PCP: Against Bill-16

Alex Pezzutto - 1A Nanotechnology
Posted on: October 22, 2016

Earlier last week, a group of students decided to hold a protest against U of T professor Jordan B Peterson. The reason: to show discontentment with Peterson’s most recent online lecture, in which he criticized Bill-16 and the legitimacy of political correctness.

For those unaware, Bill-16 (proposed by Jody Wilson-Raybould of the Liberal Party), would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code to include protection for gender identity and expression. Wilson-Raybould claims the bill would address a fundamental issue of equality and human rights, as well as discrimination and hate crimes experienced by trans and gender diverse Canadians.

In his lecture, Peterson did not share the same sentiment. He denounced the bill and refused to use gender neutral pronouns. “I don’t know what ‘neither’ means,” Peterson said in his video, referring to the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s definition of gender identity—a person’s “sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither, or anywhere along the gender spectrum.” He further goes on to say that there’s an idea of a phenomenon called a gender spectrum, which he doesn’t think to be a valid idea, seeing as that he hasn’t come across any evidence for it. He concludes by stating the idea that gender is independent from biological sex is “a politically motivated and ill-informed opinion.”

So, as one can glean from Peterson’s rhetoric, there doesn’t appear to be any malice. He is voicing is his skepticism behind the Bill’s implications, which would make proper usage of someone’s pronouns mandated, such that forgoing someone’s preferred pronouns is considered discrimination. The premises of the beliefs behind the bill are unfounded, and thus the passing of the bill could mean the inability to question and discuss such beliefs in a critical manner. Instead, it suggests that such controversial beliefs have been verified legally, leaving such questions of its validity to be considered “discrimination” in the eyes of the law.

The human brain and self-identity are quite complex matters; however, from a scientific standpoint, only two genders are known to exist: male and female. This biological dichotomy can be observed scientifically, by the sexual dimorphic traits each sex expresses. As for transgendered individuals, there are studies that indicate certain brain patterns that emulate the structures of the sex they identify as, and not the one they were born with. But not everyone who identifies as transgender remains as such— some individuals misidentify themselves, which can have disastrous consequences if doctors and psychologists are directed by law or certain societal pressures to validate an identity instead of giving you an accurate diagnosis of a patient’s condition, thus potentially committing to surgery and hormone-therapy. The bill could hinder research on gender divergences by immediately accepting any opinion as truth, and thus disadvantage individuals with struggling self-identity to find unbiased opinions on the topic.

Let’s just assume that gender expression should be automatically accepted just based on one’s person feelings alone. What common consensus/consistency can be drawn? We can potentially have a gender for every shade of femininity, masculinity, or androgyny someone thinks they possess. Many such non-binary identities seem to have very little observable or quantitative qualities, making their assignment entirely up to the individual rather arbitrary, almost a matter of semantics.  Accompanying these genders are a wide variety of pronouns, which non-binary individuals prefer instead of being referred to with the conventional he, him, his and she, and her pronouns. According to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, acceptable forms include zie, sie, ey, ve, zim, zer, em, ver, zir, hir, eir, and vis. Some individuals even change which pronouns they wish to be referred by on different days, which could be beyond confusing for an individual wishing to obey Bill-16. The broad number of identities and acceptable pronouns alone makes the idea very inaccessible for much of the population to grasp hold of, especially those who do not speak English as a first language, and maybe come from a language background without gendered pronouns and verb conjugations.

The pronouns listed just scratch the surface. The amount of pronouns needed to identify every one of these genders are astronomical, and the semantics would make any sane person want to pull out their hair. It is my sense of sanity which compels me to believe that people should have the right to be skeptical of this subject. If something doesn’t conform to an individual’s beliefs, they should feel free to voice their disagreement without fear of facing litigation and demonization. Just as individuals who believe in such a gender spectrum should not fear persecution for discussing their beliefs in a civil manner, so should those who disagree with the phenomenon. It’s my belief that it is unethical to bully someone who is unwilling to buy into a certain perspective, whatever that may be, which is what Bill-16 threatens to jeopardize if it is passed.

There is a proper way to go about having your voice heard. If the genderqueer community wants people to take them and their ideas seriously, a good place to start would be to spend less time in large, loud protests demanding pronouns to be legally mandated. Instead, they could aim for holding a calm dialogue with individuals such as Professor Peterson who disagree with their beliefs. This way, reason and evidence lead the discussion, rather than accusation and violence. This is how ideas can prevail and persist, and if they cannot find a way to hold to that standard, then they’re not worth having.

  • StarGeezer

    How is the use of gender neutral pronouns to be enforced in Quebec? Absolutely every noun is either masculine or feminine… nothing in between. Are we to reinvent an entire language to appease a very vocal minority?