Naomi Riley (WSJ) on Transgendered

Interesting piece in Wall Street Journal (two links to WSJ in one day!!) covering the possibility for new statues incorporating transgendered-ism into hate crime legislation.

[Sidenote: It says at the bottom of the page that she is the deputy Taste editor, which I find quite ironic.  And the title is open to criticism].

I’ve never been a fan of the GLBT formulation. I understand the concept of political alliances, but those communities are so different from one another (and so much diversity say within the gay male or lesbian communities themselves), I don’t think it’s a very helpful formulation.

I’ve never understood how bi-sexuality fits in either, but that’s a separate issue. Probably less so transgendered.

I’ve met very few transgendered individuals in my life (only 3 come to mind off the top of my head) and must confess to being pretty much in the dark on this one. The article highlights for me that the study and narratives of the topic–health vs. pathology–seem very underdeveloped. But I think it will be, as it were, the new gay (or black or whatever it is we are on now).

According to Riley:

So what is the justification for overturning the millennia-old practice of sorting people into two sexes? Let’s start with the science, what little there is. One might think that “gender-identity disorder” is a psychological ailment. But the American Psychiatric Association (APA) notes that “many transgender people do not experience their transgender feelings and traits to be distressing or disabling, which implies that being transgender does not constitute a mental disorder per se.” So transgenderism, it is argued, is a physical ailment for which there are medical solutions. In that sense, too, it is different from homosexuality, which is no longer considered an ailment at all, let alone one that requires a cure.

Not all experts agree with the APA. Paul McHugh, a former director of the department of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, notes that the transgendered patients he has come to know were no happier after sex-change surgery than before. He writes in “The Mind Has Mountains”: “I concluded that to provide a surgical alteration to the body of these unfortunate people was to collaborate with a mental disorder rather than to treat it.”

It is unclear (without reading the book) how patients equally as unhappy before and after sex-change surgery constitutes a mental disorder. I might guess that part of the continued depression might be related (if this is the case) to continued un-acceptance, even possibly shunning, ostracism say by family/friends. That wouldn’t be a mental disorder.

Gender I do agree is (in part) constructed by individual choice–so long as we remember that individual choice is largely influenced by social mentality.

Transgendered is I think the wrong term for what is normally meant. Trans-gendered technically is “beyond” gendered. Like trans-rational. What is really more meant is cross-gendered (crossing-over “trans” in that sense I guess).

But gender isn’t reducible to sex and vice versa. There is a legitimate question raised in the article: what about accommodation relative to sex? e.g. Does a transg. person go into the bathroom that he/she feels is his/her real gender? i.e. Does a man who identifies as a woman use the ladies bathroom? Would all the other women inside appreciate that choice?

Though the article I think conflates a situation with like with firing at a job due to trans-genderedness (though to be fair in that case it took place at a Christian school so then the government/religion thing also comes into play).

Published in: on December 28, 2007 at 3:18 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. I got this quote from Opine Editorials over on Kingfisher Column:

    “Marriage is neither a conservative nor a liberal issue; it is a universal human institution, guaranteeing children fathers, and pointing men and women toward a special kind of socially as well as personally fruitful sexual relationship. Gay marriage is the final step down a long road America has already traveled toward deinstitutionalizing, denuding and privatizing marriage. It would set in legal stone some of the most destructive ideas of the sexual revolution: There are no differences between men and women that matter, marriage has nothing to do with procreation, children do not really need mothers and fathers, the diverse family forms adults choose are all equally good for children. What happens in my heart is that I know the difference. Don’t confuse my people, who have been the victims of deliberate family destruction, by giving them another definition of marriage.”

    Walter Fauntroy-Former DC Delegate to CongressFounding member of the Congressional Black CaucusCoordinator for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s march on DC

    I thought it was very applicable.


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