This article is taken from the August/September 2021 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.
Imagine waking-up to discover oneself living in a theocracy; in workplaces and even when chatting with friends it becomes obligatory to signal one’s belief. Kids are subjected to indoctrination sessions at school. The national broadcaster schedules regular religious programmes, and the police, civil service and courts pay a tithe to faith leaders.
Citizens who ask questions are socially shunned, becoming legitimate targets for violence and hatred; some find themselves in police cells and at risk of having their children taken into care. The only respite can be found on small corners of the internet, spaces where dangerous apostates meet, renegade sites such as Mumsnet.
This isn’t the plot of some hackneyed dystopian novel — this is today’s world as described by Helen Joyce in Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality.
Joyce is mathematician by training, and she brings a clear-eyed, systematic approach to her analysis
There are no mad mullahs to point at, no frothing rabbis and no black-clad priests condemning non-believers to an eternity in hell. And yet, just as with religion, angry men wearing dresses are compelling speech, forbidding women from meeting and excommunicating apostates. Each example in this opening scenario is happening in Britain today thanks to the extraordinary rise of trans ideology.
I am a veteran of the trans war against reality, having written extensively on the topic over the past few years. Trans is the book I wish I’d had the foresight to pitch and the insight to write, and I was primed to bitterly pick at it. On reading I was forced to put envy aside and concede, Joyce has done a bloody good job.
A practising atheist, Joyce deftly picks apart the tenets of gender identity, positioning it as a belief system which seeks to make biological sex irrelevant. She charts the destruction trans ideology has wrought on language, institutions, women’s rights, family relationships and the bodies of vulnerable youth. On “transition” itself Joyce is clear:
“Whether a religion makes its believers happy is irrelevant to the question of whether god exists, or whether everyone else should be compelled to pay it lip service.”
There are multiple ways of understanding the trans take-over of civil society. In 1979 the visionary feminist ethicist Janice Raymond argued that transsexualism was born of the male desire to colonise womanhood. Today, some posit that trans ideology is part of the fourth industrial revolution: capitalism turning inwards to mine the human body and sell identities.
The gurus of the “intellectual dark web” blame everything from “feminised teaching” to cultural Marxism and hormones in the water. Joyce focuses instead on what can be proven and what is found wanting.
Joyce is mathematician by training, and she brings a clear-eyed, systematic approach to her analysis. Trans might best be described as an expansive “null hypothesis”, a detailed debunking of the hypothesis that being a woman or a man is a matter of conscious self-identification. But despite the empirical approach, the book is positively juicy; first person interviews and colourful detail illustrate each point.
The origin of transgenderism is traced to the maverick theories of sexologists in Weimer-era Berlin. Today’s Gender Studies professors and their shiny-eyed acolytes might imagine the vogueish idea that “sex is a spectrum” to be a recent scientific revelation. Joyce conclusively disproves the concept, positioning it as a convenient if unscientific explanation of transvestism and homosexuality that first transfixed rogue surgeons a century ago.
Joyce does not shy away from the grubby underbelly of trans identities; exposing the pornographic fantasies that drive the desire to “change sex” for many men. One no longer has to scour the fetid recesses of the internet to find evidence of these fetishes, authors like the trans activist, Andrea Long Chu, are quite upfront about what being female means to them: “an open mouth, an expectant asshole and blank, blank eyes”.
Those who understand themselves to be more than vessels for male sexuality include transwidows, the women whose partners choose to transition. Expected to stand by their man, even when he decides he is a “she”, transwidows are relegated to props in their partner’s new identity. Trans is one of very few books to acknowledge their existence.
Joyce felt moved to write Trans after listening to detransitioners; people who, like transwidows, are collateral in the trans crusade against reality. She reports of one detransitioned woman that “the label ‘lesbian’ revolted her, since she associated the word with pornography sniggered over by male classmates”.
Unlike their male counterparts, most females referred to gender identity clinics are same-sex attracted. The procedures they undergo to become simulacrums of the opposite sex can be understood as socially sanctioned self-harm; the manifestation of internalised homophobia. Their stories are a raw reminder of the sacrifice trans ideology demands.
Joyce’s final chapters trace how a niche ideology with all the internal coherence of Scientology has come to capture institutions, governments and minds. The idea that a shadowy cabal of patriarchs is plotting to eliminate biological sex sounds like tinfoil-hat territory. Nonetheless, it is true that there are a handful of billionaire philanthropists exerting their influence on policy across the globe.
The vision of men like Jennifer Pritzker, Jon Stryker and George Soros is being pushed through human rights organisations, international law and academia. Their intentions may be benign, but their impact is every bit as devasting as earlier forms of imperialism.
The power of these men might be limited were it not for the fact they operate under the shadow of the pharmaceutical industry. Naturally, the manufacturers of drugs and implants stand to benefit from the surgical and hormonal manipulation of the human body. Joyce wryly observes that, “helping gender-dysphoric people feel comfortable in their bodies makes no-one much money; turning them into lifelong patients is highly profitable”.
Trans gives a compelling, comprehensive overview of how and why this science-denying ideology has conquered the world
From The Coddling of the American Mind to Cynical Theories, a flurry of recent books argue that liberal values and enlightenment reasoning are the best tools to undo superstitious beliefs. This is also the conclusion to which Joyce is drawn, and throughout Trans she slices through the knotty problem of gender identity with a sharp intellect, weighted with evidence.
The march of critical theories across institutions will continue to fuel outrage in the Daily Mail and prompt soul-searching in the Guardian. These trendy ideas will be fleeting; forgotten as quickly as the political correctness of the 1990s. But trans ideology is different, the division of organisms into two sexes can be traced to around two billion years ago — the hubris needed to imagine this irrelevant is staggering.
The quest to eliminate sex in civil society is not just well-funded and wrong-headed, it taps into a dark truth about male power and sexuality. So entrenched are positions on either side of the debate that each word becomes a tribal signifier. As a hard-line feminist, I found the use of preferred pronouns throughout Trans jarring. But as a writer I appreciate some small battles must be conceded so as not to alienate the majority. Nonetheless, a nod to the feminist scholars who’ve been battling this behemoth for decades would have been welcome.
Trans gives a compelling, comprehensive overview of how and why this science-denying ideology has conquered the world. Ultimately, it is a story of inequality; both economic and sexed. Trans is a book that ought to be read by every legislator, policy maker and activist. But the bleak truth is that those whose minds are already closed will never open its cover.
Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print
Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10Subscribe