Trans activists have won the war, but not the hearts and minds
Navratilova may want a debate on the matter, but she's not going to get one. Here's why
The West is now in a state of psychological civil war, a war between opposing realities.
Consider what happens when a transgender woman is reassigned to the women’s sporting event and takes the gold. To the trans activist, this is a natural and beautiful thing: the athlete is competing in the right category and it’s a win for equality.
To some feminists, it’s a reversal of equality.
The trans athlete may be taller and stronger than the other competitors – they are, said the tennis champion Martina Navratilova, “cheating”.
Navratilova has since apologised for using that word and adopted a favourite fallback for those who know they’ve gone too far: all I’m saying is, can we have a debate?
It’s a nice idea, but no, we can’t. Because there’s nothing to debate. These realities are irreconcilable.
The trans athlete says: “Am I a woman or am I not?”
And as soon as one says, out of conviction or politeness, “you’re a woman”, then the golden rule of equality dictates that they must compete in women’s sports.
This fight will not last very long, and trans activists will win it.
I admire them. Not just for their personal courage but the movement’s ambition and speed: they are trying to accomplish in a few years what it took gays and lesbians decades to do.
The key difference is that gays and lesbians were pushing at a much heavier door.
In the UK in 1967, a very limited sexual equality was wrung out of parliament with protest, argument and appeals to Christian compassion.
One MP asked the House of Commons to show pity for a “small section of the community [that] can never have their hearts lifted by the sight of a miniskirt”.
The Earl of Arran advised gays and lesbians not to celebrate the legalisation in a way that would make parliamentarians regret their vote.
The Times headline read: “The Lords: ‘Do Not Flaunt’ Appeal to Homosexuals.”
There was militancy in the gay rights movement – much needed – but there was also subtlety and persuasion, and the success of this combination is reflected in how broadly the legislation created to enshrine those rights is now accepted.
The transformation in popular opinion is breathtaking. A recent survey found that 68% of Americans would be happy with a gay or lesbian candidate for president, something I never thought I’d read in my lifetime and a change that is probably as much down to stars such as Navratilova (who is a lesbian) as it is the moth-eaten old donkey that is the Democratic Party.
The least popular characteristics in a candidate were someone over 75 (37%) or a socialist (25%).
In modern America, it seems, the only way for Bernie Sanders to save his candidacy is to come out as gay.
What would a US audience make of a trans candidate? Not sure.
The challenge trans people face is that there are far, far fewer of them than there are gays or lesbians – at least the ones who are visible – so the opportunity for “getting to know you” is limited.
Moreover, they are asking society to accept a “personal truth” that many find hard to accept, in part because it appears – as in the sports debate – to challenge other hard-won realities.
Women have fought as long and cannily as gays for a playing field reserved for one gender yet respected by all, and they’re going to defend that space rigorously.
Gender is important to everyone. If you’re seeking to change hearts and minds, it’s worthy of a decades-long project.
Hang on, comes the counterargument, why should trans folk have to wait for equality? The answer is, they won’t have to wait long. The door of reform is wide open.
The consequences of the gay, lesbian, feminist, racial and other campaigns is that the legislative machinery of equalities is in place across the West and ready to roll.
Just as important, an entire generation of politicians, social workers, teachers, civil servants, doctors, journalists and police is willing to back and promote equality campaigns – and enforce them via indoctrination.
This combination of law, bureaucracy and culture explains how trans issues have expanded at such a pace.
It goes well beyond individuals who seek to change their sex characteristics by medical procedure, to encompass widespread gender fluidity in the very school system, where it is often tolerated or endorsed.
While you were sleeping, the left won the culture war.
You now live in their reality, and you’re going to have to get used to it because I can see no political or cultural authority willing to fight it.
Even Navratilova backed down on the cheating point, and she’s a very tough cookie.
I should know. I once sat next to her on a TV show and she was terrifying.
I can tell when not to fight.
When trans issues come up on chat shows, I smile and say: “It’s fascinating, isn’t it?” and leave it at that.
I’m religious and a man (of sorts), so my contribution would be dismissed out of hand, and thus whole sections of society are ignored or fall silent.
But they haven’t been persuaded – don’t think that for a second.
It would be a very sad outcome of this war if those who apparently win out of sheer perseverance believe their triumph is accepted as a new universal truth.
I can’t see it happening.
– © The Daily Telegraph