As I have argued in the past, left-wing gender theory can be entirely dismantled and debunked with one simple question: What is a man? All of the talking points, all of the sermonizing, all of the stuff about “transgenderism” and “gender fluidity” and “gender spectrums” — all of it is blown to pieces by a question that my six-year-old could answer. No leftist who espouses gender theory can provide a coherent answer to this question. Few will even attempt it.
It is a classic double-edged sword. If “man” has no objective definition, then it is meaningless for a woman to identify as one. A statement like “transmen are men” is hollow and absurd if the word “man” has no meaning. But if it does have meaning, then we must admit that the meaning of the word stands independent of anyone’s feelings or opinions on the matter. If the word “man” means something, then it is possible for someone to wrongly identify as one. We can, in that case, compare their identity claims against the objective meaning of the term and determine whether their claim is correct or incorrect. Leftists can’t have that, of course, but neither can they have the alternative. If “man” has no definition, their position is destroyed. If it does, their position is destroyed. They lose either way. And they know it, so most will simply avoid the question and continue using words they can’t and won’t define.
But this week, a relatively prominent leftist made the mistake of not avoiding the question. Best of all, this particular leftist is a doctor. Dr. Eugene Gu, a self-described “surgeon-scientist,” made a decidedly unscientific claim on Twitter:
Rather than mock this superstitious nonsense, I asked him the unanswerable (for a leftist) question:
Dr. Gu, to my surprise, took a swing at it:
This is not a definition. He is merely telling me what “some people say” the word means. If I look up a word in the dictionary, the definition will not begin with the phrase “some people say.” It doesn’t matter what people say. The word means what it means. After I reminded him of this fact, he tried again:
This, again, is not a definition. I cannot define “circle” as “anything that looks like a circle.” For one thing, I am using the word I’m defining in the definition itself, which makes the attempted definition invalid. An apple is an apple, but the definition of apple isn’t “that which is an apple.” For another, things can look like circles and yet not be circles. A person can think he is the prince of Wales and yet not be the prince of Wales. The definition of “prince of Wales” isn’t “someone who says he is the prince of Wales.” Such a definition would tell me nothing at all about the prince of Wales, and it would deny the possibility that a person might be mistaken or lying about his claimed status as the prince of Wales.
I explained all of this to the good doctor, prompting this last — and, sadly, failed — attempt at a legitimate definition:
The first part of his statement is correct. I do want to define a man as “a human with a Y chromosome, external male genitals, male gonads that produce sperm, has more testosterone than estrogen, and does not have any female reproductive structures.” But Dr. Gu goes off the rails in the next sentence, claiming, extraordinarily, that a man is anyone who falls into that biological category — or anyone who feels like they fall into that biological category.
How can someone identify as having a Y chromosome? How can someone identify as having male gonads that produce sperm? What does that mean? These are clear physical realities. Either you have the gonads or you don’t. Either you have the chromosome or you don’t. Identifying as having something you do not have is a classic case of a person being mistaken about something. This is why leftists prefer to avoid this question — and why I’m sure Dr. Gu wishes he had done so. It is better for them if they speak of “man” and “woman” in vague and ambiguous ways. Once they start speaking in stark, objective, biological terms, it becomes clear that a woman who “identifies as a man” is simply incorrect. She is identifying as possessing characteristics she plainly does not possess.
It is difficult to disprove someone’s claim that they “feel like a man inside.” The claim is nonsensical and absurd, but I cannot technically disprove it. I also cannot technically disprove a man’s claim that he “feels like an ostrich inside.” But I can disprove the claim that he’s nine feet tall with feathers and a top running speed of 43 miles per hour. Once the self-identified ostrich gets more specific about his alleged ostrich-ness, the whole house of ostrich cards comes crashing down. He can feel like an ostrich all he wants, whatever that means, but if he says he actually is an ostrich, he has made an esaily and objectively falsifiable claim. I cannot say “you don’t feel like that.” I can say “you are not that.” The same applies to the gender identity discussion.
Essentially, Dr. Gu is saying that a man is anyone who has a Y chromosome and male reproductive organs — or not. Which is another way of saying that a man is anything or anyone. Which is another way of saying that the word means nothing in particular. Which brings us back to where we started, without a definition or a clue. Dr. Gu’s definition is a non-definition, an anti-definition. It’s a definition that does the exact opposite of defining its object. Instead of defining, it obscures. Instead of clarifying, it confuses.
One last point. Dr. Gu repeatedly mentioned intersex people, as if the existence of a small minority of intersex individuals somehow lends support to his position on transgenderism. The problem with bringing the intersex into a discussion of transgenderism is that it is totally irrelevant. Intersex people suffer from mutations and deformities that make their sex appear more ambiguous on the surface. That doesn’t mean they have no defined sex, it just means their sex is harder to determine. But even if it does mean that they have no defined sex — even if they do reside somewhere in-between the two dimorphic possibilities — that fact would do nothing to prove the validity of transgenderism.
A transwoman is a biological male who identifies as a woman. A transman is a biological female who identifies as a man. Intersex people are a separate category entirely. Dr. Gu did not say “intersex people can have babies.” He said “men can have babies.” We can discuss how to define “intersex”, but we know how to define “man.” Or, at least, I do. Dr. Gu seems rather confused about the subject.