ABOUT FIVE HOURS into the drive we hit a rough, bumpy dirt road. We still had an hour to go, but honestly the dirt road wasn’t that much worse than the paved highway we just left. My mission had brought me here, so I wasn’t complaining. In fact, I was excited. I was far away from everything: far from civilization, far from air conditioning, far from running water, cell service, and people who take pictures of themselves. Most importantly for my purposes, we were far, far away from the west. I was on my way to visit the Massai people who live almost exactly the same way as they have for generations. Straddling the border of Kenya and Tanzania in Africa, these people live in mud huts with thatched roofs, tend cattle, hunt, and teach their children to do the same.
As I had learned over the past year, gender ideology is a creation of the modern West. It masks itself as something rooted in science and descriptive of the natural condition of humankind. But in reality, it is a fantasy world with a made up language and made up rules. As I soon saw, nothing reveals just how unnatural and counterintuitive gender theory is than speaking with people who haven’t been instructed in its language through the forces of mass media, popular culture, and the long reach of a homogenous education system.
That’s why I was in Africa. I wanted to talk to people who had never heard of sex change surgeries and hormone suppressors. I wanted to talk to people who hadn’t yet been instructed by “experts” on the difference between “gender” and “sex.” I wanted to talk to people who would never think to put their preferred pronouns in their email signatures because, well, they don’t have email. Maybe then I could see firsthand just how innate – or not – all of this gender theory stuff really is. Maybe here I could see if the gender theorists were as crazy as they seemed, or if I was really the crazy one.
My translator (who undoubtedly called himself “Paul” so that westerners like me would know how to pronounce his name) guided me into the village. I was welcomed with great openness and kindness. Paul led me over to an elder in the village surrounded by a group of men and, after some pleasantries, I asked him what, in his mind, is a man. He didn’t seem terribly perplexed by the question. The translator responded, “To be called a man in our community, you need to have a knife, secondly, a spear, a stick, and to make your own village by fencing. And you go to marry and, having a family, that you can sustain them…to have cows so that the children have enough milk….You need to sustain your community.”
To them, manhood seemed to be determined by certain roles someone plays, which is something a lot of gender theorists would agree with. So I asked the men if a man could just decide to do the roles of a woman. “In Massai community he cannot,” my translator relayed.
“Can a man become a woman?”
“What about a transgender?” My interpreter looked at me not understanding. “Transgender,” I repeated.
He tried explaining the concept to the Massai man I was speaking with.
“No…if you want to become a lady but you’re a man, you have something wrong in your mind, something wrong in your family, something wrong in you.”
“What about if someone is non-binary?” I asked.
Paul looked at me, his brow furrowed in confusion.
“You know, non-binary…” I went on. It struck me that he had no idea what “non-binary” meant. And why would he?
“You’re not a woman, you’re not a man?” he asked.
“Yes, someone is neither. They’re something else,” I said. I realized that when you have to put these ridiculous concepts into basic words, it doesn’t actually make any sense. Gender theorists have created an entire dictionary to describe things that nobody else in history ever thought needed to be described.
“He’s saying we have never seen things like this,” Paul said.
Maybe I moved into the gender theory lingo a little too quickly. I decided to go back to the fundamentals. “How do you know if you’re a man?” I asked.
I realized that when I had first asked them what a man is, they responded telling me a man’s role in society not because gender is only a matter of fulfilling certain duties. Rather, they presumed I was talking about social roles because the biological reality of being male or female was so obvious to them. The idea that people could believe they are a different sex than how they were born simply didn’t make sense. Once they knew I was asking about something more fundamental, they didn’t hesitate to answer.
“When a newborn is born, we identify quickly because a man, he has a penis. A woman, she has a vagina.”
I spoke to a group of women as well to see if they had the same understanding of gender as the men. The group of women I spoke with were all beautifully adorned in jewelry, so I used that as a jumping off point to take things from a different angle.
“In my country,” I told them, “there are men who will put on women’s clothes and say they are a woman. What do you think of that?”
Paul explained the situation to them, and the women spoke back to him for a moment. “They say they have never seen or heard something like that.”
“What is a woman if you had to give it a definition,” I continued.
Paul began translating for the woman, “She’s saying for a man, no breasts. Secondly, their private part is different because a woman has a vagina and a man has a penis…And also a woman delivers, a man cannot.”
“This is going to seem maybe a little shocking,” I responded, “but in my culture there are people, women, who chop off those parts of their body, chop off their breasts. Does that make them a man?”
She wasn’t at all convinced. “Let’s come now to the time of having sex,” she said. “Once you have sex with a man, you expect him to have a penis.”
Well, it’s pretty hard to argue with that. Talking with the Massai, it was clear that the sexual binary between men and women made sense to them. Non-binary and transgenderism didn’t make any sense. And the truth is, it was terribly difficult to explain transgenderism to people who take the world at face value – who see very clearly that there are two sexes and that is that. As soon as you try to tell people like this that they shouldn’t believe their lying eyes, you can feel just how empty and vacuous the entire edifice of gender ideology actually is.
This is an adapted excerpt from What is a Woman?: One Man’s Journey to Answer The Question of a Generation, by Matt Walsh, from DW Books, a division of The Daily Wire. Now available on Amazon.com.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.