In Defence of Non-Binary Gender -or- Pronouns Are Important And We Need More Of Them.

Since this is a note that I have decided to share publicly I thought that I should first explain that it is a response to this article:
Which was shared by a person I like and respect as a person and an intellectual but, in my opinion, erred in his endorsement of this article.

Dear Dr. B
With all respect and fondness I could not disagree with this article more if I were trying to. Beyond here I address only the article itself and it’s author and am in no way addressing you or your endorsement of this article.
Let me start by applauding the molten hypocrisy of a man who states in a derisive fashion:

“The first answer is that the confusion redounds to the benefit of the self-confused, who get to compel other people to play along with their idiosyncratic dreams of unreality. Elwood P. Dowd not only has his invisible friend, the six-foot-tall rabbit named Harvey, but will take you to court unless you shake Harvey’s hand and register Harvey in at the hotel. Harvey must be your friend too, or else. Christian bakers who have retained their hold on reality can tell us what will happen to you if you say, “But there is no Harvey here, nor will I pretend that there is.””

Who goes on to say such things as:
In that very quote, “Christian bakers who have retained their hold on reality” (for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian couple because…. I don’t know… God?)

And further styling his opponents as, “all rebels against Nature and Nature’s God”

Apparently invisible friends are okay, just not “that guy’s invisible friend”.

To him, people who believe in tall, invisible rabbits, or in non-binary gender are “self-confused” but those who believe in a modified henotheistic Sky-God that sits at the head of Catholicism telling people not to bake cakes for the gays, that person is in full command of their faculties.

Bravo to you sir! Bravo! I would like to espouse that much hypocrisy in my own life, I just can’t. I guess it’s part of that whole thing where I was taught to live according to “logic” and “fairness”.

As an aside, let me dispel the notion of Christian bakers being the real victim of the culture wars as well as throw down the gauntlet against the towering asshole who attempts to create them as such (I’m sure he believes he’s a perfectly nice person, most people who thought black people are an inferior race believed themselves to be perfectly nice as well, they turned out to be mistaken; they were assholes).  

Gender and sexual minorities in the US are still not protected from discrimination in over half of the states. You can still be fired, evicted from your house, or refused many services for no other reason than being a sexual or gender minority in thirty states without any legal recourse whatsoever but hey, what about those poor people who were almost paid to bake a cake?! Furthermore, the heroic, reality-laden bakers to which he referred didn’t just break the local anti-discrimination laws under which they obtained their business licence, they also broke federal laws (and the law of common decency) by sharing their court papers on social media exposing the lesbian couple’s name and home address to over a half a million people, many of which took it upon themselves to make death threats against the lesbians AND their two young children. This couple have gone broke and hungry several times moving their family and quitting jobs to escape the people who are still actively threatening them and their children.

The bakers? Well, they’ve gotten press tours, become media darlings of the right wing, and been given over a half million dollars in donations to their “legal fund” (quotations since Liberty Counsel represented them pro bono. Their current attorney, C. Borden Gray is a former advisor to the Bush White House, I wonder how Oregon bakers secured such a high-profile attorney?)

As far as I’m concerned, if those bakers had even a modicum of the “sense” this author graces them with their press tour would be nothing but a constant litany of tearful apologies and earnest repentance for the nightmare they purposefully put that poor couple through. As yet, they are still playing at being the real victims. [1]

So, I reiterate, towering asshole!

Now that I have that all off of my chest let me set aside my personal feelings for now to address the merits of the argument at hand. The argument, I might add, about an extremely complex neurological phenomenon being made by the professor of English Literature (honestly, Dr. B?).

Here’s the facts. Gender is non-binary [2]. Pretty much every person who has studied gender will tell you it is not a binary. Studies and evidence are mounting every day despite the hyper-paranoia of some pseudo-scientist who sees enemies of his prejudice as enemies of culture itself. He claims it’s obvious to see what gender a person is. Really? I could volunteer transgender friends to take part in a social experiment whereby he would most assuredly never be able to identify the trans person in a line-up with an assortment of people who were born in their gender. Does that disprove him? It certainly should, but of course he wouldn’t accept that. This person’s arguments are pathetically weak. 

He opens with the “it’s obvious” argument. Well, no it isn’t. Is it really a physical reality? No. first thing he has forgotten is that there are people who are literally, physically speaking, neither sex… or both… or not really either of those options. They’re called Intersex people and in the good old days when bigots held more sway than experts these people had their sex physically reassigned at birth (usually with preference given to the gender in which they were most likely to be procreative). After decades of research the experts found that this process caused crushing, lifelong psychological problems for these people. That’s okay though, right? So long as we get to stick to two pronouns and none of us “important people” get hurt or even have to bother challenging our preconceived ideas and prejudices, right? 

By the way, these people still do get their sexes physically reassigned without their consent all the time…. even though people know it does great harm to the people involved.[3]

More than that though, physical reality and physical sex don’t always match in a mutch more visibly indistinguishable way. Neurological studies have found that transgender people’s brains ARE transgender or genderqueer. In layman’s terms people’s brains (a physical reality) do not match their bodies (a physical reality) [4]. I’m guessing that these physical realities, with the studious research that underpins them, do not matter to this person because they don’t suit his argument.  

Thus I find myself descending to his last argument which is two pronged though the two are really just abuses of the same idea: an appeal to the majority and to “culture” whatever that means. The author suffuses his language with appeals to the majority and to the culture; suggesting that these are the sensible people and culture must be right by virtue of themselves. These arguments are not only fallacious but also dangerous. I doubt I have to say much in this vein myself, as philosophers down the ages have already exploded these delusions. The idea that a wrong idea can be made right by virtue of the majority of people believing it to be true is obvious to anyone, perhaps most so to Copernicus and Galileo. Despite virtually everyone believing the earth was at the centre of everything at the time, our planet spun around the sun uncaring of their desires. As to the appeal to culture I would assert that we are hardly the first culture to consider the notion of non-binary gender; the fact that our culture has a paucity of gender specific pronouns is evidence of a flaw in our culture, not an actual lack of need. I have noticed that most people, and I doubt this person is any exception, who appeal to culture or majority withdraw their boisterous support of same the instant it disagrees with their preconceived prejudices. When culture agrees with them they are such a wise and noble counsel, when it disagrees they are ill-educated and lack context or proper judgement.

Having dealt with these paltry arguments allow me to return to the individual’s character because it does have import in assessing the quality of arguments being put forth. Even were the arguments considered on their own merits they are failures, but considered in conjunction with this person’s obvious character flaws they amount to what I would go so far as to suggest they become hate speech. Let us take a look at this passage where this individual lays bare insecurities and ignorances:

“all rebels against Nature and Nature’s God, who would be happier to see a man leave his wife and children to take up with another man than to see a young woman turn away from the hothouse of a lesbian relationship to become a wife and mother after the ordinary way of nature.”

All gay men leave wives and children behind? Lesbians don’t have children? They are not wives or mothers? This notion that gender and sexual minorities only enter into relationships in order to satisfy craven sexual deviancy, as well as its opposite, the idea that heteronormative couples only have pure and moral family intent, is so idiotic it is truly insulting to any thinking person. These are the fever dreams of the bigot who, in characterizing an entire section of society as a caricature of sexual deviancy, tells us more about that individual’s character than it does of the assembled hordes of this individual’s imagined enemies. More insulting still that such idiocy is taken as serious by so many who couldn’t or won’t be bothered to think for themselves. This person is committing the selfsame sin he is accusing others of: demanding we recognize his own ignorances, prejudices, and nonsense as if they were gospel on the say-so of his six-foot-tall bunny friend, Harvey.  

No, I say, no! Transgender people around the world suffer at the hands of this ilk. They are beaten, persecuted, demeaned, insulted, brutalized, and killed. This person would have us believe he is the true wronged and threatened party because we won’t use the words that this person likes?

I accuse you, Anthony Esolen, not only is your argument logically unfounded and entirely specious,

You are a massive hypocrite, a towering asshole, and a flagrant bigot.

I invite you to grow up.

Links for further reading:


About crunchydad

First and Foremost I am Husband to Sonya, my lovely better half, and father to Amelia Parvati Benson, my beautiful little girl. I am a "crunchy" dad in the sense that I parent in a fairly non-traditional way in North America. I use cloth diapers, not out of any environmental concern as such but because my daughter is wickedly allergic to disposables. I babywear because I love it and it is the best thing I've ever discovered; I have literally never used a stroller in my life and, unless I decide to use a stroller when I jog, I never will. We cosleep (go ahead and look it up) and it really works well for us. Finally, and these four are just the major points, we practice baby-lead solids, which means our daughter feeds herself (most of the time) and eats all the foods we eat. I have A Bachelor of Religious Studies degree from the University of Calgary; if you are wondering, no, that does not mean I am becoming a priest (seriously, you have no idea how often I get that question). Studying religion is my passion and I have continued with it after my formal education ended. I have two great dogs, Scotty and Baxter, that round out my little family unit and that is the broad strokes on what makes me the very happiest Crunchy Dad that ever did crunch!
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