BLAH, BLAH, TESTING TESTING
The world is all ga-ga over Caitlyn Jenner – formerly Bruce Jenner – who has become a poster-child for the transgendered. Jenner, over the course of a few years and man surgeries has transformed himself superficially into the form of a woman.
A friend of mine reflected on an associate who had undergone a similar process. He went abroad for the surgeries, spending a great deal of money. Post-operations, talks with my friend – a woman by birth – revolved around “girl talk.” As my friend described the “girl talk” it sounded like what a guy thinks is girl talk rather than the things that girls actually talk about.
In my observation of transgendered men on the street or browsing in a bookstore, what I see is a highly stylized versions of femininity, and only a superficial one at that. This stylized affectation focuses on a very narrow slice of those cultural touchstones of what our society views as feminine attributes – looks, voice, walking in high heels. I’ve not seen a transgendered person adopt the plain jeans and workshirt of a woman who works on a farm as their everyday fashion. Can a transgendered man do those quiet, beautiful things that are emergent qualities of being a woman. The nurturing, the empathy that seems unique to women, the ability to abide as women do. I doubt many do.
There are many women in my life, they range in manner and appearance from girly-girl to ranch hand. Whether they are teaching dance or lugging hay, they are women in ways that transcend what they wear, how they sound and the shape of their bodies. Transgendered men are caricatures of women. Being a woman is more than curves, fashion and keeping whiskers at bay. Calling a transgendered man “she” or “her” is absurd.
In an article in First Things, Paul McHugh describes those who believe they are women who need to be released from a man’s body are people who need help and counselling. Hugh writes from his experience at Johns Hopkins University. Like a bulimic who believes they are overweight, a person who is genetically a man but thinks they are a woman are simply wrong. It is as misguided to perform surgical changes to do “sex reassignment surgery” as it would be to perform liposuction on an anorexic. Both acts put medicine in the position of encouraging a delusion. McHugh further reports that among those men “transformed” into women, the chances of that person committing suicide increases 20 fold. Given this, it seems profoundly cruel to encourage it.
Alas, our society makes celebrities out of people who need help and create incentives for them to wallow in their pathology. Mental illness, unlike other illnesses, is one in which the illness itself gets to vote in how its victim is treated. It is cruel for the rest of us to vote along with it, and congratulate the illness for its bravery and ourselves for our tolerance.
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