When Does Social Justice Become Another Form of Oppression?

The New York Times reports on a six-year-old transgender student who was disallowed from using the women’s bathroom given that she is biologically male. I cannot support a moral or political argument for this, although as an amateur I can see the legal argument since the law likely does not change based on age. I thought about it for awhile, and this is far from the first time this kind of issue has come up, but I will not support aggressive gender norming. Gender norming, whether traditional or counter to tradition, is “aggressive” when it forceably requires the compliance of others, which in this case are the other children and their families, and especially the school system. Honestly, at that age, I am not too concerned about the children, but I am concerned with how utterly disruptive that behavior can become in an environment that doesn’t support it. Given that accommodations were made and the lack of contrary reports, it does not seem that the school system was hostile.

The core issue, as I see it, is how we can accommodate gender inclusivity without aggressive policing. What made this case so easy for me was the fact that a six-year-old cannot have a developed identity let alone gender identity, and thus the concerns border on the ridiculous. Yes, the child may be hindered in complete gender immersion if she is required to use the men’s bathroom, but let’s face it: supporting a  trans-gender six-year-old is simultaneously not supporting all the other (presumably being hetero-normed) children. Granting rights to one at the expense of the other is not a solution.

Finally, I am going to say what should be obvious. What is going on with those parents? Although electing to transgender oneself could easily be a decision on the child, it is unlikely to be more than spontaneous. Even there were a very young and authentic gender identification, which is really a question for scientists and not myself, it would only persist insomuch as the parents pushed it along. I write “pushed” because the one party that is unequivocally making a decision is the parents, who have decided to allow/encourage their child to be an outlier and all the suffering that is extremely likely to result. I am not saying that parents should hetero-norm their children; I am saying that they should guide their children to minimize the impact of early decisions that they are not yet ready to make. Now, if we were talking about twelve-year-olds, then I would ease up on the parents, but we are not.

In the last analysis, I honestly suspect that the parents wanted to be crusaders. But true justice is learning to balance your needs against others, and I suspect it was the parent’s needs and not the child’s that were in the balance. This is a point too often lost in contemporary leftist culture, which will embrace extreme liberalism on this one point, yet run away screaming from extreme liberalism on another point, and rending its politics just a means to an end. Yet not good politics does that–that’s power politics and a tool of oppressors. This is not the way.

In an ideal world, I think that a better solution would be unisex bathrooms.  I doubt the other parents would accept that, but I would have championed that over this solution. Rather than force traditional or counter-gendering, let us call it “de-gendering.” Readers, rethink my words in light of this last point, since you might reinterpret my prior statements closer to what was intended, as I suspect many will hastily come to the conclusion “he’s against transgender!” Nope, I’m against oppression, and good values can be implemented oppressively.


One Reply to “When Does Social Justice Become Another Form of Oppression?”

  1. I’m asking this question because it’s sooooo hard to work through. That is, hard to work through as a LGBTQ ally. Heck, if I was eating of the bigot chicken or screaming “social justice at all costs,” then this would be easier. To rephrase the problem, can an egalitarian liberalism force tolerance without become tyranny? Where is the line? Not sure.

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