and speculations and recategorisations, more or less created the category of ‘sex’ as an exotic subject of interest and identification rather than as a bare classification of type. This was the ‘sexual revolution’ which unfolded from the 1890s through to our time: aided and abetted over time by mechanisms of contraception, abortion and television and the dubious conspiracy known as ‘sex education’. Our world is the world of Kinsey and what Noel Coward called his ‘deafening report’.
The invention of the word ‘sex’ enabled us to separate certain things from ‘love’, and, since ‘love’ had previously always been understood to be something higher then mere sex, this meant that everything that we call ‘sex’ had previously been disciplined by ‘love’, which meant by religious precepts of duty and care. Some of the most charming artefacts in history are the Byzantine gravestones that depict a man and wife holding hands. They knock Larkin’s Arundel Tomb (‘what will survive of us is love’) into a cocked hat. But in the last century ‘sex’ broke out of its bracket (not quite in Larkin’s 1963), exploded out of Pandora’s box, left the carnival of brothel and music hall and holiday postcard, and remade an entire civilisation. So the subjects which have confused everyone since Adam and Eve are now even more confusing since they are not disciplined by religion and ritual: they are considered to be not only part of free activity but also part of the way we identify those engaging in such free activity.
So how to clarify the situation when our understanding of sex has not only been complicated by the ‘sexual revolution’ symbolised by the invention of the word ‘sex’ but also by its last iteration in the innovations of the ‘Trans’ movement?
The way to do this is to sketch three forms of logic: one antique, one modern, and one which we may as well call postmodern.
The first logic is the old logic, the one associated with Biblical morality. This is the logic of our fathers, and our fathers’ fathers, and so on. The second is the logic of the last hundred or so years, the one associated with liberalism. The third is the logic which has exploded into significance in the last decade, the one associated with the ‘Trans’ movement.
These are three different logics, but they emerged in this particular order historically: and as there is no way that the third could have arrived without the second, they form a sort of sequence too.
The first, antique logic involves the following line of thought:
• There is only sex.
• (Gender is a matter of grammar only.)
• ‘God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.’ (Gen. 2.27.)
• Sex is natural; and determines the roles of men and women.
• Therefore, man is, and man does as man is; equally, woman is, and woman does as woman is.
The second, modern, liberal logic involves a rather different original assumption:
• Sex and gender are different.
• (Sex is nature; gender is behaviour.)
• We now distinguish what we are from what we do.
• There are no determined roles for men and women.
• Man is, but a man may do as a woman does; woman is, but a woman may do as a man does.
• (‘Experiments in living’ are acceptable said John Stuart Mill in On Liberty in 1859.)
• Even though I am a member of one sex; I may behave as a member of the other sex.
This second logic, along with the first, has, until now, formed the background to contemporary culture. Against the imperative of the first logic to marry and be loyal, the second logic has suggested that we can do whatever we want, as long as it is by consent and does not cause harm. It is certainly behind the general acceptance of homosexuality.
The third, postmodern logic, which I am calling TRANSLOGIC, is different from the second logic because it brings ‘identity’ back in such a way that the liberal logic is twisted round so it isn’t liberal any more:
• Sex and gender are the same.
• This is because gender has incorporated sex into itself.
• (Facio ergo sum: ‘I behave, therefore I am.’)
• I can choose my sex, not only my sex in the sense of my preferences about others (‘I know what I want’), but my sex in the sense of my preferences about myself (‘I know what I am’).
• Nothing is determined by nature; because there is no difference between nature and artifice; and therefore everything is artifice.
• I decide what my sex is, what my pronouns are, etc.
This TRANSLOGIC has doubtless been helped along by the plastic surgeons and social media influencers, and quite possibly other things to be explained by the historians of the future. But it is mostly about language and logic: and the ‘Trans’ phenomenon has been so confusing because so many of us have tended to think that it operates under the second logic. But – and it is definitely not original to say this, though it is still not recognised as often as it should be – there is a fundamental difference between the second logic and the third. Their original assumptions are contradictory. Either sex and gender are different or sex and gender are the same. One has to decide.
It is our collective refusal to see this tension clearly which has led to the anger, confusion and grievance on both sides. For people who adopt the second logic – and this includes feminists and libertines as well as homosexuals – there is a difference between sexual nature and sexual behaviour. But for people who adopt TRANSLOGIC, there is no such difference. And the consequence of this is astonishing: it means that for those who belong to the ‘Trans’ movement linguistic constructions are entirely constitutive of reality. In other words, there is no such thing as nature.
This is why TRANSLOGIC is far more threatening to the young than the second, liberal logic is. If there is such a thing as nature, then coming to maturity matters. Coming to maturity matters a great deal for liberals since they believe in ‘consent’ and ‘the age of consent’. One cannot, they say, make decisions about one’s preferences about others (‘I know what I want’) until one is sexually mature. But if there is no such thing as nature, if everything is artifice, then everything is a matter of choice: and the question of our preferences about ourselves (‘I know what I am’) are, very obviously, nothing to do with age. Even the smallest child has a sense of who he/she/it is, even if it is only momentary. So instead of a logic based on the fixity of our original sexual nature, in TRANSLOGIC we have a logic concerned with momentary authenticity and identity. Consequently, in TRANSLOGIC there is no such thing as maturity.
From the 1960s onwards our elites, and, by and large, the masses, went along with the relaxing of laws relating to sex and marriage. There was an acceptance of the second logic, so that the first and second logics stood, somewhat awkwardly, side by side. But many people are now coming to the view that there is a problem. And they are right. What is being proposed by the ‘Trans’ movement is that a third logic be brought into existence. Sometimes its most exuberant activists seem to suggest that anyone who refuses to accept this logic should be sent into exile.
TRANSLOGIC is not liberal. It is by some way the worst logic of the three I have sketched. But its rise has been permitted, I think, by the fact that so many liberals have taken it to be simply an acceptable extension of their own, second, logic, rather than a replacement of it by something far less liberal. For half a century or more, liberals have been willing to accept a relaxing of sexual and marital rules for reasons of increased freedom and toleration. Of course, exponents of the antique, Biblical, morality oppose this. But the really significant thing is that liberals are coming to oppose it: or, let us be just: they are finding themselves divided down the middle in relation to whether 1. they adhere to an extension of further relaxing and further toleration (without noticing that their logic is being twisted to destruction), or 2. they adhere to the logic which has justified the relaxing and toleration that has already taken place and therefore must reject any further relaxation and toleration.
Dr. James Alexander is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at Bilkent University in Turkey.