Thus, it seems that part of taking on the distinction between gender and sex is to believe that there is no meaningful connection between one’s psychological experiences and one’s biological experiences. This, in turn, appears to be part of a larger issue, that of the relationship between the mind — or the soul — and the body. As an antidote to the radical separation of gender and sex, I suggest a different philosophical model regarding the human person, that offered by Thomas Aquinas. For Aquinas, although the soul and the body are distinct, the human person can only exist as embodied. This means that the body is essential to the person. Building on this Thomist understanding, Pope John Paul II argued that "sex is integral to the identity of the body-person."
If the body is essential for what it means to be a person, this must also mean that we experience the world, as persons, through our bodies. Our psychological experiences must therefore be grounded in some important way in our biological experiences. Given this connection, it becomes impossible to have the psychological experience of being a man — indeed, of being "born into fatherhood" — while biologically giving birth to a child.
The project of redefining gender is a very significant part of a larger ideological movement — driven by both postmodernism and philosophical liberalism — to destroy, or to overcome, every kind of constraint, whether it be a constraint of convention, or of nature. The concept of a radical freedom defines our age — a freedom which refuses to be bound by a concept of what it means to be human, and demands that the only kind of human good is one that we create out of our own desires. It is our attempts to realize this radical freedom which continually drive us on in questioning "every fact of community." Our culture is plagued by what Roger Scruton calls the "exterminating ‘why’." And he warns that this exterminating "why" will eventually leave us "entirely disinherited."
Thus, gender roles, and even the concept of gender itself, are prime targets for our postmodern, exterminating tendencies. The extermination starts — as always — with a change in language, and the shaming of those who question the language. Indeed, one important theme of the study was that the transgender men were significantly distressed by the fact that many people refused to refer to them as "men"or "he" when they were pregnant. The obvious message was that one is insensitive, and even hateful, if one refuses to use the new language.
Yet, this language change is having fundamental repercussions for our culture.
The issue is this: we need terms which describe the biological process of reproduction. But, due to gender theory, those terms — woman, man, mother, father — have now become loaded with a political meaning which goes far beyond their original, descriptive role. Thus, when one says that "a man is having a baby," one does not mean that a biological man is having a baby. One is making a political statement: that one is not bound by an old-fashioned binary concept of gender; that one believes there is no inherent meaning in being male or female; that one wants to create the human good, not discover it.
The result is that we are fast losing a language which corresponds to reality regarding the most necessary act for the continuation of the human race. Instead, we now have a public, political language which is geared specifically to obscure what happens in reality.
Do we really want to be "entirely disinherited" of the concept of gender?
Holly Hamilton-Bleakley is a mother of six living in the USA. She holds an MPhil and PhD in Intellectual History and Political Thought from the University of Cambridge (England). She blogs at Philosophy for Parents. This article was originally published on MercatorNet.com.