Editor's Note: This article was originally published by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs on May 20, 2021, and is crossposted here with permission.
The gender ideology sweeping academia really is totalitarian. It annihilates every public or private acknowledgment that we are men and women.
The gender tyrants start with language. Partly that’s because they read George Orwell’s 1984 as a how-to manual. They believe that if they change the words we use, they’ll change how we think. Partly it’s because the core of gender ideology is a word game—to substitute “gender,” which classifies words in languages such as Spanish (“el doctor,” “la doctora”), for “sex,” which describes the biological reality of our division into men and women, echoed in creation among the beasts of the field and the flowers of the garden. Gender ideology reduces human beings to words that can be twisted at will.
Yet we are men and women, not words to be declined by whim, so gender ideology requires authoritarian compulsion to deny that truth.
Because the gender tyrants start with language, their compulsion starts with pronouns. James wants to choose his pronoun—he wants to be referred to as “she” or “zhe” or even “judy.” If James feels he is really she, you ought to call him by his preferred pronoun. It isn’t merely good manners; you will actually inflict harm on James if you don’t call him a her. James has a right, don’t you know, to be called by the pronoun of his choice.
The government, or some other authority, enforces rights. The gender tyrants’ claim that James has the right to be referred to by the pronoun of his choice really claims they have the power to silence anyone who won’t do what James says. When Twitter kicks you off their platform for referring to James as “he,” they’re enforcing James’ right. When a university officially reprimands a professor for refusing to call a male student “she,” they are enforcing a student’s right. If a right to “gender identity” becomes the law of the land, the government will fine or jail you to enforce James’ right.
When these authorities enforce James’ right, they violate the conscience of Christians, Jews, and any other believers who know by faith that male and female created he them and who cannot in conscience deny Scripture. The right to “gender expression” necessarily abrogates freedom of religion.
When these authorities enforce James’ right, they also deprive all Americans of their right to speak freely. But they also require all Americans to lie. The gender tyrants require us to affirm a falsehood: that no immutable sex exists, that there is nothing but “gender,” which can be changed by individual fiat. It is George Orwell’s 1984 as simple fact rather than speculative fiction: If the Party says two plus two equals five, then you must believe that it is so.
State-enforced lying is bad enough in any part of the republic. “Gender expression” rights are about to destroy women’s sports, unless prevented by legislation, since men’s sex advantages them in physical competition. But these so-called rights wreak particular havoc in higher education.
“Gender expression” rights make it impossible to teach biology. Biology depends upon teaching about sexual difference—how it comes about, what function it serves, how it affects behavior. “Gender expression” at best requires biologists to pretend this applies to every species except human beings. At worst, it requires biologists to deny all biology, for fear that they are somehow transgressing university-mandated rights to gender expression.
“Gender expression” further disables all the practical training that takes place in universities. Doctors cannot learn to treat men and women, but instead (at best) individuals with phalluses and individuals without phalluses. Doctors can no longer be taught to provide a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, since it forbids diagnosing gender expression as a mental disorder. Social workers and teachers likewise are taught that men and women have ceased to exist. No one trained in a university will be allowed to acknowledge the existence of men and women.
But, above all, universities should not teach students that a university is where you go to learn how to lie. The point of a university is to teach students to seek out the truth—civilly, but fearlessly. “Gender expression rights” require students to lie about the most basic fact of human nature, the existence of men and women. Once they have been taught to accept a lie so vast, to accept the humiliation of affirming the self-evidently false, they will be accustomed to a hundred smaller lies. “Gender expression rights” convert universities into a machine that destroys students’ character, as it habituates them to the routine of lies.
Oklahoma’s public universities, unfortunately, have begun to adopt the ideology of “gender expression rights.” Oklahoma State University informs its students that “Gender is a large spectrum and does not only include male and female.” The University of Central Oklahoma touts personal pronoun use. The University of Oklahoma asks students what is their “current gender identity” (options include man, woman, transgender, nonbinary, genderqueer, and more).
In other words, Oklahoma’s higher education system is well on its way toward championing lying as an expectation.
Oklahoma State University’s new president is a pediatrician. State lawmakers should ask her if she believes that “gender is a large spectrum and does not only include male and female,” as OSU claims.
Lawmakers should ask her if she will forbid pediatricians to diagnose gender dysphoria. Will the medical school curriculum require doctors to prescribe puberty blockers to children, without informing their parents? Is she so committed to “gender expression rights” that she is willing to violate liberty and conscience in her own field? And endorse the mutilation of minors?
Lawmakers should ask her—and indeed should ask every public college and university president in the state—if, in the name of “gender expression rights,” they will violate liberty and conscience in every discipline taught in Oklahoma’s public universities.
Whatever the answer, Oklahoma’s policymakers should not rest content with soft assurances. Oklahoma higher education needs to be defended now. Legislators should pass legislation requiring all state agencies, especially including higher education, to define sex as biological, and to exclude the use of the word “gender.” It should also pass legislation explicitly stating that Oklahoma recognizes no rights to “gender expression” and “gender diversity,” and that it affirms the priority of freedoms of speech and religion as fundamental and uncompromisable.
Regents should never hire as a university president anyone who does not publicly condemn the lies of “gender expression” and affirm the basic truth that men and women exist.
David Randall is Director of Research at the National Association of Scholars and Project Director of The Civics Alliance.