Writing again at Vox last week, Lopez implied variously that gender as we know it is “a social construct, not a biological one,” and thus malleable, and that there also may be a “biological link to a person’s transgender identity.” These two concepts are flatly irreconcilable, but the point here is not to make sense of anything; the point is to signal your sensitivity to a controversial topic, even though such signaling encourages a mass delusion and puts peoples’ health and well-being at risk.
In a sense, this folly is understandable. The issue has been cast more often than not as a battle between good and evil, light and darkness, akin to the civil-rights movements of the twentieth century or the various feminist movements of the past and present. Activist Kate Bornstein, in his book, “Gender Outlaw,” declared gender to be “an oppressive class system made all the more dangerous by the belief that it is an entirely natural state of affairs.” To render it in such a way is to put any dissent on a tenuous defense: who wants to be an advocate for either oppression or class systems? Better to simply start using the AP’s “preferred pronouns,” or else just dummy up.
But we should not dummy up—least of all journalists and media figures, who are in a position to shape much of the debate. If Jenner were to one day decide he is a black man, Sawyer would not be obliged to start calling him African-American, even if Jenner believed with all sincerity that it was true.