In Defence of Dresses

Two parents in the UK are currently facing a great deal of abuse for withdrawing their son from school due to the choice of another child to dress alternatively as a girl and as a boy. The parents maintain that the school should have consulted them and that it is intolerable that their child would, under the current regulations of the school, face charges of bullying for ‘misgendering’ the other child (that is, calling them by the ‘wrong’ pronoun). They also say that the mental health of their six-year old son has suffered and would continue to suffer were he to be exposed any longer to this other child’s behaviour.  However, the merits and demerits of the parent’s case (which seem somewhat tenuous to me) are not the subject of this article; many others have addressed this in some detail. What I am interested in is the current level of the transgender debate in the UK and the wider implications for society.

I shall begin with one rigorously intellectual put-down delivered by Rupert Myers (British GQ, Telegraph) on twitter. Alongside a photo of Pope Benedict XVI in his papal vestments he quipped:

“Struggling to understand the citing of Christianity as a reason to be uncomfortable with boys in dresses.”

This argument is a clever implication that those standing against the new push for ‘transgender rights’; that is to say, mainly Christians and people of other faiths, are quite simply, hypocrites. But as amusing as the joke is, it quite spectacularly misses the point. Firstly, we are not having a national debate about transvestitism we are having a national debate about transgenderism. We are not having a debate about whether John may wear summer dresses, we are having a debate about whether John wearing a summer dress makes him Jane – and consequently whether anybody and everybody should face threat of prosecution if they ‘misgender’ him. Secondly, transvestites dress in women’s clothes to imitate women, priests dress in cassocks and other vestments to remind them of their office and signify their special calling (among other important reasons). The intention is what counts here: the cassock is similar to a dress but it is worn not for a sexual/erotic thrill but as a badge of service and as a working uniform that has, to the priest’s unique role, the helpful side-effect of making him look very much like any other priest – because he is, when he puts on the cassock, both very visible as a priest and almost invisible as an individual. His uniform makes him at once uniquely available and uniquely anonymous. This article in Esquire has an interesting and non-Catholic take on the effects of wearing the cassock.

One could go on enumerating the actual historical background which informs the wearing of vestments and other loose male garments; but it is enough to re-iterate that the intention is the important matter – a transvestite wears women’s clothes to become a woman; an Egyptian wears a jalabiyyah because he is hot and because his people have worn them for centuries. But again, this is all very silly – we are not merely talking about transvestism, far from it. Mr Myers’s agile quip is nothing more than a clever dodge: many of the children who are dressing up as boys and girls are not only doing this. They are demanding that they be called a boy or a girl. This has very widespread implications that go far beyond simple ‘personal choice’ – this has, in practice, the potential to radically alter society. If anyone can, without any objective evidence, claim that they are male or female and if society is so afraid to make any distinction between a truth and a lie, then all legal frameworks, all gender-equality laws, every category and distinction based on sex simply melts before this acidic illogic. Feminism itself loses all practical power of protest – those feminists supporting this new front in the culture wars are very busily engaged in writing themselves out of the story. And to think, we talk about all of this in terms of ‘bigotry’ and ‘being nice’! The ‘nice and loving pro-transsexuals’ vs. ‘the bigoted, stupid, hate-filled anti-transsexuals’ – all of this is childish nonsense. We are talking about something so fundamentally important that we cannot afford these simplistic categorisations: we are talking about nothing less than the very nature of what it means to be human, of what it means to be a man and a woman. Those who have hijacked this emotive topic in order to give their liberal credentials a boost and the same thrill of moral superiority they felt when fighting for racial equality (just about the last time that left-liberals were actually right) are railroading society into an untold mess of confusion. And yet the many parallel arguments which the transgender rights movement use are very obviously contradictory and ludicrously incoherent. Below are just a few of their arguments paired together:


A) Boys can wear dresses as well as girls (without this making them any less a boy)

B) If a boy wears a dress and demands to be called a girl, this dress shall be taken as a sign and proof of his inherent femaleness


A)Gender is different from physical/biological markers of sex (genitalia, reproductive organs)

B)When James removes his penis and testicles, he becomes Janie by virtue of his changed physical state


A)Gender is a social construct (thus, by implication, meaningless)

B) I feel ‘male’/‘female’ (as if these are real phenomena that an individual can identify and compare)


A)There is no such thing as a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’, gender is on a spectrum

B)I want to become a man/woman


All this being said, I shall end this piece with a warning about some of the least savoury aspects of this societal revolution. I should say here that my motivation for writing this article is one primarily of concern for society; but this does not blind me to the plight of the individual. For, these children and their parents are not only demanding that society be altered irrevocably to suit the mental state of their child; a growing number of them are now also pressing for extreme medical intervention to support their ‘choice’. Very young children are being given powerful drugs to prevent the onset of puberty; with many of these drugs also having the side-effect of inducing sterility. Some children are, pursuant to the first stage just mentioned, undergoing invasive and destructive surgeries to ‘reassign’ their gender. They are being permanently disfigured even without proper and concerted efforts at counselling and psychotherapy. In a growing number of cases we are talking about very young children who don’t even know the months of the year or who the Prime Minister is – and all of this is being cheered on by ‘nice people’.

You will notice that throughout this article I have made no mention of, nor leant in any way, upon the teachings of the Church as to the nature of men and women (teachings which are, by the way, far more philosophically coherent and logical than anything the transgender rights activists have yet to propose); but that is because the intellectual errors of this growing movement and its cheerleaders in the press are so laughable as to require only common sense, not revelation or dogma, to refute. Even if you disagree with me intensely, I hope that I have at least made you question the wisdom of this new societal fad which is destroying the very things which make human life possible: men and women.Facebooktwitter

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