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Jenner Thoughts

Recognizing that anything I write on this subject will be offensive to somebody, I decided to plow ahead regardless. Batten down the hatches; here we go.

While surfing the web, I stumbled on an article in Canada’s National Post that introduced me to the concept of “transabled” people. According to the article, transabled individuals feel like “imposters in their bodies” and have an overwhelming desire to create some kind of physical disability in themselves. Such was the case with a man who now calls himself “One Hand Jason” when he deliberately sliced off his own arm with a power tool in order to feel normal.

Granted, this kind of compulsion is extraordinarily rare. The article identifies only 37 people worldwide who identify themselves as transabled. But in light of the current media frenzy surrounding Bruce Caitlyn Jenner, I think it’s a phenomenon that challenges the rigid cultural authoritarianism that has sprung up in the wake of Caitlyn’s Vanity Fair cover photo.

The conventional wisdom is that everything surrounding Bruce’s transformation into Caitlyn should be celebrated as brave, bold, and wonderful. Conversely, no one is permitted to publicly deviate from that opinion even in the slightest degree. One programmer created a bot with the handle “@she_not_he”  for the purpose of “scrubbing Twitter, looking for anyone who uses the ‘he’ pronoun in conjunction with Caitlyn Jenner’s name.” And when actor Drake Bell tweeted, “Sorry… still calling you Bruce,” he was raked over the coals by both the press and the public and ultimately forced to delete the offending message. He has repeatedly apologized, but it’s still not enough. Twitter users continue to call on him to deactivate his account and, in the words of one especially harsh critic, “deactivate his life.”

Apparently, tolerance for Caitlyn is as mandatory as intolerance for anyone who disagrees.

For my part, I think kindness is always a good approach. If Bruce Jenner wants to be called Caitlyn Jenner and wants me to use the “she/her” pronouns to describe she/her, I’ll be happy to comply with her wishes. I don’t know Caitlyn Jenner personally, and I don’t feel like I’m in any position to pass judgment on her. I wish her and her family nothing but happiness. In any case, nothing about this entire episode will have any personal impact on me, and I don’t want to waste even a minute of my life getting upset over it.

That said, I think the unanimous applause for what Caitlyn Jenner is doing is drowning out many legitimate questions that society ought to be asking.

For instance, how are the drastic changes Caitlyn is making to her body all that different in kind from what One Hand Jason did to himself in order to feel comfortable in his own skin?  If we know someone’s about to slice off their arm, would we tell them, “Hey, if it makes you feel better about yourself, have at it?” I don’t think we would, yet we don’t apply that same logic to our approach to transgender surgery. In addition, we don’t celebrate those who commit suicide because they loathe their own bodies, but how are the desires of such people so different from Jason’s or Caitlyn’s? If a person feels compelled to surgically alter themselves in irreparable and potentially disabling ways, shouldn’t we do everything possible to find psychological solutions before putting anyone under the knife?

It’s also odd to me that the arguments used to applaud Jenner’s choices are precisely the opposite of arguments made against anti-gay bigotry. If you’re gay, you’re born that way, which means that you need to find happiness with who you are rather than try to be something you’re not. But if you’re transgender, you ought to take radical action to surgically alter yourself in a way completely contrary to how you are born. Isn’t that wildly inconsistent? Shouldn’t the emphasis be on accepting who we are rather than taking extreme measures to try and transform ourselves into something we can never be?

Because the cruel fact is that Caitlyn Jenner will never truly be a woman, at least not biologically. Sure, she can use feminine pronouns and make all the cosmetic changes she likes, but her DNA and internal organs will remain decidedly male, and nothing she can do can change that.

I recognize that even these questions will likely brand me as a hater or a “transphobe,” and that’s unfortunate, because these are questions born of genuine concern, not hatred or fear. Indeed, it’s hatred and fear that are being used to silence legitimate discussions and vilify anyone who departs from the media-enforced orthodoxy. Those praising Caitlyn for her bravery ought to be brave enough themselves to consider other points of view.

Post-American Possibilities
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23 Comments

  1. Last I read about it (a while ago) the going theory is that trans-abled people have a problem with their neurological body-map. Their body-maps do not include the body-part in question, so their brain perceives it as a foreign object. Strange as it sounds, I fully support their decision. We can’t change a body map, so removing the body-part is the only option.

    I likewise read that there were signs that at least some trangender individuals have signs of similar body-map problems.

    Once again, if this is the case, then transgender really is what they are, and needs to be accepted.

    Another issue: I’ve actually been on a date with a transwoman. However, this particular transwoman, while biologically classed as male, showed a lot of signs of being genetically XXY (although she has yet to be tested genetically), and was quite androgynous.

    So, in many cases “accepting who you are” can actually mean accepting an identity as transgender.

    As for respecting the opinions of people who don’t accept this: I respect their right to speak freely, it doesn’t mean I have to respect what they say. Especially not when they’re targeting an extremely vulnerable group, with an incredibly high suicide rate. They’re bullies, plain and simple.

    • Certainly bullying is never appropriate. The problem is that even legitimate questions are categorized as bullying in order to silence any dissent.

      As for high suicide rates, it’s worth noting that transgendered individuals after surgery have a suicide rate 20 times higher than the general population.

      • I think you missed my point: I believe that at least a large portion of that suicide rate is the result of bullying. We’re talking about a group that’s discriminated against in almost all aspects of life (try finding a transgender CEO), far more so than gays, and the media often uses the fact that they even exist as jokes. Are there other factors? Maybe. But those certainly contribute.

        Did you have any opinion on neurological or genetic factors?

        • I’m not disagreeing with you. Bullying is definitely a factor. But asking legitimate questions isn’t bullying.

          Certainly there are neurological or genetic factors, which I do not have the training or expertise to understand. Regardless, I think compulsions to amputate healthy organs should be addressed psychologically rather than surgically.

          • Refusing to call someone by their preferred name is not “asking a legitimate question,” it’s being a jerk.

          • Well, okay. But the outrage and vitriol in response to that tweet are far out of proportion to its jerkiness.

          • And that’s a point on which we disagree. To me, the act is intentionally malicious and revolting. There’s no rational reason to call him “Bruce,” any more than there’s a rational reason to call any other person who legally changed they’re name (unrelated note: singular they is awesome), so I see it as purely malicious. It’s just trying to be spiteful.

            Should he get threats of death or violence? I certainly don’t think so. But, I also don’t think such threats should be aimed at the Westboro Baptist Church or the Klan. And I don’t consider what he did a lot better than those “peaceful” demonstrators.

          • All right. I don’t want to defend the guy for being a jerk.

    • You should find someone more to your disliking; me perhaps, to argue with. But it’s not my blog and I doubt a pointless argument will be permitted.

      So I’ll lay it out. I have a conflict between my pedantic “words have meaning” self and my libertarian instinct and desire to avoid conflict.

      I will not call two men “married” who claim to be married to each other. I have walked away from a 40 year friendship over this; he insists I call him married, I refuse, end of story, end of companionship. I still like him of course and I suppose he feels likewise, but his demand is unacceptable to me.

      I will not call a man a “woman” or vice versa. I am willing to compromise on a new word but we are going to need many!

      Consider a person born male, who transgenders to what he calls female, but cross-dresses as a male! What is he to be called? Is “he” sufficient? Is “she” sufficient? No. Is it important to have a pronoun for all these combinations? No; but English requires gender specific pronouns for reasons not obvious to me. When I learned a little of foreign language I was amazed to discover furniture has gender — tables, chairs, things like that take gender specific pronouns and you’ll create endless amusement by getting it wrong.

      HE is more than male. Male speaks only to reproductive function. So what is a man? He embodies the masculine principle which includes male, but also includes everything that God or Evolution (or both) have designed for masculinity. I’m probably about a “4” on that scale; a geek that barely managed to reproduce BUT I have a very strong sense of duty and a protector instinct for society itself (hence my Navy career).

      So for sure, a person that is male but has abandoned the masculine principle doesn’t deserve to be called “HE”.

      SHE is more than female. I am less qualified to offer a description of a woman; but a man is not a woman. That is my pedantic part.

      There’s a GAP, a grey area neither male nor female, neither man nor woman, and it is filled with a small but noisy growing number of people that seem to want the benefits of both while being neither.

      I am libertarian. Do what you like. I shall do likewise and that will include not calling a man a woman or vice versa. If that means saying nothing at all to that person, so be it.

    • “Another issue: I’ve actually been on a date with a transwoman.”

      That tells me nothing. You seem to assume your readers know what that is.

  2. “If we know someone’s about to slice off their arm, would we tell them, ‘Hey, if it makes you feel better about yourself, have at it?'”

    We will in 2020.

    “In addition, we don’t celebrate those who commit suicide because they loathe their own bodies, but how are the desires of such people so different from Jason’s or Caitlyn’s?”

    This will likely be another big civil rights push for euthanasia enthusiasts some time within the next 10 years.

    “If a person feels compelled to surgically alter themselves in irreparable and potentially disabling ways, shouldn’t we do everything possible to find psychological solutions before putting anyone under the knife?”

    It depends on the person and the situation.

    “Because the cruel fact is that Caitlyn Jenner will never truly be a woman, at least not biologically.”

    Some people simply have no intention of acknowledging reality.

  3. I have no issues with Jenner’s decision. It’s his/her choice, and, like you said, that choice doesn’t affect my life at all.

    However, I do have many issues with Jenner’s decision to go public with it to make money. The interviews, the magazine cover, and the accompanying article are all publicity stunts to promote the reality show that is coming. And my objections to this have nothing to do with the sex change — I share the same objections to the many stunts that all the Kardashians pull in the name of promoting their reality show.

    • I don’t have a problem with Jenner’s decision. I don’t care. I also don’t have a problem with him capitalizing on his decision either.

      If there’s a market that wants to view his show, I say go for it even though I myself won’t be watching.

      It’s bizarre how profit somehow became a dirty word in America, when it’s the basis of how a strong economy works.

    • Strange as it sounds…I’m with Moisture Farmer on this. 0.o

      If the show promotes tolerance towards people who are different, I’m all for it. If Mrs. Jenner makes a profit off of it, so be it. She’s doing good, let her be rewarded for that.

  4. Oh Good Grief. I think you’re being a tad bit melo-dramatic here.

    I really wish the Boomers hadn’t trained Millennials to be perpetually offended.

    • That was in response to this:

      And that’s a point on which we disagree. To me, the act is intentionally malicious and revolting. There’s no rational reason to call him “Bruce,” any more than there’s a rational reason to call any other person who legally changed they’re name (unrelated note: singular they is awesome), so I see it as purely malicious. It’s just trying to be spiteful.

      Should he get threats of death or violence? I certainly don’t think so. But, I also don’t think such threats should be aimed at the Westboro Baptist Church or the Klan. And I don’t consider what he did a lot better than those “peaceful” demonstrators.

    • I have as much of a right to be offended as people have right to offend me. Yes, free speech includes offensive speech, but a disturbing number of people seem to think saying “I am offended” somehow violates people’s right to offend me.

      • “I don’t play colleges but I hear a lot of people tell me, ‘Don’t go near colleges, they’re so pc.’ My daughter’s 14. My wife says to her, ‘Well, you know, in the next couple of years, I think maybe you’re going to want to hang around the city more on the weekends so you can see boys.’ You know, my daughter says, ‘That’s sexist.’ They just want to use these words. ‘That’s racist. That’s sexist. That’s prejudice.’ They don’t even know what they’re talking about.”

        http://www.breitbart.com/video/2015/06/04/seinfeld-comedians-tell-me-dont-go-near-colleges-theyre-so-pc/

        • …and this has what to do with treating trans individuals with respect? Are you saying that addressing a person in the manner they prefer is too “PC” for you?

          • “The student-teacher dynamic has been re-envisioned along a line that’s simultaneously consumerist and hyper-protective, giving each and every student the ability to claim Grievous Harm in nearly any circumstance, after any affront, and a teacher’s formal ability to respond to these claims is limited at best,” Schlosser wrote.

            http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/were-in-the-midst-of-a-college-revolution-and-liberals-are-leading-it/article/2565566

            http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/06/04/meet-the-least-powerful-people-in-the-academy/

          • “Are you saying that addressing a person in the manner they prefer is too PC for you?”

            I address people in the manner that I prefer, taking into account their preferences if I am aware of it. So do you. If you choose to be called God, I will probably not conform to your preference.

            In the 1970’s some people were “black”. It was an easy identification even though hardly anyone is actually black. Then it became African American; a phrase that has no precise meaning and is a euphemism for black. The phrase seems to be used only by journalists and colleges.

            With an ever-increasing proportion of mixed race marriages and people the usefulness of “black” is somewhat limited and very few “African” Americans are from Africa rather than Pittsburgh.

            Then came “people of color” which is semantically identical to “colored people”; the former is used by journalists and colleges; the latter, despite meaning the same thing, is prohibited.

            Either has no meaning since all people have “color”; some more than others.

            Native American is another nearly-meaningless PC term. Sometimes I list myself as Native American simply because I’m certainly not native of anywhere else. NATIVE: late Middle English: from Latin nativus, from nat- ‘born,’ from the verb nasci .

            How about “differently abled”. That’s everyone!

          • “Schlosser’s conclusion conveniently fails to follow through with the obvious next question. If students have ‘a stifling conception of social justice’ that leans heavily on silencing dissent and policing speech and thought rather than engage on ideas, where did they learn it? The answer, for anyone who has attended either college, or paid attention to the proliferation of speech codes, development of ‘safe rooms and speech zones,’ and the use of ‘triggers’ to accuse people of harassment for what used to be rational debate, is pretty clear.

            This is a stalking horse for censorship, not coincidentally of the same kind that college campuses have either encouraged or imposed for more than a generation on their students. The next generation will now experience ‘higher education’ as an echo chamber, one in which teachers ensure that no cognitive dissonance enter the lives of those going into deep debt to experience what can only be considered an intellectual day-care, run by the toddlers. Those students have now become the masters. The academics created this monster, and now it has come for them. And us.”

            http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Opinion/2015/06/04/Why-College-Professors-Are-Afraid-Teach-Millennials