What is at stake here is much more than the right of an individual to free self-expression or an employer’s freedom of religion to hold and act on such “stereotypes.” Since everyone in the workplace of that individual employee will be asked to accept that he is “a woman,” what is at stake is whether or not their—and, by extension, every person’s—pre-ideological, innate knowledge of oneself as a boy or girl, imbibed quite literally at the maternal breast, will be for all practical and public purposes officially overruled as false, a “stereotype.”
Conversely, what is at stake is whether or not the alternative will be for all public and practical purposes officially true: namely, that everyone’s “identity” is arbitrarily and accidentally related to his or her body—as ghost to machine—even if the two are “aligned” in the majority of cases, as the fashionable prefix “cis” means to suggest.
…There is no question about the nihilistic objectives of the new philosophy of sex. Those objectives were already in play at the beginning of the sexual revolution. This was conceived by its founder, Wilhelm Reich, to be the most comprehensive of revolutions, because it rebelled against the very principle of reality itself, rejecting the “finalistic” notion of sexual acts. But now, in addition to obscuring the objective reality of sexual acts, “gender” would prevent us from seeing what we are—a man or a woman—or, indeed, that we are anything at all. Taking the “new clothes” of the famous Emperor in a new direction, the cloak of “gender” would render invisible all the naked evidence.
Here is the newness of the ancient attempt to extricate ourselves from the given relations in which sexual difference entangles us. It is, as Hanna Arendt said, “the knowledgeable dismissal of [the visible].” David Bentley Hart suggests a compelling reason for this. If modernity is in large part post-Christian, it cannot simply revert back to paganism and its mores. It must go further back. Since the Christian God is the One who Created all things, it must get behind everything, visible and invisible, to the only “other god” left: “the Nothing” of spontaneous subjectivity. “Gender” is precisely this: the attempt to free the will from any prevenient natural order. This could not have been more clearly stated than by Butler when she channeled Nietzsche, saying: “there is no ‘being’ behind doing, effecting, becoming . . . the deed is everything.” But it was also chillingly stated two decades before when the feminist Shulamith Firestone called for the eventual elimination of the sex distinction itself.