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First World Problems

Where would we be without NPR to keep us updated on the March of Progress?: [1]

“Pregnancy and childbirth were very male experiences for me,” said a 29-year-old respondent in a study reported Friday in Obstetrics and Gynecology. “When I birthed my children, I was born into fatherhood.”

If this statement at first seems perplexing, it’s less so when you realize the person talking is a transgender man – someone who has transitioned from a female identity to a male or masculine identity.

He is one of 41 participants in a study [2] of how it feels to be male and pregnant, a study the authors think may be the first of its kind.

Pregnancy as a transgender man is unlike any other kind. No one expects a man to be pregnant, and the study participants said they were often greeted with double-takes, suspicion and even hostility from strangers and health care providers. “Child Protective Services was alerted to the fact that a ‘tranny’ had a baby,” one participant reported.

UPDATE: Perfect comment from NS:

Let me try to explain. It is confusing to me that NPR would spend time, money, and resources reporting on an affliction that effects 1 in every 10,000-30,000 people. That is fine for one story, maybe. But NPR reports on this type of stuff disproportionately. And this is a story not merely on transsexualism but on transgender men who want children! And not only that, it presents these stories as if they are not only worth telling, but somehow representative of a paradigm shift in the world or, as Rod puts it, the front lines of the March of Progress. Surely there are more pertinent stories that must be told that would inform the public. Reporting on this stuff, in my opinion, borders on journalistic malpractice.

And now let me ask you a question: do you think evangelical protestants, who make up 26% of the US population according to the most recent Pew survey, deserve deeper and more nuanced coverage than “evangelicals are evil and backwards because Jerry Falwell”?

A quick survey of the 6 most recent articles about transgender people on NPR: the one Rod mentions, a review of Amazon’s show about transgender people, a video about India’s transgender community, an activist imploring people to “respect transgender teens”, an article about the rising number of “gender fluid” tv characters, and an article about the Indian Supreme Court decision recognizing transgender citizens. Those 6 articles date from April 15 to today.

The number of articles on NPR articles about evangelicals in that same time period?: 6. They consist of an article about how important evangelicals are to the GOP, the problems surrounding social issues that the rise of evangelicalism in Brazil is going to create, an article blaming Uganda’s anti-gay laws on US evangelicals, a report on sexual abuse in evangelical churches, and a testimony from an evangelical woman about how her evangelical pastor father committed adultery.

I think it is a problem that a community that makes up .0001% of the population gets that amount of coverage, all of it positive and a community that makes up 26% of the population gets the same amount of coverage, all of which is negative.

This doesn’t mean that transgender people should be invisible, but surely they don’t deserve as much coverage as evangelicals. This also doesn’t mean that negative elements of evangelicalism, their attempt to infuse politics with religion, sexual abuse, etc., should not be reported on. They absolutely should. But we have to have a sense of proportionality. NPR comically does not.

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92 Comments To "First World Problems"

#1 Comment By Philly guy On November 10, 2014 @ 7:29 am

Evangelicals are jealous of the amount of attention transsexuals get. Easy solution. Get thee to the surgeon.

#2 Comment By Carlo On November 10, 2014 @ 8:47 am

Irene:

“At the risk of sounding crass, trads need to grow a pair and quit whining that their world view is no longer hegemonic.”

that’s a typical ignorant comment, sorry. In the US a traditionalist view has NEVER been hegemonic. If there is any “traditional” American culture, at least among the educated, power-wielding elites, it is liberal progressivism, going back AT LEAST to the First World War. I refer you to George Marsden’s new book about US culture in the “traditionalist” 1950’s if you want to learn something about US cultural history.

In fact, the claim that the past was “traditional” and we are “progressive” is itself a trope-cliche-propaganda-tool of progressivism, at least since Condorcet and company.

The only question here is that said “progressivism” is becoming more and more nihilistic, and unable to sustain social and cultural life, e.g. raising children. Just wait and see.

#3 Comment By Andrea On November 10, 2014 @ 9:27 am

I had a rather memorable discussion a year or so ago with a transgendered man who had sued a fertility clinic for refusing to help “him” get pregnant. From what I gather, some people who are transgendered do not go through surgery or hormone treatments because they want to maintain their fertility. They maintain that there is a difference between gender identity and biological sex and one can be a man with a female body or a woman with a male body, etc.

I would imagine there’s something to the speculation that it all has something to do with fetal development and their brains have been bathed with too many female hormones or vice versa.

#4 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 10, 2014 @ 10:15 am

If you can get pregnant, you’re not a man. Definitionally. I don’t really see what else there is to discuss here.

#5 Comment By M_Young On November 10, 2014 @ 10:19 am

“I’m actually curious about news about Muslims integrating in the USA or France or Germany. Or the difference between Sunni and Shia, or what moderates are saying in response to the extremists. And I’m interested in news about evangelicals trying to get Uganda to execute gays, or impose Red state values on Blue states that have objectively better outcomes on issues related to moral values, or trying to pass personhood amendments. ”

In other words, I am ‘interested’ in things that confirm my worldview.

#6 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 10, 2014 @ 11:09 am

Trans-gender men can’t become pregnant unless they have a very thorough sex change operation. Then they’re not men any more, they’re women. And being women, they’re not men any more. So where’s the story.

#7 Comment By VikingLS On November 10, 2014 @ 11:21 am

“At the risk of sounding crass, trads need to grow a pair and quit whining that their world view is no longer hegemonic.”

This isn’t just crass, it’s stupid. Evangelical Christians aren’t “trads” who once had a hegemonic worldview. They are and have always been a minority amongst Americans, often a despised one.

#8 Comment By ratnerstar On November 10, 2014 @ 11:49 am

Siarlys, I think you have it backwards. The study was on individuals who transitioned from female to male, not the reverse.

#9 Comment By Chris 1 On November 10, 2014 @ 12:00 pm

I think it is a problem that a community that makes up .0001% of the population gets that amount of coverage, all of it positive and a community that makes up 26% of the population gets the same amount of coverage, all of which is negative.

The issue is in what qualifies as “news.”

News is necessarily not “coverage of the mundane,” but rather coverage of what’s different, what’s changed, what’s not normal.

Church-Goer Prays, Behaves Morally simply isn’t news, but it is news when a moralizer behaves immorally. Same goes with sexuality. Heterosexual Gets Married, Raises Family, Stays Faithful isn’t news…at least not yet, but what is news is something that is so rare that you’re not likely to know anyone who is dealing with it.

Ebola is news, the cold being passed around the office or school is not.

We give too much weight to for-profit electronic “news” services whose need to keep us stimulated results in a never-ending stream of abnormality, and not enough weight to the reality of our daily lives.

It’s easy to reverse that…just turn off the machine. 😉

#10 Comment By nillionaire On November 10, 2014 @ 1:49 pm

I used to have a lot of trouble understanding or accepting transgenderism. But I subsequently became a much more humble person, and among many, many other affects that caused me to decide that whatever my gut reaction might be, I couldn’t possibly claim to understand these people and their situation better than they themselves, nor most importantly, their doctors.

[NFR: Congratulations on your achievements in humility. You must be very proud. — RD]

#11 Comment By J On November 10, 2014 @ 2:00 pm

[3]

“I believe the conservative voice is losing the argument – and the right to be called progressive – because their tone is so often so wrong. While it’s practically heresy for some to say so, we could all learn a thing or two about gracious engagement from Steve Chalke, who rarely lashes out at his many detractors, and Rob Bell, who seemed to walk around in a kind of puzzled daze after the conservative world turned on him. The message can, and must, remain the same, but the grumpy, condescending tone needs to be replaced with grace, an ability to listen, and perhaps most importantly, the joy we claim to carry.

“This isn’t about being right, it’s about being right, in the right way. The Gospel might be offensive. That doesn’t mean we need to be.”

==========

This doesn’t mean that transgender people should be invisible, but surely they don’t deserve as much coverage as evangelicals.

Why not? Numbers have little to do with anything. News is purportedly about meaningful change in the world. And entertainment.

There was a time when there were only a dozen Evangelical Christians, if that, but what they did mattered for the next 2000 years and deserved a lot more coverage than they got at the time. (They’ve gotten a lot since.) These days there are 80 million or so of their adherents on the American continent but they’re simply not associated with either the change that matters or anything novel about the human condition.

This also doesn’t mean that negative elements of evangelicalism, their attempt to infuse politics with religion, sexual abuse, etc., should not be reported on. They absolutely should. But we have to have a sense of proportionality. NPR comically does not.

Do you really desire the pained euphemistic and not so euphemistic headlines you’ll get if mainstream news starts covering Evangelicals seriously? ‘Evangelicals: the Corporate Drones of the American Religious Scene’. ‘More parochial squabbling by Evangelicals; Egos hurt again, theology still disputed, young adults continue to stay away’. ‘Mark Driscoll: gearing up for his next Great Success’. ‘Megachurch as Performance Art’.

#12 Comment By Bryan On November 10, 2014 @ 2:39 pm

Public Defender:

“Also, if this group is so insignificant, don’t worry about efforts to accord it any legal or social rights because the relevance of those rights will be so small that there’s nothing to worry about. And, of course, you shouldn’t complain when you happen to encounter someone in this group because treating them the way they have asked is, well, so insignificant that you have nothing to complain about.”

The issue boils down to public education. You know: the system in which poor and working-class parents are basically forced to send their children to be social “science” guinea pigs for the academic and political elites who disproportionately send their own children to private and religious schools.

If we could have any confidence that this issue would be addressed by educators with something like, “Some people are prone to a mental illness in which they think they were born the ‘wrong’ gender, but they deserve respect and compassion just like other mentally ill people,” and have that be end of the discussion, I don’t think as many people would object.

But we all know that’s not happening, and we know this in part by how cultural signifiers like NPR are already presenting the issue. Supposedly in some states they are now already allowing “transgender” students to use any bathroom in school they choose. What could go wrong?

I really like jazz and classical music, so I used to contribute monthly to public radio. Then the politics became too much for me. It’s to the point where I still listen but as soon as the music stops and the “news” programs start, I click off the radio.

I am sad to say that I would not miss NPR if it disappeared entirely at this point.

#13 Comment By nillionaire On November 10, 2014 @ 3:22 pm

(although I agree with your primary point of differential coverage. I certainly have been fascinated by the coverage of the rise and fall of Mars Hill, and would like to see more in the same vein–even if it were covering a situation that only included the first part)

#14 Comment By Irene On November 10, 2014 @ 3:55 pm

VikingLS: “Evangelical Christians aren’t “trads” who once had a hegemonic worldview. They are and have always been a minority amongst Americans, often a despised one.”

You, Dreher and many other Trads here write frequently about how one set of values – traditional values – maintained supremacy in this country for most of its history and started falling apart only with the onset of the Sexual Revolution. You now wish to claim that these “traditional values” never held sway.

The fact that you don’t understand this doesn’t mean my comment makes no sense. Instead, it suggests a shortcoming on your part.

#15 Comment By efroh On November 10, 2014 @ 6:16 pm

I love reading breathless posts like this on this blog. It affirms much of what I believe. Help starts at home.

Agreed. The “gay panic” (trans panic in this case) that colors so many of Rod’s posts makes them really entertaining to read.

#16 Comment By VikingLS On November 10, 2014 @ 7:04 pm

“Church-Goer Prays, Behaves Morally simply isn’t news”

I’m not so sure about that. Some of the commenters here seem to think that the only thing that Christians do is sit around plotting ways to make life difficult for gay people and to impose out morals on others politically.

#17 Comment By rr On November 10, 2014 @ 7:27 pm

Mark Hamann cracks me up. Either his post is complete satire à la “The Onion” or he is credulous modernist who believes in all sorts of self-refuting ideas such as Logical Positivism and silly modern superstitions such as the notion of “progress,” something that anyone with a shred of knowledge about the horrors of the twentieth century (including the role of science) doesn’t take remotely seriously.

#18 Comment By Ned On November 10, 2014 @ 7:49 pm

These sorts of proportionality arguments are absurd. Ebola has killed what, two Americans this year. Cancer will kill how many, two million? Does last week’s incessant Ebola coverage show that the media is biased in favor of Ebola over cancer?

Why doesn’t your reader’s argument work exactly in reverse? There are almost no transsexuals. It’s unlikely that the average reader knows a transsexual, or even knows someone who knows a transsexual. What life is like for transsexuals is most likely –wait for the word, here it comes — NEWS to most people. Evangelicals, on the other hand, are really, really common. One in four, your reader says. Informing readers about evangelicals is often unnecessary, not least because a quarter of readers are themselves Evangelicals. And the ones who aren’t know plenty of evangelicals, because evangelicals are everywhere.

In any case, the argument that “issue x doesn’t get proportional attention, therefore bias” isn’t a serious argument. It’s a perpetual grievance machine. No one with an axe to grind thinks their pet issue gets “proportional” representation.

#19 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 10, 2014 @ 8:02 pm

Well ratnerstar, if they transitioned from female to male, then they can’t conceive and give birth. If they can, they haven’t really transitioned, so they’re not men at all. They’re women who sort of feel they’d like to be men but remained women because they also wanted to give birth. I suppose after giving birth they could then complete the transition, and tell their offspring “When I was a woman I gave birth to you, but when I grew older I gave up womanly things and became a man.” They might also have managed to take just enough hormone therapy to grow beards while still keeping an intact uterus, but that doesn’t make them a man, it makes them a woman with a beard.

This is all just too ridiculous.

#20 Comment By Ned On November 10, 2014 @ 8:07 pm

Oh, and one last thing. Note that when your reader counts the number of articles on evangelicals he selectively chooses to ignore all the media coverage of the Catholic synod on the family that just wrapped up. Almost all the pieces on the synod, and there were a ton of them, mentioned the concerns of conservative and traditionalist Catholics. But those don’t count as evangelical pieces to your reader, even though the concerns of traditionalist Catholics largely mirror the concerns of evangelicals. Including them, however, would throw the article count way off and deny your reader the sense of grievance he so desperately wants. So out they go.

#21 Comment By Chris 1 On November 10, 2014 @ 9:40 pm

I’m not so sure about that….

I live in a liberal part of the world; the people in my community are so liberal they make Obama look Republican. They’re so liberal they think PETA is more important than Amnesty. They’re so liberal they’ll toss their Astin Martin Vanquish for a Tesla S.

And when we hang out while cycling or in the dog park (see how urban and liberal my life is) and they learn (from me) that I’m an Orthodox Christian they invariably say “But you’re not like most of them.”

“Yes I am,” I reply. And you can see their melons twist in their heads.

The way to educate the uneducated masses is to become public about who we really are, and not about who the media says we are. That’s how homosexuals came to be normalized, by telling their friends and neighbors that they’re gay. Christians need to tell their friends and neighbors the same, and thereby refuse to be defined by a media that is bent on sensationalism.

Of course, it helps if Christians remember there are seven deadly sins, not just one. 😉

#22 Comment By Carlo On November 10, 2014 @ 9:52 pm

Irene:

you clearly cannot grasp the elementary distinction between “values” and “people.” What VikingLS and I are trying to tell you is that VALUES were dominant because they were shared by everybody including the hegemonic PEOPLE who were anything but evangelicals or Catholics or traditional Christians in any sense. Got it?

#23 Comment By M_Young On November 10, 2014 @ 10:34 pm

“Trans-gender men can’t become pregnant unless they have a very thorough sex change operation. Then they’re not men any more, they’re women. ”

I don’t think the cutters have advanced to that point — I doubt they will in any of our lifetimes.

#24 Comment By Gene Marsh On November 10, 2014 @ 10:49 pm

Lets look for commonalities. Transexuals change their body via surgery. Evangelicals distort their human form through self-injurious gluttony:

“According to a 2006 Purdue University study, evangelicals are considered the heaviest of all religious groups.”

[4]

Here in Nashville its impossible to make one’s way around a local shopping mall on Sunday afternoon without risking being crushed between the massive pig people who clog the concourses.

And what’s weirder, believing you were born at variance with your body or believing in a being called Satan that tempts youngins to dance?

#25 Comment By Gene Marsh On November 10, 2014 @ 11:39 pm

Is gossip a sin? How about creating strife and rancor where none need exist? Taking perverse pleasure in your own indignation? What about marinating in a self-pity completely out of scale with traditional conceptions of what constitutes suffering and persecution?

In Jewish tradition, disparaging speech is regarded as a dangerous and deadly weapon (see “blood libel”). Such speech harms three people: the person who says it, the person who hears it, and the person about who it is told.

What does all this hatred and self-pity do to a heart?

#26 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 11, 2014 @ 8:28 am

And what’s weirder, believing you were born at variance with your body or believing in a being called Satan that tempts youngins to dance?

I don’t see what’s weird about believing in Satan (though I don’t think he much cares for dancing).

Rod, is it just me or have you been attracting a lot more ignorant trolls lately? I suppose this is the price of becoming high profile and famous, so you should take it as a token of your success. 😉

#27 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 11, 2014 @ 8:31 am

But those don’t count as evangelical pieces to your reader, even though the concerns of traditionalist Catholics largely mirror the concerns of evangelicals.

Did it occur to you, ever, that the world is deeper, broader, and more interesting than the ephemeral preoccupations of 21st century American politics?

These aren’t stories about evangelicals, because Catholics, traditionalist or otherwise, are not evangelicals. If you can’t tell the difference between Catholics and evangelicals, I’m not sure what else there is to discuss.

#28 Comment By J On November 11, 2014 @ 10:38 am

is it just me or have you been attracting a lot more ignorant trolls lately?

No, that hasn’t changed much. What has perceptibly changed is that some blog regulars have become more grandiose and condescending, and felt anointed to police the comment section.

#29 Comment By ratnerstar On November 11, 2014 @ 11:23 am

I don’t see what’s weird about believing in Satan (though I don’t think he much cares for dancing).

Well, yes. Exactly.

To put it more precisely, religious people believe a lot of stuff that sounds really weird if you don’t operate under the same theological assumptions. That’s fine! But, given that, maybe they should be a little more reluctant to wheel out the old “haha, this stuff is just weird and stupid” argument against other people.

#30 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 11, 2014 @ 1:02 pm

They’re so liberal they think PETA is more important than Amnesty. They’re so liberal they’ll toss their Astin Martin Vanquish for a Tesla S.

That’s not liberalism, just self-indulgent narcissism with a bit of hubris.

But otherwise, Chris 1 makes perfect sense.

Ratnerstar, no religious tract is necessary to say that this stuff is wierd and stupid. A basic biology textbook is quite sufficient.

#31 Comment By ratnerstar On November 11, 2014 @ 2:17 pm

Ratnerstar, no religious tract is necessary to say that this stuff is wierd and stupid. A basic biology textbook is quite sufficient.

A basic physics textbook is quite sufficient to say transubstantiation is weird, too.

I can’t tell if you’re aggressively missing my point or not.

#32 Comment By Raskolnik On November 11, 2014 @ 3:08 pm

A basic physics textbook is quite sufficient to say transubstantiation is weird, too.

Physics says less than nothing about ontology or the relationship between essences and properties

#33 Comment By Reinhold On November 11, 2014 @ 3:28 pm

“And despite trying for 150 years to change trans people’s minds, the medical community has decided (with huge reluctance, do some history research) that the best option is letting them transition.”
That’s an interesting bit of information, because what most coverage of transsexuals seems to dismiss due to liberal bias––more significantly than any issue of disproportionate representation––is that doctors regard transsexualism as some kind of mental disorder and have decided to treat it with hormones and surgery. They don’t want to offend any transsexual who is unaware what the medical consensus––not perfect, perhaps, but still pretty important to consider in these cases––about their condition actually is; and that strikes me as a pathetic politically correct evasion, since an article or radio program on autistic children will not pretend that they’ve made some kind of lifestyle choice that we need to respect: we need to respect autistic children––and transsexuals––because they have an ailment which makes it hard to live in the world, and if doctors have decided that involves indulging the transsexuals, that’s up to them, but I’m going to treat them like they have a mental disorder and not like I treat, say, homosexuals.

#34 Comment By Reinhold On November 11, 2014 @ 3:45 pm

Also, the issue of bias in media is so boring, because media is JUST propaganda: NPR is liberal propaganda, TAC is conservative propaganda. There’s nothing wrong with propaganda, that’s how an ideology is propagated; but there is something silly about how liberals and conservatives are constantly trying to smoke out liberal or conservative bias in obviously liberal or conservative news corporations. ‘Did you see what the Times wrote? It betrays a liberal bias!’ is about as useless as saying ‘Did you see what Granma wrote? It betrays a communist bias!’ I read the Economist, the New Yorker, the American Conservative, many others, regularly and closely, and each has a ‘bias’––each is a propaganda organ for some ideology––that I’m well aware of, and the best I can do is read critically.

#35 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 11, 2014 @ 4:10 pm

But, given that, maybe they should be a little more reluctant to wheel out the old “haha, this stuff is just weird and stupid” argument against other people.

I don’t think transgenderism is ‘weird or stupid’. I think they deserve legal and social accommodation to live life in a way that makes them happy. I just don’t necessarily feel like I need to accept their definition of men and women as true.

#36 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 11, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

ratnerstar, if you’re point is that there is something to take seriously here, it went right by me. May not have much substance to it in the first place.

#37 Comment By ratnerstar On November 11, 2014 @ 6:20 pm

Physics says less than nothing about ontology or the relationship between essences and properties

I could argue that it says there is no evidence such things exist in the way you mean them, but fine. If you don’t like transubstantiation, take miracles, take the bodily assumption of Mary, whatever. Unless you believe there is no commonly held religious belief that would violate ordinary physical principles.

I don’t think transgenderism is ‘weird or stupid’. I think they deserve legal and social accommodation to live life in a way that makes them happy. I just don’t necessarily feel like I need to accept their definition of men and women as true.

OK, that’s fine. To be honest, I’m not terribly interested in the question of how we define “men” vs. “women,” which seems secondary to the question of how we should deal with individuals who feel they are not oriented with their physiological sex. I do feel there are a number of people here, including at least sometimes our host, who respond to transgender issues with “this is weird and stupid, no need to take it seriously.”

See, for instance:

if you’re point is that there is something to take seriously here, it went right by me. May not have much substance to it in the first place.

I try to take religious belief seriously, despite a natural inclination to view it as weird and stupid, because there are a lot of people for whom it is important and I think those people are worthy of respect. Similarly, there are a lot of people (albeit fewer than there are religious folks), for whom gender misalignment (or whatever you want to call it) is a profoundly serious issue. Whether you think they are best served by gender reassignment surgery or something else, whether you believe they can or cannot change sex, they deserve a more serious response than “haha, look at the weird trannies.”

#38 Comment By Carlo On November 11, 2014 @ 8:12 pm

ratnerstar:

“I could argue that it says there is no evidence such things exist in the way you mean them, but fine.”

PHYSICAL evidence? No, of course not. There is other evidence: e.g. trustworthy witnesses to euchristic miracles are a form of evidence.

#39 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On November 11, 2014 @ 10:15 pm

@Carlo, I don’t want to argue about the reality of transubstantiation, but what do you means by “trustworthy witnesses to euchristic miracles are a form of evidence”?

What’s to witness as even Catholics agree that the bread and wine is indistinguishable from their unconsecrated equivalents.

#40 Comment By Carlo On November 11, 2014 @ 11:17 pm

MH:

I suppose you have never visited the Cathedral of Orvieto etc.

#41 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On November 12, 2014 @ 6:38 am

@Carlo, no I haven’t. But I’ll assume by evidence you mean that people were inspired to build it.

#42 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 14, 2014 @ 12:55 pm

Whether you think they are best served by gender reassignment surgery or something else, whether you believe they can or cannot change sex, they deserve a more serious response than “haha, look at the weird trannies.”

ratnerstar, I’ll buy that. What I don’t buy is that the very nature of sex and obvious fundamentals of biology should be sidelined as “heteronormativity” to make these people feel comfortable. Hetero IS normative. Sex IS real, and there are two sexes, male and female. Some people, unfortunately, come out with some misfired chemistry that makes them not fully one or the other. The fact that they WANT to be fully one, or the other, highlights that the distinctions are real. That said, no, we should not laugh at them, and anything we can help them do for themselves (without remaking the whole community or culture on their account) what makes them comfortable, we should do.

To go back to the beginning, if they are men, they are not conceiving and giving birth, if delivering a baby, she is not at that point in time a man. Not. Not. Not. The notion of a man giving birth is indeed laughable.