The left is waging a war on normal throughout the West. The frontlines in this battle have been drawn in bathrooms, and lately, summer camp. In the struggle to build an inclusive society, the left aims to dismantle “heteronormativity”, which defines straight people who identify with their biological sex to be the norm. Anti-heteronormativity is rife in academia and the left-wing media. The left’s war on heteronormativity is misguided, and is indicative of a broader antipathy toward social norms that is illogical and disconcerting.
In the struggle against heteronormativity, the left aims to normalize a continually expanding group of abnormal gender identities. While mainstream debate has focused on transgender acceptance, the left has also advocated for gender identities that are far outside the bounds of mainstream discussion.
The left has wrongly attributed the difficulty of gaining acceptance for these identities, and the use of preferred gender pronouns to signify them, to mere bigotry. Cognitive dissonance is a better explanation. The majority recognizes that preferred gender pronouns are abnormal, and we feel silly when we try to deceive ourselves into believing otherwise. We understand that heteronormativity is the norm for a reason: because most people are straight and identify with their biological sex. This has been true of most people who have ever existed. Nature would be seriously remiss if this weren’t the case.
It is one thing to treat an abnormal group of people with respect and kindness. It is another to normalize them. By making heteronormativity into a dirty word, the left is trying to make an aberration into a norm and a norm into an aberration.
To justify dismantling heteronormativity, leftists typically rely on one argument: that doing so will build a more inclusive, and therefore happier, society. They assume that only consequences matter in questions of justice, and that the consequences of normalizing the abnormal will make the most people happy.
To prove this, leftists commonly appeal to the authority of social scientists. Scientism is the fashion. A new battleground concerns whether parents should support signs of gender dysphoria in their children. Activists argue that acceptance early on will make for happy adults. The literature is, however, divided on many fronts – objective and ideological – beginning with what terminology to use and how often signs of dysphoria resolve.
The idea of deferring moral authority to psychologists rather than parents, religious authorities, or a personal deity is questionable. Moreover, the left’s scientific utilitarianism doesn’t consider that the consequences of normalizing abnormal behavior could be bad for society. Their focus on the happiness of individuals misses the big picture.
Most people would agree that family relationships are important in a happy society. Institutions like the family are difficult to sustain without a stable normative framework. While normalizing sexual abnormalities might result in more happy individuals, the happiness of the whole society could decline if these institutions are eroded.
The left’s inclination to moral entropy threatens such institutions. While the left criticizes this reasoning as alarmist, reducing the left’s argument for normalizing the abnormal shows that doing away with some social norms because they are oppressive justifies getting rid of all social norms if that is necessary to build an inclusive world.
This is absurd. What is a society without social norms? All societies have norms. That’s what makes them societies. When Western women visit Islamic countries, they wear headscarves. They do this because headscarves are important to people in these countries. A society without social norms is not a society at all.
In place of societies regulated by norms, the left looks to a vague idea of inclusivity. But spectral abstractions like “inclusion” are not a replacement for the flesh-and-blood norms that give meaning and unity to the social world. We cannot imagine what an inclusive society looks like, nor can we evaluate the consequences of dismantling norms when we are in the middle of changing. It can take generations to see the outcome. All that we know is what already exists.
Moreover, the idea of discarding social norms to make the world more inclusive results in cultural relativism that threatens world cultures. When an LGBT-friendly mosque opened in Berlin this summer, leftists celebrated. Their jubilation turned out to be premature; the Muslim-feminist founder received death threats and was placed under 24/7 police watch. Clearly, Muslims like doing things the way they do them, and they don’t want liberal Westerners telling them otherwise. Indeed, Muslim-majority countries are the least LGBT-friendly nations in the world. In this case, inclusivity came to the detriment of another culture. This is cultural imperialism, plain and simple.
The left’s permissive nihilism does not bode well for people who want to live in a healthy, sensible, and happy world. We would be better off learning to respect the importance of social norms.
Perspectives expressed in op-eds are not the views of The Daily Caller.