I was watching a YouTube video today which shared a clip of a transgender teacher in Kindergarten explaining to the four and five-year-olds that doctors make a “guess” when a baby is born whether that baby is a boy or a girl based on what the baby looks like. Most of the time, the doctor is correct, but sometimes the doctor gets it wrong. The baby’s body does not always correctly signal whether the baby is a boy or a girl.
It occurred to me that it’s the old game of “shift the definitions” being played here. For time out of mind, since there’s been an English language containing the words, “boy” and “girl,” “male” and “female,” “man” and “woman,” “he/him,” and “she/her,” what those words meant was strictly connected to the bodies of the individuals being designated. The words had nothing to do with feelings. A person may not have felt that he or she fit those words because the person may not have felt that he or she fit his or her body. But those words paid no heed to feelings. Feelings needed other words. The words under discussion were words about the bodies. They were what gave those words their definitions. No doctor had to “guess” at the sex of a baby at birth. He only had to look.
One could say that we’re only arguing about semantics. Language evolves. Definitions change. Why not move with the times? Why not accept the new definitions of these age-old words to mean, “Descriptive words having no set definition, meaning nothing, that one may apply to oneself at will, according to the feelings of the individual.” Isn’t that how the language has evolved? What difference does it make to those of us who object to the new (non) definitions of age-old words? Why should it matter?
It matters because language matters. Language matters because ideas matter. Ideas matter because truth matters. And language is the only vehicle we have for conveying reality from one mind to another. So language matters.
And we haven’t all agreed to let the traditional definitions of “boy, girl, man, woman, male, female, he, she” slide. Unless there is nearly universal agreement (although usually tacit and unconscious) among the users of a language on the changes to words and definitions, words cease to be communicators. Without a shared understanding of definitions, changing definitions without common consent is just a form of lying.
For example, if a witness gets up on a witness stand, swears to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and then answers the prosecutor’s question with a, “No,” all the while meaning to answer in the affirmative, this witness would be charged with perjury. Lying.
But why should the witness be called a liar? Language evolves. Perhaps the witness has privately reversed the meanings of “Yes” and “No.” The witness is “telling his own truth” (or “her, zer, zis”) own truth. To the witness, “No” now means the affirmative, and “yes” means a denial. Who’s to say the witness is wrong? The witness is just changing definitions. It’s just a matter of semantics.
The problem comes in with the shared understanding of “yes” and “no” by everyone else in the courtroom. Unless we all have the same shared understanding of what the witness means by “yes” and “no,” we would charge the witness with perjury. Language is a shared commodity. It’s not open to private interpretation when the goal is communication.
And I haven’t agreed to change the definitions of the sex-based English words listed above partially because we don’t have any good alternatives to replace them with.
We still all acknowledge their realities. I know that doing away with reality is the entire point to muddying definitions, but the definitions have been muddied, and yet, the realities persist. Reality-denying was the point to shoving definitions into the corner of, “Your truth, my truth, his, her, zis, zer truth.” The point was to erase any real distinctions. But oddly, the distinctions are still there in new, made-up terms (and yes, I grant you that all language is “made-up.” But here, by “made-up,” I mean, “Artificial language created to fulfill a particular agenda.”) The distinctions are now acknowledged with words like, “transgender” and “cisgender.” Many would insist, “Transgender women ARE women.” But those same people would readily agree that, “Transgender women are NOT cisgender women.” Or biological realities are acknowledged by replacing the word we traditionally agreed to use for those biological realities (“women”) with terms like, “Bleeders,” “Menstruating people,” “Birthing persons,” “Cervix-havers,” and some even more graphic. So we all acknowledge the distinctions and the realities.
Now, I don’t want to control anyone’s speech. I believe in freedom of speech under the law. I will not force anyone to conform to the traditional definitions of all our sex-based language. Not my goal. Anyone is free to talk about “cis-het women” and “trans, non-binary, gender-non-conforming polyamourous pansexuals” from dawn till dusk if he or she (or ze, zim, zer) chooses.
Where I do draw the line is when anyone else wants to control my speech. When we have all universally agreed that “yes” is “no” and “no” is “yes,” I will answer questions as truthfully as I can in accordance with these new rules. But we haven’t all agreed. When “black” is the new “white” and “truth” is the new “falsehood” and Orwell’s prophetic vision is complete and definitions of traditional words are completely upended society-wide, then I will amend my language accordingly to tell the truth according to the new agreed-upon syntax. But we’re not there yet.
I resist the effort to change the traditional definitions of our sex-based language because of the postmodernist, “Your truth, my truth; nothing is real; nothing matters except one’s feelings; language is fluid,” agenda behind these efforts. I think these postmodern ideas are the death of any sane society, so I will resist them. Part of that resistance is clinging to old, outmoded definitions for words that still have meanings and concepts that still need to be communicated. Because these are my beliefs, if I were to use “yes” to mean “no” and “no” to mean “yes” and “she” to mean “he” and “he” to mean “she,” I would be lying. I would be saying what I did not believe to be true. I would be saying what I believed to be untrue. I’m writing this post now because, here in Canada, we have further government initiatives to force its citizens to lie.
Early on in his reign of terror (and yes, I do find postmodernism and the “every man doing what’s right in his own eyes” philosophy of Judges 21–which always ends up being what’s wrong in God’s eyes–to be a terror), Justin Trudeau and his party pushed Bill C-16 through parliament and wrote this desecration of our Charter-guaranteed-freedom-of-speech into law:
“For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.”
We were prohibited by law from discriminating against anyone’s “gender identity or expression.” Preferred pronouns. We had to use ’em. By law.
But maybe I’m exaggerating! The prohibition against “discrimination” is a broad term. Surely, this law isn’t being interpreted in the courts the way I’m describing. Surely, the courts won’t infringe on our freedom of speech. Surely, they won’t compel speech.
For a real-world example of how this is playing out, we can check out the BC court case where a BC father has served jail time in the joint causes of freedom of speech and protecting his daughter (in this article here described as a “son.” CD is the father. AB is the “son,” around fourteen years old at the time of the publication of this article and certainly a minor. Marzari is the judge.).
“Marzari issued a protection order, forbidding C.D. from attempting to persuade A.B. to abandon treatment, from referring to him by his birth name and, among other conditions, from sharing information about the case and medical treatment with parties other than the court, lawyers and medical professionals.”
“‘As concerning as C.D.’s conduct was, however, it does not necessarily follow that such conduct equates to the kind of psychological or emotional abuse that would constitute “family violence” under the (Family Law Act),’ the court found.” [How very lenient of the court! Not using one’s fourteen-year-old child’s preferred pronouns hasn’t quite been deemed an act of family violence and child abuse. Yet!]
“But the court issued a conduct order, saying the father couldn’t discuss his son’s medical treatment, mental health or treatments with anyone other than legal counsel, doctors or others allowed by the court. The father also must refer to A.B. by his preferred name and pronouns.”
Did you catch that? The father had his free speech hampered. He wasn’t allowed to discuss the situation. Why couldn’t he talk about it? Because the court said so. No other reason. The court decided. That was enough. And he had his speech compelled. He MUST use the preferred name and pronouns. He refused to abide by the conditions and did jail time, the article went on to state.
So that’s how Bill C-16 is being enforced.
All this is becoming relevant again (not that it stopped being relevant ever, but it now has fresh relevance) with more proposed legislation to control the speech of Canadians. Bill C-11 wants to regulate content creators on the Internet, and Bill C-36 amends the Criminal Code to include “hate speech.”
“This enactment amends the Criminal Code to create a recognizance to keep the peace relating to hate propaganda and hate crime and to define ‘hatred’ for the purposes of two hate propaganda offences. It also makes related amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.”
“In addition, it amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to provide that it is a discriminatory practice to communicate or cause to be communicated hate speech by means of the Internet or other means of telecommunication in a context in which the hate speech is likely to foment detestation or vilification of an individual or group of individuals on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination. It authorizes the Canadian Human Rights Commission to accept complaints alleging this discriminatory practice and authorizes the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to adjudicate complaints and order remedies.”
We’ve already seen Twitter’s and Big Tech’s enactment of its own hate speech regulations, so there can be no doubt at all how Bill C-36 will be interpreted and enforced. According to Twitter, calling transgender persons by their old pronouns, dead-naming (using their old names), and statements, like, “Only women can get pregnant,” are all examples of “hate speech,” violating the terms of service and making the user liable to banning and expulsion.
So, this is where we are. I won’t allow my government and its unconstitutional bills to force me into saying what I don’t believe is true. To me, words like, “woman, girl, female, she, her,” still have recognizably biological definitions, and I will continue to use the words accordingly. They can shut me up, but they can’t force me to lie.