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Holly’s Letter from America: Men can have babies and other liberal fantasies

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A new study has come out in the US on what it is like to be ‘male and pregnant’.

The online journal Obstetrics and Gynecology published the research article ‘Transgender Men Who Experienced Pregnancy After Female-to-Male Gender Transitioning’. The study, which looks at 41 transgender men and their experiences in pregnancy, is seen as a cutting edge work, thought to be the first study of its kind.

There are some interesting facts which emerge from the study, which reveal a bit about the lives of women who havebecome transgendered males. For instance, apparently ‘prior testosterone use’ did not have an effect on the pregnancy, delivery or birth outcomes of the participants.  And the ‘men in this small study had little trouble conceiving’, with the majority of the participants getting pregnant using ‘their own eggs and their partner’s sperm.’  Indeed, only seven percent of the participants had to use fertility drugs; one-third did not even plan their pregnancies.

Yet, there is something troubling about this study, and the way it has been reported.  It revolves, I think, around the use of language.  There is a deliberate insistence on calling the participants ‘men’, which, in the context of pregnancy and childbirth, makes for very provocative reading.  For instance, ‘the men had little trouble conceiving’, or the men ‘used their own eggs’, or the men ‘were denied prenatal care’.    One of the participants in the study is quoted as saying,  ‘Pregnancy and childbirth were very male experiences for me.  When I birthed my children, I was born into fatherhood.’

Of course, any good liberal will tell you that ‘gender identity is a spectrum’, and that there is a fundamental distinction between one’s gender and one’s biological sex.  You can be a man if you wish, or a woman if you  wish.  What matters is not what is in your DNA – what matters is what you want.

And so, there must be a change in language to reflect this ‘spectrum’ understanding of gender.  Thus, the single most defining characteristic of the distinction between the sexes –that is, the ability to have babies – is now something both a man and a woman can do.

This, indeed, seems to be the standard liberal position on gender, supported by all the usual language of‘respect’, and labelling those who dare to disagree as ‘hateful’.  But perhaps the conservative – or just anyone trying to make sense of it all – can answer that surely the distinction between gender and biological sex breaks down when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth.  For if we have to say that a man is giving birth, then that also means we have to call this man the father of the child.  But clearly the father of the child is someone else.  There is a biological father, and a biological mother; one who impregnates, and one who carries and bears the child.  We cannot use the same terms for both; we need separate terms to signify the people that have these distinct biological roles.

But there a larger issue at play here.  It is the liberal compulsion to destroy, or to overcome, every kind of constraint, whether it be a constraint of convention, or of nature.  Roger Scruton describes this liberal tendency as a ‘disposition to question every fact of community’.  ‘The liberal will never rest’, he argues, ‘not, at least, until he has torn down every law and every institution with his exterminating “why?”’  And he warns that this exterminating ‘why’ will eventually leave us ‘entirely disinherited.’

Nowadays, gender roles, and even the concept of gender itself, are prime targets for the liberal’s exterminating tendencies.  The extermination starts – as always – with a change in language, and the shaming of those who question the change.  So, men can have babies, and one is insensitive and hurtful to suggest otherwise.

Thus, it seems that we no longer have an exclusive term to signify who performs the most fundamental, necessary and basic act for the continuation of the human race.  Do we really want to be ‘entirely disinherited’ of the concept of gender?  Surely even those on the Left must recognize our current predicament as a failure – not a triumph – of gender theory.

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Holly Hamilton-Bleakleyhttp://philosophyforparents.com/
Holly is a mother of six, now living in the United States. She holds an MPhil and PhD in Intellectual History & Political Thought from Newnham College, Cambridge. She blogs at Philosophy for Parents. Tim is her husband and a former RAF officer.

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