People say that we live in a postmodern age that has rejected metaphysics. That’s not quite true.
We live in a postmodern age that promotes an alternative metaphysics. As I explain in “When Harry Became Sally,” at the heart of the transgender moment are radical ideas about the human person—in particular, that people are what they claim to be, regardless of contrary evidence. A transgender boy is a boy, not merely a girl who identifies as a boy.
It’s understandable why activists make these claims. An argument about transgender identities will be much more persuasive if it concerns who someone is, not merely how someone identifies. And so the rhetoric of the transgender moment drips with ontological assertions: People are the gender they prefer to be. That’s the claim.
Transgender activists don’t admit that this is a metaphysical claim. They don’t want to have the debate on the level of philosophy, so they dress it up as a scientific and medical claim. And they’ve co-opted many professional associations for their cause.
Thus the American Psychological Association, in a pamphlet titled “Answers to Your Questions about Transgender People, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression,” tells us, “Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression, or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.”
Notice the politicized language: A person’s sex is “assigned at birth.” Back in 2005, even the Human Rights Campaign referred instead to “birth sex” and “physical sex.”