Piers Morgan exploded on Good Morning Britain, on Tuesday 3 July 2018 – “What is going wrong with this country?” A heated exchange of words ensued. He implied that the country had gone mad and likened Britain to Chairman Mao’s China. In another instance, Mrs Davies, a parent of a pupil at Philips High School, in Whitefield, used more measured words: “The changes I find are quite bizarre, and I really do not understand the reason behind them” (reported in The Bury Times, 20 June 2018, “Parents Slam Uniform Changes at Philips High School”). Both Piers Morgan and Mrs Davies are responding to the banning of skirts for girls in forty schools in England. This was a story that broke on 1 July in The Sunday Times. The newspaper also reported some justifications uttered in support of this ban, they included:
“Skirts have been replaced by trousers for all as they represent a more professional, smart appearance and are more practical for school use and activities.” (Tina Owen, Headteacher, Philips High School, Whitefield, reported in The Bury Times, 20 June 2018).
“Priory School in Lewes, East Sussex, which banned skirts last year, said pupils had questioned why its uniform was different for boys and girls, and that the needs of transgender students must be taken into account.” (Sian Griffiths and Julie Henry, “Schoolgirls Face Ban on Skirts”, The Sunday Times, 1st July 2018.)
“In Ipswich, eight secondary schools prohibit them, which means the majority of girls attend “trouser-only” schools.” (The Sunday Times, ibid.)
“What you don’t understand is how difficult it is to grow up as a transgender or a transneutral or a genderfluid teen” said Times columnist Natasha Devon to Piers Morgan, on Good Morning Britain (op. cit.).
The idea of banning skirts to make transgender students feel comfortable is illogical. It assumes that it is OK to insist that all girls should be forced to change their habits to make some other girls and boys feel better. It assumes that girls are less important than this transgendered (transneutral, genderfluid, etc) subset of boys and girls, as well as being less important than boys, who are not required to change their clothes, and are thereby revealed as being the master reference point.
If sexual difference is denied or suppressed in this way, there can be no reasonable discussion about transgender. If sexual difference is neutralised there are no longer two sexes. If there are no longer two sexes, it is no longer possible to transition from one to the other. Both femininity and transsexualism are threatened by this move. By banishing sexual difference, one of the apparent solutions to the problem (i.e. transitioning from boy to girl, or vice versa) has in fact been cancelled out.
Real sexual difference will continue to exist even if headteachers abolish it in their particular schools, but if it doesn’t also exist in speech, and is no longer also sanctioned in the social dimension of society, we are facing an entirely different kind of problem. If our society succeeds in suppressing the female side of the sexual dichotomy, it will also succeed in suppressing truth. This, I think, is what prompted Piers Morgan to liken the move to “Chairman Mao’s China”. He evoked the huge effort that would have to be brought into play in order to enforce this new system of belief.
The idea of truth that our society has enjoyed is one which does not rely entirely on what the people in power say. Galileo is usually the reference point for this. Rather than asking whether this person or that one should be believed, we can ask the planets themselves (in Galileo’s case) – do they willingly comply to his representation, or must they be forced? We can refer to something that exists in the real, outside of meaning. Sexual difference can be relied on because ideas about sexual difference can draw support from the real of the body. We might argue about the various ideas, but difference continues to exist. If we eradicate sexual difference, we remove an elementary anchoring point for truth at a personal and societal level. It is where individual psychology and social psychology meets at a most intimate point.
You will tell me that truth and reason exist in societies where women are suppressed and excluded. Yes, of course. But to exclude women from society, it is first necessary to accept sexual difference. If you do not accept it, then you have excluded not only women, but also truth. It is this that makes this news item so maddening. Transgender and ‘non-binary’ people need the binary of sexual difference to pre-exist, in order for their own categories to take shape. Not because anyone in particular says so, but because it is a question of logic.