Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

I’m not talking about a coin.


Apparently, International Women’s Day was last week, nestled neatly inside of the American regime’s chosen month to celebrate women’s history. Yet, whether it's sports, politics, fashion, or advertisement campaigns, the highest-achieving “women” these days are increasingly turning out to be men.

Conservatives waging a just culture war on transgenderism always get a kick out of men winning awards once reserved for women alone. And they should. Images of unsightly men in drag not fooling anyone is right to elicit a laugh. Aristophanes and Shakespeare recognized as much. It’s not just conservatives either—clips of Bill Maher and South Park instantly come to mind. But transgenderism is just the latest development in a string of ideologies that share one unifying thought: Men and women are the same. And if conservatives want to win the current culture war, they might be uncomfortable with the strategy that will win it.


On Wednesday, Jill Biden bestowed one of the White House’s International Women of Courage Awards to a man. That man is Alba Rueda, a "transgender woman who was kicked out of classrooms, barred for sitting for exams, refused job opportunities, subjected to violence, and rejected by her family. But in the face of these challenges, she worked to end violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ plus community in Argentina,” according to the White House.

At the age of 16, Rueda changed his first name under the delusion that he is actually a woman. And for the last three decades, Rueda’s political activism has been a series of search and destroy missions against those who refuse to affirm his delusion. 

He began campaigning simultaneously for the recognition of same-sex marriage and alternative gender identity in Argentinian law in the mid-2000s. While working for the National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism, Rueda went without pay for two years in an attempt to force the government to affirm his identity as a woman, which the government did in 2008. Argentina legalized gay marriage in 2010. In 2012, it passed a gender identity law that allows at-will changes to a person’s registered name, image, and sex with the Argentinian government and requires hospitals to cover hormone treatments and gender transition surgeries under the country’s Compulsory Medical Plan.

Despite receiving the government’s permission to change his records, Rueda did not change his identity document, the Documento Nacional de Identidad (DNI), until 2019. The move, it appears, was partially spurred by a lawsuit Rueda filed against the Archbishop of Salta, Abp. Mario Antonio Cargnello, because the archbishop refused to update Rueda’s baptism and confirmation certificate after Rueda was asked to become the godmother of a friend’s child.

Cargnello refused to completely rewrite Rueda’s church documents, as that would be against canon law—a law that the archbishop said “ignores legal fictions.” He did agree, however, to write in the margins that the government had agreed to affirm Rueda’s gender identity, hoping to avoid a lawsuit from the litigious LGBT lobby. That wasn’t good enough for Rueda, who sued anyway, arguing that the gender identity law mandates a complete replacement and affirmation of his chosen gender identity. The child’s baptism was delayed for two years as the lawsuit went through the courts.


And as his reward, Rueda has been appointed the Undersecretary for Diversity Policies in Argentina’s Ministry of Women, Genders and Diversity. The Argentinian government has also empowered Rueda to export his vision abroad as Special Envoy for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship.

From his early days in politics, Rueda seems to recognize something that many currently embroiled in the culture war over LGBT issues do not: The liberation of sexuality and gender are inextricable. So-called allies of the LGBT political movement reduce the commonality between divergent sexual and gender identities to supposed oppression of bodily autonomy. Alleged “anti-woke” liberals who occupy centrist positions in both the Democratic and Republican parties fail to recognize this truth too.

But transgenderism and marriage equality cannot be separated because they rely on the same fundamental premise: There is no real difference between men and women.

The attempt to rationalize this belief, whether in the context of homosexual marriage or transgenderism, is full of epistemological and ontological pitfalls. Proponents of gay marriage argue that same-sex partners can equally fulfill the duties intended for a man or a woman in a heterosexual relationship. Because there is no substantive difference between the nature of heterosexual or homosexual marriages, there must not be any actual difference between men and women.

Transgenderism, or at least the most mainstream iteration of the ideology, essentially posits the same thing, though a bit more messily. Its core claim, that men can become women and women men, is just another extension of the logic to justify gay marriage; it achieves this by claiming that sex, a biological reality, is distinct from gender, a psychic or spiritual reality. If a born male can occupy the roles of women in relationships or any other societal role in spite of their biology, then why can’t men actually be women by bringing the body in line with the soul?

Sometimes even advocates of transgenderism have difficulty accepting their own claim that sex and gender are completely separate. If sex is divorced from gender, then why try so hard to change your body, down to the molecular level, to take on the aspects of the opposite sex? Why is it a matter of life and death for allegedly trans children to receive puberty blockers, double mastectomies, or gender-affirming surgeries (funnily enough, operations previously known as sex-change surgeries)? If gender is purely the realm of mind, and body has no bearing on it, then why is there even a concept of trans health care? But if gender be truly divorced from sex, then all the xis and the zims and the zers have it right: If gender occupies purely the realm of mind and can be determined individually, why would gender be limited to just two if biological reality hasn't any bearing on gender? 

The only way out of this conundrum and the only way to keep the dream of men becoming women and women becoming men alive is to assert that there is no difference between men and women—that we are all just an interchangeable mass of humanity.

It’s not just the LGBT movement that makes this claim, however; it is also the essential premise of feminism—not just in its current iteration, but since the very beginning. Feminism’s hyperfixation on reason and the realm of the mind severs the connection to the physical world. 

When it comes to feminism, conservatives are often caught playing the same pointless game as the anti-woke liberals trying to separate gay marriage from transgenderism. “First wave feminism was good,” they proclaim, “the real problem is second, third, and now even fourth wave feminism,” as if the answer to our current ills is simply a matter of turning back the clock.

Some good things came from first wave feminism. But, these developments are correct political conclusions from improper premises. This happens all the time in politics—even atheists and progressives have pro-life organizations.

Regardless, the hard truth remains: Feminism—every wave of feminism—must be taken out root and branch for conservatives to win the culture war. Long before Betty Friedan called marriage in the mid-twentieth century “comfortable concentration camp,” Mary Wollstonecraft, an English radical who supported the French Revolution in her 1790 work A Vindication of the Rights of Men, called marriage “legal prostitution” for its accompanying economic security. In 1792, she expanded upon the foundation she laid in the Rights of Men in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, the work she is most remembered for and the reason that she’s considered by many to be the mother of feminism. 

While the title of the work is evocative of the Enlightenment’s obsession with rights and liberty, Rights of Woman centers predominantly around virtue. The core of Wollstonecraft’s argument is that both women and men have the capacity to reason, and that providing women with the same legal and political rights give women the means to inculcate and habituate virtue. “Unless virtue be nursed by liberty, it will never attain due strength,” Wollstonecraft writes.

Certainly, this line of argument is sensible for Wollestonecraft's time. But Wollstonecraft’s foundation has made feminism an ideology that does not assert women’s distinctiveness from men but their likeness. Her attention to the universality of virtue at the expense of gendered particulars led to a feminism unable to grapple with the nuance that inevitably accompanies lived reality. Building from Wollestonecraft's foundation, feminism became an ideology hostile to women, crusading against any difference—natural or conventional—between men and women.

To prove the likeness between men and women, Wollstonecraft asserts, like others before her, that virtue is universal. Rather than virtues being divided between the sexes and men getting the better lot, she “maintain[s] that [the virtues] have the same simple direction,” as God is definitionally universal and perfectly virtuous.

There is nothing to take issue with Wollstonecraft’s assessment here. But establishing that virtue in the divine is by definition universal and perfect leads her to make an unnecessary error.

Wollstonecraft argues that since acquisition of virtue is foremost a rational exercise, and both men and women are creatures of reason, the intellectual formation of virtue must be the same between men and women, “instead of trying to make [the virtues] more pleasing by giving a sex to morals.” This explains why Wollstonecraft's foremost political prescription is co-education for boys and girls—a cause that the feminist movement continues to take up to this day, though now devoting their attention to higher education disciplines still dominated by men, such as engineering.

But the formation of virtue cannot be achieved purely through thinking. If virtue has any temporal value, it must be in activity. Action takes place in the physical, natural world as a man or woman, not in the world of pure mental abstraction or ideals where he is but a mind. Therefore, exercising virtue requires us to give sex to morals.

Wollstonecraft does recognize that there are clear and abundant differences on how the two sexes act out, or fail to act out, the universal virtues. Furthermore, she recognizes that biology remains a vital component in some institutions that carry the capacity to inculcate virtue—namely marriage and childrearing. While Wollstonecraft claims to “highly … respect marriage, as the foundation of almost every social virtue,” since parents are the first to imprint their children with virtue, her respect for marriage absent children seems to only go so far as the general belief that any properly ordered institution presents an opportunity to foster virtue.

Yet ultimately Wollstonecraft accounts for sexual distinctions in exercising virtue by suggesting that the universal virtues’ bearing on the particular are social conventions born of pragmatism and tradition (tradition being something she lambasted in her Rights of Men). “Women, I allow, may have different duties to fulfill; but they are human duties, and the principles that should regulate the discharge of them, I sturdily maintain, must be the same,” Wollstonecraft claims.

But if all convention is just an arbitrary construct without any tie to a transcendent reality, then why can't all convention be remade? The idea that if only the particular can be done away with, then only the universal will remain has been present in feminism since the beginning. This is why modern feminists are so committed to overcoming all gender conventions. Absent these conventions, there would be no difference between men and women; any discrepancies that remain between men and women are a result of the continued patriarchy.

If women are the same as men, then men are no different than women. The harsh reality for all the girlbosses out there who are now losing awards to biological men on International Women’s Day: Feminists have gotten exactly what they’ve wanted: a world that believes there is no meaningful difference between men and women. Now, the world has taken that idea to its logical end.


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