I sometimes get asked why I devote so muchbandwidth to challenging the movement that I’ve described as gender cultism—a faddish ideology whose adherents (1) claim that all humans are infused with a soul-like ether known as gender identity; and (2) insist that the self-reported nature of this spirit trumps the objective reality of biological sex.
The most obvious answer is that this movement does real, observable harm, by forcing women to share prisons, rape-crisis centres, athletic leagues, locker rooms, and other vulnerable spaces with men. It also encourages children, many of them gay, autistic, or psychologically fragile due to bullying and underlying mental-health challenges, to indulge the gothic horror-movie delusion that they were “born in the wrong body,” and to embark on a lifetime regime of (dangerous and untested) drug treatments and body-disfiguring surgeries.
But there’s another factor at play, too: I don’t want to live in a society that gaslights its own citizens. The oft-repeated slogan that “trans women are women” simply isn’t true. Furthermore, everyone knows it isn’t true—including those who shout it the loudest. Like other slogans of this type, it’s an officially sanctioned lie. And once it becomes a matter of settled precedent that we can all be forced to submit to this kind of lie, many more of them are guaranteed to follow.
As a classically minded liberal, I also want to protect the wall that separates church and state. And in this sense, a “church” isn’t just a building where people gather to pray on weekends. The word stands in for any system of supernatural belief, including the deflected understanding of Christian transubstantiation by which men and women are imagined to magically change form through the recital of pronouns. People should be free to believe in whatever mystic narrative they like. But demanding that everyone else follow suit gets us into the realm of theocracy.
In many countries, thankfully, the silent majority has found its voice on this issue, and so it has become more difficult for gender cultists to pre-empt debate with accusations of transphobia. In the UK, governmental and journalistic investigations into the Tavistock gender clinic have sparked much-needed policy reforms. Sweden and Finland, likewise, have both moved to place restrictions on the ability of trans-presenting youth to access puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, and “gender-affirming” (i.e., sex-changing) surgeries (with Norway apparently moving in the same direction).
All of these nations are socially progressive democracies. And so these reforms put the lie to the (again, oft-repeated) claim that criticism of gender cultism originates entirely with socially conservative political activists.
In Canada, the backlash against gender cultism took longer to gain momentum than in other western countries. But things are now accelerating, thanks to a national network of parents who’ve begun mobilizing against public-school policies that allow educators to conspire with trans-identifying students—as young as four years old—to hide evidence of transition from mothers and fathers. (Schooling in Canada falls under provincial jurisdiction, but these policies have the official support of Justin Trudeau’s federal government.)
In response to this nascent parents-rights movement, no fewer than four of Canada’s premiers recently signalled that they would forbid schools from keeping gender changes under wraps. This is a significant development—as, until just a few months ago, even the country’s conservative politicians had generally avoided the gender file, lest they be smeared as bigots by Canada’s clubby, left-leaning media. Clearly, the political winds have shifted: A recent national survey found that respondents who oppose school-secrecy policies outnumber supporters by a ratio of more than three-to-one.
Yet you wouldn’t always know this from the way the issue has been dealt with by journalists and leftist politicians, who still fall back on a lazy trope that presents gender-cult skeptics as haters who take their marching orders from Christian fundamentalists (or worse). This reflex has led to some bizarre scenes, such as a flustered Trudeau being caught on camera as he accused a traditionally-minded Alberta Muslim of serving as a stooge for the “American right-wing.” In another case, a progressive Edmonton teacher was caught on tape telling rainbow-skeptical Muslim high school students that maybe they “don’t belong here.” Thanks to gender cultism, progressive Islamophobia—much like progressive anti-feminism, progressive anti-Semitism, and progressive homophobia—is now infecting the Canadian left.
This week, Canadian parents who oppose school curricula that push born-in-the-wrong-body propaganda staged a nation-wide series of protests under the banner of “#1MillionMarch4Children.” The surprisingly large multicultural turnout, much like the survey results cited above, clearly indicate that this is a mainstream movement. But that hasn’t stopped the Canadian political, activist, academic, and corporate establishments—all of which adopted gender cultism as an official in-house faith in the late 2010s—from denouncing the protesters as peddlers of “hate.”
On a leaked Zoom call conducted by labour leaders seeking to thwart the protests, Vicky Smallman, National Director of Women’s and Human Rights for the Canadian Labour Congress, assured participants that the protesters represented “fringe voices.” Another labour leader on the call, Anthony Marco, offered to recruit (ahem) “seasoned activists” who could follow protesters around and take pictures of their licence plates.
Canada’s leading mental-health hospital suggested to employees that a failure to oppose the protests could make them complicit in trans suicides. Bell, a large telecommunications company, held “healing sessions” so that employees could palliate the (apparently devastating) psychic effects of the protests. A power utility in Atlantic Canada denounced the protests with the hashtag #NoSpaceForHate. Vancouver Coastal Health, one of Canada’s largest health providers, sent out a mass mailing asking employees to shed a tear for board-of-directors members “who are part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.” Not to be outdone, the Undergraduate Program Office of the Education Faculty at York University in Ontario not only denounced the “hateful” march, but ominously predicted that its horrifying emotional effects could make students “feel unsafe trying to complete program requirements.” (The director also promised to do more to fight something called “cis-hetero hegemony.”)
If one didn’t know that a large majority of Canadians supported the protesters’ principal demand, one might have thought that our cities were being overrun by white supremacists. But of course, that’s the point of this kind of propaganda: to discourage dissent through collective public shaming.
This dishonest PR strategy won’t save the gender cult in the long run. In fact, it’s hard not to notice the somewhat desperate-seeming nature of the rhetoric being hurled at the protesters—not to mention the heavy whiff of class snobbery.
For several years now, Canada’s privileged elites have inhabited genderwang echo chambers in which ideological dissent has been ruthlessly monitored and punished. One suspects that the process of cult de-programming is going to be a rough one for these people. As their response to this week’s protests suggests, many of them no longer even know how to deal rationally with those of us who still understand how human bodies really work.