I’m a writer of fiction, which means I spend a lot of time inventing scenarios that aren’t real. I also like to think that I’m good at distinguishing an actual news stories from a hoax. Occasionally I’m fooled, because reality itself has become strange – such as the story of a kid being expelled from school for doing PHP, which the administrators didn’t realize was a programming language. Thankfully, that was a hoax. Two days ago, for the first time, I was taken in by a story that appeared to be straight out of The Onion, but was actually real.
It appeared on Alex Jones’ infowars.com, a site well known for conspiracy theories and making innocuous events seem menacing. The headline was “Trannies want you to say ‘birthing individuals’ instead of ‘pregnant women.’” The gist of the article was that LGBT activists had persuaded the Midwives Alliance of North America to adopt politically correct language (such as ‘pregnant people’ instead of ‘mothers’) on their website. A group of midwives complained about this in an open letter, and a transsexual activist in turn accused them of ‘trans hatred.’
I was flabbergasted to discover the story was no exaggeration, but 100% real. The MANA website does indeed contain this bizarre PC language, and I quickly found a post by Trevor MacDonald on the Huff Post Parents blog, called “Transphobia in the Midwifery Community.” Mr. MacDonald, as a parent, don’t you have better things to do?
Being a conspiracy buff, I tend to see everything as connected. Mr MacDonald’s rantings bring to mind one of my favorite topics, magical thinking. Perhaps because we humans are the only animals with language, we ascribe to it more power than it actually has. This is why the ancient Hebrews considered the ‘name of God’ to have immense power; thus they mandated death by stoning for anyone uttering it casually. Likewise, Muslims see the Koran as being more than the message contained on its pages; therefore its ‘desecration’ will provoke violent protests. Millions of people seem to live in a Harry Potter world, where uttering the name ‘Voldemort’ will bring the Dark Lord to their door.
Such beliefs aren’t confined to the religious. Our society is awash with secular ‘social justice’ activists who flip out over mere words. Conservatives see this as the influence of Antonio Gramsci, a Marxist theorist who advocated promoting revolution by attacking the cultural foundations of society. That may be so, however, I blame the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.
Sapir and Whorf were two linguists who never actually collaborated. Their ‘hypothesis’ is the idea of linguistic relativity, that a language determines the way its speakers experience the world. Benjamin Whorf is best known for his study of the Hopi language, in which he speculated that its lack of past tense verbs influenced the way its speakers experienced time. This idea was all the rage in the psychedelic 1960’s. It was the basis for Robert Heinlein’s 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land, in which the lone survivor of a Mars expedition is discovered, having been raised by the spirits of deceased Martians. His knowledge of the Martian language gives him a special view of the universe, as well as psychic powers. As much as I enjoyed the book, it was, alas, fiction. Even Whorf’s theories appear to have fallen out of favor in the linguistic community.
In other words, though language may influence our view of the world, it can’t change reality. Wishing for something won’t make it so. Even surgery can’t change biology. Woman can have babies; men can’t. If the facts of life intrude on someone’s fragile self-concept, that’s unfortunate.
Transsexuals have more serious issues to confront than ‘transphobic’ speech. A 2013 survey found straight Americans to be more accepting of gays and lesbians that they are of transsexuals. Perhaps it’s squeamishness; the thought of a man having his genitalia removed makes many of us cringe. Despite having these feelings myself, I support transsexuals in their personal struggles.The transsexuals I’ve met seem to just want to be accepted for who they are.
On the other hand, if I were an evil doctor bent on destroying the LGBT movement, I would secretly promote the social justice warrior mentality. Nothing scares the straight world more than outsiders who want to ‘corrupt’ their children and forcibly change their lifestyles. This is why Americans perceive ISIS/ISIL as such a threat, and why many people suspect it to a gigantic psy-op – evil, murderous and barbaric, but a psy-op nonetheless.
Yes, I support the LGBT community’s quest for acceptance and equality. But attacking the straight world for being straight is not the way to accomplish that.
Illustration is “Cinny Bun System” by Thunder Falcon on publicdomainpictures.net.