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A Framework for Criticizing Transgender Ideology

Warning: Criticizing transgender ideology is separate from the unquestionable human rights of transgender individuals. In other words, criticism of the ideology cannot be used as a justification for human rights violations.

Currently, “trans ideology” or “transgender ideology” or “transgenderism” triggers heated debates, serious divisions, and new alliances in the fields of politics, ethics, education, science, law, and human rights. Can it be criticized apart from religious or belief-based critiques?

Answer: Yes, it can and should be criticized, and it can be criticized strongly. There is no need to hesitate in criticizing this ideology for fear of being labeled “regressive.” On the contrary, criticizing this ideology is in line with the requirements of science, philosophy in general, ethics, and law. These criticisms can be categorized into the following six groups:

  1. Weaknesses in the argumentation of transgender ideology
  2. Is the “slippery slope fallacy” defense still valid?
  3. Feminist critique
  4. Ideological imposition or human rights?
  5. Criticism due to association with fetish and kink culture
  6. Criticisms from atheist perspectives

While each of these points could be the subject of separate studies, I would like to briefly touch upon each of them to form a general understanding.


  1. Weaknesses of Transgender Ideology:

The first thing to know about this ideology is that, unlike other ideologies such as liberalism or Marxism, it does not have a philosophical foundation that seeks internal coherence or consistency. In fact, some argue that there is no such thing as transgender ideology. However, over time, it has emerged through the combination of arbitrary or borrowed arguments used by transgender individuals to defend their own demands, leading to the formation of certain ideas on which they have reached consensus. These ideas have now become an ideology for both transgender individuals and their critics. The main outlines of these ideas are as follows:

“An individual can be born in the wrong body; an individual’s biological sex may be opposite to their gender identity; gender identity is entirely socially constructed; a person assigned female at birth can truly become male, and vice versa; therefore, young people, even children, should be provided with opportunities for hormonal/surgical gender transition; personal declaration should be the basis for determining a person’s gender rather than biological sex or scientific facts; transgender individuals should be treated according to their self-declared gender in settings such as sports competitions, prisons, public restrooms or showers…”

The transgender ideology that revolves around these ideas is actually a weak ideology due to the contradictions and inconsistencies it contains within itself, as well as its conflict with solid scientific facts. We can provide the following examples of these weaknesses:

-Biology, anatomy, genetics, and other sciences indicate that gender is not a socially constructed phenomenon assigned after birth, but rather a definite, biological fact determined even before birth or at the moment of conception. This applies not only to humans but also to all mammals. They emphasize that no amount of makeup, surgical operation, or hormonal intervention can transform a biological male into a genuine female or a biological female into a genuine male. In fact, they argue that the idea of being “born in the wrong body” is absurd, delusional, and contrary to science because gender manifests itself not only in genetic and physical/biological aspects but also in the nervous system and personality traits. Evolutionary biologists even assert that gender, with its physical, neural, and other manifestations, has roots in thousands of years of evolutionary processes. Therefore, they find the claim that gender can be changed through personal declaration or aesthetic interventions baseless and even comical. For instance, the notion that a transgender woman, who is biologically male, can be pregnant and be a “mother” is seen as ridiculous. Being a “mother” is associated with both physical conditions like having milk ducts and a uterus and with the transmission of the emotional experiences and established bonds with children throughout thousands of years. The emotions, instincts, mental aspects, and personality traits related to “motherhood” are passed down through both genes and social learning pathways. Biological women possess this physical, emotional, and historical predisposition from birth and at the genetic level. These thousands of years of predispositions cannot be obtained through simple cosmetic interventions.

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-When faced with such staunch objections from the scientific front, the transgender ideology resorts to deception and illicit fighting by clinging to concepts such as the distinction between biological sex and gender roles as presented in feminist theory or terms like “gender dysphoria” in psychiatry. For example, when biologists, medical doctors, psychiatrists, and other scientists state that biological sex is an immutable fact that cannot change, transgender advocates respond with arguments like “There are examples in nature; for instance, sharks can change their sex.” They even go further to claim that biological males can give birth, experience menstruation, and breastfeed. However, when scientists point out that humans cannot be compared to sharks and that biological males cannot physically or emotionally experience the mentioned phenomena, just as a biological male will never have or develop uterine cancer and a biological female will never have or develop prostate cancer because these are fixed scientific facts, the transgender ideology shifts its stance to claim that gender is not limited to two options but exists on a spectrum. However, science has demonstrated that for humans, there is no such spectrum and that there are only two biological sexes determined at the chromosomal level (XX and XY). Transgender advocates then argue that biological sex is not important and that gender roles are merely social constructs. However, when scientists ask why, if gender roles are solely social constructs or if biological sex is not that important, transgender individuals insist on changing their reproductive organs through hormonal and surgical interventions and why they do not accept the sufficiency of self-declaration at other times, they are unable to provide an answer. Moreover, if gender is indeed a broad spectrum and not limited to male and female options, they cannot explain why the majority of transgender individuals insist on undergoing surgical, hormonal, or other cosmetic procedures to transition fully to the opposite gender (or one of the two genders) or why they do not choose to live within that spectrum without undergoing physical transformations. Natural sciences and social sciences reveal that the true spectrum lies not in the number or types of biological sexes but in the internal manifestations of the two biologically determined sexes. For example, a very delicate, feminine woman and a woman described as a “tomboy” or “erkek fatma” in Turkish still fall under the umbrella of the female sex; they are not different or intermediate genders. Transgender advocates fall into the mistake of perceiving them as different gender types. Therefore, while attempting to take advantage of the distinction between biological sex and gender roles or distorting this distinction, they face solid objections and refutations, falling into their own traps. This criticism can be further developed as follows: If the division between body and mind that they claim is natural or normal, why do they try to establish parallelism between body and mind again? If the division and conflict between physical and mental gender are so abnormal that they require hormonal and surgical interventions, are they not indirectly admitting that this division is actually a highly unlikely occurrence biologically, genetically, and psychiatrically, and that they are undermining their own arguments? And if they indicate that this division, if real, necessitates hormonal and surgical interventions, are they not acknowledging that this condition should not be encouraged or promoted? Lastly, when they claim that gender roles are social constructs, are social constructs completely disconnected from biological sex and biological processes, or are social constructs inherently wrong, false, or insignificant? Should we completely dismantle roles that have been formed through social constructs? Won’t the answers to these questions be subjective? Are hormonal and surgical interventions or language pronoun enforcement appropriate, scientific, ethical, and practical methods to dismantle roles formed through social constructs? They are unable to provide answers to these questions and criticisms.

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-As seen, when transgender ideology proponents face objections rather than support from natural sciences, they attempt to seek assistance from social theories such as feminist theory. However, when met with objections instead of support from there as well, they try to justify their demands by using concepts like “gender dysphoria” in psychiatry. However, psychiatric science reveals that genuine gender dysphoria, which refers to the state of experiencing a mental conflict with one’s own gender, is a rare occurrence, and most importantly, it is a mental health issue that requires treatment. Thus, it is not a desirable, healthy, or commendable condition to be encouraged, as the transgender ideology attempts to do. Furthermore, it is worth noting that the majority of cases labeled as “gender dysphoria” by transgender ideology proponents may not actually be gender dysphoria, but rather transient infatuation or confusion among adolescents that emerges with the spread of the ideology. Therefore, intervening with surgical or hormonal procedures on these children would cause irreversible, permanent harm and it is crucial not to interfere with their natural biological and psychological growth processes. Their vulnerability during this period should not be exploited by the ideology. Warnings also come from the fields of law, ethics, and developmental psychology. Even if underage children give “consent/approval” for surgical, hormonal, or other interventions for gender transition, this consent is no different from “consent to engage in sexual activity.” In other words, the child does not possess the maturity to fully comprehend what they are consenting or requesting. Any interpretation contrary to this is a forced interpretation, ideological, and amounts to child abuse. Moreover, many young individuals who have undergone such interventions and later regretted them, experienced further deterioration of their mental health, or opted for de-transition (1) are emerging and filing lawsuits against schools, hospitals, and other healthcare providers who misguided them (2). These cases actually demonstrate another inconsistency within the transgender ideology and force its proponents to reconcile with the issue: Will they continue to justify gender transition and impose their own jargon as a mental health issue, or will they continue to defend its normalcy, healthiness, and conflict with science? They must make a choice now; they no longer have the luxury of dancing between two opposites. However, both paths seem blocked because if they base their demands on mental health issues such as “gender dysphoria,” they are proving and admitting that they do not have the right to force the rest of the world to participate in their delusions. On the other hand, if they claim that the foundation of transgenderism is not a mental health issue and argue that their demands are quite ordinary, they are conflicting with both natural sciences and humanities, thus undermining their “right” to force others into this state of being.

2. Another philosophical concern regarding the transgender ideology is the uncertainty of how far it will bend and distort legal and ethical boundaries. In the early days of LGBTQ+ activism, when people stated that their only desire was to be able to marry their loved ones, be recognized as legal heirs, visit them in the hospital, be free from physical or psychological violence, not be discriminated against when seeking employment, and be treated equally under the law like everyone else, conservatives claimed that this was just the beginning or that homosexuals had hidden agendas. Naturally, many people regarded these claims by conservatives as a “slippery slope fallacy” (3). So, is this characterization still valid? While the existence of a hidden agenda may still be subject to excessive suspicion, can we say that the demands are still limited to equal human rights? Are they not demanding that everyone use the invented jargon they impose, have the privilege to determine in which gender category they will compete in sports, have the privilege to determine in which type of prison they will be placed when committing a crime, have the privilege to request surgical or hormonal interventions for underage children, and so on? Are these demands, which they bring forth every day, a lie? In this case, does the claim of a “slippery slope fallacy” collapse, and does the distinction between rights and privileges become blurred, but only in their favor (and at the expense of others, such as female athletes)? From a philosophical perspective, there is no reason not to extend the same benefits to individuals who claim to be of a different race, age, nationality, or even species, as someone who claims to be of the gender they feel and declare. If a biologically male individual, without any objective or measurable proof that they feel like a woman, can be considered equal to a woman in terms of treatment simply based on their declaration, then what is the obstacle to accepting the declarations of individuals who feel like a different nationality, age, or even species, despite being contrary to the facts? No one can argue about the complexity of the practical consequences of the latter, as relying on self-declaration for determining gender also has complex and alarming consequences. For instance, male transgender inmates being placed in women’s prisons and engaging in sexual abuse, rape, or causing harm to female inmates and the children accompanying them, or transgender individuals competing in women’s sports categories hindering the chances of female athletes to succeed. Moreover, these are no longer mere possibilities but are cases that have already occurred and are increasing in number. Even the privileges granted to transgender individuals are being used as precedents, and individuals who claim to feel and declare themselves to be a different age, race, nationality, or even species are now present, demanding to be treated according to their feelings and declarations, citing these same privileges. In fact, the risks associated with transgender ideology have surpassed the threshold where they can be dismissed with the defense of a “slippery slope fallacy.”

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  1. One of the biggest criticisms of transgender ideology is based on feminism. Feminist critique can generally be divided into two groups:

a) Reaction to the problems created by transgender ideology in women’s lives, b) Philosophical criticism against the concept and perception of “woman” embraced by transgender individuals.

Let’s provide brief information about both:

Reactions in the first group focus on the following risks: If the personal declaration rather than biology is taken as the basis for determining a person’s gender, individuals who are biologically male gain unrestricted access to women’s restrooms, showers, changing rooms, prisons, sports categories, and so on. This situation is particularly susceptible to the abuse of women and children by individuals who have committed or have the potential to commit crimes against them. When personal declaration is considered the basis for determining gender, for example, a male pedophile, rapist, or murderer can claim to identify as a woman and be placed in a women’s prison, posing a significant risk to women and children. (4) From an ethical and legal perspective, if women do not consent to sharing their designated safe spaces with biological males, there is a violation of boundaries even without any actual sexual assault or abuse. In short, with the spread of transgender ideology, women are losing their designated safe spaces against their consent and are being forced into unfair competitions, particularly in sports. This situation also reveals another hypocrisy and inconsistency within the transgender ideology. While transgender individuals assert that they do not consent to be addressed with pronouns they do not want and that their feelings are hurt when referred to with pronouns other than those they demand, when women similarly state that they do not consent to sharing toilets, showers, and changing rooms with biological males and that they do not feel safe both physically and emotionally in such situations, transgender individuals disregard these concerns and show no regard for the consent and feelings of others.

Reactions in the second group focus on the philosophical and scientific distortions within the transgender ideology. For example:

Transgender individuals claim that makeup, women’s clothing, surgical operations, and behavioral imitation are sufficient for a male to become a woman, to be considered objectively and genuinely female, and to be identical to a biological woman. Feminists argue that the concept and identity of a woman cannot be reduced or limited to makeup, appearance, or even motherhood; they state that the concept and identity of a woman are shaped by biological and epigenetic processes spanning thousands of years, by individual biological and psychological developmental processes from birth, and by individual and collective interaction processes involving social constructs. Therefore, they argue that these identities cannot be imitated, and they cannot be understood and grasped later as a true woman does. Consequently, they claim that such an identity cannot be inherited or utilized by those who are not objectively female. For example, a biological woman learns to fear men or feel physically unsafe in the presence of men not only as an individual but through thousands of years of processes; feminists argue that a man can never truly understand or experience this feeling, as even the brain, instincts, and intuitions of a female and male are differently wired. This situation reveals another inconsistency within the transgender ideology. While transgender individuals claim that the right to self-identification is solely their own and that others have no right to define or describe them, they themselves attempt to define and describe women on behalf of women, attributing terms and descriptions to them that are against their consent. Moreover, while the definitions and descriptions made by others regarding themselves are based on factual and biological grounds, the definitions and descriptions they make regarding others are completely contradictory to science and are relative. Furthermore, this inconsistency applies to both men and women, but women are the ones who suffer more.

  1. Another criticism of transgender ideology is that it is an ideology, meaning it is not a universally or scientifically established and accepted fact. Therefore, it is as relative, political, and even weaker and riskier than other beliefs and ideas, and cannot be regarded as a human rights issue to be imposed on others. The imposition of transgender ideology is becoming increasingly coercive and political. The debate is no longer about whether transgender individuals should have the basic human rights recognized for everyone; that discussion is already settled. The debate revolves around privileges they demand beyond equal basic human rights.
  2. Another criticism of transgender ideology stems from its increasing association with fetish and kink culture. The visible aspect of transgender activism, with its focus on sex and sexuality, exhibits a fetishistic, exhibitionistic, excessively kinky, crude, arbitrary, and superficial representation of sexuality and sex. Transgender individuals try to dismiss these criticisms by labeling them as “moralizing” or “guardianship of morality” and by making invalid comparisons such as “there are also pedophile priests who are more immoral and harmful than us.” However, the existence of pedophile priests does not justify or change the fact that it is morally wrong or immoral for underage children to perform sexually themed dances in drag shows associated with trans culture or for underage children to be included as spectators in striptease or other sexually themed performances by transgender individuals. Furthermore, another aspect that transgender individuals fail to understand is that when non-transgender people engage in the same behaviors, they are also criticized, not primarily because they are transgender or due to their sexual orientation, but because of the way they impose their identities and exhibit extreme behavior. In fact, they are even facing intense criticism from homosexual men and women, and even from rational transgender individuals. This reinforces the criticism of their association with a fetishistic, kinky, exhibitionistic, obsessed, pornographic sex culture. In other words, the issue is not about identity, as they try to portray it. The fact that they receive so much criticism from various different sides should compel them to reconsider their overall behaviors that they have turned into an “identity.”
  3. It is possible to further detail and expand the criticisms, add new categories, but that would make the text even longer. Therefore, it suffices to list a few perspectives of criticism that may be of interest and serve as a guide for future in-depth analysis of each. Other criticisms against transgender ideology can be summarized as follows:
  • It is an ideology at the peak of narcissistic entitlement, expecting the rest of the world to submit to their worldview without needing to provide a rational justification.
  • It reduces people to their sexual orientation and gender perceptions, and places an obsessive focus on a sexual and gender axis in life.
  • When promises about humanity, life, and freedom are questioned, it becomes apparent that the ideology cannot go beyond obsessively manipulating cosmetic changes to the human body, sexualized dance performances, behavior patterns detached from nature and context, distorting language to the point of being non-functional, promoting dissatisfaction by pushing individuals into conflicts with their bodies, mental health, and fixed realities outside themselves, and coercively imposing this detachment from the external world onto others. One cannot help but say, “Is this all you could achieve with so much demand for freedom?” In other words, transgender ideology lacks any literary, artistic, or ethical depth, challenge, potential for healing, or progress.
  • Criticisms from the perspectives of atheism and agnosticism are also quite interesting and challenging to comfort zones. According to some non-believers, transgender ideology falls into the category of religious beliefs, and therefore, its imposition is contrary to religious freedom of belief and conscience. This is because transgender ideology includes concepts such as “gendered soul,” whereas some non-believers do not believe in the existence of a soul. Therefore, the imposition of this ideology is no different from the imposition of any religion such as Christianity or Islam. (5)

In conclusion, as seen, the criticisms against transgender ideology have raised questions about many binary oppositions such as conservatism-liberalism, right-left, and have led to unexpected alliances in certain aspects.

Notes:

  1. Yaeli Martinez case.
  2. Michelle Alleva case.
  3. Slippery slope fallacy: This type of logical fallacy, which can be summarized as “if we give an inch, they’ll take a mile,” claims that certain concerns are unfounded or based on prejudice.
  4. The Isla Bryson case, which caused Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to face intense criticism and resign, is a perfect example of this. In addition to such cases, one can also refer to the following:
  1. Example: (Link: https://twitter.com/giagia/status/1674322176051146754)

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ASLI R. TOPUZ
ASLI R. TOPUZ
Asli R. Topuz is a writer and political commentator focusing of Philosophy and Human Rights.
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