Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Thursday February 21, 2019. I'm Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
The intersection of transgender theory and modern sport: Gay athlete speaks out against ‘cheating’ trans athletes
She won the Wimbledon Women's Singles title nine times but Martina Navratilova is not in the headlines these days because of her achievements as an athlete but rather because of her assertions as a major player, a major figure, a major person identified as a gay athlete who is now accused of running headlong in conflict with the moral revolutionaries. But it's not over gay rights it's over transgender identity and the intersection of transgender theory and modern sport. It's not a particularly new controversy but it has taken an incredible new turn just in recent days. Martina Navratilova came out in the 1980's as an openly gay athlete and in so doing at a time when that kind of identity was rare she achieved a certain kind of celebrity, she made history of a sort. And in more recent times she has been seen as something of a spokesperson for and an activist for the LGBTQ revolution leveraging her celebrity as a prominent gay athlete on the world's scene with advocacy for so many LGBTQ causes. But all of that came crashing to an end this week and it wasn't something that wasn't signaled even in the last several months.
Back before Christmas Martina Navratilova got in trouble with the moral revolutionaries by tweeting, "You can't just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women". Making a reference to male reproductive anatomy she said that, "There must be some standards in having that male anatomy", she used different words, "and competing as a woman would not fit that standard". There was a great deal of backlash to Navratilova's statement, it came from LGBTQ activists in particular trans gender activists but it also came from a good many in the larger culture and in what can now be called the Twitter versed who were trying to signal that they unlike Martina Navratilova were on the right side of history, on the T in the LGBTQ spectrum.
So, Navratilova says that she went back to consider the issue, to make sure that she really understood what she was talking about. And then, this past Sunday in the Sunday times one of the most influential newspapers in London Navratilova wrote an article with the title The Rules on Trans Athletes Reward Cheats and Punish the Innocent. She wrote and I quote, "Shortly before Christmas I inadvertently stumbled into the mother and father of a spat about gender and fair play in sport". "It began", she said, "With an instinctive reaction and a tweet that I wrote on a serious forum dealing with the subject". But then later she writes, "Perhaps I could of phrased it more delicately and less dogmatically but I was not prepared for the onslaught that followed". She went on to say something about the nature and the vehemence of that onslaught. But then she went on to explain that she did what she thought any sane rational responsible person should do and that is she went back to learn more about the subject she was addressing and make certain she knew what she was talking about and that given a considered reflection she still held to the same conclusion.
She writes, "Well I've now done that", meaning that reconsideration, and she says, "If anything my views have strengthened to put the argument at its most basic a man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organization is concerned win everything in sight and perhaps earn a small fortune and then reverse his decision and go back to making babies if he so desires". She continues, "It's insane and it's cheating. I am happy", she says, "To address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers but I would not be happy to compete against her it would not be fair". Well before looking at the absolute a predictable tidal wave of backlash that came to Navratilova after this Sunday article lets look at how she continued her argument. She wrote, "Simply reducing hormone levels that's what most of these sports organizations require", she says, "That does not solve the problem". She continues, "A man builds up muscle and bone density as well as a greater number of oxygen carrying red blood cells from childhood. Training increases the discrepancy, indeed if a male were to change gender in such a way as to eliminate any accumulated advantage he would have to begin hormone treatment before puberty. For me, that is unthinkable."
Well we simply have to assert here that even though that might be unthinkable for Martina Navratilova it's not unthinkable for many of the activists in the transgender community who are openly advocating using puberty blocking hormones in order to prevent a boy from going through puberty as a boy or a girl from going through puberty as a girl. But on this score I would be in agreement with Martina Navratilova that should be unthinkable but it's not unthinkable. The point being made by Martina Navratilova publicly and clearly is that a transgender woman is rightly understood not a woman, not when it comes to defining a woman for the purposes of women's athletics whether in the Olympics or in any kind or pro sport or for that matter in any athletic arena. She makes very clear the profoundly simple point. A transgender woman is not the body of a woman. A transgender woman even according to the logic of the revolutionaries is in a body that according to the transgender theorist was mismatched with the gender identity but nonetheless was a body of the opposite sex.
Navratilova is complaining that it is unfair for a woman athlete to have to compete physically against a transgender woman. Because in effect even with hormone treatments the transgender woman as the individual is now commonly identified in a body that had been born and had developed as male has physical advantages in the skeletal system, in the skeletal muscular system, in the circulatory system, and in particular even in the blood system where those who are in a male body and are in a body that was male as a boy and going through puberty as a boy has an advantage in the red blood cells that carry oxygen and provide energy in athletics. In making her accusation very clearly Navratilova is saying that there are now hundreds of trans athletes who have won identified as women competing with women when they would not have won if they had been competing as men against men. They have gained an advantage by their trans identity and they have gained an unfair advantage by competing against women and that is something that Navratilova has now said openly and publicly. She came back on Sunday saying, "As I have gone into this with further detail and with further research I believe in my position even more strongly." But the backlash you can imagine has been massive.
Most predictably Martina Navratilova has been unseated by the LGBTQ revolutionaries as a spokesperson for gay rights. After all she fails at T. She is now being accused, you can anticipate this, of being trans phobic. But what we are looking at here in worldview analysis at one level is the collision that we have been predicting for a very long time and you can see it, you can see it coming. It is the collision between not only traditional feminists and the trans gender revolutionaries but traditional gay rights activists and the transgender revolutionaries because the entire edifice of gay rights based upon gays, that is gay men, and lesbians was that it makes all the difference in the world if one is a man or a woman. The entire complex of rights that were claimed in the normalization of the L and the G in LGBT were based upon the fact that if we know anything we know what a boy, is we know what a girl is, we know what a woman is, we know what a man is. There is no sense or logic to gay male identity if we don't know what a male is. There is no sense whatsoever to lesbian identity if we have no idea what a woman is. We have seen this collision work out already in other very anticipated arenas.
We have seen the historic women's colleges, almost all of them extremely liberal they had been completely sold out to the feminist ideology but now being on the left they have to be completely sold out to the LGBTQ ideology but it doesn't match, there's an inherent conflict. You can't be a women's college if you don't know what a woman is. You can't say we can't have any men on this campus if you no longer actually know what a man is or a woman is. You can't be in a historic women's college and at the same time join the transgender revolution unless you want to have people on the college who are those who were born as men and lived as boys but now identify as women or those who entered as women but have now decided they want to identify as men. Those who have undergone surgery from being identified as male to being identified as female or are now undergoing processes by which they had been identified as female but they are going to graduate calling themselves male. You are looking at a complete meltdown of moral order, that's what the revolutionaries wanted.
But in this case the most interesting debate is not liberal conservative, it's revolutionary versus revolutionary, it's the feminist revolutionaries against the trans gender revolutionaries. It's now interestingly the activists for gay male identity and the activists for lesbian identity versus the activists for trans gender identity. As we have said for a very long time LGBTQ is more political than anything else. The L and the G are incompatible with the T. The B sit he most sidelined of all with neither the L or the G or the T having much to do with the B. The Q becomes a general political identity and soon to come is the new set of letters that will simply add to the confusion and provide opportunity for more new revolutionaries to launch assaults upon the old revolutionaries. And this case you have to wonder if Martina Navratilova understands that she was indeed an activist and an advocate for a moral revolution that just ran right past what she was calling for and now sees her as a part of the problem, on the wrong side of history, trans phobic.
Writing just a few days ago at City Journal Abigail Shrier wrote about this same contradiction in an article entitled When Feminists Abandon Girls, the subhead Women's Groups Stay Silent on the Threats and Injustices Posed by Transgender Equal Access. She writes, "Feminist oracle Planned Parenthood proclaims on its website that "male and female" are each merely a label that you're assigned by a doctor at birth". And then Shrier writes, "Tell that to the girls of the Palm Springs High School water polo team who walked in on a male last week showering in the women's locker room at the city pool they use for teen practice. The team coaches confronted the man only to be rebuffed." She writes, "He was entitled to be there he said since he identified as a woman, his full complement of male genitalia not withstanding". The police we are told declined to pursue the case according to the CBS local news on the grounds that in the words of the police, "No laws were broken".
Shrier goes on to explain that, "Regulations promulgated under California's Fair Housing and Employment Act grant individuals", as she says, "The right to use bathrooms and locker rooms according to gender self identification". She explains, "The Palm Springs city manager assured parents that the city would install dividers between the showers as well as additional unisex showers near the locker rooms for transgender youths though transgender individuals let's be clear have no obligation to use them. By this very law in California and recent laws that were passed in New York biological men who identify as women now have full access to women's bathrooms, locker rooms ", and as Shrier says, "Even battered women's shelters". But Shrier's point is that traditional feminists in joining the LGBTQ revolution have thrown girls overboard. This is what she writes, "Bathrooms and athletics are two areas where the interests of women and girls are directly at odds with those of boys and men. Few biological boys", she notes, "Are likely to lose top spots in sports competition or college scholarships that follow because of transgender boys who outperform them. Boys and girls have long been separated in sports specifically to permit girls to excel without being unfairly bested by boys whose muscle mass and bone density offer an unearned advantage."
Now that's really interesting. She points out that boys aren't really at any risk here because there's not much chance that a girl transitioning to be a boy is going to begin beating boys in these athletic competitions or win their scholarships but it is on the other hand profoundly true that girls and young women are going to be severely disadvantaged. And in many cases displaced by those who were born as boys but are not identifying as girls or women who will begin to win those competitions, they already are, and will begin to take those college scholarships. The transgender revolution will demand it.
So much for LGBTQ: How transgenderism undermines the gay rights movement
But just when you thought this kind of public debate couldn't get more interesting it does and it does so in an incredibly revealing way. Andrew Sullivan, one of the most well known and influential gay activists of the last century, one of the most prominent gay intellectuals wrote an article in New York magazine entitled, The Nature of Sex. Sullivan writes, "It might be a sign of the end times or simply a function of our currently scrambled politics but earlier this week four feminist activists, three from a self described radical feminist women's organization known as the Women's Liberation Front appeared on a panel at the Heritage Foundation", that's a conservative foundation. "Together they argued that sex was fundamentally biological and not socially constructed and that there is a difference between women and trans women that needs to be respected." Now what Andrew Sullivan is pointing to here is a very strange, but if you thinking about it, predicted kind of realignment. You have traditional feminists, very liberal feminists who turn out to be the last people on earth who with conservative evangelicals for example and natural law theorists that would include Roman Catholics and you could throw in Muslims and Orthodox Jews. It's a strange combination of those rather orthodox religious groups added to radical feminists who actually still believe that there's a difference between women and trans women and that it matters and that is must be respected.
But in worldview analysis the most interesting aspect of Andrew Sullivan's article is that he is clearly rejecting the basic logic of the trans gender revolution because as he sees it and he sees it clearly it is a threat to the very ideological foundation of the gay rights movement. Again the gay rights movement doesn't make any sense if you don't know what a man is or a woman is. Sullivan writes, "This is the deeply confusing and incoherent aspect of the entire debate. If you abandon biology in the matter of sex and gender altogether", he says, "You may help trans people live fuller less conflicted lives but you also undermine the very meaning of homosexuality". What an amazing statement. "The trans gender theory undermines the very meaning of homosexuality", so much for LGBTQ.
Later in the article he writes, "Contemporary trans gender ideology is not a compliment to gay rights, in some ways it is an active opposition to them". He continues, "The truth is that many lesbians and gay men are quite attached to the concept of sex as a natural biological material thing". He then continues, "Yes we are well aware that sex can be expressed in many different ways. A drag queen and a rugby player are both biologically men with different expressions of gender." Well indeed he goes on to say, "A drag queen can also be a rugby player and expresses gender identity in a variety of ways". But the point is without going into any graphic detail if these individuals are identifying as gay males it only makes sense if they are males and we all know what a male is and at the same time what a male isn't.
But this article is so important because it doesn't just make this incredibly revealing point, it makes another. He writes, "The Equality Act", that's an act to propose that the federal government, "Would define sex as including gender identity and defines gender identity to include gender related identity, appearance, mannerisms, or characteristics regardless of the individuals designated sex at birth". And here's what Andrew Sullivan notes, if you're going to talk about mannerisms or for that matter appearance then you're going to be talking about gender stereotypes but wait just a minute.
The LGBTQ revolutionary said we had to get rid of gender stereotypes. But here's what's really interesting, very clever is an observation from Andrew Sullivan. If you're going to look at the T in LGBTQ and you're going to buy the argument of the transgender theorists and you're going to have someone who is biologically male identifying as female then how are they possibly going to pull that off without relying upon the very gender stereotypes that supposedly liberals were against in the first place. Now that's a really interesting question. We've pointed to the fact that you can see that ironically in such a person as is not identified as Caitlyn Jenner. How do we see that? Well, when Bruce Jenner identified that he was now Caitlyn Jenner you may remember that it was announced in a major glossy magazine with an abundance of photographs. The photographs showed a very feminine Jenner, a very feminine identity to Caitlyn Jenner. And as you're looking at the photographs you will notice it included all kinds of female stereotypes.
Andrew Sullivan pierces through a bit of the contradiction here. You can't be against stereotypes if the only way to really identify as transgender is to embrace those stereotypes. Here again you see the conflict with modern feminism. Modern feminism has been against all of these female stereotypes and yet at the same time trans gender women as they identify themselves can only really announce that they are trans gender as trans gender women by taking on the very stereotypes that the feminists have been fighting.
And while we're thinking about this perfect meltdown of the moral revolutionaries just consider the fact that Andrew Sullivan also writes this sentence in his essay just published at New York magazine, "So, it is not trans phobic for a gay man not to be attracted to a trans man, it is close to definitional". But you can count on the fact that someone is now going to say, "Well there you go Andrew Sullivan you like Martina Navratilova are trans phobic". We see again the evidence that revolutions always devour their own children and in this case when you're looking at Martina Navratilova and Andrew Sullivan you are looking at two of the most famous and celebrated gay activists who are now on the wrong side of LGBTQ theory, they're on the wrong side of history, they're on the wrong side of the argument, and they're both going to be called out for it. You can count on it. Just yesterday the BBC, the British Broadcasting Corporation ran a story with the headline LGBT group severs links with Navratilova over trans gender comments. One thing's for certain she won't be the last.
Reinvention of sport? What argument for creation of new, female-focused sports reveals about our culture
But before leaving today the issue of gender and sports I want to go back to a controversy that didn't get much attention as Americans were beginning to focus on the Super Bowl just a couple of weeks ago. Here's a headline that ran in USA Today, "On Super Bowl weekend it's worth considering whether male focused sports are out of step. Roger Pielke Jr. Professor at the University of Colorado asserts that America needs to change its ways with its overemphasis upon male sports and in the name of gender equity find a way to celebrate in every way female sports on exactly the same level. The Super Bowl ... " He says, "And America's obsession with football in general is just another sign of gender inequity because football," as he rightly notes, "Really emerged in American history at least in part out of a concern that many boys were going soft, that they needed to be more involved in sport. American's turned to football because it was an open contest that seemed to call out many of the American manly virtues that were celebrated in this country in the early decades especially of the 20th century. Championed by individuals such as Theodore Roosevelt but now you have the accusation that that's not a cherished part of the American history it's a part of the problem.
Football is simply too male. The Super Bowl is just the ultimate over the top expression of that male inequity and it needs to be resolved. Pielke writes, "The sports that dominate U.S. culture today were sports developed by men and for men more than a century ago". He says, "No sport dominates American culture more than football. The fifty largest stadiums in the United States were built by cities and colleges to host football games. These weekend athletic shrines should be called", he says, " men's fields as only rarely do women play games in them". He says, "Because we are so focused on American football it's difficult to see how things could be different but then he points to centuries ago in Elizabethan culture when all the parts in major play such as Shakespearian dramas they were played by men and boys, there were no women." He says, "All that changed when it was understood that women should play the parts of women and now it's inconceivable that you would have male only groups of actors in these major dramatic presentations".
He says, "Opponents of gender equity in sport argue that women's sports just aren't popular pointing to television viewership and crows. This claim", he says, "Is in most cases true but it also a spectacularly circular argument". He continues, "elite women athletes typically participate in sports created for men to highlight male physical attributes and do so in a culture that has prioritized male sports since the 1800's". Just in case you wonder where all of this is going Pielke writes, "This could mean the creation of new sports and competitions. Just as football was invented to exhibit virility and manliness it is possible to imagine sport reinvented to exhibit other societal values.
He says, "We already see this happening in the Olympics with innovations such as coed competitions, and track and field, swimming, table tennis, and triathlon, and the mainstreaming of once extreme sports like snowboard racing and jumping. He continues, "Changing societal values would also imply the decline of football". Now listeners to the briefing well understand that I am not an expert in American sport. I am not a big fan of athletics, it's simply not my area of expertise. But I am interested in it as a barometer of culture, I'm really interested in it when it shows up in this kind of article.
But I will say that I think I know enough about Americans, I think I know enough about human beings, I think I know enough about this issue to argue that it isn't likely no matter what Professor Pielke may desire that there is ever going to be one of the largest stadiums in America built to showcase table tennis. I'll also go out on a limb here and say that I think Americans both men and women and for that matter people around the world have a preference for male sport for other reasons. Whenever they see boys and men doing something organized according to rules that just might have a constructive outcome it's probably not only men but women who think that's a pretty good idea. And I want to be very clear that is no argument against women's sports or women in athletics but it is an argument that the entire conversation only makes sense if we know what a man is and a woman is. If we no longer know what male and female mean, what it means to be a man and a woman and to know the difference it will not just mean the loss of coherence in sports it's going to mean the loss of sense in everything.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
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