Several states and school districts have passed laws on “transgender discrimination,” and most read something like this (from a 2011 California law): "Gender . . . includes a person's gender identity and gender related appearance and behavior whether or not stereotypically associated with the person's assigned sex at birth."
What's the key word here? Assigned. As though a person's "sex at birth" were purely arbitrary instead of a scientific, biological fact.
What such language implies is that biological facts do not matter. The law is being used to impose a worldview that denigrates the physical body as inconsequential to personal identity. It is a worldview that drives a wedge between one's body and one's sense of self, which exerts a self-alienating, fragmenting effect on the human personality.
I had not heard of Nancy Pearcey before, but as it happens she is critical of liberalism on the same grounds that I am, namely that liberalism bases itself on the idea that the individual should be radically autonomous, and therefore not limited by anything unchosen, not even by one's own biological sex. Liberals believe that this is freedom, but are mistaken in thinking so:
...we are moving to a postmodern view that gender is something we can choose, independent of biology – and thus something we can also change.
...A few weeks ago, an NPR program featured young people who literally changed their gender identity throughout the day. "At one college, things were so fluid you could make up a different pronoun for a different event," NPR said. Students might go to lunch as a he, then to class as a she.
...many are...insisting that gender identity has nothing to do with biology. In an internet forum discussing transgenderism, someone wrote, Why should anyone care about "some little bit of flesh between the legs?" Why should that make a difference to your sense of who you are?
The autonomous self will not tolerate having its options limited by anything it did not choose – not even its own body.
We can call this view liberalism, employing a definition by the self-described liberal philosopher Peter Berkowitz. In his words, liberal thinkers focus on “dimensions of life previously regarded as fixed by nature” and seek to show that in reality they are “subject to human will and remaking.” For liberals, even your identity as male or female is now open to "human will and remaking."
This radical autonomy may be promoted as liberation, but it is a devastatingly disrespectful view of the physical body. The implication is that your body is not part of your authentic self.
A few years ago, Christianity Today quoted a female United Methodist minister who underwent a sex change operation to become a male. Her explanation was, “My body didn’t match what I am.” Clearly, she did not regard her body as part of “what I am.” She did not think of her body as part of her authentic self.
Of course, humans are more than biological beings. But biology gives an objective, scientifically detectable baseline for human identity.
When disconnected from biology, gender identity becomes subjective and ultimately unknowable. In a book titled Omnigender, the author says that all sexual identities are now up for grabs. A review of the book said – and this was written in all seriousness – “Arguments against women’s ordination need wholesale revamping since we do not know for sure now what a woman is.”
The liberal world does not know for sure what a man or woman is.
Not that long ago, nature was regarded as God's creation, endowed with God's purposes. This is called a teleological view of nature (from the Greek telos, meaning goal or purpose), and it is supported by the most evident empirical facts: Eyes are designed for seeing and ears for hearing; wings are designed for flying and flippers for swimming.
Of course, our physical bodies are part of nature, so they too were respected as having a purpose, a meaning, a moral significance.
...Transgenderism treats the scientific facts of human biology as having no intrinsic purpose or significance. It treats the body as nothing but a piece of matter that gives people no clue about who they are as persons. It is a self-alienating worldview that teaches people that their identity as male or female has no inherent purpose or dignity.
Our bodies suggest purpose, meaning and identity. They are not accidental to who we are. We are born male or female and develop either more or less successfully along these lines. We fulfil ourselves and our purposes, in part, by developing the highest and best qualities of our manhood or womanhood. It does not matter that we don't get to choose whether we develop along masculine or feminine lines. It is better to be given something meaningful, than to choose something emptied of meaning.