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The Redefinition of Gender

July 9, 2011

We are in the midst of a great culture war where, among other things, two very different visions of progress for women compete. Both sides support equal rights, equal opportunity, equal education, and equal protection under the law.

On one side, we have what I call the Sexual Left, a coalition of radical feminists, gay and transgender activists, advocates for population control and sexual liberation. The Sexual Left is united in the belief that there are too many babies and not enough sex. Now it is obvious that if you increase the amount of sex, you risk increasing the number of babies and also spreading sexually transmitted diseases. Therefore, the Sexual Left demands easily available legal abortion, contraception, and condoms, absolute sexual freedom, and sex education for all children without parental permission. Their kind of universal sex education is designed to overcome modesty, ignore parental concerns, ridicule religious prohibitions, pander to adolescent rebellion, encourage immediate pleasure seeking, discourage consideration of long-term consequences, and instruct students as to how to obtain contraception, condoms, and abortion. In spite of lofty goals, such programs inevitably increase unmarried pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. The Sexual Left is not deterred by their failure. Instead they use the disaster they have created to call for more funding for even more comprehensive sex education. And it is women who bare the burden of these failures: women who are more likely to be rendered sterile by sexually transmitted diseases, women who are traumatized by abortion, women who become single mothers. One would think that those who call themselves feminists would reject the anti-woman agenda of the Sexual Left, but the feminist movement has been co-opted by the radical feminists who whole heartedly embraced it. Additionally, rather than delighting in what is uniquely womanly, the radical feminists demean motherhood as a vocation for women, and demand that all societal recognition of sex difference be eliminated. They promote ‘mainstreaming a Gender Perspective.’

Opposing the Sexual Left are those who support a woman’s perspective, which is founded on the truth about and unity of the human person. Such a perspective safeguards the welfare of women, children, the family, and society.

The Redefinition of Gender

In order to understand the goals of those who want to ‘mainstream a gender perspective,’ one must understand how the word ‘gender’ has been redefined. In the past ‘sex’ referred to the totality of what it means to be a man or a woman, and ‘gender’ was a grammatical term. In most languages, words have gender: masculine, feminine or neuter, with each language assigning its own designations.

However, in the 1950’s John Money, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins, came up with a new use for the word ‘gender.’ He broke down the elements which make up one’s sexual identity — internal and external organs, genes, hormones, how one internalized one’s sense of one’s own sex (which he called gender identity), and how one’s culture designates sexual identity (which he called gender role). On the surface there is nothing wrong with noting the various elements which make up our sexual identity, but Money argued that it is possible for one’s gender identity to be different from one’s biological sex. In other words, a man could have a male sex, but a female gender identity.

Money’s ideas about gender were influenced by his commitment to absolute sexual liberation — including a more tolerant attitude toward intergenerational sex and paraphilias, his advocacy so-called “sex change” operations, and his work with persons with disorders of sexual development (persons who are sometimes incorrectly referred to as intersexed or hermaphrodites). Money was particularly concerned about baby boys born with severely deformed genitals. He supported a treatment protocol that called for the boy with such problems to be castrated, surgically altered to create the outward appearance of a female, raised as a girl, and given female hormones in adolescence. Money regarded engaging in sexual intercourse as essential to the development of one’s personality. He believed that growing up without a penis would be traumatic. Such a boy could never have sex as a male, but under the protocol he would be able to have sex as a female. Money was convinced that a child’s ‘gender identity” was socially constructed, and if everyone treated this genetically male but surgically altered child as a female, he would grow up into a she and never know the difference.

As fate would have it, the perfect case to test this theory fell into his lap in 1967 — the John/Joan case. One of a pair of identical twin boys was critically injured during his circumcision. His penis was destroyed. His parents desperate for a solution saw Money on TV and were convinced by his confident manner that he had the answer. Money took the case and instructed the parents to have the injured twin castrated, and to raise him as a girl. Money wrote up the case and referred to it frequently as proof that gender identity was a social construction and that a genetically normal male baby could be raised as a girl and never know the difference.[1]

The John/Joan case had a profound affect on the feminist movement. In the 1960’s there was widespread acceptance of the importance of women’s rights. Once its initial successes were achieved, the women’s movement broke into two factions: 1. mainstream feminists who supported equal treatment of women and were anxious to use their new freedoms to enter the workforce, and 2. Marxist-influenced radical feminists who were concentrated in academia and government agencies. These radical feminists disdained the capitalist ambition of their mainstream sisters. They were working for a sex class revolution. Sexual and reproductive rights — including abortion on demand and lesbianism — were at the top of their agenda. The radical feminists embraced Money’s gender ideology, because it fitted their belief that the differences between men and women were not natural, but oppressive social constructs.

The first time someone mentioned this Marxist connection to me, I was skeptical, but as I read the radical feminists I noticed the frequent references to prominent Marxists. Of course, they twisted Marx into something he would not recognize. For radical feminists, like Shulamith Firestone, author of The Dialectic of Sex, all history is the history of class struggle, but according to the radical feminists,the first and primary class struggle was not between owner and worker, but between man and woman. According to this theory, men created marriage in order to oppress women. Sex classes led to class thinking and all oppression.[2] Not being a Marxist, I wasn’t buying this.  Women are very clever and if marriage had not been invented by God, wise women would figured out that sex makes babies and if a man wanted access he had to stand up before her father and brothers and promise to be there when the baby was born.

Judith Butler, author of Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, was even more extreme. She wanted nothing less than the overthrow of sex distinction, which she believed would bring down the entire ‘patriarchal system.’ According to Butler, if gender is independent of sex then ‘man’ can signify a female body and ‘woman’ a male body.[3] The radical feminists railed against ‘compulsory heterosexism’ and motherhood labeling them social constructions. If all this is confusing, it is supposed to be. As one radical feminist explained “Logic is a patriarchal plot.”

Of course, we now know that Money’s experiment was an absolute failure. The twin raised as a girl never accepted his status as a female. He felt like a freak and when at age 14 he was told the truth, he immediately demanded the right to live as a male. He underwent painful surgeries to correct the mutilation caused by Money.

Money had been informed that his experiment had failed, but, in spite of being questioned as to the outcome, he had continued to pretend that it had succeeded. In addition, a number of other boys who had been subjected to Money’s protocol spontaneously rejected their female assignment. As young adults, victims of this human experimentation, have risen up and demanded that such surgeries be halted.[6]

Most of those who switched from using the word ‘sex’ to using ‘gender’ have no idea that they were victims of ideological manipulation.

—-

This post is part one of the original draft of a speech entitled “A Woman’s Perspective on Mainstreaming a Gender Perspective,” delivered in May, 2011in Hungary

[1] John Colapinto, As Nature Made Him, (NY: Harper Collins, 2000)

[2] Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex (NY: Bantam, 1972)

[3] Judith Butler,  Gender Trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity (NY: Routledge, 1990)

[4] Evelyn Hooker, The adjustment of the male overt homosexual”  Journal of Projective Techniques, (1957( 21: pp. 18-31.

[5] Richard Herrell et al., “Sexual Orientation and Suicidality: A Co-twin Control Study in Adult Men.” Archives of General Psychiatry (1999) 56: pp. 867-874.

David Fergusson, L. John Horwood, Annette Beautrais, “Is sexual orientation related to mental health problems and suicidality in young people?” Archives of General Psychiatry, (1999) 56 (10): pp. 876-80.

Keren Skegg, et al, “Sexual Orientation and self-harm in men and women,” American Journal of Psychiatry, (2003) 160 (3): p. 541.

Theo Sandfort et al., “Same-sex sexual behavior and psychiatric disorders: findings from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS). Archives of General Psychiatry, (2001) 58 (1): pp. 85-91.

Theo Sandfort, et al, “Sexual orientation and mental and physical health status: Findings from a Dutch population survey, American Journal of Public Health, (2006) 96 (6):  p. 1119.

Ron de Graaf, Theo Sandfort, M. ten Have, “Sucidality and sexual orientation: Differences between men and women in a general population-based sample from the Netherlands,” Archives of Sexual Behavior (20060 35 (3): p. 253.

Susan Cochran, Vickie Mays, J. Greer Sullivan, “Prevalence of mental disorders, psychological distress, and mental health services use among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults in the United States,” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, (2003) 71(1): p. 53.

Stephen Gilman, et al., “Risk of Psychiatric Disorders Among Individuals Reporting Same-sex Sexual Partners in a National Comorbidity Survey,” American Journal of Public Health, (2001) 91 (6):  p. 933.

Jack Warner, et al, “Rates and predictors of mental illness in gay men, lesbians and bisexual men and women,” British Journal of Psychiatry, (2004) 185: p. 479.

Michael King et al., “A Systematic Review of Mental Disorder, Suicide, and Deliberate Self Harm in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual People,” BMC Psychiatry, (2008)  8: p. 70.

[6] Rodger Wright, Nicholas Cummings, Destructive Trends in Mental Health,  (NY: Routledge, 2005). While you might think that Money’s deception was an exception, that published peer reviewed articles and books can in general be trusted, and that footnotes in statements by professional associations and in journal articles actually support the claims made, let me caution you that is not always the case. I spend most of my time tracking down references and over and over again I have found that even after a claim has been discredited, it continues to be quoted and worse used by judges and legislators to support radical social change. For example, in 1956 Evelyn Hooker compared 30 carefully selected homosexual men with 30 heterosexual men, and declared that homosexual men were no more likely to have psychological problems. This study is still referred to, although even at the time it was recognized as badly designed.[4] Since then a number large well designed studies have found that persons who self-identify as homosexual are far more likely to have psychological disorders, substance abuse problems, and suicidal ideation.[5] Unfortunately, in these areas advocacy research is the norm.

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