How many of you, dear readers, have managed to escape any reference to ‘her penis’? To all who have, I envy you. The ground for policy insanity on gender identity has been assiduously tilled for several years by the insistence on ‘pronouning’ people by the gender of their choice untethered to biological reality. Whosoever controls the language controls the narrative and policy settings. In this Orwellian-cum-Alice in Wonderland world, God help us, paedophiles are ‘minor-attracted persons’. A lot of gender reassignment surgery is nothing less than surgical mutilation. What exactly is the difference between the positive-sounding ‘gender-affirming’ and the vicious sounding ‘female genital mutilation’? On second thoughts, strike that question – I don’t really wish to know.
We have been urged, as a very public signalling of virtue, to be kind, caring and compassionate towards sensitive souls trapped in the wrong body. But in some contexts, being kind to a tiny minority can ‘transition’ into being unfair to the majority. On September 4th, Danielle McGahey, who used to play club cricket in Melbourne, became the first transwoman to play in an official international cricket match. Athletics, cycling, swimming and rugby have banned participation by transwomen in female sports. The Women’s Rights Network campaigns to defend the sex-based rights of women. A spokeswoman said transgender women have “significant” advantages over females: “bigger muscle mass, larger skeletons, bigger lung capacity… 14-year-old boys can be faster and stronger than world-class female athletes.” Any international policy that permits McGahey to play in women’s competition is “unfair and unsafe”, she concluded. The selection of McGahey meant that a biological woman was denied selection in Canada’s national team. Why bother dreaming of fame, glory and pride in representing your country, if that prize can be snatched by a man in lipstick and a dress? What’s the point of having separate men’s and women’s competition if not to recognise the unfairness of the built-in physical advantages of males?
Media reports of the McGahey story used the pronouns ‘she/her’. The top-ranked comment from a Telegraph reader asked: “Why do you call it her? He is a man.” On many other similar stories too the most liked comments express exasperation at referring to biological males as ‘she/her’. Even when media reports are critical of such stories as convicted rapists being housed in female prison wards, they go along with the pretence that the culprit is a ‘she’.
Why so? The U.K.’s Independent Press Standards Organisation provides vague guidance on how to refer to transpeople. Associated Press guidance, widely adopted, instructs journalists to elevate feelings of gender identity above facts on sex. The Australian Government Style Manual (2023) requires using a person’s preferred pronouns in official content. Are journalists and editors compelled to follow? Whatever happened to media houses using science-based common sense aligned to settled community values, instead of meek compliance with woke guidelines from faceless, unelected and unaccountable language police?
The wilful suspension of biological reality with pretend facts is a threat to women. Transwomen do not have the right to colonise women’s sports and spaces. The war against women’s identity, rights, privacy and dignity is lost once you accept the science fiction of addressing as ‘she/her’, a 6’3” bearded man with a functioning male organ which he will proudly display in a woman’s spa, regardless of how embarrassed, offended and unsafe the girls and women in there might feel. As for relabelling ‘vagina’ as a ‘bonus hole’, as recommended by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust (!) in the U.K., this linguistic outrage is grossly offensive, degrading, hateful and hurtful. When I first read of it I assumed it was misinformation but no, it was a serious proposal. Where is John McEnroe with his fiery “You cannot be serious!”?
The root of the pronouns pathology is the terminological sleight of hand in legally reclassifying ‘born male’ as ‘assigned male at birth’. The purpose of a birth certificate is to record the objective sex of the newborn baby, not to assign a subjective gender to it based on the parents’ prejudices and mental health issues. This leads directly to the pathology of preferred pronouns into which the masses have been conned by the insistence that it is but a small act of kindness that costs us nothing but may save vulnerable people from ideationing or committing suicide.
We cannot have a society or constitute a community without shared frames of reference and patterns of action. Pronouns are a social-linguistic device for objectively differentiating males from females according to biological facts, not a matter of subjective individual preference. The claim – that subjective feeling and self-affirming gender identity must be given legal recognition and protection – is an existential threat to society itself. Because it’s limited to Western societies, it is an existential threat to Western society.
There are good reasons to create sex-separated toilets, changerooms, refuges, crisis services, prisons and sports that provide safe spaces for girls and women, and only them. Using the full force of the law to coerce and compel everyone to genuflect to biologically false facts is reminiscent of communist totalitarian systems where people must show obeisance to party diktats or risk the public humiliation of show trials, public confession of errors and spells in re-education camps. How many victims will it take before authorities move to protect women prisoners from manipulative and abusive male predators? How many children will be sacrificed on the altar of the ideology of gender-altering surgery before the medical profession calls a halt?
‘Gender-critical’ writers are gender-realists. ‘Gender-neutral’ language is not neutral or inclusive. It’s anti-woman. It erases more than half of humanity as a distinct category and excludes their rights to safety, dignity and privacy. How can you possibly refuse someone you call ‘she/her’ the right to use a women’s toilet or changing room and compete in a women’s swimming competition?
Transgender athletes – biological males asserting they are women to compete against females – are cheats. Women’s sport was not created as a separate category for males who cannot cut it in men’s competition. Nor was it to affirm identity but to ensure fair competition and, increasingly, equal prize money. And if they stand on the medallists’ podium, they are also thieves with no shame who have stolen the honour, recognition, prize money from the female competitors – and their dreams, hopes and ambitions.
Ramesh Thakur is Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy and a former UN Assistant Secretary-General. This article was first published by the Spectator Australia.