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Culture War Roundup for the week of April 17, 2023

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It has happened. The transgender trend has hit close to home, with a close relative now insisting that we call his five-year-old, penis-having child a "girl." I have had a couple of conversations with the dad, and he repeated of the common transgender talking points. He was at least open to conversation. He did not seem to have been exposed to counter-arguments or to have thought through what he was doing. So I am writing the dad a very long email. Much of the email is quotes from desisters, excerpts from news stories, and reviews of the studies. But I thought I'd share with this forum some of the theory portions that I wrote. Maybe you will find it informative, or maybe you can help strengthen my writing. This is written under a throwaway, names and details are changed to protect the guilty and innocent.

Why biological sex and not 'gender identity' matters for norms, culture and language

When we last talked, I said it was important at this age to correct Skylar about his gender even as a five-year-old, because even at this point it is the role of a parent to guiding him to be a man. You replied that you don't want to raise kids to conform to stereotypes.

Now I don't feel any need to raise a boy to like whiskey and pickup trucks, or to raise a girl to like Barbie dolls. In fact, when first buying clothes for my daughter Jessica I was moderately peeved there were so few unisex options. I wanted to buy neutral clothes to save money for reuse with any future boy.

But there are essential sex differences, rooted in the basic biology of sex, that impact norms and culture around sex.

The most important is that women have the potential to make men immortal. For tens of millions of years of mammalian evolution, the pregnancy and nursing process has been the expensive part of reproduction. Women are the reproduction bottleneck. Much flows from this basic difference.

For a woman, simply acting pretty, helpful, and caring is a viable strategy for having a great life. She can find a man who will become attached to her and provide her all she needs. Note: this is not necessarily the optimal strategy, but it is a viable one. I don't want Jessica to be a princess. Some training in hard work, getting her fingernails dirty, and callouses on her fingers is good ... But she should also know how to be charming and cute and pretty because that will in fact get a girl far in life.)

For men, this is not a viable strategy. Men must develop strength and competencies.

I'm going to paraphrase a passage I found a while ago that really resonated with me:

The biggest difference between men and women is that when you're a man, the absolute indifference of the universe towards you is the norm, it will only care when you make it care, and only for brief moments. To women this is almost Lovecraftian horror they can't conceive of. Men don't realize that most women can never comprehend this because it's just too horrifying to the female psychology. Women live their entire lives knowing people care about them, they take it for granted, it's the universal constant norm for 95 percent of women. We care about them as children because humans generally care about the happiness and suffering of all children. Most women are pleasing to look at, so we look at them. When women are ugly or annoying, we pay attention to them even if it's negative attention.Even when women are shitty we pay some form of attention to them, people care about annoying women because they are hard to ignore. People care about women in distress or sadness because we just do. We want to save women in danger. This has nothing to do with their achievements, their character, just that they are women. When this constant electromagnetic field of empathy around them weakens a bit, particularly middle aged single women with no children, they talk about how cruel it is to be "invisible"

If you're a man, it's the inverse. The universe and the people in it are a yawning void of indifference, you are responsible for yourself. If you're sad you are expected to buck up, if you are having problems you are expected to fix them. If you are too annoying you will be dismissed, told off, or get your ass kicked. If people care about you it's because you built relationships with them that made you a person they care about. If people admire you it's because you built a reputation, a physique, or an empire. Cries for help from women are almost always answered, cries for help from men rarely are, be they metaphorical or literal. If you're a man, you need to understand that most women cannot understand or grok this. If you're a woman, you should try to comprehend that burden men have.

I'm not even knocking this state of affairs. I don't support the whole "Men should cry more and be more sensitive and raise a fuss" effeminate bullshit. The yawning void of indifference is our burden to bear by virtue of being men, you aren't a man without it. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't have confidants to help you. Other men who can relate to this yawning chasm, to the struggles men face. Women can provide comfort and empathy, but most of them won't really and truly intellectually grasp and understand this difference. You should always have fraternal bonds with other men to commiserate over, to share knowledge of similar experiences to help each other overcome obstacles and achieve things. Brotherhood is important, you aren't complete without it.

Thus, raising a boy to be a man means gradually building their power level and gradually teaching them that the world will only care for you if you build something and make something of yourself. Childhood is going to end some day and no one will listen to your whining.

Whereas for a girl, they will hit 18 or 19 and suddenly have massive amounts of power purely on account of who they are. A pretty 20-year-old intern can make the CEO of a billion dollar company stutter and blush merely on account of how she looks. She will get stares and attention from men of all sorts. Thus the job of father in raising a daughter is both protecting her from the men who would prey on her, and also teaching her not to abuse or misuse this sexual power she will have. The father must teach her to leverage the power in goods ways to build a great situation while she is young, because she will lose the power as she gets older.

And in this, Skylar is irrevocably a boy, not a girl. You can already see it in Skylar's face. Men have evolved over a long time a fine sense of distinction between men and women, and almost no person born as biological male, with body parts and facial structure and brain developing under the influence of male hormones, can ever pass a girl. A woman who is by chance infertile still triggers men and woman, to treat her as a woman. A male on cross-sex hormones might fool someone at a surface level, but after any meaningful interaction an uncanny valley effect will be triggered. Other people might go along with it out of "nice", but they won't treat a male-to-female transgender as an actual woman in many of the ways that actually matter.

For a biological male, like Skylar, the test in life will come against other biological males. It will also be biological males who will be his future allies in competing against other groups of men -- whether in fighting, business ventures or being wing-man. Since childhood is the preparation for growing up, it is important from childhood to be socialized as a male, competing and cooperating with other males. Otherwise he will arrive at young adulthood, and the girls he was friends will forget him, as they will be interested in actual masculine guys, and he will not have the experience in relating to other guys as guys.

The second basic difference in male and female is the level of hormesis they can withstand. Growth and improvement in many matters from athletics to chess is getting enough struggle to trigger growth, but not so much that you become just damaged and discouraged. Simply put, boys and men can withstand a much greater deal of physical and psychological trial than girls and women can. The optimal level of training is far different. Physical training that will truly test a young man will destroy a woman's pelvic bone. Criticism that a man needs to be able to handle, will make a woman break down in tears (almost every woman I know has cried at work, very few men I know have).

Now a common refrain is "some girls can handle it, we shouldn't make assumptions." This is anti-knowledge -- we should start with assumption of averages and then be flexible about outliers. Furthermore, nothing I have seen in our kids indicates that we are outliers from the biological sex in terms of stereotypical traits. Nothing I have seen from any of the parents or grandparents either. I think that people commonly underestimate just how big the differences are, possibly because of so many strong female characters that have been added to entirely fictional movies, or because of headlines about some women breaking a sex barrier in some traditionally male line of work.

In reality, The bell curves of physical abilities barely overlap. For instance, in studies of grip strength the average man had a greater grip strength than every single female in the general study population. A 75th percentile male had a greater grip strength than every single elite female athlete in the study.

If you consider both upper body strength, weight, body size, skull structure a typical man punching a woman does not do 25% more damage than vice versa, but something like 1,000% more damage.

(continued in a reply)

(part ii of ii)

This massive disparity in strength and ability to do violence is why men are inherently scary to women, and a key reason why we create dedicated female spaces whether it be sports teams or locker rooms or sleepovers. The need to make distinctions between girls areas and boys areas are rooted in basic biology, not some amorphous sense of 'gender' in the brain.

And it's not just acute strength -- injury rate is a huge issue. When the Marine Corp was studying women in entry-level infantry training, the women had an injury rate 600% higher than the men. Women troops carrying combat loads were one hundred times more likely to develop pelvic stress fractures. Women soccer players are 400% to 600% more likely to tear an ACL.

When Los Angeles made a push to hire female fire fighters back in the 2000s they could hardly find any women who made it through their training:

What these two women saw — and experienced — is not what you might think.

Nobody tried to make either of them fail. No “old boys” got in their way. Mary was admired by her male boss and encouraged at each step to be a firefighter. “I was just too slow,” she says. Firefighting equipment, like the one-man ladders, started “getting heavier,” and she began to realize she wasn't strong enough to repeatedly lift it — a necessary skill. Eight weeks into the training — which causes plenty of men to wash out — Mary was stunned to realize that her body had begun “breaking down.”

Vesey's story is much the same. She was contacted by the department after applying online and joined the training academy in August. She was unprepared for how tough it was. “I would fail on the hose-lay and only have a couple of hours on the ladder,” she recalls. “Then I would fail the ladder.”

But of the captains who trained her along with 45 men, Vesey says, “I respected them. I wanted to be on their crew. The people at the tower were phenomenal. They really wanted you to learn.”

It's not easy for anyone. According to a fire-department official who refused to be named, 35 percent of the men since the summer of 2006 have failed to finish their training. During the same time period, however, all of the women have failed to do so. Along with many men, two women are retrying.

Today, Los Angeles boasts a dozen newly built locker rooms for women citywide. Most days, they sit eerily empty, and men sometimes use the space to study. The abandoned lockers are a testament to a social-engineering experiment gone bad, a failed dream unfolding from New York to San Francisco to Oakland — to Los Angeles.

They eventually had to drop the standards for women. When Army Rangers made a push to add women there as a big headline when a few finally passed -- and then it came out a few years later they had to cheat. Perennial gold medal contending Canada's women hockey team trains by playing in a regional boys high school league -- and ended up in the middle of the pack -- even though checking is banned when they play the boys because they don't want the women getting hurt by the boys. The best adult women's soccer team in the world has gotten soundly beat by a 14 year old boy academy team from Dallas.

The physical differences are such that men will always be the ones who carry the physical default load in physical matters from construction to combat to packing up the car.

Thus, raising a boy to be a man means preparing him for this world. It means that women will expect the men in the life be the physical protectors, it means women will always have someone more discomfort around strange men because of the potential for them to use overwhelming physical force.

The third thing of importance in sex distinction is the potential for sexual intercourse.

From time-to-time, I sometimes do an overnight getaway and spend a night out on the town with an old friend, maybe I crash on his couch, etc. As a married man, I feel like this would be very inappropriate to do with a woman. Even if I had certainty that it would be entirely chaste, it would cause my wife anxiety. But I also don't even want to lead myself into temptation. Writer Te Ne Hasi Coates put it well:

I've been with my spouse for almost 15 years. In those years, I've never been with anyone but the mother of my son. But that's not because I am an especially good and true person. In fact, I am wholly in possession of an unimaginably filthy and mongrel mind. But I am also a dude who believes in guard-rails, as a buddy of mine once put it. I don't believe in getting "in the moment" and then exercising will-power. I believe in avoiding "the moment." I believe in being absolutely clear with myself about why I am having a second drink, and why I am not; why I am going to a party, and why I am not. I believe that the battle is lost at Happy Hour, not at the hotel. I am not a "good man." But I am prepared to be an honorable one.

Even forming a deep friendship where you are spending a lot of 1-on-1 time and spilling your guts is a dangerous proposition between any man and any woman. The potential for sex is there. Back home, a husband and wife are caught up in the grind and conflict of running a household and doing hard things together. Time away spent purely in fun with a woman friend might seem magical...temptation would arise... From everything I've heard, deep one-on-one time with someone of the opposite sex is the fast road to ruining a marriage.

The potential for sex also leads to the potential for crossed-signals and uncomfortable situations. A friendly gesture to a man could be seen as a come-on to a woman.

Thus from the very moment I meet someone it is very important to know what biological sex they are, because it will define everything about our future relationship. A male saying to me after I have met him a party, "Hey you like the Sharks too? I happen to have tickets next week, wanna come?" is very different than a woman saying the same thing. This is why every successful culture has language and norms of dress that make distinctions based on biological sex. (This is also why it has been normative for gay men and lesbians to dress in ways that would readily identify themselves).

The temptation issue is also why I would never allow my daughter when she is 14-years old to go on a sleepover alone with any guy. It's not so much about the guy being a potential "rapist" -- it's about the very real possibility they both could be succumb to temptation.

Thus there will be possible situations in the future when I must treat Skylar as a boy. Maybe we are doing a trip with friends and Jessica and her girlfriend are in another room and we have another room that is a boys room. Skylar cannot be in the girls room, sexually he is a boy.

And these issues become more acute when we have nudity involved, which is why we have norms around modesty and why we separate locker rooms. Men don't want to have to fight off getting a boner because some biological woman is in their locker room. Women don't want to feel vulnerable from seeing a much stronger person with his cock hanging out seeing her naked. Even if most men and most male-to-female trans people would never rape, by making "femaleness" a matter of self-identification and by normalizing allowing people with dicks hanging out in a women's locker room, there is no way to keep out actual creeps and rapists who will cynically abuse the policy.

Sex also matters for group dynamics. For instance, I was in a gaming group. We had a young woman join who was very much into the stereotypical nerdy games that guys were in. All went well...until one the core guys of the group offered to walk her home one night. This guy was not at all a sleaze. He likely did want to date her as she was a catch. But she got uncomfortable, and then in other events didn't want to invite him. The entire group dynamic was ruined. When Harry Met Sally proven right again: "The sex thing always gets in the way."

For all these reasons, biological sex matters from the moment we meet a person. The potential for long-term relationship, the nature of that relationship, the meanings of requests, changes based on sex. That is why our society (and almost every successful society) makes basic distinctions between the sexes in names, language, and apparel. These norms are linked at core to biological sex not to some nebulous notion of 'gender identity' inside the brain.

I believe that men and women have a deep need for spending at least some time in sex segregated clubs. And this is rooted in biology in all the biology I noted above, that men and women have different strengths to develop and challenges to overcome. When you add just one opposite person to a group the dynamic changes -- immediately you get status posturing, sexual drama, and white knighting.

When I say with regards to a person 'he is a boy' the words 'he' and 'boy' refer to biological sex, as the words always have meant in the English language up until a few years ago.

This is an important matter of personal integrity. Boy, girl, man, woman, male, female are immutable aspects of human biology. Many schools and doctors are now teaching a false and poisonous doctrine, that a person can be born in the 'wrong' body and that medical intervention can fix this. It is important for me to be a rock for truth in kids lives -- the schools are wrong, you cannot change your sex, your healthiest life will always be by adjusting your mindset to find a good way to live with your sex.


I agree with a lot of what's here, even much of the stuff I'd advice you to cut. The gender war framing at the beginning is burning your credibility to for the very same reasons it's describing, it comes off as whining. If you have a rapport with this person and know this will be well receive feel free to overrule this criticism but you really come off as fighting the culture war and aren't really hitting on the most glaring contradictions within gender ideology. Even the part you went in with the real physical difference is defenseless against "so what? she'd be an unusually strong girl, what's the problem?". Very little of this even touches on the question of gender ideology, the idea that a five year old(or really anyone of any age) can meaningfully differentiate between girl and boy qualia, which is much more viscerally ridiculous and more difficult to dismiss as culture waring.