Over at Rod Dreher’s blog, some of the more conservative commenters have wondered whether the transgender issue will be the alternative-sexual rights agenda’s Thermidor. People who shrug at the idea of two men or two women setting up housekeeping or even calling it “marriage” are not all that inclined to take kindly the idea that if they are male and date women, they should be perfectly willing to date an MtF transgendered person with no questions asked, for one thing. For another, women--those of us born female, that is--are not too thrilled with the idea that only irrational bigotry could make us unwilling to share bathrooms, changing areas, dressing rooms, and other female-only spaces with people who claim to be female but who were born male, who still have male anatomy, and who, despite thinking of themselves as some sort of women, are in fact still sexually attracted to women.
At the most extreme, this sort of thing can lead to unintentional humor, as in this post of Rod’s from last week:
A generous reader sent me a delightfully Dreherbaity New Yorker article on the Iran-Iraq War the war between radical feminists and militant transgender activists. “Radfems” can’t stand male-to-female transgenders, and won’t let them into the movement because they believe they are really privileged males trying to pass as women. Transgenders can’t stand the radical feminists for obvious reasons. It has gotten very, very ugly, with transgender activists pressuring venues to deny Radfem conferences an opportunity to gather there, given their stance on transgender.
Read the whole thing, if you can stand it.
The promoters of the alternative-sexual rights agenda like to compare their struggles to the civil rights struggles of the recent past, but this is one notable example where the comparison breaks down. An African-American man can’t simply decide he is a white male born in a black man’s body, and demand that everyone respect his inner race; the struggle for equal rights in the African-American community was always about people being treated as less than fully human based solely on an immutable characteristic.
But the alternative-sexual rights promoters can’t have it both ways: gender and sexual orientation cannot be at one and the same time so innate and immutable that we must permit gay “marriage” in the name of equal rights and yet so fluid and changeable that a man can declare he is really female, despite his male sex organs, his XY chromosomes, and the fact that puberty for him did not involve painful breast development and the discomfort of menstruation. It should be noted that the vast majority of transgendered individuals are not people who were born with ambiguous genitalia or an intersex condition; they are, by and large, fully biological men who wish to be women, or fully biological women who wish to be men.
And to point these things out is not being hideously unkind to people who suffer from gender identity disorders, any more than it would be unkind to point out to your friend John Smith that he is not actually Teddy Roosevelt despite thinking he is. Now, John may insist on being called Teddy; he may want you to hum “Hail to the Chief” when he enters a room, and he may wish to be addressed as Mr. President; I’d have to check with Mark Shea, but I don’t think that the kindly-intended participation in the very real delusion someone might be suffering from constitutes lying. But one could certainly cross that line, and I think it would be crossed if you encouraged “Teddy” to have plastic surgery so he looks like historical pictures of Teddy Roosevelt, or if you hired a band to play “Hail to the Chief” when he enters the room, or if you campaigned on “Teddy’s” behalf to force the Secret Service to give him an escort under some sort of notion that society owes him this much.
We should treat people who suffer from gender identity disorders very kindly. But we do not have to go out of our way to enable their delusions or clamor alongside them for society to re-order itself to suit their conveniences. There is a clear line of sanity, and I think that when we begin speaking of pregnant “men” or of “women” who have fathered children we have crossed that line.