Cognitive dissonance and projection were the two psychological “defenses” that made the most sense to me when I was studying psychology. Projection is simpler to explain. Since we don’t have the ability to read other people’s minds, and therefore can’t know what they are thinking or feeling, coupled with the human desire to always be right, we “project” what we are thinking and feeling on to others. Without conscious awareness, we say to ourselves, “if I (the projector) said or did what they (the projectee) said or did, I would be feeling thusly, so that must be how they feel.” The same goes for facial expressions or body language. The process is rarely conscious, almost never discussed, so “their” feelings and thoughts become an article of faith, leading to countless misunderstandings, and not a few divorces.
To explain cognitive dissonance, I will use an example from my own life. At age 14 I was an explorer scout, specifically Sea Explorers. One day, 8 of us were engaged in the very tedious procedure of caulking the seams of our wooden boat, a 14 foot launch. In order to pass the time more quickly, I decided to convince my comrades that the Eiffel Tower was made of hard rubber, not steel. At first, they thought I was joking, then trying to trick them, but as I met every objection with a logical rebuttal, gradually all 8 were nodding agreement, and finally grew convinced of the truth of my original statement. When I saw that I had them, I informed them that I realized I was wrong, and set about demolishing my own previous arguments. That’s when I discovered the principle of cognitive dissonance. I could not get any of them (we were all 14, after all) to believe that the Eiffel Tower was not made of hard rubber! They had bought into a belief that they then felt honor bound to defend. Either that, or admit they fell for a trick.
I started noticing a lot of examples of cognitive dissonance. It seems that when people set aside logic and reason, or what they previously believed, and allow themselves to be convinced of something that they would have rejected as foolish before, they become invested in their new beliefs and will defend them vigorously, because otherwise they would be fools to have been convinced of the truth of something that is actually false. No one likes to be wrong. The dissonance part of cognitive dissonance is “since I now believe X, it is emotionally unsettling and intellectually threatening to believe not X, so I must gather evidence of X being true, and gather with people who believe the same. Make the evidence fit the narrative. Those are the defenses. Sound familiar?
Coming to the “gender is non-binary” irrationality, how does cognitive dissonance fit? I either discover, or am convinced by someone, that I don’t feel like the sex that my appearance says I am. I have to decide whether to believe my appearance/DNA/chromosomes, or my feelings. In the absence of support for those feelings, I might ask certain questions: how do I know just what my chromosomal sex should feel like? If I look male, and say I feel female, how do I know what a true female feels like? BUT, if I get adult support–teachers, medical, parental–for whatever I say I feel like, including offers of puberty blocking drugs, hormone infusions, surgery, then I have to commit to a direction. 1. decide to wait a few years while dressing and looking biological-sex appropriate, and see if I get more comfortable that way, and if those feelings I had intensify, I have another option; 2. drugs, hormones, surgery now. If I choose option 2 first, cognitive dissonance kicks in very very big time. Too much of a commitment has been made. And what again are the defenses? Fitting your life into the narrative, seeking out like minded people, media, authority. Does anyone who rushed into option 2 seriously say “I should have done option 1 instead?” A few.
It gets worse. If I am “the wrong sex”, maybe biological sex is invalid, and instead we call it “gender” and say it’s cultural. Society forced a gender identity upon me based on my birth genitalia. But wait, if that’s true, maybe there’s more than two genders. Why not? If society can force one lie on me, why not two lies? I decided I was a different gender than my genitalia, so why stop at two? People who want to force us into binary genders are evil. Welcome to cognitive dissonance in full flower. You better not object…you would be treading on all the bulwarks erected to keep the horrible truth that you didn’t choose option 1 first from becoming a major regret. If that explains cognitive dissonance working in the person who tried to change the appearance of their sex, how do you explain the actions of those who are self consciously male or female but still promote “transgender ideology”? In a word, POWER. If I can make an institution accept and then promote trans ideology, they will fall for anything. That’s the power of cognitive dissonance.
The very expression “non-binary”, is used to undermine the biological basis of sexual identity. If there are only male and female, “binary” would be irrelevant. Why? Binary implies an alternative. If you believe you are male, or female, that’s what you call yourself: “I’m a woman” or “I’m a man.” There is no other option, but introducing “I’m non-binary” implies it’s all a personal choice. If you are ‘non-binary” , you are saying what you are NOT. Then what ARE YOU? You could be anything.
Go ahead and watch the movie, Unstoppable, with Denzel Washington and Chris Pine. Here’s a review: “When a massive, unmanned locomotive roars out of control, the threat is more ominous than just a derailment. The train is laden with toxic chemicals, and an accident would decimate human life and cause an environmental disaster.” Hmm. That train is moving.