“Sometimes I think if there was a third sex men wouldn’t get so much as a glance from me.”
Obviously, Ms. Vail never attended Wesleyan, where there is not only a third sex, but an infinite series of them. That assumes, of course, that one takes the word ’sex’ to be synonymous with ’gender,’ but dare to commit such a fallacy at Wesleyan and you will find yourself cast into the outer darkness of ’heteronormativity,’ where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. Of course, the idea that there is an indiscriminate number of genders is quite acceptable, nay, scientifically proven, we are told. And from whence do we get this ’progressive,’ ’tolerant’ idea? Why, from a little mandatory program during New Student Orientation known as “BiLeGaTA.”
For those who have forgotten the very beginning of their freshman year, BiLeGaTA is a presentation on gender-neutral pronouns and the politics of gender which runs for roughly an hour and which functions as a pre-emptive assault against all those who would dare to question the edicts of the multi-gender advocates on this campus. During the presentation, members of groups such as the trans/gender group instruct students about the proper use of the pronoun “ze,” attempt to counteract what they perceive as misguided beliefs about the ’gender binary’ and hand out sheets of “queer” definitions. Among these definitions, one discovers that gender, far from being synonymous with sex, is actually a ’social construct,’ and that heterosexism (a sort of evil mega-homophobia) “pervades societal (sic) customs, institutions and individual beliefs.” The politically correct nature of these documents is as obvious as the extraordinary confidence with which BiLeGaTA’s presenters showcase them, behaving as though these definitions are the very word of God (strictly a sex-neutral God, of course).
Now, before the soldiers of ’tolerance’ and ’compassion’ attack me as a heterosexist, or a transphobe, I have to make one thing clear. I have no deep-seated problem with the trans/gender group seeking to be included in the Wesleyan community. What I object to is their intellectual dishonesty. The BiLeGaTA program presents evidence that, though it may be passed off as fact, is merely liberal sociology masquerading as science. That is, it is opinion. Now, there is nothing inherently wrong in holding a particular opinion about the politics of gender—in fact, it is probably admirable. The trouble is that opinions are almost never universally held, and as such, forcing them upon people is a terrible idea. This statement holds especially true in a university, whose function is (at least theoretically) the intellectual training of free minds.
But what does this have to do with BiLeGaTA? Well, as already stated, BiLeGaTA functions as a presentation of opinion (for instance, the opinion that “gender is a social construct” or that “heterosexism pervades societal customs, institutions and individual beliefs”). However, unlike other presentations of opinion, BiLeGaTA is a mandatory program for freshmen to attend, and mandatory programs should not present opinions as fact, no matter how well intentioned those opinions be. In fact, by mandating that freshmen attend BiLeGaTA, the University tacitly endorses the opinions presented in the program. Now, perhaps the students of this University do not mind such an endorsement when it is extended to a political system with which they agree, but supposing the University mandated that every student attend a session on tax policy presented by the College Republicans? I do not think it is a stretch to say that the students would rightfully object.
This gets to a deeper point about BiLeGaTA. As one of the presenters explained to me, BiLeGaTA’s actual function is about telling people to respect other people’s personal preferences with regard to gender-neutral pronouns. While that is undoubtedly a worthy endeavor, why should it only apply to the transgendered community? Why shouldn’t Wesleyan instead simply host a general session for all freshmen about being nice to other people, whether they be blacks, whites, rich people, poor people, queer, straight or even Republican? In the interests of consistency, this desire for tolerance must apply to everyone or no one at all. Not only would that particular idea be more equitable, but it would also be more efficient! Rather than being subjected to 45 minutes of convoluted sociological platitudes about “the social construction of gender,” Wesleyan freshmen would only have to absorb a single sentence—a sentence which I saw inscribed near the Public Affairs Center and which concisely states the idea of intellectual pluralism which is inherent to any university’s function:
“Hey Asshole, be nice!”