Gender Identity – A Social Construct?

31 Jan 2017 Gender Identity – A Social Construct?

Feature interview –  “Social Constructionism”: what is it, and how is it driving the movement to recognize transgenderism in public policy? Click here to read the transcript of the interview.

In the news:

The cost of euthanasia – There’s a new study out that purports to provide a cost-benefit analysis of doctor-assisted suicide. We look at the numbers, and provide some reaction. Click here for the perspective from one woman who is battling Stage 2 breast cancer.

The Palliative Alternative – ARPA Canada is launching a video series to raise awareness of the better alternative to end suffering: palliative care. Click here to for more from Grassroots Manager Colin Postma on the roll-out of this video series.

Abortions in PEI – The government of Prince Edward Island has now opened an abortion clinic in Charlottetown. Click here for perspective from’s director, Mike Schouten.

Gender identity – The discussion about “gender pronouns” has now entered the federal Conservative leadership race. Click here to learn which two leadership candidates have committed to repealing Bill C-16.


Donna Trimble

There’s a new study out that purports to put a dollar figure on the cost savings inherent in euthanasia. The report, authored by Aaron Trachtenberg at the University of Calgary, says doctor-assisted death could reduce health-care spending across the country by between $35-million and $137-million dollars a year. Trachtenberg told the CBC that the numbers reflect a “reduction in spending in the (health care) system”, particularly because medical care in the last few weeks of life is the most expensive.

The report has raised serious concerns. Calgary resident Donna Trimble is battling Stage 2 breast cancer and says she is very worried about this. “One of the best pieces of advice I got when I was first diagnosed was (to) surrender to the process. (To) give (myself) up to the hands of (my) doctors, and trust them.” However, Trimble says, this kind of research erodes that trust. “When you see studies like this, suddenly that idea of ‘surrender yourself to the care of your doctor’ isn’t so simple anymore because you have to ask yourself ‘what is his priority’? Are these financial matters…something that they consider in the advice that they give to me?”

Trimble has also written an open letter to the CBC to complain about the way Trachtenberg’s report was covered. She says there’s “plenty of information out there about how doctor-assisted suicide is a slippery slope; where it’s led to in places in Europe where it is taking place, and we don’t see enough of that in the media.”


ARPA Canada has launched a video series on the need for better palliative care in Canada. The series is entitled “Ending Suffering: The Palliative Alternative.” Grassroots manager Colin Postma says the videos are designed to counter the narrative that people with terminal illnesses have two, and only two, choices: a slow, painful death, or a supposedly more humane option of medical assistance in dying. “That narrative is wrong on a number of fronts.” The series, he says, involves interviews with Canadians from across the country about “their experiences with terminal disease, disability, pain, and their experiences with palliative care.” A new edition of the video series is released each Thursday on social media and the ARPA website. You can view the first two instalments here and here.

Postma says the long-term plan is to turn those 12 videos into a feature-length documentary suitable for screening to ARPA chapters, church groups, and others.


Prince Edward Island has opened an abortion clinic. Women on the Island used to have to go to Moncton or Halifax for the procedure, but a clinic has now opened in Charlottetown, in fulfilment of a promise made by Premier Wade MacLauchlan in an election campaign last year.

Mike Schouten with says this really doesn’t make any sense. “There’s no reason why a medically unnecessary procedure has to be available on the Island when we have people continuing to transfer to hospitals in either New Brunswick or Nova Scotia for much more serious things (such as) heart issues or cancer treatments. We see no move for those services to be provided on the Island.”

Schouten says the decision to open the clinic was purely political. “(We) dare not have an Island – a province – of a population of 130,000 where women cannot easily access a facility to kill their pre-born child.”


The campaign set up a booth at the Vancouver Convention Centre this past weekend for MissionsFest, which is billed as the largest explicitly Christian trade show in Canada. Cassy Knegt helped put the display together and she says the response was encouraging. “Most of (the trade show attendees) had never heard of us, and they don’t know how to get involved in politics – it seems (to them) like a foreign concept. But once they hear what we do and the tools we can give, they’re a lot more willing to actually engage with their MPs and fellow-Canadians.”


Conservative Leadership candidate, Pierre Lemieux
Conservative Leadership candidate, Brad Trost

The discussion about gender pronouns has hit the federal Conservative Party leadership race. Two candidates for the leadership, Brad Trost and Pierre Lemieux, have both committed that if they win the leadership and form government, they’ll repeal Bill C-16. That’s the bill that would entrench the notions of gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds for discrimination under the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Lemieux says fundamentally, the law would tell Canadians what pronouns they have to use in dealing with gender issues. “When bills like this pass, you will be obligated to use these pronouns, and that’s why I say ‘free speech, not forced speech.’ If a Canadian chooses to use these new, invented pronouns, that’s their choice. But they should not be forced into doing so.”

Trost issued a press release on the issue in which he called Bill C-16 “a bad law, plain and simple.” The Senate is set to take up discussion of the bill later this month.


ARPA's Director of Law and Policy, André Schutten

The City of Hamilton, Ontario is developing municipal policies on how to deal with transgenderism, specifically related to the use of civic facilities such as bathrooms and change rooms at recreation centres and swimming pools. ARPA has applied to speak to a Committee of City Council on this issue. We’re still waiting to hear whether or not the application will be accepted, but if it is, it’ll likely be André Schutten who makes (or writes) the presentation.

On the feature this week, we talk to André about this case, and the broader motivation and philosophy behind the transgender lobby.


LN: André, what is underlying this? I mean first we’ve got the federal bill that talks about banning any discrimination based on gender identity. Then we’ve got Jordan Peterson getting in trouble at the University of Toronto because he refuses to live with this new reality in terms of language.

What’s underlying all of this?

AS: The background is that there’s a new theory – a new lens – through which particular academics and others, activists and so on, are seeing reality, in particular as it relates to gender or sexual identity. And that is a theory called “Social Constructionism.” Social Constructionism sees all of reality, or most parts of reality, as merely being ideas that we’ve created in order to live our lives. And usually they see it through a lens of oppressor and oppressed. So (it’s) the creation of categories by society in order to keep on oppressing others or in order to be able to remain in a hierarchical society.

So the big one, when it comes to social constructs, today, is the idea that male or female – those two categories – are merely social constructs. They’re merely ideas that society has created amongst themselves in order to maintain a system or a hierarchy of oppressor and oppressed. So obviously the allegation would be that the idea that there are males and that there are females is this idea of patriarchy, for (men) to oppress women. That’s kind of the lens through which most of our leading politicians – when it comes to the advancement of the transgender agenda today – sees the world.

LN: This isn’t new. I mean, the whole social construct idea has its roots in literary criticism from 100 years ago. There are some legitimate social constructs. I mean we can think of some, but is gender one of them? Give me some examples of what would be legitimate social constructs, and how you would apply this in this gender context.

AS: I’ll give you two examples of legitimate social constructs. One would be money. When we have a 20-dollar bill in our hand, there’s nothing intrinsically valuable about that piece of paper in our hand that says that this little piece of paper is actually worth 20 dollars. But we’ve created a system in which we say “no, that little piece of paper in your hand, it actually is worth 20 dollars.” But of course, if our society tomorrow agreed that we’re going to switch to the gold standard – we’re going to use gold coins instead of paper – suddenly that 20-dollar bill is no longer worth 20 dollars, it’s only just a piece of paper and it’s worth maybe a couple of cents. That would be an example of a social construct.

When it comes to gender, it gets a little bit more tricky, because there are certain things about gender that are social constructs. A very obvious one for us today would be that pink is a girl’s colour. That’s true in our western culture from the last number of decades perhaps; that generally speaking pink is more a girl’s colour and blue is more a boy’s colour. But that’s a social construct. We’ve made that up ourselves.

But the problem with today’s assault on the binary nature of humanity – and what I mean by binary nature is there’s two and only two categories of humanity; male or female – the assault today on that idea is extrapolated (from) the idea that there’s some social constructs around gender and they say that actually all of gender is socially constructed. And so we actually should not be binding ourselves to these categories anymore; we should eliminate the categories altogether.

LN: There’s a whole raft of language associated with this. “Cis-gender” and different pronouns and stuff…

AS: So cis-gender is a new word that has been created that refers to those who do fit themselves neatly into one of these two categories; either male or female. There’s the language of multiple pronouns now, so again in the English language there’s two types of pronouns, right? Male or female. The problem is that with the advance of multiple other genders, we now have public policy that’s requiring or at least putting pressure on individuals to use third, fourth, thirty-second, fifty-first type of genders. New York City has passed an ordinance that businesses can be fined up to $250-thousand dollars if they refuse to use the gender pronoun of an individual’s choice, and they’ve listed up to 31 different types of pronouns. That becomes completely, totally unworkable.

LN: Have we lost the sense of normativity? “Post-truth” was the word of the year for 2016, and I’m seeing that this is another manifestation of that?

AS: I think that’s accurate in certain respects. The irony in my mind is that many of the people that use that label, that throw it around, they’re often the ones guilty of what they’re accusing the other side of. I mean, our biological reality is a reality. It’s measurable. It’s scientific. It’s real. And we know, as Christians, that that’s exactly the way God designed it. We’re told that in Scripture. “Male and female He created them.” So it’s very obvious to us, and so this modern phenomenon…I’m not sure how long it can last. The truth can go on forever, falsehood needs a lot of help. And that’s I guess why we’re particularly concerned about the force of law upholding this kind of view; this social constructionist kind of view. Because it only makes the falsehood last longer. If it were left on its own I think it would die out pretty quick.

LN: So (let’s assume) we get the go-ahead to appear before that Committee at Hamilton City Council. You’re not going to have a lot of time to present there. The essence of the message that you’ll be bringing there is what?

AS: Well there’s two different angles that could be taken. One is to explore this a little bit;  this whole idea of Social Constructionism, and try to show City Council that this new approach to transgenderism is based on an assumption that there’s a particular lens through which we need to see the world, and that is this Social Constructionist lens.

But it’s only a theory. It’s a theory of a few academics in their white towers, dreaming up a way through which we’re going to see the world. There are many other theories through which to see the world, and one of the biggest ones, and one of the best ones, the best one, is a Judeo-Christian worldview. A worldview that sees the world really, truly as it is. And that’s the basis through which we should be building our laws and our policies. The sad, unfortunate reality is that many of the bureaucrats have accepted as fact this Social Constructionist view of things. So I’d love to able to explore that a little bit with the City of Hamilton.

And then also to explore the whole legal question of reasonable accommodation and balancing of rights. The City of Hamilton is in charge of all kinds of municipal buildings. Those include swimming pools, high school buildings that are often rented out in the summer for use of gyms, and so on and so forth. There’s a surprising number of bathrooms, washrooms, change rooms, shower rooms, etcetera that are under the control of the City of Hamilton. This policy that they’re considering is going to allow – if it’s approved – it’s going to allow any individual, for any reason, to self-identify as any of the two sexes, and be able to have access to any change room, washroom, shower. That’s problematic. There’s no balancing of rights there. There’s no reasonable accommodation going on there. Reasonable accommodation would say (that) transgender individuals – somebody struggling with their gender identity – let’s create a safe third space where they have the privacy to be able to change, or to use the washroom, or to take a shower as needed. That might be a reasonable accommodation. But to say (that) 50-percent of the population – all females, regardless of age, regardless of maturity – must give up their rights to reasonable privacy from the eyes of biological males, whether or not they identify as female or male, that to me is totally unreasonable. It’s not accommodating on behalf of the transgender community at all. I think that currently our Ontario Human Rights Code actually allows for the City of Hamilton to say “no, we’re not going to allow biological males access to female restrooms.” There’s actually an exception built into the Code to allow that. Of course, the Tribunal and the Commission aren’t drawing too much attention to that, because it doesn’t fit within their Social Constructionist view of things.

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