Mission Impossible

Just twenty years ago the question of whether a person was a man or a woman was an obvious common-sense matter guided by clearly recognized conventional markers. Of course, some people were gay men or lesbian women, and they were easy to recognize, too. A very small number of trans-sexual people (as they were called in the 1980s) typically abided by conventional norms and would pass as men or women by so disguising their sex that most people would not know that their gender presentation did not align with their sex.

But from the early 2010s, all this changed. Queer gender theory got leverage in the academy, and got legal. Laws, therapeutic practices, and “inclusive” educational and institutional reforms kicked in, and, of course, the new 24/7 online world of the iPhone generation took up being queer and trans in ways that totally bypassed family and community norms. By 2020, a public declaration that men are males and women are females had become, in some contexts, approaching a burnable heretical offense.

How did this all happen so fast?


Paul Tyson is an Honorary Senior Fellow at the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, University of Queensland, Australia. He has authored seven books in philosophical theology, and recently co- or sole-edited four important collections in the “science and religion” domain.

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