Children love to play ‘make-believe’. Younger children are often enamored with inanimate but active objects like bulldozers and tractors. We’ve probably all seen toddlers zoom around the room with their arms straight out to the side pretending to be an airplane. As they get older, make-believe becomes more complex and social. Children join together in groups of two or more and pretend to be cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians or mommy or daddy.
Though not perfectly accurate, ‘make-believe’ is very descriptive of the cognitive process involved. Children use their imaginations to ‘make’ (as in, to create or fabricate) a ‘belief’ for their purpose of play and entertainment. What they create isn’t really a belief so much as a fiction which they will themselves to accept on a temporary basis as a predicate to their preconceived plan to have fun. Adults naturally understand what they’re doing and often play along to be helpful and encouraging. Importantly, neither the children nor the adults have any misconception about what is real during any part of this process. The children always remain aware that they aren’t actually airplanes, cowboys or parents and the adults understand that the children are not deluding themselves or anyone else.
The ‘make-believe’ associated with the gender identity issue is quite different. The belief created isn’t a temporary acceptance of an acknowledged fiction. Rather, it is the embracing of one’s personal feeling or desire as a proxy for objective reality. The ‘belief’ created is long term and adopted as an individual’s chosen ‘reality’ rather than momentary and adopted only to serve a passing purpose. Regardless of what one might think of an individual’s decision to delude himself in such a manner, those who value liberty and individualism have little problem leaving him to his decision so long as it isn’t being imposed on anyone else. But the calculus changes when he or his agents take action to impose his chosen false sense of reality upon others.
California recently enacted the “Gender Recognition Act” which will allow citizens of that state to change the gender on their birth certificates and driver’s licenses without having undergone any treatment or surgery. Further, those who do not identify as either male or female will now be able to choose a third option – “nonbinary” – essentially declaring themselves to be genderless or gender ‘neutral’.
Some may suggest that California is doing no more than the adults in the childhood make-believe scenarios – trying to be helpful or encouraging to those who’ve chosen to delude themselves as to the biological reality of their gender. But the State of California is not an individual adult acting only for himself in the context of an isolated event of childhood play. It is the state and experience well demonstrates that the actions of the state often have much wider implications than might first appear. The state’s willingness to give its imprimatur to that which is objectively untrue rightfully gives rise to questions about what might follow with respect to policy initiatives, funding, or even the potential of protected class status for those who ‘believe’ themselves to be that which they are not. Should such wider implications materialize, the liberties of citizens who choose not to affirm such objective falsehoods may be jeopardized or disadvantaged.
Winston Smith, the lead character in George Orwell’s “1984”, got into trouble with the government because he wrote that “freedom is the freedom to say two plus two equals four.” His antagonist and representative of the state was a party official named O’Brien. O’Brien showed Winston four fingers and tortured Winston until he finally acknowledged an objective falsehood – that O’Brien was holding up five fingers. It’ difficult to imagine that California will resort to torture to force it’s citizens to acknowledge the objective falsehoods it has chosen to countenance as reality. The potential coercions we could more realistically envision are gentler but no less an affront to individual liberty. Torture isn’t necessary for tyranny to exist. Torture is only one means of denying a person his individual rights. It would be tyrannical for California to take any action to affect an individual citizen’s willingness or ability to affirm objective reality. Just as “freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two equals four”, freedom is the freedom to say that a boy is a boy or that a girl is a girl.
California’s residents should be on guard. Now that it has officially sanctioned make-believe on official documents, its citizens should be alert for any indication this official position may spill over into other government actions which aren’t as benign as gender designations on driver’s licenses and birth certificates.