Culture war,  Your View

The Tale of Two Sexes


By Jurek Molnar


Since the topic of trans-activism pops up now and then in HP comments, I wanted to present some thoughts how to make a point on this topic, if you are like me mostly not really into that kind of stuff. Therefore, this will be a guide on how to think about trans-issues as an uninterested observer.

For the argument itself, it does not make any difference if you are an interested party, relating to trans-activism as a political cause or if you think transsexuals are an abomination, which represent an insult to God. I will not make any judgement about the factual existence of trans-people, nor if their perceptions or appearances are important and meaningful or the opposite. I really do not have an opinion, because in my point of view, all human beings should live up to their aspirations and if that is your thing, I wish you well. May God bless you and watch over you all time.

What I am interested in are basic considerations how to map these phenomena on a larger scale. I will not come up with smart definitions, what trans and trans-issues really mean or how they are different from other –isms. It is irrelevant to me what kind of reasons people have to make transitions or what it means to them. What I am going to talk about is, how to think about this issue, if you don’t have or even dislike to have an opinion. I will also be silent about the question if you should have one.

The first thing to notice then is the immense presence of -sexual issues in the media. No matter if is homo, hetero, bi, trans or asexual, the –sexual (and sexual) topics are a large bubble in which all kinds of performances are taking place. People, it seems, are obsessed with their bodies and other human bodies in general. They like to show and they like to watch. (“People are perverts”, famous director David Fincher once remarked.) The current media environments are amplifiers and incentivize the performance of bodies in areas like fashion, advertisement, entertainment, fitness and pornography. Sometimes all these things become indistinguishable. The second thing to notice is the dominance of female bodies (and body parts) in the competition. There are certainly many reasonable explanations for this, but my own take is to point at the strange fact that never in history before there was so much pornography. The more enlightened, tolerant, diverse and scientifically adjacent our societies become the more pornography people consume. Sex education has been introduced decades ago and contraception has been made available everywhere. In some countries prostitution has been made illegal, while in others it has been officially integrated in unionism, welfare regulations and workplace laws, but the increase in pornography consumption in all cases above has not changed at all. The desire to talk about sexual issues has produced professionalized therapeutic self-improvement techniques, which have driven the parallel development that showing, performing, reinventing publicly one’s own body in relation to all forms of sexual fantasies has become normative. Pornography, which makes 60% of all websites, is the dominant culture of our era. The question why this is remains at least now unanswered.

The obsession with one’s own body seem overall to attract more females than males, but this statement depends mostly on your assessment what the attraction is. I would like to discuss in a further examination how female emancipation itself contributed to the attraction of sexualizing the male and the female body in all kinds of areas. But for now, we have just to accept that people like to reflect on their bodies and they do many crazy things to conform their bodies to their own imaginations. There are apps and software to do this in abundance. All the traditional forms like putting on make-up, being on a special diet, losing weight, working out or using beauty and pharmacy products (or just continuing to age effortlessly) are still the main way to go for that, but the idea of changing one’s own body has become an imaginary realm which goes far beyond the skin. One interesting aspect here is the idea that change (or the “journey” as they say) itself is much more important than the destination.

Words like “change”, “journey” or “transition” have become magical. They represent the hopes and dreams of a (mostly younger) generation of people who are very ambivalent about their identities. We do not have to drown ourselves in complicated explanations, because identity is a very simple concept. It just represents the uniform appearance of body and mind in a single person. Identity, understood broadly, is something that is stable. Stability on the other hand is a state of affairs most people under the age of thirty today have never experienced. The dynamic nature of modern society is not able to hold stability in terms of secure life expectations and long-term projections. Identity and identities under such a state of affairs keep becoming unstable and the word turns into the opposite of its original meaning. The current understanding of identity is to change in a permanent rhythm. Identity seems to have become a word for avoiding stability at all costs. It is not so much of importance what you will become, rather than the journey itself. The lack of economic and social stability has infected the perceptions of identity concepts and has turned them into a general state of bad self-consciousness. Insecurity, self-doubt and contradictory self-perceptions are the rule. Safe spaces and trigger warnings have become necessary ingredients in a way of life, where nothing feels safe, stable or even reliable. There is no safety in a world of safe spaces. Identity is constantly in the process of change and hence consequently endangered to become meaningless, if one stays at a certain point for too long. The destination itself, when your journey has finished, is somehow boring and uninteresting. You want to alter this boring and uninteresting state by default. The desire is to be in a constant mode of change, which never really ends.

When we do try to analyze the transsexual culture wars, without getting too much into its abusive quandaries, we notice that the basic claim of this movement is that biological sex is a meaningless category. Simone de Beauvoir and Judith Butler will have very different approaches to this. Ever since there has been a plenty of mutually exclusive arguments how this can be accurately understood, but at the end of the day, biological sexes are to a measurable degree not really real. The fights in between, the arousal about “TERFs” or “transphobia” are only distortions, which try to make this claim an invisible or at least non-debatable assumption. Since feminist discourse in the 70s has introduced the distinction between sex and gender and created grand philosophical architectures about the meaninglessness of the sex category and has transformed it into a universe of gender identity, confusion has become the primary state of identity in identity politics. You have to be confused in order to take part. Moreover, there may be a million genders available to identify with, but after decades of cultural turmoil, there are still only two sexes. The binary constraint of male and female as the dominant pattern of identity has not moved anywhere. There is no judgment here, if gender identities are real or consistent or if identifying with something like a “moon gender” makes any sense. If it makes sense for people who identify with it, our opinion becomes irrelevant. The map, which should us get through the quarrels about that, should only focus on the fact, there are still only two sexes and to realize that biological sex is indeed a reliable and stable category, which is not meaningless at all. One side of the fence has allegedly “debunked” biological sex, but we do not have to go into scientific arguments and conclusions or other complicated explanations. It is sufficient to show that trans-activism itself has indeed not given up on the category of biological sex. Take for instance the famous line that “trans-women are women”.

As we have seen before, the notion of “change” is much more important than the destination, to which it should lead. The activism hence is mostly about legal and medical matters of “transitioning” and social acceptance for the “journey”. It does not reflect much on its own non-debatable assumptions. If “trans-women are women”, (and who are we to challenge that?) then the system of biological sexes is the only meaningful reference in this sentence. The transition from man to woman or vice versa is the one thing trans-activism really cares about. The possibility of transition and its social acceptance are irreversibly founded on the assumption that biological sex is not only oppressive, but also untimely irrelevant and does not constitute any boundary on the process of change. Human beings change all the time and so nothing in human nature is fixed or stable. It is a general rule that stable categories do not appear in this view. Why is it so important to state, “trans-women are women” then? So important, that certain members of the community are going to war if someone says the opposite on the internet. Wouldn’t it be much more meaningful to say that “trans-women are not women”, in order to satisfy the basic idea that biological sex is an irrelevant category? Trans-women, in such a perspective started the transition to become someone else and moved thereby to a state beyond the biological sex constraint. They do not have to be “women”, if that means to conform to a biological fixed state. One can even naively recommend choosing from a million different gender identities, which the trans- prefix already indicates.

But this simple conclusion is of course not regarded as helpful, when being pushed into the culture war, why trans-women have to be women. Most people who are going through transition really want to become the opposite sex and they are – at least in the case of trans-women – exceptionally disappointed, when the social acceptance is counterfactual to their expectations. They wanted to become women, but evil TERFs and transphobic conservatives have denied them any chance to live as women. At least that is the narrative, but one cannot omit the fact that trans-movement exactly started from the point that biological sex is nothing but a fraud. The predicament that trans-activism has put these individuals into, when stating that biological sex is meaningless, is firing back now. The actual surprise about the quandary is that the enemy is not the white male cis-patriarchy, but the 2nd wave feminist generation. We would digress here, if we ask what the female equivalent of the Oedipus complex might be, and so we will not go into this any further. Instead, we continue with the most important assumption.

“Man” and “woman” are not meaningless categories and the tale of two sexes is not an outdated narrative. Everyone who says otherwise is simply wrong. In order to enable the large-scale movement towards transition as a normative life style choice, the constraint was declared non-existent, but it is desperately reinforced again, when the journey has ended. Did they not foresee this? The theories and movements that promoted this are actually in a war with their own presumptions. If we look back in 20 years to this situation, this will be the most obvious observation one can draw. Which leads us to the basic consideration, or if you will a fact: We cannot and we will not ever abandon the system of only two biological sexes. Even people who identify as non-binaries, which means not being sure if one is male or female, can change from one to another indefinitely, but the basic constraint that one changes between male or female is still valid. Non-binaries do not change into a third sex, because to have an open sex or a diverse sex or no sex at all isn’t an alternative or a third or fourth option, but a reflection of the fact that the constraint is much tighter than a Gordian knot. If trans-women are women, then biological sex is undeniably the foundation on which this statement relies upon. Which means: not even postmodern extremism is or was ever able to abandon it in their own language. The culture wars, which engage in gender trouble with “TERFs” and “transphobia” are only a distortion from that basic understanding.

Remember, there is no judgment here. It is irrelevant if you are positively or negatively related to this topic. As an uninterested observer, I have just laid out where the contradictions of certain arguments lie. I do not care to disrespect people. So, when I mentioned above the disappointment of trans-women: Who can actually blame them? After decades of ideological reinforcement, that the biological sexes are just an illusion and only gender identities matter, painful surgeries and hormone treatment, dreams and aspirations about becoming a woman have been shattered and compromised by the same feminist tradition, which has told the tale of no sexes in the first place. Trans-people are indeed victims of a cynical and failed social experiment. It is of no surprise that the movement is in the turmoil of a civil war. The reason the tale of no sexes has been told originally, was the objective to have a pretext to declare human nature as an unstable void and a constantly changing entity. The blank-slate idea, as some have called it. The idea is to make human nature a matter of social engineering, which will enable well-meaning bureaucrats to shape peaceful and diverse societies. It turned out that this project has some limitations. To make change and transition fashionable it was necessary to completely reject the notion of fixed states, i.e. the stability of biological sexes. There is only the sea and no shores. What disappointed trans-women are missing is that in a world where the biological sexes are just constructs, the journey actually never ends. They cannot become what does not exist. What we are witnessing here is a case of ideological resistance against the ideology. That is the heart of the struggle, we are watching in social media now. The transitions and the changes have to continue, because there is no real destination, only a dream, which has run aground or was destroyed in the cliffs. I feel only pity for lives that failed to see that point.

There is, again, no judgment here. While society increasingly consists of people who are obsessed with their bodies, making claims about their genders and gender changes on social media, the biological sexes are well and alive. Tertium non datur. They do not change or go into transition except on evolutionary time scales. The tale of two sexes is more or less around a billion years old. It will not leave us for some Twitter exchanges and it will not leave anytime soon. And for every uninterested observer that’s enough to know, in case there is a need for an educated opinion.

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