by Daniel P. Riordan, Class of 2018
It is no secret that the American political left is captivated by gender ideology. Its supporters will call it “Gender Theory”, but that name is untrue. For it to be a ‘theory’ it would have to be at the very least a coherent supposition, but it is not. Pope Francis also sees past the smokescreen of “Gender Theory”.
In Amoris Laetitia, he decried “An ideology of gender that ‘denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family.’”(AL, 56) All this will probably be called empty insults by some, so let me explain as best I can in this short article.
Gender ideology makes the claim that biological sex (or as they say “sex assigned at birth”) has no bearing on the expression of the gender/s of a person or their feeling of conformity to established norms of gender. This claim is valorized in society today as a groundbreaking expression of a novel liberation of the human spirit from the rigid structures of yesteryear, but this is all a whimsical fantasy. This dualistic conception of a human being is ancient, and nearly prehistoric. From the Pre-Socratics, through Plato, and all the way to Descartes, this idea has led astray both ancient philosopher and contemporary social justice warrior alike.
Implicit in the aforementioned claim about the nature of human sexuality is a deeper claim about the nature of man and of reality in general. In relation to man, the central claim implicit in the assumptions of gender ideology is that the physical body is not a vital expression of who we are, but is merely an object that “I” inhabit, and the “I” is buried deep down inside, like a ghost in a machine. In very short order, this conception of man, instead of exalting the human person, turns into a destructive force. If the body is not a vital expression of the truth of who we are then it loses all it’s dignity. The body can be used however I want, I can hack pieces of it off — Body Integrity Identity Disorder — I can instrumentalize it to the very limits of my caprice.
Fundamentally, this dualistic idea is one that ends up demeaning human dignity. But, proponents of gender ideology would have you believe the lie that it is the supreme exaltation of human dignity.
More foundationally — and more dangerously — gender ideology implicitly assumes a doubt in the intelligibility of the world around us. If physical things like my body, are not vital expressions of what the thing is, then reality eludes me. Only in an integrated anthropology that sees the soul and body united together does the possibility of knowledge of human existence and of reality in general, open up to us. Still worse, though, gender ideologues on the left promote a radically incoherent set of assumptions. On the one hand, we are told that empirical science has adjudicated the question of God and that empirical science is now the place where man can find true meaning. And what does empirical science necessarily entail? That the world is imbued with deep intelligibility that we are able to grasp, quantify, and measure. On the other hand, we are asked to hold in gender ideology — if we hope to be logically consistent — that the physical world is not intelligible, that the real meaning of who we are lies deep within and even against the truth of our physical make-up. Thus, the completion of the system leads to an absurdity that can only be avoided by either dispensing with gender ideology, or abandoning the empirical sciences — a demand of reason the left seems uniquely unwilling to satisfy.