REVIEW: The End of Gender by Debra Soh
Most authors dedicate their books to loved ones or inspirational teachers. Debra Soh, sexologist and neuroscientist, dedicates her new book, The End of Gender: Debunking the myths about sex and identity in our society to “everyone who blocked me on Twitter.”
It’s a fitting tribute, since aggressive opposition to Soh’s spirited defence of science against the prevailing theory-based doctrines of the trans movement has guided Soh’s professional trajectory for a number of years now.
As Soh informs readers at the outset, she left her eleven-year research career in academia, because it was clear her field had been compromised by trans activism, and her freedom to explore her subject—gender, sex and sexual orientation—was continuously shrinking. Assessing the “long, ugly history between transgender activists and sexologists,” she could see no foreseeable end to the tensions, and segued to a career in journalism (Playboy, the Globe and Mail, Scientific American, Quillette, and others).
From her first article, arguing against early transition for children, the mobbing began and never let up. But neither did supportive encouragement from ordinary people who find themselves baffled and disturbed by dogmas and vocabulary— “people who menstruate”—that make no sense to them, and which many women find offensive (I certainly do). Soh wrote the book for them: “to answer your questions at a time when it’s next to impossible to tell apart politically motivated ideas from scientific truth.”
The book is organized around a series of trans-movement assumptions Soh identifies as myths: that “biological sex is a spectrum”; that “gender is a social construct”; that “there are more than two genders”; that “sexual orientation and gender identity are unrelated”; and so forth.
It would take thousands of words to do justice to the book as a whole, as it covers such a wide gamut of trans-related issues, and each one handily. Soh’s chapter on the social contagion of “rapid onset gender dysphoria” (ROGD) in teenage girls, for example, is superb. But wordage is the usual pesky constraint for columnists, so this cannot rise to the level of the review the book deserves.
Instead, I’ll focus on what I find to be Soh’s core message, delivered via her beautifully calm, rational and precision-guided dissection of the inherent contradictions within the movement’s catechism. For many readers who have been half persuaded to acquiescence from constant exposure to the mantras Soh challenges, her exposé will fall like rain on parched earth.
According to Soh, then...
Fact: There are only two biological sexes, and they are not “assigned” at birth. Male and female gametes (eggs, sperm) determine our sex, and sex is binary, “not a spectrum.” Fact: Gender, too, “both with regard to identity and expression,” is biology-based and therefore binary. “It is not a social construct, nor is it divided from anatomy or sexual orientation.”
Classic feminists gave us the concept of “social construction.” Feminists believe gendered differences in interests, presentation and behaviours are due to patriarchy and learned behaviour. Science tells us otherwise, Soh says. Male and female brains are demonstrably different. Now, Soh says, feminist chickens are coming home to roost, because—this is a trenchant insight—“If gender is thought to be learned, masculinity will remain the gold standard and femininity will be reduced to aberrations of it.”
Gender fluidity is trending briskly amongst millennials, many of whom self-identify as transgender, agender, bigender or genderqueer (which can mean just about anything). “As more people take on these labels,” Soh observes, “being nonbinary has become a way to find community, a sense of belonging and acceptance.”
She cites a Pew report that a third of Gen Zers and a quarter of millennials know someone who uses nonbinary pronouns like “they” as compared to a sixth of Gen Xers. (Soh’s observation is backed up by a recent questionnaire out of Evergreen State College, in which a full 50 percent of students self-identify as LGBT or “questioning.”)
By normalizing and banalizing the concept of gender fluidity—that is, by inviting the whimsically transient, the mentally fragile, the mentally ill, even the opportunistic and sexually predatory into a small forum traditionally reserved for those with irreversible gender dysphoria, therefore legitimately entitled to medically-aided transition—the movement has radically increased the numbers within the trans-identifying fold.
But this artificial demographic swell has come about at a huge cost to credulous children, vulnerable troubled teenagers, women athletes, and indeed, all women who are now forced to share intimate space with male bodies on the sole basis of uninterrogated gender self-identification. Soh is particularly troubled by one of the more grievous consequences of the “cultlike” trans movement’s social self-promotion, namely the concomitant social demotion (tending to erasure) of gays and lesbians.
“By nonbinary activists’ definition, everyone on planet earth is gender nonbinary,” Soh says. The result is that merely gender-nonconforming children - effeminate boys, the great majority of whom would realize they were gay after puberty, and “butch” girls who would become lesbians - are encouraged in childhood to gravitate towards some form of trans self-identification instead of being allowed to grow into their biology-accepting, authentic sexuality. “I’m constantly amazed,” Soh writes in dismay, “at the number of gay men who will publicly defend childhood transitioning when the movement is leading to the extermination of gay children.”
Shouldn’t we all be dismayed by the harms this movement is causing? Soh and her publishers, Simon and Schuster, have shown courage in standing firm for science and reason in the midst of a moral panic that has gripped our institutions and scattered objectivity to the four winds. For that, they merit our material and moral support.