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The nonbinary marathon, and the public’s duty to speak up

There are occasions on which things just need to be stated plainly. One such thing is that there are only two sexes. Every human being who has ever been born has been born into a body that is either male, or female. Those bodies confer abilities and limitations upon us that are binary.

As somebody born into a male body, your author cannot bear a child, regardless of any surgery, treatment, or state of mind. To compensate, the natural strength and fitness levels of a man are higher than those of a woman.

It is therefore a racing certainty that the new “nonbinary” classification in the Dublin City Marathon will be won by a man. It does not matter what that man calls himself, or what those people trapped in the Emperor’s New Clothes fairytale insist that he is: He is a man, and he will have defeated “nonbinary”people who are female on the basis that he is a man and has strength that they cannot attain.

Reacting to the news, campaigning group The Countess said the following:

“The introduction of a non binary category is a step towards the erasure of sexed categories. In a marathon that already has over 60% male participants, Dublin Marathon have now introduced a new category, which will divert funding for prize money that will almost certainly also go to a male athlete.

The introduction of any category that prioritises feelings or identity over fairness is inherently wrong.”

Are they wrong?

Sports, of course, often has categories other than male or female: There are special categories for those of differing abilities, including for the disabled or the young or sometimes, like in golf, for the old. The difference between those categories and a category based on “nonbinary gender identity” is that the other categories are designed  to promote competitiveness within set physical limitations. A person in a wheelchair cannot fairly compete with a person with the full use of their legs, but they can compete fairly with another wheelchair user. In other words, categorisation within sport is and always has been about celebrating people who excel within the limitations placed upon them by reality.

But “nonbinary” is not a limitation. And if it is a limitation, it is one a person has chosen for themselves. It is a special race for people who feel different, not people who are different.

There’s a natural trend in public opinion on issues like this just to turn the other way to avoid having to have a troublesome opinion: It doesn’t affect me, people think; or they conjure up some form of apathy along the lines of “sure let them at it” or “it’s none of my business”. The problem with that is that apathy about things like this is the best friends of the undiagnosed mental patients who persistently push this nonsense into more and more spheres of public and private life. The marathon becomes no longer a race; but a public statement of validation. If the Dublin City Marathon, of all things, recognises that a person is non binary and therefore special, what hope does a regular employer, or parent, or teacher have to objecting to a “nonbinary” person’s demands for special recognition disrupting a workplace or a school or a home? You might think that this is all harmless, but every time one of these things is indulged in one sphere of life, it becomes inexorably harder to resist in another.

For example, there are many parents out there who might wish to avoid having a public debate about all of this nonsense, but be quietly resolved to protect their children from it. That becomes much harder when events like this open up classroom discussions about what it means to be nonbinary. They open up doors for those whose most heartfelt desire, for some reason, is to allow your children to “explore their gender expression”.

Resisting this nonsense by calling it nonsense might appear, on the face of it, to be unnecessarily confrontational and aggressive – and Irish people are not naturally confrontational, at least with each other. But confrontations are often necessary, even if they upset the people who are being confronted, and even if those people are often sort of vulnerable or perhaps slightly damaged. The alternative to confrontation is acceptance.

If we accept that you can get yourself a special category in a race simply because you feel that your imagined identity merits getting one, then where does that end? It is a concession without a limiting principle. There is no particular reason why each runner should not have their own special gender category. Or why there should not be a category, for example, for 30 year olds who identify as children. If the basis for what you are is not objective reality, but what you imagine you are, then we have ceased to live in the real world and brought into reality a kind of multiplayer computer game, where grown men can pretend to be warlocks and shades battling an evil horde of transphobes.

It is all imaginary, and it is being indulged. If you believe it is nonsense, you have a duty to say so, even if it makes some grown man cry in his dress.

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