July 18, 2022 - 11:25am

News that a women’s prison in New Jersey has recently moved a transgender prisoner to a male facility after impregnating two females highlights a grim fact: that the movement we once knew as the Left has been colonised by an elite campaign to abolish material reality to the detriment of everyone else.

Demi Minor, a male serving 30 years for manslaughter, was housed in a women’s prison. This followed prison policy changes resulting from a court case pursued by the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of a transgender prisoner who sued the New Jersey prison system in 2019 for being refused the right to be moved to a women’s prison.

The ACLU won a negotiated settlement in June 2021 on this case, forcing the New Jersey prison system to house inmates by gender identity. Since then, around 27 transgender inmates have been moved to Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, despite feminist protests pleading for prisons to remain single sex. And the wholly foreseeable consequence has been prisoners having heterosexual sex, an activity which (in the days before we began taking Humpty Dumptyism seriously as a political project) was widely understood to come with a risk of pregnancy.

The fact that the ACLU pursued the right of males to be housed in a female prison while disregarding this obvious outcome is itself an effect of a longstanding elite belief that humans can and should pursue ever greater freedom from material reality: a project that’s fundamentally about technology. The pursuit of ‘gender identity’ over biological sex, for example, is downstream of technology levelling many obvious asymmetries between the sexes: work is increasingly knowledge-based rather than manual, while contraception has flattened reproductive asymmetries.

This made it seem possible that we could discard as outdated and ‘patriarchal’ all those social norms oriented toward making sure everyone works as much as they can physically manage, or else minimising the risk of socially costly unwanted pregnancies. In turn, this allowed many to imagine that we could treat biological sex as politically irrelevant, even to the question of whether someone is a ‘woman’ or not.

But sex dimorphism has not, in fact, gone away. Pretending otherwise only works to the extent that your daily life involves limited contact with material reality. Far fewer farmers or scaffolders see the world this way than lawyers or academics. Outside knowledge-class filter bubbles on both sides of the pond, most people know that sex is salient as ever: the UK campaigning group Sex Matters, for example, launched a new study today that shows quite how extreme the ACLU’s approach is. The survey revealed that 98% of the British public want to be able to change, shower and use the toilet in private, away from members of the opposite sex, an option now off the table for female prisoners in New Jersey thanks to the ACLU’s ‘civil rights’ campaigning.

Viewed from a materialist angle, the campaign looks unnervingly like knowledge-class self-dealing. For if you’re a female lawyer or charity worker, it isn’t in your interests at all to acknowledge that sex might ever be an issue. You wouldn’t thank someone for suggesting that your ability to perform in the workplace alongside male colleagues is in any way affected by your sex. A knowledge-class organisation like the ACLU is full of lawyers and charity workers and around 60% female. You’d expect its staff to be enthusiastic about a policy that aligns with their class interests, and whose downsides they’re never likely to experience.

‘Progress’, then, is increasingly the name we give to the elite-driven war on reality, whose benefits accrue at the top of the social hierarchy and whose negative externalities cluster at the bottom. Rather than engaging in futile ideological arguments against this covert class war, those on the side of reality should use reality’s weapons, and explore ways of obstructing the financial support that allows this assault to continue.

Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.