Mar 31, 2022

Ep. 74: Truth, Power & Gender | Debbie Hayton

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At Counterweight, we believe political polarisation is the meta-problem we must resolve so we can protect liberal democracy.
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by Jennifer Richmond & Debbie Hayton

The debate over transgender issues has energized both the authoritarian right and left, exacerbating our pernicious polarization. Most recently Lia Thomas and Rachel Levine have been the avatars for these divisions, underlining the illiberal slide of our society.

Sadly, the collateral damage in this intense scuffle are trans people themselves. As they become pawns of political gambits and groupthink, we jeopardize the welfare of those we say we intend to protect. And this, is the root of true injustice.

Even the “side” that claims to fight for trans rights too often uses the issue to push agendas that devolve from the lofty aim of seeking truth, to merely peddling power.

Let’s take a brief look at both sides and the weapons used in this battle over identity.

The authoritarian left, instead of accepting trans people as their full selves, try to shoehorn them into an identity that defies science. Biology has been abandoned in too many minds because it contradicts a new ideology that claims we all have a “gender identity” - a soul like quality - that alone determines whether we are men or women. But since we cannot identify the gender identity of newborn babies, they are merely "assigned" a sex according to their genitals. In this crazy worldview, however, feelings take precedence over pesky facts like penises and vaginas. As soon as someone decides their gender identity does not correspond to the sex assigned at birth, they can announce they are transgender, and demand that society treats them according to their gender identity. If “woman” is a label to be claimed by anyone who wants to claim it, then no wonder a judge cannot tell you what a woman is.

The departure from science gives rise to serious consequences. If we cannot define the word woman, then we cannot demarcate the group of people who can claim the rights of women. As such those rights become meaningless. More worryingly still, young children have been led to believe that they can choose to be boys or girls. Some of them have become guinea pigs in an uncontrolled medical experiment where natural puberty has been halted and their young bodies subjected to synthetic cross-sex hormones. What future generations will make of this reckless approach remains to be seen, but it will be too late for some of these kids when they later decide that they might want children of their own. Or simply change their minds.

The authoritarian right’s approach is more simplistic and transparent. Instead of toying with words like gender identity, words that have the power to, over time, transform both the way we act and think, they ardently and aggressively seek to strip the rights of anyone trans. They look fondly on authoritarian regimes and figures like Putin and Xi Jinping, as models for a society that doesn’t have to meddle with democratic messiness, pluralism, or basic human rights. Nasty memes circulate that are meant to humiliate and dehumanize trans people. A dehumanization that threatens the well-being and livelihood of people who, like anyone else, are worthy of dignity and self-actualization.

As with most issues in our polarized world, both sides have abandoned any rationality in pursuit of power. As they hash it out with their weapons of choice, real people suffer. In between these extremes are actionable and achievable solutions that honor both those who identify with their natal sex as well as those who emphasize a spectrum of gender identities.

When these solutions are ignored in favor of the fight, we are left to wonder if in the thirst for truth, we’ve instead sipped from the cup of power.

In the Hold my Drink — navigating culture with a chaser of civility, and Counterweight podcast, Episode 74, we speak with frequent guest Debbie Hayton on the latest transgender debate involving Lia Thomas and Rachel Levine in the U.S. and the recent developments in the U.K. As trans issues dominate our public discourse, we lament the missed opportunities to generate real solutions that adhere to the simple truth of human dignity and worth, as illiberalism festers across the political spectrum. The result is a power play between the authoritarian left and right that has implications for both the trans community and our larger national identity. All discussed with a chaser of civility, of course, and a mango chile michelada.

Hold my Drink welcomes all people with all kinds of beverages to join us as we explore the truths of a chaotic and beautiful world, together.

Find us on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, or watch the conversation unfold on YouTube, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

What Jen is Reading:

The Three Faces of Victim - An Overview of the Victim Triangle, Lynne Forrest

and watching…

The Drama Triangle | Transactional Analysis Games, Lauren Kress

What Debbie is Reading:

Two Sides of the Moon, David Scott and Alexei Leonov

Debbie Hayton is a high school teacher and trade union officer. She teaches science to 11-18-year-olds at a school in central England. As a transgender person, she has written extensively about what it means to be trans and how trans people can be included in society without compromising the rights of other vulnerable groups. Her work can be read in publications from across the political spectrum, where rational scientific debate is allowed and encouraged. You can read more about her and her transition on her page: and follow her on Twitter @DebbieHayton