Progressives’ obsession with socialisation could harm the LGBT+ community

Last week, an NHS doctor was fired from a governmental position for suggesting gender is determined at birth. He was deemed “unfit to work” after refusing to identify patients by their selected gender. Some time earlier there was similar furore when a professor from the University of Washington School of Computer Science said that women are less likely to pursue computer science because of sexual variation in the brain. In an article for Quillette, he wrote “If men and women are different, then we should expect them to make different choices”.

Clearly, arguing that aspects of identity are biologically determined is extremely controversial in 2018. Progressives, especially, take umbrage with this idea namely because it undermines the socialist perspective that, with the right conditions, anyone can be anything. There is another understandable reason that the general population questions biological theories: wariness over the eugenics movement, which hypothesised that people are the product of genes alone. It has now become mainstream to believe the likes of gender are socially constructed.

But this way of thinking has its limits and contradictions. It can be dangerous to claim that we are simply the result of socialisation, and LGBT+ groups could be impacted the most. Take sexuality, for instance. Most would agree that being gay, straight or in between is not a choice, but something one is born with; there are even studies that demonstrate the existence of genes for sexual orientation. If someone insists that we are all the product of conditioning, this would give ammunition to homophobes, and those who push gay conversion therapies, as they could argue sexuality can be learnt and therefore unlearnt.

The transgender community, too, can be helped by biological arguments – contrary to what some might expect. Researchers have found evidence that genes play a large role in shaping sex identity and gender identity. A study led by Belgian University found that the brain activity of transgender boys and girls corresponded to the gender they most identify with. Findings like these can help to counter arguments that trans-identity is a choice, but they are then undermined by the progressive argument that gender has no neurological basis.

Most psychologists would argue that nature and nurture are actually equally important in human development, and interact with one another. The danger is when we start to push one over the other, which can inspire bigotry in different ways. If we promote socialisation, we suggest that facets of ourselves can be removed through conditioning. If we rely on nature, we become too rigid about humanity. Something in the middle can help us all, but progressives must not demonise biology. It has helped win some hugely important battles.


One thought on “Progressives’ obsession with socialisation could harm the LGBT+ community

  1. Not convinced by this piece.
    1) “Progressives, especially, take umbrage with this idea namely because it undermines the socialist perspective that, with the right conditions, anyone can be anything.” This isn’t socialism. What is specifically described here is a lot of post-structuralist/postmodern thought which is a reaction against socialism, Marxism, Enlightenment liberalism etc. Historically, socialists – ethical socialists especially – have rejected this. Indeed Marxists also reject this because of the denial of material narratives in favour of subjectivity and relativism.
    2) The biological argument for LGBT+ just doesn’t stack up at all. There is no conclusive evidence for a gay gene. Scientists have been trying to find a gene for years to no avail. In evolutionary terms, a gene determining exclusive homosexuality wouldn’t work for very obvious, logical reasons, The idea of “homosexual” as an orientation is also an extremely fresh concept. In fact, “homosexual” as a descriptor for an individual only emerged in the late 19th century. If one looks at certain tribes, or even ancient times, sexual fluidity is widely accepted and practised (which contradicts any argument that it is biologically determined). None of that means that it is a choice. It is just that human sexuality is far more complicated and nuanced with a range of conscious and subconscious influences (Peter Tatchell had made this point).

    3) “Researchers have found evidence that genes play a large role in shaping sex identity and gender identity. A study led by Belgian University found that the brain activity of transgender boys and girls corresponded to the gender they most identify with.” This doesn’t make sense on any objective level. “Gender they most identify with”. Gender is a social construct. Your sex is a biological fact. You could have a fruitful discussion about the role in biology, evolution and anthropology in forming these social constructs (after all we are animals and there are clear sexual differences between men and women). But to say gender refers to biology as opposed to social and cultural norms is to misunderstand the definition of gender. This is why invoking the Belgian University study is slightly problematic for the argument. To accept that study – which is a very small sample and inconclusive – is to accept brain sex theory (which is disproven) but also means that you would accept that being drawn to pink dresses is a result of brain activity. That’s clearly just nonsense. Gender dysphoria is a psychological condition linked to one feeling discomfort with their biological sex. Comorbidities – for eg. autism, anxiety, androgynephilia, autogynephilia, depression, personality disorders – are linked as well as societal norms of gender (for eg. trans women often say “oh I knew I was a girl because I wore a dress etc”. Moreover, the fact sharp rise in admissions to the Tavistock clinic over the last few years, which coincidenced with the proliferation of gender identifarianism on social media in 2012, heavily indicates that this is social. It is not that it is a choice, more that young people with various experiences in life and many complex issues may develop a psychological discomfort with their sex.

    4) Also, if we take the argument that LGBT+ suffer from the fact that their identities are socially constructed and that genetic arguments protect them from discrimination, then surely there’d be no racism? We know race is a social construct with a genetic basis – i.e. skin colour. Nonetheless, racism still exists. The LGBT movement use the “born this way” thing all the time. Homophobia still exists. Moreover, some people have argued that if there is a gay gene then eugenics could be used to eliminate homosexuality. So that argument fails to stand up.

    5) It’s a shame because there is a good attack on socialisation which could have been made. Problem with this argument that everything we are is socially constructed is that is palpable nonsense as it to accept means to believe that consciousness doesn’t exist. Therefore, there is no ability for one to have any agency, any freedom or any responsibility for themselves because they are controlled and determined by forces beyond their control. Which goes back to your point about “socialism” in a way. Marxism was not actually about this because for historical materialism to work, it required the existence of consciousness independent of capitalist structures otherwise revolution would be impossible. So even by the modern left’s own standard, the argument for socialisation doesn’t work because there can literally be no change. That is not to say socialisation plays no part in who we are but, rather, that social constructs have emerged organically as responses to transcendental truths about human nature and in order to allow society to function. Which is part of the reason why lefty utopianism never works and can very easily slip into authoritarianism.

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