Poor old JK Rowling! I think it’s very difficult for anyone who is what you might call traditionally heterosexual and with a clear biological sex to say too much on this issue and once you start reducing it to the changing rooms in M&S the waters get a bit muddy. Anyway, here’s what I think.
Most children are born with a biological sex except for the occasional hermaphrodite. Medical practice has always been to try to turn the hermaphrodite into what it mostly appears to be. I can’t say if that’s good or bad but it does seem to be, firstly, traditional, secondly, medically considered to be the solution and, thirdly, it probably tallies with what parents want.
Sexual orientation is not a matter of choice. We grow up as we do and while public schools, Catholic priests and old perverts may do what they can to temporarily sway us or give us the odd kinky perversion later in life, I’m inclined to think they don’t change sexual orientation. If you like hanging from the door knob with an orange in your mouth, the sexual fantasy it engenders will, I think, relate to your sexual orientation. I’m open to other points of view on this one but it just seems to me to be how it is.
Forever, the world has behaved appallingly – sometimes more and sometimes less – in its attitude towards non-heterosexual sexual orientation. I don’t think it’s got any better or is, somehow, in some golden age. Children who are gay, in almost any sense of the word, have an awful time of it and may eventually come through it, declare themselves and be well rounded human beings but they will still have memories of bigotry, prejudice and, of course, their own self-doubt and lack of self esteem.
Gender is different and typically the range of gender and its scope is glossed over in all these arguments. Heterosexual people exhibit a huge range and complexity of genders and it’s fair to argue that gender is shaped by family background, experience, environment and, therefore, it is likely also to be formed in the 21st-century by social media.
Not surprisingly, many gay people have explored their own genders as a way of finding a pathway through their sexuality. Within my lifetime, gay people have been tolerated as female impersonators and bus conductors by the same people who vilify them in day-to-day life. I’m hopeful that isn’t the case for gay people today but I suspect it sometimes is.
That’s an aside. People have a right to choose their gender and a right to behave how they like. I think they are entitled to expect people to respect their choices and to be treated as people. If you can’t meet people who are ‘trans’ without seeing them as people I’m inclined to think that’s your problem.
I don’t doubt that social media and 21st-century culture encourages all people to play with their sexual orientation but, as I said before, I don’t think that changes the orientation and what they are really doing is playing with their gender. Lots of people have fun with that and good luck to them!
I think there are big issues related to gender reassignment and to psychiatric counselling which are problematic. Medical intervention is a last resort designed to make people feel better about who they are and, if it works for them, good luck to them but it doesn’t change their sexual orientation even if it makes them more comfortable with it. Unfortunately, it is a business like cosmetic surgery and if a procedure is possible you can find someone to do it but I can’t see it has much to recommend itself but I do think there should be more education in the basics of gender rather than pointless regulation to control it.
There is also a quite legitimate worry that non-heterosexual orientation is being deliberately fudged as being to do with gender which is, of course, just another version of gay people can be cured. It is just doctors this time rather than mad evangelists! Anyone can see why the gay community would find this behaviour abhorrent but, actually, we should all find it distasteful whatever our orientation.
Wrap all these things together and what we have at the moment is a heterosexual right wing group, in the sense that it knows what is good for people, panicking – maybe having an anxiety attack – at what it sees as an outbreak of gender confusion and firing off in all directions to explain what is bad about it. There’s a lot of concern in this group that the result is people masquerading as women and confusing the issues surrounding women’s rights as well as going in the ‘wrong’ changing room. Since blokey blokes have been arguing for fifty years that most feminists are probably lesbians or not really women not much has changed and there are still a lot of people who do not have their proper entitlement to life and a lot of them are women!
And, honestly, there are a lot of young people who are still a bit confused about what they are and they don’t need adults putting them into boxes, assuming they need psychiatric ‘help’, gender counselling and the rest. What they do need is good education and don’t forget that sex education in schools is still largely Christian focused and verging on the deceitful. They also need good parenting and less panic as well as fewer Twitter storms and rants from people with no authority to mouth off about these issues and they need some sensible open discussion. Society continues to be not much help to young people and gender is just part of the problem.