You get to be the sex you think you are (and everybody else has to acknowledge it).
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WELCOME TO THE Brave New World of “gender identity” versus stick-in-the-mud old “gender.” This subjective aspect—the demand that the world recognize you as what you think you are, simply because you’ve decided you are—is new. It turns out law and theory to support this new definition have been proliferating quietly for quite some time as well.
In other words, when we stodgy old conservatives, not attuned to the latest reverberations of the “progressive” world, think of a “transsexual” or (this is much more correct) a “transgendered person,” we’re probably imagining, say, Christine Jorgensen (if we’re really old) or Jan Morris, i.e., someone who made a good old Protestant Work Ethic effort to “transition” to the other sex. We are thinking of people who have at least put a considerable amount of effort and in most cases, a lot of money, like their life savings, into this illusory project of “becoming the other sex.”
The various stodgy old state laws (it is the states that control issuance of the all-important birth certificate) reflect this attachment to physical reality versus subjectivity. Most state laws are still like those in New York City, which, since 1971, has been willing to issue a “corrected” birth certificate to a transgender person provided he or she is able to prove, via a detailed medical record, that “the applicant has undergone ‘convertive’ surgery, which has generally but not exclusively been interpreted by the Department [of Health and Mental Hygiene] to mean genital surgery.”
This onerous surgery requirement has been excised in a several states but that’s hardly enough, say the gender activists. As lawyer Christopher Daley of the very activist Transgender Law Center explains, a transgender person is one “whose internal understanding of their own gender is different from the sex they were assigned at birth.…Transgender persons seek to live in accordance with the sex that takes proper account of the sex of their brain…” (The Transgender Law Center is apparently even so uncomfortable with the designations like “men’s room” or “women’s toilet” that they refer to “gendered” public bathrooms as “bathrooms intended for people who identify with a particular gender.”)
In the future, as Kristina Wertz of the Transgender Law Center puts it, all of official America will recognize “that gender identity is not dependent upon anatomy or the ability to access expensive medical treatment.” Wertz applauded the State Department for its June 2010 policy change, a small but important one, stating that applicants wishing to change the gender markers on their passports will only need to present certification that they have “undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition.” The State of Vermont has amended its law to say that “hormonal or other treatments” are sufficient for a sex change on a birth certificate.
Chaz Bono, one of America’s most famous female-to-male transgendered people, was a beneficiary of California’s liberalized law. On May 2, 2010, Bono was able to leave a Santa Monica courthouse officially a man, after the court’s acceptance of a vaguely worded letter from a doctor stipulating that he had “performed an irreversible surgical procedure for the purpose of altering Chaz Bono’s sexual characteristics from female to male.” (At the time Bono had had a mastectomy and lots of testosterone.) Meanwhile the press had never questioned that Chaz Bono was anything other than all man, from the moment the Chaz persona appeared on the scene and throughout “his” turn on “Dancing With the Stars.” When Hollywood Reporter reviewed the documentary Becoming Chaz, it obediently informed us that Chaz Bono “was a male trapped in a female body since birth.”
Outside of the Mainstream Media, there are, of course, still some dinosaurs skulking around who are not comfortable with the notion that you can change your sex by whacking something off and soldering something else on. There is the matter of chromosomes, and wombs, and the fact that the newly constructed genitals aren’t good for much of anything except just kind of sitting there—like a trophy, a symbol. They are useless for procreation. Both kinds of sex reassignment surgeries, female-to-male and male-to-female, render the recipient irreversibly sterile. And they are not too good for other uses either. As Chaz Bono explained on the David Letterman show, she has not been rushing the decision to get what the trans community calls “bottom surgery” because “you can end up with something functional but very small or something that’s more normal sized but without much erotic sensation.” (Chaz did admit that “There’s different ways to do the surgery, from real basic to more and more options. It’s like a car.”)
In short, the long-standing “surgery requirement” laws may have seemed silly when they first appeared, but they now stir up something like nostalgia. At least they are a nod to the idea that gender is rooted in anatomy, and that maybe human beings are defined by their role in the procreative project.
SO IS THERE SUCH A THING as “the sex of one’s brain”? Questions like this raged back and forth in 1966 when Johns Hopkins Hospital opened its Gender Identity Clinic and became the first hospital in America to do sex change operations. The doctors had a variety of opinions about why these operations were worth doing. Some, bolstered by a new genre of psychological theory, were downright messianic about “correcting the body to match the real gender.” Some seemed to feel that the surgeries were like a nose job or any other cosmetic surgery, a chance to make a body-part-obsessed person feel better. Some, like psychiatrist Paul McHugh, who did psychological screenings for the program, eventually became fiercely opposed. He saw other doctors’ relatively easy acceptance of the project as a kind of abdication of the professional’s role and a symptom of a social climate in which “all standards by which behaviours are judged are simply matters of opinion—and emotional opinions at that.” The new relativism was even reflected in new attitudes toward schizophrenics—who, increasingly, were deinstitutionalized as a matter of course and treated as if they were just expressing “a different lifestyle choice.” With a similar reluctance to “be judgmental” about someone else’s life choice, McHugh felt that patients were too often approved for surgery without much probing, out of “the spirit of doing your thing, following your bliss, an aesthetic that sees diversity as everything and can accept any idea, including that of permanent sex change, as interesting and that views resistance to such ideas as uptight if not oppressive,” he wrote in a scathing article for the American Scholar titled “Psychiatric Misadventures.”
“Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should,” wrote McHugh. In his intake interviews, the typical applicant claimed it was “torture for him to live as a man, especially now that he has read in the newspapers about the possibility of switching surgically to womanhood.” But “[u]pon examination it is not difficult to identify other mental and personality difficulties…” which McHugh believed, unless resolved, would follow the patient into his new body and torment him again after attaching to a new external target.
“It is not obvious,” he note, “how this patient’s feeling that he is a woman trapped in a man’s body differs from the feeling of a patient with anorexia nervosa that she is obese despite her emaciated, cachectic state.”
“We don’t do liposuction on anorexics,” he wrote. “Why amputate the genitals of these poor men? Surely, the fault is in the mind not the member.”
BUT THE STANDARDS McHugh complained about in the late sixties have become so entrenched, I may as well be quoting cuneiform off a stone tablet. Allowing some patriarchal white male Ob/Gyn to have the power to take a cursory glance at your baby genitalia and “assign a gender” doesn’t seem to fit in a world where “self-definition” has become a mantra.
And this may explain why, according to the New York Times, “a growing number of high school and college students…are pushing for the right to change their pronoun whenever they feel like it.” Katy Butler, one of those high school students, identifies herself as part of the “nonconforming gender community” and is one of those enthusiastic about “Preferred Gender Pronouns” (PGPs).
“You have to understand, this has nothing to do with your sexuality and everything to do with who you feel like inside,” Katy said, explaining that at the start of every Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning Association meeting, participants are first asked if they would like to share their PGPs.
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.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?