“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
This old maxim communicates a simple truth.
On any given day, you have a brain, and there are some things it can do, and some things it cannot do. The boundary between these is the measure of your “intelligence”.
Suppose someone comes along and calls you an “idiot”. That’s very rude, and may make you upset. But the next day, the boundary between what your brain can and cannot do is unlikely to have shifted significantly.
Calling someone an idiot, does not make them an idiot. There is a measurable objective reality against which this insult can be measured. So such words cannot harm you. Not really.
Suppose however that you confidently assert that you are a woman. This is despite the fact that you are riddled with Y-chromosomes, produce high levels of testosterone, can’t have children, do have gonads, and at face value, look like a dude.
Suppose someone comes along and calls you a “him”. That may be very upsetting too. Like being called an idiot. But why should it hurt you? Surely you could brush it off and walk away, like I would if someone were to call me an idiot.
The problem is that your assertion of being a woman is based on the post-modern premise that sentences don’t reveal meaning, they construct it. That is, you are not a woman because of any physical reality, you are a woman because a sentence made you a woman. And if one sentence made your gender, another sentence can destroy it.
Hence we have a battle of the sentences. Whose sentence will win? Well, if we institute a law about misgendering, then we are asserting that your sentence about yourself will win. Everyone is now granted the exclusive right to self-definition. But what happened to dear old reality? What is a woman? If you are not biologically female, then in what way are you a female? The word no longer has any meaning, which makes the debate a complete waste of breath.
Laws that protect trans people from being misgendered should be thrown out in the high court. They sit on a principle that is completely contrary to the principle already underlying our laws against libel, slander and perjury. That is: words have meaning.
The idea wants to have its cake and eat it too. Gender is relative, a matter of perspective, like beauty. But unlike beauty, gender is not in the eye of the beholder. Gender is the relative opinion of the person whose gender it is. You can think of your gender as whatever you want, but everyone else may not, they must agree with you.
Words only harm when they communicate that which is false to those who are then materially disadvantaged by believing the falsehood. Is not someone who calls themselves a woman and yet is, in every measurable way, a man, guilty of perjury under existing law?
We cannot institute post-modernist thinking into law. It will eradicate meaning. And when there is no such thing as meaning, how can there be law? And when there is no law, who has power?
Enjoy the anarchy.
Nick Kastelein is a Christian and a conservative who grew up and lives in Adelaide where he works for an engineering consultancy.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.