Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that she will step down is a major victory for reality. First minister in 2014, Sturgeon presided over a Scotland marked by declining life expectancy and rising drug and alcohol deaths. But it was ultimately her inflexible and incredibly unpopular decision to push through a Gender Recognition Reform Bill that ended her career.

In an attempt to distinguish Scotland from the rest of Britain, Sturgeon took it upon herself to brute-force the country into ultra-progressivism. Under her gender bill, it would have been possible for anyone over the age of 16 to claim to be the opposite sex without any diagnosis of dysphoria or surgery. In other words, sex would become not a matter of biology, but a matter of purely subjective self-identification. Individuals would have to wait a mere three months to receive a certificate.

This fantastical policy immediately collided with reality, however, in the form of “Isla Bryson,” a Scottish male convicted rapist who decided to identify as a woman and was duly placed in a women’s prison. Sturgeon’s failure to take a clear line on the situation and her inability to state whether Bryson is a man or a woman reduced her, as gender ideology has so many, to utter incoherence. In a fit of derangement, Sturgeon accused anyone who opposed the bill of being homophobic, misogynistic, and racist, as well as transphobic.

Meanwhile, Sturgeon’s gender bill was blocked by the UK government on the basis that it would compromise pre-existing equality legislation—a move Sturgeon initially tried to present as Westminster attacking Scottish democracy. But Sturgeon’s gender bill was extremely unpopular with her own people, with a mere 21 percent agreeing, and 59 percent opposed. She jumped before she was pushed.

“What some dismiss as a minor ‘culture-war’ issue in fact matters to a great many people.”

Sturgeon’s resignation is hugely significant. It demonstrates that what some dismiss as a minor “culture-war” issue in fact matters to a great many people. Gender activists will tell you that this is about letting a small number of people live their lives without prejudice, and that we should accommodate the concerns of the marginalized.

But a moment’s reflection will reveal the massive implications of overturning thousands of years of the shared understanding that human beings are either male or female: Spaces will no longer by segregated by sex, but by feelings (although the feelings of those who don’t want to share their spaces are, of course, ignored or even punished). Women and girls, who have fought for same-sex spaces and competitions, are pushed into second place, literally and symbolically.

Language matters, and nowhere more than in law. It was a mistake to use “gender” as a synonym for “sex.” What perhaps began as a squeamishness about using the same word for sexed reality as for the act, has turned into a cover story for extremely bad policy. If gender is an inner feeling that no one but the person experiencing it can describe, and yet everyone else is forced to go along with it, this is tyranny. Public life isn’t a laboratory for ideas best left in university seminar rooms.

Sturgeon’s folly is a warning to other leaders who don’t take heed of reality or listen to their people. Whenever people stand up against supposedly “progressive” policies, it isn’t because they are somehow stuck in the past (and even if they were, we would be foolish to imagine the past has nothing to teach us). Most people know very well what’s true. And they want, above all, to protect others, particularly children, from irreversible folly.

“No debate,” the slogan so often invoked by gender ideologues, will ultimately culminate in “no mandate” for those who impose transgender ideology from above, as Sturgeon has learned to her cost.

Nina Power is a senior editor of and columnist for Compact. She is the author of What Do Men Want?: Masculinity and Its Discontents.


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