... is the title of the Weekend Essay in the London Times newspaper for Saturday 23 January. In this piece, Janice Turner argues that the language of biological sex should be retained rather than being entirely replaced by a language of "gender" and gender neutral terms such as "parent", or even "birthing parent" to replace "mother".
The article starts by citing a ruling by Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, which removed terms such as "mother", "father", "daughter", "brother" and other gendered words from the House rules, and replaced them with gender neutral terms such as "parent", "child" or "sibling". It then refers to an executive order of President Biden that extended a Supreme Court ruling referring to discrimination "because of sex" so that its provision also apply on the basis of gender identity.
What Ms Turner points out as a consequence of this is that
... with zero debate or legislative scrutiny, biological sex as a discrete political and legal concept has gone.
One might also add that, without a language to describe those distinctive relationships within a family between a father and daughter, father and son, mother and daughter, the specific dynamics of these different relationships will over time be erased from everyday experience.
At one point in her article, Ms Turner recognises a denial of science in the idea that an understanding of a person's gender, and access to facilities based on that gender, might contradict the plain sense of the biological sex of the person when that is opposite to their identified gender. Whilst one can recognise that a person can have a deeply felt internal sense that can be termed "gender", it does not make scientific sense to assimilate this, to a greater or lesser extent subjective, sense of self to the objective physiology of a human body that is termed "sex". Towards the end of her article, Ms Turner characterises it like this:
No semantic shifts can change what ordinary people see: activists who deny biology sound like flat-earthers...
The bulk of Ms Turner's article describes how, firstly, the abolition of the idea of biological sex denies significant areas of women's experience of life: menstruation, menopause, pregnancy, birth. It cites the words of J K Rowling's tweet, which led to her vilification:
If sex isn't real, the lived reality of women globally is erased.
Secondly, it describes how the resulting use of language as it filters down through commerce, charities, health care providers, and public bodies, acts predominantly to the disadvantage of women and not to the disadvantage of men. In some respects it can undermine efforts to address maternal mortality, for example, if data is recorded against gender identification rather than biological sex.
Ms Turner is not by any means "on the side of the angels", but her reference to the divide between trans rights activists and feminists contains a truth that can be applied more generally for those who would oppose what Pope Francis terms an "ideological colonisation" of the family, namely the necessity of maintaining a conversation about biological sexual difference and complementarity:
There is no need for this rancorous divide between trans activists and feminists. Yet peace depends upon an agreement that sex exists, that in certain limited circumstances it overrides gender, and that language to describe biological reality is valid.
[As an aside, in a way that I suspect was not intended by the writer, the following part of Janice Turner's article might provide a jumping off point for a wider discussion of the part that a father of an unborn child might play in a decision for abortion on the part of a woman:
...if reproductive rights are no longer women's rights but people's rights, "a woman's right to choose" dissolves. It follows that "people" should determine the outcome of a pregnancy, including men.]