You get to be the sex you think you are (and everybody else has to acknowledge it).
I am used to surprises from the New York Times—a newspaper so far from me culturally and politically it might as well be a daily bulletin about life in a parallel universe—but last August I read a personal essay in the “Modern Love” space of the “Styles” section that really brought me up short. “My Husband is Now My Wife” (quite a tabloidy title for this genteel newspaper) was about the deeply ambivalent day the author escorted her husband to a hospital for surgery in which he would “take his first surgical step into womanhood.”
I’m a jaded ex-Manhattanite, awright? “Sexual reassignment surgery,” as it is called, is not news. I know about the clinics in Colorado where they slice up existing organs and then do Play-Doh sculpturing with the tissue that’s left. The surgery thing has been going on since the sixties. And I know from cross-dressing. On my Upper West Side block it was not uncommon to encounter a neighbor—skinny, middle-aged, bald pate surrounded by a cap of stringy graying locks—taking his daily constitutional…on roller skates, wearing a tiara and a pink tutu, blessing passersby with a Tinkerbell wand.
So it wasn’t the soo-last-century, Dude-Looks-Like-a-Lady part that startled, it was the part near the end where the author lets slip that all her fussing about losing a husband and gaining a wife was actually over a hospital stay in which her husband would have “facial feminization surgery, a not uncommon procedure in male-to-female transitions, in which a surgeon carves out a more femininely proportioned version of a male face.”
“In my husband’s case,” she wrote, “this meant higher eyebrows, a smaller nose and a more pronounced chin. A few months later, his Adam’s apple would be shaved down and he would receive breast implants.”
Almost as if it was an afterthought, she added “genital surgery would follow” on some unspecified date.
OK, he hadn’t had the genital surgery yet. It was unclear if he ever would. Certainly, for the average woman, the breast part could be hard to take. But the point is, at the moment, “Husband” had just messed around with his face. So what entitled him to claim membership in the sorority of majestic, complex, mysterious creatures called Women? It was actually a bit presumptuous. (If I were a feminist I would say, “How very male.”)
But here we had our author, one Diane Daniel of North Carolina, telling herself sternly that she must remember to stop referring to Husband with “him,” “his,” and “he.” We meet the couple’s therapist who has been “suggesting for months” that Daniel “use female pronouns at home” when addressing Husband, even before he went into the hospital:
“I will when I need to,” I’d told her on our last visit. “But for now he’s still a man to me.” I’d turned to my husband, dressed in jeans and a black button-down shirt. “When I look at you, hon, I see a man.”
“But she’s a woman,” our therapist countered, her words slicing through my denial.
By the end of the essay, Daniel has re-educated herself. Now she gently corrects nurses when they use the “incorrect” pronoun:
“After he eats a little something, we’ll give him pain pills,” a nurse said.
“Could you say ‘she’?” I asked gently.
Once I looked in to it, I found more “Modern Love” columns where it was just assumed the reader has already accepted that “gender identity” (what you decide you are) trumps “gender assigned at birth” (what your body says you are). There was, for instance, the woman who started her essay by writing, “Before we met, my partner had changed names from a female-sounding one to a male one…”
…and by the time we were together, everyone we knew either called him by this new name or spoke of him with male pronouns. He identified himself as a transgender man, woman to man. It wasn’t until two years after we began dating that he decided to have his breasts removed. For him, chest surgery was the next step in transitioning genders, a symbolic and physical gesture of leaving womanhood behind.
This essay, written by a younger woman than Daniel, was much more philosophically evolved. Apparently this boyfriend, girlfriend, whatever, hadn’t had any medical interventions at all. She merely “identified himself as a transgender man” and began dressing as a man (what does that mean nowadays anyway?) and that was enough, the author says, for everyone they knew to either call him by this new name or speak of him with male pronouns.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online