“We agree to disagree”, this is the motto used by the CEO of Axel-Springer-Verlag, Mathias Döpfner, in his public distancing from the appeal by five scientists, which WELT published on 06/01/22 as a guest article.
It is to be welcomed that the debate on transgender activism is now being broadened by further opinion and discussion contributions. This is the most important result of our initiative for the time being, which was primarily intended as a wake-up call and aimed to move the debate out of the ivory towers of science, the closed circles of a small “woken” minority and the subcultural milieus of Generation Z into the mainstream of society bring to.
However, some points of Mr. Döpfner’s comment need clarification. He criticized that we would “generally imply” that there were only “two gender identities”. However, we scientists only talk about biological sex. Unlike other socially conspicuous categories such as “race” or nationality, this has an objective basis. According to this, gender is a physical characteristic whose characteristics, male and female, result – unsurprisingly – from the reproductive functions.
In the natural sciences, the distinction between the male and female sex is a proven and universally accepted one. It makes it possible to set up scientific theories about a large number of biological processes, to test them empirically and to explain nature. Gender is clearly defined here as a condition with two characteristics, as an organism’s direction of development towards the production of a certain type of germ cell. Ontologically, then, gender is what made our sexually conceived existence possible.
There are no biological processes that require additional genders to explain. Therefore, from the point of view of a science committed to critical rationalism, there are no reasons for introducing further gender concepts. These would only make sense if you could use them to set up and empirically prove theories that explain reality better than the assumption of dual gender. At least so far, such knowledge has not been created.
The definition of a large number of genders (in the sense of social gender roles, English: gender) may be discussed outside of the scientific discourse with its own logic and legitimacy. But we don’t need more gender categories to explain why people suffer from gender dysphoria, to work out its causes and to help these people. Often with classic psychotherapeutic means, but also, if there is no other option, with serious surgical interventions and lifelong hormone therapies.
Even the existence of intersexuality is by no means a refutation of the gender binary. Because dual gender does not exclude the possibility that there are people whose gender structures are not fully differentiated and are therefore not clear. It therefore makes little sense to declare the possible intermediate forms as “other genders”.
The queer commissioner of the federal government Sven Lehmann criticizes that our text is characterized by “homophobia and transphobia”. He even goes so far as to accuse him of “baiting” and “group-focused enmity”. That is wrong, has no basis whatsoever and is also not supported by anything.
From our point of view, the transgender ideology, which focuses on gender stereotypes and promotes a re-traditionalization of gender roles, is hostile to homosexuality. In the case of many underage patients who attribute their major psychological problems to “living in the wrong body”, the analysis shows completely different reasons, often suppressed homosexuality, for example. We can help those affected to recognize and admit their homosexuality and to lead a self-determined, sexually fulfilling life.
The alternative would be a trans-affirmative attitude, i.e. never critically questioning the desire to trans, which advocates setting the course early and usually results in the recommendation of treatment to block puberty.
To put it briefly: A boy who does not behave in accordance with gender roles is suggested that he is “in the wrong body” and is actually a girl. Such an approach deprives those affected of the opportunity to accept their own sexual body, to value it as part of their own identity and, if necessary, to make the decisive experiences for finding a homosexual identity.
Society can no longer tiptoe to the fact that the number of opposite-gender-identifying minors has increased dramatically in recent years and that the vast majority (more than 80 percent) are biological girls, mostly in the context of a pubertal crisis to the often erroneous assumption that they are “the wrong sex” – presumably because they suffer particularly from the pressure of expectations of a rigid gender role model and/or, in view of the prevailing ideals of beauty and slimness, have greater difficulties in accepting their body, which changes as a result of puberty to have.
We are not the only ones with this assessment: along with hundreds of scientists, including over 100 university professors, and dedicated feminists, it is especially homosexuals who distance themselves from the meaningless rhetoric of transgender activists, their radical goals and hostile attacks on those who think differently and expressly warn against the growing influence of transgender ideology on important social institutions.
The Academic Freedom Network defends our appeal and in an open letter asks Lehmann to comment on his relationship to freedom of opinion and science and whether his contribution reflects the position of the entire federal government.
The debate to be conducted is not limited to the irreversible consequences of early medicalization of affected children through puberty-suppressing and opposite-sex hormones, but also essentially aims at the “self-determination law” planned by the traffic light coalition.
Calling for trans rights is not just about making compassionate concessions that enable a suffering and marginalized minority to live a full life in safety and dignity. I stand behind this as much as any other critic of gender identity ideology.
The said legislative initiative is about nothing less than the redefinition of “gender” in the German legal system. So far, the legal category “gender” has been based on the biological and physical characteristics of a person. It is now planned to define these on the basis of a felt “gender identity”.
From the age of 14, everyone should in future be able to freely choose the gender entry that he or she believes fits their subjective sense of belonging – possibly even against the will of the legal guardian. At the same time, “misgenders” and the use of the “dead name” by others are to be penalized from now on.
A liberal, secular society can accommodate many different belief systems, including conflicting ones. What it must never do, however, is impose the beliefs of one group on all others. It is also about freedom of conscience, personal expression of opinion and, last but not least, that of science. There is an urgent need for the public to be fully acquainted with the facts and implications of this law and how closely the two different levels, legal and medical, are intertwined.
In his comment, Mr. Döpfner finally gives the impression that we are not interested in diversity of opinion. The main point of criticism of our call is that the diversity of opinion in the ÖRR formats we considered has been lost.
Public service broadcasting and the free press are valuable assets of our democracy. I stand up for defending this as well as for the acceptance of sexual diversity; I relate the latter to the diverse possibilities of shaping gender roles and lived sexuality, and neither the invention of a new gender nor the narrative of the “wrong body” is required for these.
If there are any misunderstandings in the journalistic shortening, which we have accepted due to the format of a guest contribution, I regret this.
I do not accuse anyone responsible for the program of having manipulative intentions, but I would like to point out the recent announcement by the prime ministers of the federal states that want to enshrine the principles of objectivity and impartiality in law in the new state media treaty for the ÖRR and want to work more towards the separation of reports and opinions – which is also an admission of omissions in the past can be read. Thousands of citizens who had previously been questioned had complained about significant shortcomings here.
All opinion leaders, especially at the political level, but also responsible media editors should feel called upon to return to an unexcited, factual dialogue instead of polemicizing and discrediting (or an equally unproductive refusal to engage in discourse) – and to remember that among liberal and There is certainly already a consensus among upstanding democrats on one point with regard to common political objectives: namely, to further develop a society that is free from repressive gender stereotypes and in which the free development of the individual is possible depending on inclination, talent and interests – beyond assignment social gender roles and narrowing clichés.
Due to my job, my greatest interest is the well-being of children who have found themselves in a dramatic life situation due to gender dysphoria and are faced with momentous, irreversible decisions. I am happy to take on the argument about the best way to help these children and young people. Of course, I do not shy away from arguments with supporters of the “Self-Determination Act”, whose problematic effects, especially for young people, I have already commented on in detail at an expert hearing in the German Bundestag.
Alexander Korte is Senior Physician at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich. He has been treating youth with gender dysphoria since 2004.