March 15, 2006

"Are the gender-bending freakazoids of the world becoming pointlessly mired in P.C. dogma and victimhood?"

Simon Doonan asks.
Are the increased sensitivities of a previously tough marginalized group sucking all the life—not to mention the joie de vivre—out of the very cause that they are supposed to serve?
Good questions, though I don't think persons who have physical difficulties ought to feel obliged to amuse us. The more disturbing problem he raises is that transgenderism has become a fad, enticing many young persons to do drastic and irreversible things to their bodies:
The recent LOGO documentary series TransGeneration followed the lives of a group of deadly earnest college kids undergoing gender reassignment. (I predict that the majority of those featured will live to regret doing something so drastic at such a young age, but, with tranny politics abounding, there was no room for common sense.)

37 comments:

Dave said...

"The more disturbing problem he raises is that transgenderism has become a fad"

This trend, such as it is, likely exists only on college campuses.

I hardly can see the majority of uneducated Americans divining the secrets of gender.

Ann Althouse said...

Dave: Those young people will graduate, and the results of surgery will remain with them. It's not merely an intellectual fad!

Gaius Arbo said...

The politics of victimhood has led many groups into hopeless isolation from the mainstream. I think it ruins their message and actually slows (or even reverses) gains for their agendas.

Al Maviva said...

I hardly can see the majority of uneducated Americans divining the secrets of gender.

Agreed, Dave. For that, one needs a PhD in Literary Critical Theory from Harvard.

Dave said...

Ann: I don't mean to say that it's an intellectual fad.

What I meant to say, and perhaps did not make clear, is that the majority of people who become aware of purported gender issues of their own come to know these issues in the highly politicized atmosphere of college campuses.

I can't see a blue collar community, for example, pondering how many transgendered angels dance on the head of a pin, if you will.

Simon said...

I think Tammy Bruce had it right in THE DEATH OF RIGTH & WRONG. Transsexuality is the only form of mental illness we treat with major surgery. If transexual politics prevailed, every mental patient would get exactly what they wanted, no matter how injurious to their health and long term recovery: "What's that, Harry? The aliens are tracking you via a chip in your arm? You want us to remove it? Well, it seems kind of weird to me, but whatever you say, Harry - off with the arm it is!"

Bruce Hayden said...

A lot of fads are not that worrisome. But my understanding is that gender reassignment surgery effectively sterilizes the patients. This is a pretty extreme decision to be making at that age - permanently giving up the ability to have biologicial children. At least with tatoos, procreation is not impaired.

While the fully transgendered probably do fine with their new hormones, I wonder whether taking the opposite hormones for one's sex, while still physically of that sex, is that good. Maybe there won't be permanent damage for a short period of time, but afer that?

Bruce Hayden said...

I did think that the question of the Butches turning into macho truck driving type guys at Smith was interesting. What to do about them? I would think that they would be almost the worst thing that schools like that could allow on campus.

Ann Althouse said...

Bruce: Even taking the hormones of your own sex has dangerous side effects. They stopped routinely prescribing estrogen to treat menopause.

I think we ought to assume that the natural condition of our body is superior to anything that could be changed by adding artificial ingredients (or cutting things off and reconfiguring) -- even if your natural condition is that you feel like a member of the opposite sex. Why must that be regarded as a medical condition to be corrected? If that's you, be you. I really don't understand why the radical gender studies ideas support the medical intervention.

Simon said...

" I really don't understand why the radical gender studies ideas support the medical intervention."

Don't you think that it's the logical endpoint of the mindset that says people should be able to do whatever they want with their bodies, regardless of societal norms? From the standpoint of the irrational mind, treating mental illness with surgery is entirely rational. Indeed, it seems to me that being pro-choice where abortion is concerned practically compells believing that people should be allowed to make their own bodily choices at any cost. This is where the left is leading you; it is a perfectly "logical", within that paradigm, to support people choosing whatever they want.

Ann Althouse said...

Simon: I would think the gender studies conclusion would be that it is NOT mental illness and therefore it needs no treatment. A person seeking treatment is buying the conventional idea that there is something wrong with his natural state. I see treatment as retrograde.

Bruce Hayden said...

Ann,

I don't diagree. My point was not that hormone treatment is good, but rather that a short term treatment may not do permanent damage. Of course, the surgically transgendered almost by necessity need to take hormones of the opposite sex for the rest of their lives - though they won't be fighting the effects of the body's own sex hormones, as is the case of those in transition (or just playing around).

It is nothing that I would do, nor, obviously, would you. I am sure that it is not good for their bodies - but not sure how bad it is if done for a short time.

Bruce Hayden said...

Again, I agree with our esteemed hostess. We are talking doing either potentially serious or actual physical harm to their bodies, and that would seem to run contrary to the Hippocratic Oath (which apparently is not required anymore of many/most new docs - but is an ideal).

Michael Farris said...

I agree that actual full scale sex change is a very serious lifelong choice, but of course adults should be able to make that choice. If some choose wrongly, then that's really no concern of ours. Is there any data on the percentage of people who regret full scale sex changes?

And last I know (perhaps somewhat outdated) a person had to publicly live full time as the sex they wanted to become for a serious amount of time before anything irreversible could done in terms of surgery. I'd think that that would cull those following a whim or fad. It's hard work doing that for an extended period of time and only the very highly motivated would be likely to follow through with it.

I don't regard the major forms of surgery as 'treatment' though, more as elective cosmetic surgery.

Bruce Hayden said...

I am not a fan of cosmetic surgery, but I do think that gender reassignment goes quite a ways beyond most cosmetic surgery.

Yes, presumably those undergoing the surgery are legally adults, and so are legally competent to make that decision. Yet, I am still troubled by it, esp. at that age. After all, even though full majority is 21, judgement, esp. in men, apparently isn't fully developed until around 25. (of course, because of that, and because I am older than 25, my solution would be to raise the age of full consent to that age).

Fatmouse said...

I believe that competent adults can do as they wish with themselves.

But if you're obsessed with cutting your johnson off, you're NOT competent.

There's a disorder called apotemnophilia - the obsessive notion that your body is somehow "wrong" and the only way to fix it is to lop off a hated finger or leg.

Article:
http://www.rense.com/general11/arms.htm

When you move away from the politically-charged sexual angle and just look at the insane desire to mutilate one's body, treating transexuality with surgery is like treating schizophrenia by getting each personality its own driver's license.

Tom C said...

Forgive me if this analogy isn't working, but how different is this set of kids from other previously normal kids (who succeeded in High School) turning themselves into drunken Animal-house caricatures? Some of these kids never fully recover. Although it's not always a permanent change, isn't it the same impulse, at least? To prove you have control even if it means crashing the plane? (Mixing analogies with metaphors early in the morning is always dangerous!)

Simon said...

Fatmouse - I'm sympathetic to what you're saying (as my previous comments would suggest), however, don't you think you could have found a more reputable source than www.rense.com?! I suppose that it's vaguely interesting that even a militantly liberal site is promoting something fatal to their support of transsexuality, but none-the-less, it fatally undercuts the credibility of the idea. A more reputable link, for example: http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=38441

Or even:
http://encyc.bmezine.com/?Body_Integrity_Identity_Disorder

Simon said...

Tom C,
For that analogy to work, you would either have to have GRS carried out BY the patient, or have alcoholism actively induced by doctors. That's what is at issue here: one can't stop a man from turning himself into the spitting image of a reaver, but one could at least oppose society from condoning such behavior, and certainly prevent surgeons from being complicit. It is a violation of the hippocratic oath, as far as I'm concerned; in AGAINST DEPRESSION, Peter Kramer reflects on a patient he counselled for depression, who - after her recovery - accused him of negotiating with a foreign power which had assumed control of her body. As the patient saw it, mental illness had essentially taken over her body, and it was the illness that was calling the shots; by counselling "her", Kramer was actually (as she saw it) negotiating with an occupying power instead of trying to expell it. This metaphor strikes me as being at least interesting; the idea that mental illness takes control of a patient and so carrying out actions seemingly requested by the patient is actually akin to talking to the hostage-takers rather than to the patient has unusual force when one is dealing with decisions which have permanent effect. We're talking things like gender reassignment surgery, suicide, things of that nature.

The analogy from Kramer's patient seems appropriate. Why is it that in GID, instead of treating the mental illness, we feed it? Why is it that we assume - ONLY in the context of GID - that when a person who is mentally ill asks for something that we are negotiating with the patient rather than the disease? The idea of mental illness as an occupying power has chilling implications for doing what the patient wants rather than acting in their best interests. A doctor may not be able to prevent his depressed patient from committing suicide, but he would clearly be in violation of the hippocratic oath if he helped the patient commit suicide; a doctor may not be able to prevent his bulimic patient from vomiting their food, but he would clearly be in violation of the hippocratic oath if he prescribed the patient nausea-inducing medication. I don't see how it is different to say that a doctor may not be able to prevent his GID patient from self-mutilation, but surely, that doctor, too, would be in violation of the hippocratic oath if he operated on the patient.

AlaskaJack said...

No matter what kind of intellectual musings we may fall prey to (i.e. Judith Bulter's theory that "gender is fluid"), we can never completely get rid of those ancient ideas of "nature" and "natural". When faced with something like medically induced "gender reassignment", these old concepts rise up and say "that's weird, that's crazy."

There's a guy in my town who is convinced that he is a bird (no kidding!). He walks around wearing a large pair of wings that he has somehow attached to his back. It would't take much effort for some intellectual to explain (and celebrate) this behavior as a wonderful example of the next level of creative autonomy: trans-speciesism.

"Trans-speciesism", this may well be tne next great accomplishment of the autonomous self.

Michael Farris said...

"It would't take much effort for some intellectual to explain (and celebrate) this behavior as a wonderful example of the next level of creative autonomy: trans-speciesism."

You folks on the rightwing need to get out a little more ... haven't you even heard of _Furries_ before? (Go ahead google it, start reading and looking and listen to the sound of your soul breaking into a thousand tiny pieces).

Ann Althouse said...

AlaskaJack: ""Trans-speciesism", this may well be tne next great accomplishment of the autonomous self."

"South Park" already did it. "Mr. Garrison's Fancy New Vagina." Possibly the greatest episode of all time.

Freeman Hunt said...

haven't you even heard of _Furries_ before?

Hilarious. The first time I heard of these, I was certain the whole idea was a joke. When I googled them and found out that they were real, I laughed myself to tears.

Fatmouse said...

Simon,

Heh, I didn't even look at the site's root. How ironic... Anyway, I just wanted to find a site discuassing it that wasn't pornographic (and it's freakin' amazing how many "amputee fetish" sites there are).

Michael Farris,

"You folks on the rightwing need to get out a little more ... haven't you even heard of _Furries_ before? "

Puh-leez, furries are so 1997. The new freakshow is "Otakukin," people who believe they were anime characters in a past life. :)

Hey said...

As for the argument that College age kids are "adults" and that the requirement to live as the other gender before reassignment surgery for a year (the typical period) provides sufficient protection and confirmation that peopel are serious, all I have to say is LUG. Lesbians Until Graduation are notorious in the Lesbian community, where straight girls play at being lesbian (especially at Liberal colleges like Smith) and then go back to being straight, typically with a marriage fairly soon after graduation. I can see TUGs being at least as easy, especially with those who want to shock and transgress and have to go much farther these days, whereas once simply being out was enough.

It's easy enough to be a transvestite for a few years in college and then go back when you join the real world, but it's impossible to reverse being a transsexual. Playing at gender roles (for at least a very short period) is common amongst everyone, i.e. frat boys in drag, and elevating it (at least in youth) into a political identity is wrongheaded.

One thing that these people are doing is to set themselves up for a Darwin Award.

Al Maviva said...

Exactly, Jack. And who are we to say he isn't a bird? Society is so cruel to the avianically oriented, with it's false patriarchal notions of "bird" and "not a bird"...

Jogen Shukla said...

I wonder how many John Varley (or Paul DiFilipo) fans there are here? While I myself can't see joining these transgenders on my way to womanhood I bet that these people are merely the vanguard to what will be common place in 50 years or less.

In Varley's Universes, gender switching was quite common (as was extended life spans). And while his SF remains unlikely to materialize, I don't think he was pulling ideas out of nowhere. Freedom + technology will create new subspecies of humans because gender, to a large degree, is determined by the culture in which we reside.

In DiFilipo's Universes human genomes spliced with other species is common place. This is not too far fecthed. And these young transgenders are the vanguard to the weirdness to come. Besides, that which is medically impossible today (sterility due to transgender surgery) will not be so in the future.

SteveR said...

"I bet that these people are merely the vanguard to what will be common place in 50 years or less."

I'm not seeing Charles Lindbergh here.

Michael Farris said...

"Puh-leez, furries are so 1997. The new freakshow is "Otakukin," people who believe they were anime characters in a past life."

Yeah, I know. But I really don't think Ms. Althouse's readers are ready for that. (Not to mention vores or maskers or any other sexfreakiness du jour)

PatCA said...

I saw a family on CNN where the teenage girl declared herself transgendered and a boy. The parents and little sister were all there talking about how supportive they were. My heart ached for all of them, trying so hard to be PC and clearly in agony. First, the girl is too young to make this decision. Second, what kind of bizarro family puts this on international TV?

I would agree with Ann that we should assume that the natural condition of our body is superior to anything that could be changed by adding artificial ingredients, but as a doctor pointed out to a group of us in a speech about post-cancer hormone treatment, we are not living a natural life now; if we were, we'd have babies at puberty and be dead by 50 (if we're lucky). So the tinkering is in effect. How far to go is the question.

Michael Farris said...

"all I have to say is LUG. ... I can see TUGs being at least as easy."

Maybe I'm heartless and/or a bad person, but ... so what? If it's not TUG it'll be some other dumbass thing.

You can't protect the foolish or self-destructive from themselves. If they make it to the age of 21 and still haven't learned that choices have consequences then I wash my hands throroughly of what happens to them.

I could probably be convinced to up the 'live as the other gender' for two years and some serious mandatory counselling before any non-reversible surgery happens. But that's about it. The only way to make sure that no person regrets a sex change operation would be to make sure that no one can get a sex change operation and that's too restrictive IMHO.

amba said...

Gee, if stem cell research goes ahead, plus a little genetic engineering, you could grow yourself your own penis or vagina. From a cheek scraping.

Seriously -- college age kids don't know who or what the hell they are as it is. I agree with the commenter who said there should be a minimum age of 25 (you have to be 25 to rent a car, fer chrissake). That would give you plenty of time to try living as both genders, and to calm down a little.

vw: uluvujfa (which sounds like some sort of very confused trans- or intergendered organ in itself)

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for the John Varley reference!

Many of the FTMs I've met have not done the bottom half of the surgery; it's really expensive, and more dangerous for a woman than for a man transitioning to female. There's a greater risk of ending up peeing in a bag for life.

It may be my age, but I too have misgivings about this. My suspicions for the increase of FTM surgeries is that there's an internal misogyny at work; maybe these younger women see feminism as having failed them. I dont' know. The L Word has a character transitioning as subplot, and one of the characters said something to her/him that resonated with me (maybe just because it was Pam Grier, and everything she says sounds good to me): that we (gay women) are losing part of our culture, our butches, our warriors. It's purple prose, but I get it, and I agree. Give me a stone drag king anyday.

And yet, Varley's universe appeals to me. On the page.

Simon said...

"Seriously -- college age kids don't know who or what the hell they are as it is. I agree with the commenter who said there should be a minimum age of 25 (you have to be 25 to rent a car, fer chrissake)."

That won't last. When they run out of other projects, liberals will start asking for age to be made a suspect classification. I mean, think about it: they vizualize the law as a long march to freedom and equality, which means you look back at where they've been and you can see where it's going. The call will be that states should face intermediate scrutiny for age classifications in law. Sure, it sounds crazy, but twenty years ago, you'd have thought that U.S. v. Virginia (518 U.S.) would be crazy.

XWL said...

I believe Pat Robertson must be one of these 'gender-bending freakazoids' deep, deep, deep undercover.

(that's the only rational explanation)

Also I remember reading in one English course a few years back about a F2M pre-op who became pregnant and it causing a huge backlash within the NoCal LBGT community (the main argument 'real men don't have babies').

Along the same lines, here are some Q&As for F2M thinking about pregnancy.

Kittie Rose said...

This has to be one of the worst brain drains I've seen on this "blogosphere".

I've never met a more uneducated bunch on the matter, yet you all want to have an opinion. This is why so many people don't respect conservatives or their elders anymore, they talk an awful lot about things they don't understand, and aren't near as intelligent as they pretend to be.

First off, transgenderism is not a mental disorder in the traditional sense. Tammy was wrong;

http://jcem.endojournals.org/cgi/content/full/85/5/2034

it's incredibly likely that a great majority of transgenders are quite literally one gender in the other's body.

Whle there's a small chance this is wrong, everything else points in that direction.

Not only that, transgenderism occurs in nature; here is a list of homosexual and transgender prone animal - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_animals_practicing_homosexual_behavior

Unfortunately, since we're one of the only species with the concept of "misery" and self awareness, we need to make such things bearable. Luckily enough, we also have that capability.

Transgenderism is not a college trend, how ludicrious. SRS costs close to $10000 or over, and requires the patient to be diagnosed as being transgendered, AND on top of that at least a year "real world" experience as their target gender, how could it ever be a "college trend"? It would take the length of college for them to get around to having to OP, even if they had the money. "Failed" examples of transgenderism nearly always make the news; but are incredibly rare, and nearly always the result of some hole in the system, which are becoming rarer by the day. Though there will always be some small level of failure - this "failure" is how most transgenders feel in the first place.

Just because you say some documentry on some college students going through with it does not mean it is a "fad". I have known transgenders in college, and yes, college students are "adults". If they got to that point, it was most likely because they were allowed to be real professionals that know what they're doing.
It is a fallacy that most live to regret transsexuality. This is a spin created by sensationalist media - after all, sex changes going WELL don't sell papers, do they? Once or twice or a year you'll get these stories, I imagine almost every time there's a messup it gets reported on. However, I very much doubt that accounts for more than 1 or 2% - a tiny number, but still plenty enough to get it reported if they look hard enough.

Transsexuality isn't just about cosmetic surgery and feeling ugly. It is not a plastic surgery based obsession and no psychologist worth their salt would declare it so. The main issue is the social role, and being treated and referred to as female, generally being accepted as female.

Transsexuals are quite possibly the most discriminated and most miserable minority there is, mainly because of people like the ones posting here. You either spend your life being driven nuts, possibly to suicide(transgenderism is no joke, the suicide rate is around 4-6 times that of the norm, significantly higher than that of homosexuality also) by having completely the wrong body or you take your chances bigotry and murderous arrogance.

The difference between transsexuality and say, wanting to be a Tiger is that transsexuality has 40+ years of research backing up the fact that transgenderism is indeed the phenomenom of a gender being trapped in the wrong sex. There is no observed phenomenom of being a Tiger; not only that gender is something that can be rather easily "fixed" in some cases; speices can NEVER "easily" be changed. Honestly, are you comparing the Tiger Man to "There's something about" Miriam? Use your sense.

"Mutilation" is also an emotionally weighted term that makes no sense. Mutilation implies the result is undesirable for most people to even look at, and generally messed up beyond belief. A vagina is a vagina, and trans vaginas are surprisingly good these days - and can even fool some gynacologists.

The bottom line is, sometimes people just have to accept they're wrong. Being "against" transsexuality results in nothing but misery for transsexuals. Like homosexuality, it won't go away, and unlike homosexuality, it's a lot more sensitive and complicated than anything you could hope to understand.

The epitome of arrogance was without a doubt this comment "When you move away from the politically-charged sexual angle and just look at the insane desire to mutilate one's body, treating transexuality with surgery is like treating schizophrenia by getting each personality its own driver's license"

Except for the fact the surgery can actually help cure one; not to mention that gender identity is a true and valid form of identity, whereas schizophrenia is nothing but a disruption. Not to mention that there's many, many years of research suggesting that transsexuals should be treated as they wish, and none suggesting we let schizophrenics run rampant. But some conservatives like to make out that things are part of some ridiculous political game - makes it easier for them when they realise they lack any real knowledge in the issue at hand, or any trace of debating skills for that matter.

Then again, I really shouldn't be arguing with someone who thinks "Mr. Garrison's new vagina" - one of the worst episodes of a once brilliant series, making a nasty rip on transgenderism devoid in humour but rich in logical fallacies.

StringTheoriesMichaelHealy said...

One generation will always look upon the decisions of the next as foolhardy. The fact is once any surgical technique is developed, it is going to be persued and marketed. Those wacky kids can always change back later.
Stimulate the economy.
blogger.com/StringTheoriesMichaelHealy