Ian O'Doherty: 'Boys in skirts? We're all doomed! Except we're not. It's harmless'
Here we go again.
In the last few years it seems we have all become addicted to anger and indignation.
Someone says something you don't like?
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Get 'em sacked. Not only that, but if someone doesn't agree with you enough? Well, then they're not an 'ally' and deserve to be exiled from the main street of public life.
It's an increasingly black and white world which sees people forming opposing sides on every issue they can think of, and then spend their time merrily insulting each other.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the increasingly complex world of identity politics.
Transgender politics has now become an astonishingly vicious battleground.
In this environment, both sides obviously think they're right. They also happen to think their opponents aren't just people with a different point of view, but that they're positively evil.
Of course, activists on any issue and for any cause tend to be the worst people in the room - obsessed with their own righteousness and convinced of the bad intentions of everyone else, they are invariably incapable of having a rational discussion without having a nervous breakdown.
It looks like the transgender revolution has now properly landed in this country with the news that from next school term in September, boys attending St Brigid's national school in Greystones will be allowed to wear skirts as part of the uniform, and the girls will be allowed to wear trousers.
What is the world coming to? Madness! This is a sign that we're all doomed! The transgender movement wants to ruin our kids!
That was the reaction from many of the online nutter brigade and plenty of other observers who should know better.
The common argument was that that this is merely the thin end of the wedge and another sign that the world is falling apart.
Except it's not.
In fact, it's just bloody stupid to freak out over kids being given a new option for their uniform. That doesn't mean that there are wider questions, of course. The fact that it was a child-led initiative, with the teachers immediately acceding to the demands of the pupils has led people to argue that we're now, in this age of Greta Thunberg, allowing children to dictate policies which used to be the preserve of the grown-ups.
But even if the school is just engaging in a bit of the now obligatory virtue-signalling, the one element that has been missing from both sides of the debate is also the most important - the harm principle.
The harm principle, as first expressed by John Stuart Mill in the 19th century is quite simple and, for those of us a libertarian bent, the closest thing to a Commandment.
It is as noble and pure a guide to life as anything you'll find in religion and it states that: "no one should be forcibly prevented from acting in any way he chooses, provided his acts are not invasive of the free acts of others."
So who, tell me, will be hurt by a few lads wearing a skirt? Let's be honest, most of those that do will probably be doing it for a bet, or maybe they fancy experimenting a bit - and they're not harming anybody.
Perhaps the most sensible course of action would have been just to allow everyone to wear the school tracksuit. But since when has the sensible option been used in this country?
There are undoubtedly issues which need to be explored when it comes to transgenderism, and they need to be explored with a degree of common sense which has been strikingly absent.
For example, any woman who doesn't want to share a changing room with a man isn't denying the right of transgender people to exist, they just don't want to share their space with someone with male genitalia. Which is entirely understandable.
Similarly, there are other issues around self identification as a woman, and Germaine Greer is right when she says men can't just appropriate the experiences and struggles of the opposite gender.
But the idea that allowing a bunch of 11-year-old boys to wear a skirt to school will turn a generation of young fellas into wannabe women is simply fatuous - no more than being taught about homosexuality made me want to be gay. You are what you are, and being taught about the experiences of others won't automatically make you want to join in - it just gives you a better perspective.
It's simply a case of live and let live, a principle we seem determined to eradicate.
Although having said that, the unisex loos in the school will be a disaster. After all, when young girls get to see how utterly disgusting lads can be, they'll never want to date one...