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I never thought I’d be writing an article like this. The subject matter isn’t something I worry about on a daily basis, nor is it something I have spent much time considering in my casual hours. But since there seems to be no bigger story in the world at the moment, I will comment here on the transformation (so called) of athlete Bruce Jenner (yes, my fellow Englishman, I’d never heard of him prior to this month either) into a trans-woman called Caitlyn.
My thinking about this has been prompted by an article of quite remarkable lucidity published on Glenn Beck’s media outlet ‘TheBlaze.com’. It is entitled ‘Calling Bruce Jenner a Woman Is an Insult to Women” and was authored by the conservative blogger Matt Walsh.
Here is a summary by quotation:
“(Bruce Jenner) is a mentally disordered man who is being manipulated by disingenuous liberals and self-obsessed gay activists. Far from having the appearance of a genuine woman, he reminds me of someone who is being abandoned to his delusions by a culture of narcissistic imbeciles..
“A woman is a woman not merely because of whatever cosmetic feature a man might vaguely emulate. A woman is a woman because of her biology, which Bruce does not share and never will. A woman is a woman because of her capacity to create life and harbor it in her body until birth, which Bruce cannot do. A woman is a woman because of her soul, her mind, her perspective, her experiences, and her unique way of thinking, of loving, and of being — all things Bruce can only mimic….
“’Bruce Jenner Unveils New Female Self’. Um. What? You don’t get to have a “new” self or another self… Your self is your self. It’s your being. It’s your essential personhood; your particular and unrepeated character… A self can only be what it is…We’re talking about a sex change like it’s an Apple product. With this kind of language, we have not only made the self mutable, we’ve also commodified it and turned it into a spectacle that can be sold for profit. This is a bastardization of our humanity on a scale and to a degree that wouldn’t have even crossed the tortured minds of last century’s most prophetic social critics.”
Before adding my own viewpoint, I feel compelled to first make clear my attitude to homosexuality (something not exactly relevant here, but usually a revealing marker of general sexual-political worldview). In my view, people have the right to do whatever they wish to each other providing both parties are consenting adults. Persecution of minority communities by the state is an evil phenomenon and one with much innocent blood on its hands. And in any case, no government should ever be allowed to extend itself into the bedroom of ordinary citizens. With that said, religions must be free to remain true to their scriptures, and if a Holy Book describes homosexuality as wicked, its believers should be free to hold and express that view, so long as they do not incite violence or crimes against the person.
For me, the question raised by Mr Jenner is not whether he should be allowed to do what he has done, because that should only involve his own private court of judgement, but whether we teach our children that Bruce Jenner is now literally a woman, or whether he remains a man. It is, as Walsh argues, a question about the nature of reality.
Bruce Jenner is not a woman by any scientifically valid method of consideration. He is a man down to his bone marrow, and will always be. He is a father and a grandfather to his children and children’s children respectively, and will remain in that role until his demise. He cannot become pregnant. He is much less likely to develop breast cancer than an actual female. He will always be physically stronger than any natural member of the sex he aspires to join. He once was a masculine man and he is now just a deliberately androgynous man.
I’m aware that it is convention to use ‘she’ and ‘her’ when talking about men who have made the transition to female, but as conventions go, I find this one rather sinister. Should you use those words in front of a child, you risk interfering with his/her developing perception of reality. Naturally, children must one day learn about transgenderism and homosexuality (in fact, I am one of those dastardly liberals who believe it should be taught in school) but when they do learn about these things, they should be taught a neutral outsiders view, rather than an inside account with an insiders glossary.
I can’t agree with Walsh that calling Jenner ‘mentally disordered’ is in any way warranted. It’s bad to be cruel, especially when talking about someone who doesn’t wish us any harm. While the causes of gender dysphoria remain a mystery, it’s probably best to live and let live.
… And to leave sexual categories as they are.