Mind your language

Critical issue: the complex language of gender

19 June 2021

9:00 AM

19 June 2021

9:00 AM

Seeing my husband in his armchair snoozing, as his unacknowledged habit is, head back, mouth open, stertorous and blotchy, it is sometimes hard to believe in the patriarchy.

Along with the doctrine that we women are oppressed, a wave of terminology washes over us from the radio. Its originators believe that by gaining our acquiescence in using it, they have won a battle in the culture war. They might be right.

Last week the High Court ruled that ‘gender critical’ beliefs should not lead to a woman losing her job, having her goldfish confiscated and generally becoming an hissing and a reproach among all the nations.


Though it is not immediately clear from its constituent terms, the phrase gender criticalimplies ‘that sex is immutable and not to be conflated with gender identity’. In other words, if you have the pelvis and chromosomes and all that of a man, you may adopt the gender of a woman, but you won’t join the female sex. An employment tribunal had earlier found this view ‘not worthy of respect in a democratic society’.

It had seemed that Britain was signing up to the idea that we could be whatever gender we said we were. There were plans in 2018 to adjust the Gender Recognition Act to allow people to change gender merely by declaration. These were dropped, but the government had already muddled up sexand genderin its official guidance by referring to people who sought a new gender as transsexual. This terminology remains in force. Those who acquired a Gender Recognition Certificate can get a new birth certificate changing what their original birth certificate specified as their sex, not their gender. Similarly, marriage legislation refers to same-sex couples and opposite-sexcouples.

The trans lobby tends not to call trans people transsexual, or transgender, but trans. It vilifies as terfs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) women who say that trans women are still sexually men. Such terfs are denounced as transphobic.

But there’s a civil war now in the land of the LGBT, and against the revanchist claims of the T, the L cavalry has ridden out. On their banner is the strange device: ‘Gender critical’.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10


Show comments
Close