Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Gender is a social fact

The rise of the trans phenomenon is based upon the distinction between sex and gender. Whilst sex is recognised as a biological fact, gender is seen as being merely social, a convention, an arbitrary construct of human whim. This view reveals a shallow, superficial sociology, which has more to do with wishful thinking than any sociological analysis or theory.

Gender is a social fact. And like all social facts, whilst malleable, it is neither arbitrary nor subject to personal determination.

Society, any society, is composed of an interlocking set of social facts. Individuals do not get to choose those facts anymore than they get to choose the facts of nature. Rather, social facts predate any specific individual; all of whom are born into a pre-existing social order. Gender is just one of the sets of social facts that exist in society. And it is no more a matter of personal choice than any other set of social facts.

Take money for example. Money is a social fact. Just look at a bank note. On its face is clearly stated that it is plainly not money, but merely a promise to pay a particular sum of money on demand. Yet, if one were to take a bank note to the Bank of England and demand that the promise by honoured, one would very quickly be shown the door. No official of the Bank would accept that the bank note was not in fact money. Promissory notes are, as a social fact, money.

Even though money is a social fact no one pretends that he or she can simply decide: I am a billionaire. No one thinks that if they were to declare that they were a billionaire, everyone else would acknowledge them as a billionaire and treat them accordingly. Although money is a social fact, its facticity is denied by no one. Everyone recognises that no one can by merely personal preference alter the (social) fact of money.

The same is true of all social facts. I might, for example, prefer that I am a general, but just because I assert I am a general does not make me a general. In order for me to be a general other persons have to recognise me as a general. This list could be elaborated virtually infinitely. However, I think the point is clear. Social facts are created by society, and are not open to change by any particular individual - and this is why the trans movement demands that so called misgendering (that is being accurate) be criminalised, for in order for the trans movement to be successful other persons must recognise the changed gender as the gender.

The trans movement is based precisely on the notion that the social facts of gender can be changed at the will of any particular individual. This is more than a revolutionary doctrine; it is an anarchic doctrine, which potentially threatens to undermine the whole social order. When who one is socially can be changed by mere personal preference, the sets of interlocking social roles, facts and institutions are all radically put a risk.

If I can change my gender by merely wishing it, why can I not change my age by merely wishing it? The response that age is a biological fact is only partially true, for age (just like sex and gender) is both a fact of biology and a social fact. In international law anyone under the age of eighteen is a child and anyone who is eighteen or over is an adult. Yet no one imagines that there is a fundamental qualitative change that occurs on a person's eighteenth birthday. The distinction is clearly social, albeit based on biology.

The trans notion of self identify is a radical threat to all social facts, for it denies the very facticity of the social order. Gender is a social fact, grounded on the biological fact of sex. The people who are pushing the notion that gender is a matter of personal choice are, doubtless, well intentioned, but their project threatens the very processes (the processes that create social facts) which hold societies together and make intersubjective meaning and understanding possible, the processes which ensure that social behaviour is predictable. Self identify is a road to anarchy.