An extremely interesting and important case came before the Western Australia (WA) Supreme Court this week, involving an appeal by parents opposing the wishes of their child, who identifies as transgender and sought to undergo a sex-change procedure.
The child is female and, aged 15, sought to transition to a transgender male – a standard procedure offered by the Perth Children’s Hospital. When her parents refused to agree to this, she threatened to commit suicide and was taken into care by the WA Department of Communities. Legal proceedings then commenced against the parents, and they were found by a Children’s Court magistrate to have acted in an “abusive and neglectful” manner towards their daughter.
In one sense, the appeal is moot, because, once the child turns 18, she will be able to avail herself of the transitioning procedure irrespective of her parents’ views. The parents, however, brought the appeal as a matter of principle because they believe they have been treated unjustly.
The Western Australia government – which funds and promotes a Child and Adolescent Gender Diversity Service – is defending the magistrate’s decision, and the appeal is to be heard by Western Australia’s Chief Justice, Peter Quinlan. Justice Quinlan is noted for his so-called ‘progressive’ views, which he regularly expounds in lengthy extrajudicial speeches – a fashionable pastime engaged in by many judges in Western societies these days. Last month, for example, he delivered a speech on what he described as the “pervasive and insidious current of sexual harassment and gendered discrimination in our culture and in our workplaces”.
It even included a personal mea culpa. “In the decades in which I have been part of the legal profession, there have been countless examples in which I witnessed or heard about harassment or discrimination but was too ignorant, wilfully blind or simply afraid to stick my head above the parapet to call out what, as a lawyer, I should have been ethically bound to name and condemn,” said the judge.
Irrespective of the outcome of the appeal, it is important to attempt to understand how these parents came to be in the predicament in which they find themselves. Forty years ago, it would have been utterly unimaginable. Today, however, it is becoming commonplace in many Western societies, as the ideology of transgender rights takes hold and is uncritically implemented and enforced by governments.
In the United States, for example, one of the first acts of the Biden administration was to introduce comprehensive legislation dealing with ‘transgender rights’. And there is currently legislation before the Victorian state parliament in Australia that makes it a criminal offence for parents to counsel their children against gender reassignment.
Three key aspects of the Western Australian parents’ situation are particularly noteworthy. First, their fate is possible only in a society in which the family has been destroyed as an autonomous institution – a process that has been proceeding apace since the early 20th century. The family was a core institution of bourgeois society in the 19th century – and it operated independently, governed by values very different from those of the marketplace and dominant political ideologies. The historian Christopher Lasch detailed the decline of the bourgeois family in his book ‘Haven in a Heartless World’ – a very apt description of its original role and function.
In the 19th-century family, parents had sole responsibility for the care, education and upbringing of their children, and the law gave them virtually unlimited authority to perform these tasks. With the decline of the traditional family, the state and its ever-expanding army of social workers, health professionals and counsellors have now taken over the functions formerly performed by parents, and parental authority has, in effect, been abolished. This is precisely the situation the Western Australian parents find themselves in. Not only have they been denied the right to care for and protect their daughter – as they see it, and according to their personal values – but their child has been taken away from them by the state.
Second, as with many other formerly autonomous institutions – universities, the courts, churches and cultural institutions – the family and children have been dragged into the realm of the marketplace, where they are compelled to comply with the political ideologies of the globalised elites that now govern most Western societies. This process – mistakenly described by conservative intellectuals as ‘the culture wars’ and mischaracterised by them as a left-wing phenomenon – has intensified over the past 40 years to a degree that it is now probably irreversible.
So, why have the parents in Western Australia been branded as “abusive and neglectful”? Because they had the audacity to challenge a fashionable, state-sponsored dominant ideology: that of so-called ‘transgender rights’. And for this transgression they have suffered the obligatory punishment meted out to those who act in such a manner: they have been parentally ‘cancelled’.
The third aspect of what has occurred is perhaps the most troubling. It would be bad enough if the fashionable ideology under which these parents have been persecuted was reasonable and rational. But it is not – it is patently unreasonable and frankly irrational. The fact is that most of the ideologies of the globalised elites – including catastrophic climate change, critical race theory and #MeToo feminism – are inherently irrational. They are nothing more than self-indulgent forms of moral posturing that are intrinsically incapable of solving the problems that they purport to cure. (If anyone doubts that proposition, they should ask themselves whether critical race theory has improved race relations in America recently, or whether #MeToo feminism has improved relations between the sexes).
These ideologies developed progressively and ever more irrationally from the late 1960s onwards in order to protect a Western globalised economic order that refused to meaningfully reform itself. Posing falsely as radical doctrines, they are deeply conservative at their core, replacing class and social categories with biological categories according to which privileges and ersatz ‘freedoms’ are handed out to favoured groups, while leaving economic inequalities and real social problems untouched. Progress is defined biologically rather than socially and economically. The irrationality of these doctrines is, of course, intensified by the categorical refusal of their adherents to permit any criticism of them to be made.
It isn’t easy for individuals to challenge state-sanctioned dominant ideologies, even at the best of times – and it is particularly difficult to do so in most Western societies these days. Being ‘cancelled’ is not a pleasant experience. Nevertheless, it is important that such challenges are made – and the parents in Western Australia are to be commended for the courageous stand they have taken against the formidable array of ideological and institutional forces confronting them.
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