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The Real Reason for the Caitlyn Jenner Freakout

My friend Damon Linker has a theory about why we religious and social conservatives are so unnerved by the Caitlyn Jenner freakshow. [1] Excerpts:

Given all of this, panic and even a dose of anger on the right are perfectly understandable. Still, I worry that thoughtful conservatives are moving a little too rashly to denunciation, resorting [2] to language about the triumph of “Autonomous Eroticized Individualism,” and writing [3] about the advent of a new “diabolic age.” (Both phrases come from my friend Rod Dreher.)

Yes, something important in America’s moral culture has changed (with the change accelerating in recent years), but that change isn’t simply a triumph [4] of “postmodern freedom.” (Also Dreher.) What we’re witnessing is the withering away of the morality of ends — including a vision of human flourishing rooted in Protestant Christianity — that once prevailed in American public and private life. This comprehensive moral vision is being supplanted by a much more minimalist (but no less absolutist) morality of rights that aims above all to protect individuals from various forms of harm.

Before I go further, it’s important to point readers to the essay in which I elaborated on what I meant by a “diabolic age.”  [3]I’m deliberately playing off the conventional meaning of “diabolic,” but deepening and broadening it by discussing that etymologically, “diabolic” is the antonym of “symbolic,” meaning that what is diabolic separates, tears in two, rather than unites and harmonizes. In that post to which I link, I talk about how modern globalized economics tears communities to bits, as well as how modern sexual ethics, built as they are on an ideology of the supremacy of individualism and eroticism. As a Christian, I see the hand of el Diablo in all of this, but you do not have to be any sort of believer to recognize the rapid and ongoing atomization of human solidarity with the past, with tradition, with each other, and with anything outside of the willed, chosen Self.

A bit more from Damon:

If you’re committed to an overarching (religious or philosophical) vision of human flourishing that precludes gender reassignment surgery, then an expression of disapproval and perhaps even disgust at the Vanity Fair cover would seem to be in order. But if you’ve left behind any such comprehensive morality of ends in favor of a morality of rights, then it’s hard to see what’s wrong with Jenner’s actions, or with the magazine in promoting them publicly on its cover. No one is harmed as a result, and the harm Bruce Jenner felt as a woman trapped in a man’s body has (one hopes) been alleviated by undergoing the surgical transformation into Caitlyn.

I’m not following Damon’s point. He seems to be conceding that the reaction of people like me is appropriate, given our moral commitments. If he’s saying that most of America no longer shares our antique Christian morality, he’ll get not argument from me. But then what’s wrong about our strong reaction to the Jenner circus?

Here’s why I think our reaction is so strong. There are several reasons.

1. It’s a reaction to media propaganda. It is hard to think of any crusade adopted by the culture creators — the news and entertainment media — as pervasive, as militant, and as consequential as their two decades-long march through the institution of marriage in the name of not only normalizing, but valorizing, minority sexual expression and identity. The cheerleading and propagandizing has reached its apex in the mad celebration of Bruce Jenner’s transformation. If Bruce Jenner felt he had to do this to his body, I would consider that a tragedy, but something to be mourned privately. But that’s not his way. He has made a media spectacle out of his pathology, and the media have turned it into a holy cause. Imagine how an atheist would feel if Christopher Hitchens had become a born-again Christian, and media coverage consisted of nothing but a hundred thousand video, print, and online versions of what appeared about it on “The 700 Club.” The strong pushback probably has more to do with disgust over our propagandistic media than it does with Jenner’s actual acts.

2. Jenner and the media are harming the body politic. People think that the only person harmed (if he is harmed at all, which they deny) is Jenner. Not true. What we celebrate, we encourage. In 2013, writer Margaret Talbot, in the New Yorker — not a notably conservative magazine — wrote a long, searching piece about what it means to seek transgender surgery as a teenager. [5] Excerpt:

Walter Meyer, a child psychiatrist and pediatric endocrinologist in Galveston, Texas, has prescribed puberty blockers and considers them worthwhile as a way to buy time for some kids. But, in an editorial that ran in Pediatrics last March, Meyer urged families not to jump to the conclusion that their fierce little tomboy of a daughter, or doll-loving son, must be transgender. “Many of the presentations in the public media . . . give the impression that a child with cross-gender behavior needs to change to the new gender or at least should be evaluated for such a change,” he wrote. “Very little information in the public domain talks about the normality of gender questioning and gender role exploration, and the rarity of an actual change.” When I called Meyer, he said, “What if people learn from the media and think, Hey, I have a five-year-old boy who wants to play with dolls, and I saw this program on TV last night. Now I see: my boy wants to be a girl! So I wanted to say in that article that, with kids, gender variance is an important issue, but it’s also a common issue. I’m saying to parents, ‘It may be hard to live with the ambiguity, but just watch and wait. Most of the time, they’re not going to want to change their gender.’ ”

Eli Coleman, a psychologist who heads the human-sexuality program at the University of Minnesota Medical School, chaired the committee that, in November, 2011, drafted the latest guidelines of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, the leading organization of doctors and other health-care workers who assist trans patients. The committee endorsed the use of puberty blockers for some children, but Coleman told me that caution was warranted: “We still don’t know the subtle or potential long-term effects on brain function or bone development. Many people recognize it’s not a benign treatment.”

Alice Dreger, the bioethicist, said, of cross-gender hormones and surgery, “These are not trivial medical interventions. You’re taking away fertility, in most cases. And how do you really know who you are before you’re sexual? No child, with gender dysphoria or not, should have to decide who they are that early in life.” She continued, “I don’t mean to offend people who are truly transgender, but maybe a kid expresses a sense of being the opposite gender because cultural signals say girls don’t shoot arrows, or play rough, or wear boxers, or whatever. I’m concerned that we’re creating feedback loops in an attempt to be sympathetic. There was a child at my son’s preschool who, at the age of three, believed he was a train. Not that he liked trains—he was a train. None of us said, ‘Yes, you’re a train.’ We’d play along, but it was clear we were humoring him. After a couple of years, he decided that what he wanted to be was an engineer.”

We can never wholly quantify the harm that may yet come to individuals and their families from a social movement that has not only celebrated transgenderism and all its manifestations, but has demonized anyone who questions the transgenderist ideology. Are there really no hard questions to be put to Bruce Jenner about what he has done, or no hard questions raised by this entire spectacle? We are rapidly deconstructing the whole idea of male and female, with unknown and unknowable consequences (“I’m the new normal,” [6]says Jenner, in the new reality series). But to object to it is to set oneself up as a hater.

3. “Caitlyn” Jenner requires us to lie about reality. The man who calls himself a woman named Caitlyn is still a man. He still has a penis, and male chromosomes. That is reality. That is the essential truth, despite the Orwellian campaign by Right Thinkers to intimidate people into thinking otherwise. Speaking of Orwell, this from 1984:

In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable – what then?

For “the Party,” think “the Media” and “the Progressives”. Two plus two will never be five, and Caitlyn Jenner will never be a woman. Social conservatives feel that the whole Jenner offensive is a culture-war blitzkrieg intended to alienate us from biological reality. Hence the conservative “freaking out,” in Linker’s phrase. One last bit from Damon’s column [1]:

Conservatives deserve better than to have their comprehensive vision of the human good treated with contempt. But liberals deserve to have their own moral commitments recognized as what they are — expressions of an absolute (if less-than-comprehensive) moral outlook — rather than dismissed as a diabolical drive toward infinite erotic liberation.

I think liberal commitments on this issue are expressions of an absolute moral outlook that contains within it a diabolical (in the sense of atomizing, separating) drive toward infinite erotic liberation. That most progressives do not see it that way does not make it any less true to people who share my moral beliefs. How could it be otherwise? When you ask the progressive “how far is too far?”, he has nothing hard and fast to tell you, because he doesn’t know himself, and hey, who is he to judge?

This is another part of the socon freakout: there is no bottom to this. They’re making it up as they go along, and won’t be satisfied until there is nothing left but the fully atomized individual and his or her desires.

This is personal to me. I am acquainted with the case of a Millennial who is going through a lot of turmoil right now. N. was not raised with strong moral commitments, and so now does not have clear and firm ideas about what is right, what is wrong, or how to behave across a range of areas. What N. knows is that N.’s sexual desires are real, and powerful, and N. is building a life around satisfying those desires whenever they arise, and with whoever is handy — and N. doesn’t see why anybody should care, because who’s being harmed? What’s wrong with pleasure?

A wise and discerning friend of mine who knows N. can already see the cost of this ethic within N.’s character, but there is very little in our culture to tell N. that this is wrong, and there is no one in N.’s life with the authority or the will to say, “Stop, this is destructive, and you must not do this.”

UPDATE: What Brendan O’Neill says, especially this: [7]

The worship of Caitlyn, and the hectoring of anyone who refuses to scrape before her icon, has graphically exposed the intolerant edge to trans thinking. The insistence that we not only refer to Bruce/Caitlyn as ‘she’ but also project this backwards – recognising, in the words [8] of the Guardian, that she has ‘always been a woman’ – is borderline Orwellian. It’s a rewriting of history, a memory-holing of old inconvenient facts. Strikingly, the Guardian writer says people like Bruce/Caitlyn have ‘always been women… even when they were “fathering” children’. Notice it’s the ‘fathering’ bit that is in scare quotes, suggesting it wasn’t real, while the description of Bruce as a woman is treated as an incontestable truth. War is peace, freedom is slavery, man is woman.

This trans Orwellianism is increasingly finding expression in the law itself. In Ireland last year, a trans woman won the right [9] to have her sex changed to female on her actual birth certificate. This is alarming. The midwife who said ‘This is a boy’ when this trans woman was born was telling the truth, and that truth was recorded on a public document. No matter — truth and history are putty in the hands of the trans lobby. Just as Big Brother thinks it can force people to accept that 2 + 2 = 5, so trans activists want us to chant: ‘Bruce Jenner is a woman and has always been a woman, even when she was producing sperm, impregnating women, and winning gold medals in men’s sports.’ And the small matter of Bruce’s birth certificate, his proven paternity of children? Forget all that; shove it down the memory hole.

What the Cult of Caitlyn confirms, beyond a doubt, is that there is nothing progressive in trans politics. It is shrill, censorious, unreal, demanding compliance, punishing dissent. Progressives should reject it. Jesus was not the Son of God, Bruce Jenner is not a woman, and, I’m sorry, but 2 + 2 = 4, and it always will.

UPDATE.2: A fascinating comment by Sheldon, one of this blog’s liberal readers:

I’m very glad you posted Brendan O’Neill’s comments, because the notion that only “religious and social conservatives are so unnerved by the Caitlyn Jenner freakshow” is quite wrong – as O’Neill himself demonstrates. I’m quite liberal and non-religious, as are most of my friends, and I can tell you we’ve all been sickened and angered by this event – not because of what Jenner has done to himself, because that’s his private business (though it appears from all available scientific evidence that he is deluded if he thinks his physical transformation will have any positive long term effect); no, what has appalled about this event is the centrality and publicity it has been given in the news cycle, at a time when much more serious events are unfolding everywhere around the planet. The Middle East is in flames, China is getting belligerent in the South China Sea, countries are being inundated with refugees, global weather is increasingly freakish, our own Presidential campaigns are underway, inequality continues it rise, there’s an uptick in the crime rate – one can easily go on in this vein – yet one individual’s sex change has become the new cause celebre. splattered on every newsstand and dominating our airwaves. It is proof positive that our press is no longer even remotely serious and that large segments of our society have lost any sense of priorities, propriety, and proportion. And you don’t have to be religious or conservative – just a moral human being – to feel that way and to make that judgment.

And there are still people who believe that social conservatives are the ones who are obsessed by sex and sexuality. If conservatives were running TV and print newsrooms, Bruce Jenner’s sex change would have been a tiny blip in the news.

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194 Comments To "The Real Reason for the Caitlyn Jenner Freakout"

#1 Comment By Raskolnik On June 4, 2015 @ 10:23 am

Murder and suicide among transsexuals isn’t way more common than among the rest of society because they are born to be vicitimized or kill themselves. It’s because they have been demonized.

Wrong. It’s “way more common” because transgenderism is nearly 100% comorbid with MDD and various other mental illnesses. And all the available data indicate that mental health outcomes are not better post-transition, implying that transition (surprise, surprise) does not resolve the underlying psychiatric morbidity.

#2 Comment By wycoff On June 4, 2015 @ 10:26 am

David Friedman says:
June 3, 2015 at 10:45 pm

Murder and suicide among transsexuals isn’t way more common than among the rest of society because they are born to be vicitimized or kill themselves. It’s because they have been demonized.

Of course, that’s obviously the only reason. It couldn’t be that their transgenderism is a manifestation of a major mental problem (either purely mental, or one caused by a biological mistake mismatching brain and body), right? After all, thinking that your body and mind are in conflict couldn’t possibly lead to mental stress, could it. It’s those darn haters that cause all of the problems.

#3 Comment By Clare Krishan On June 4, 2015 @ 10:32 am

re: Progressive upset It is proof positive that our press is no longer even remotely serious and that large segments of our society have lost any sense of priorities, propriety, and proportion. who they dissing, we the people and our values, that we spend blood and treasure spreading across the land, including the Ukraine? And we wonder why some Ukrainians don’t want our ‘telegraphed-in’ transatlantic-alliance help but prefer the sobornost of their traditional neighbor?

The violence being done to intangible goods is invisible to most young Americans, since they have no concept of intangibles. They weren’t raised to measure what ‘is meet and right to do’ (liturgical language for what is proper to ‘being human’ and just to ‘other humans’ in God’s eyes) seen and unseen. What makes me aggrieved about the self-abused Jenner tale? I mourn the loss of innocence of all little girls called Caitlyn (my granddaughter, included) whose parents admired what the Greek onomastico καθαρή (Kateri, Catherine, Kathleen etc) signified: the crystal clear unadulterated soul of Eden, as when Mercy sacramentally washes away the wounds of sin

Catharsis doesn’t mean what Bruce wants you to believe it means (bodily purging). That’s the diabolic at work, the schismatic spirit of revisionist history at play. Redefining classical Greek concepts to serve a new world order…

#4 Comment By Raskolnik On June 4, 2015 @ 10:34 am

Turmarion, that’s fair enough, but then you have to deal with Zorro’s question about brain scans. (I actually brought this up once, and was roundly excoriated by right-thinking progressives).

Specifically, the claim is that transgenderism is in fact a distinct condition from intersexuality, because “gender identity” is an invisible numinous quality. If transgenderism were in fact neurologically based–which I strongly doubt is the case, but am willing to entertain as a not-disproven hypothesis–then “gender identity” as an analytic category is utter nonsense, and transgenderism as such is nothing but a specific, neuroanatomic type of intersex condition.

It would also mean that there is, in principle, some kind of brain scan that could be done in order to separate the genuine transgender-intersex from there mere perverted weirdoes. But somehow I don’t foresee the LGBT lobby accepting the idea that you would need a medical test to prove transgender status…

#5 Comment By Raskolnik On June 4, 2015 @ 10:38 am

Zorro,

I think in an ideal society certain kinds of medical procedures, including things like “sexual reassignment surgery,” IVF, and human cloning, would be outlawed. I agree we’re unlikely to see bans on any of those things any time soon, so I think the best that can be hoped for–and something I think worth fighting for–is no taxpayer or mandated insurance financing of SRS.

#6 Comment By Turmarion On June 4, 2015 @ 10:44 am

Clare, another onomastic nitpick: “Catherine” in its earliest attested form is Αἰκατερίνη (Aikaterinē). The etymology is unknown, and it may be of non-Greek origin. The attempts to link it to καθαρή (katharē), “pure” (the root of “catharsis” and “catheter”) is later folk-etymology, and it is the influence of the latter word that changed the form of the name to “Catherine” or “Katherine”.

Interestingly, Russian retains a form more similar to the original: Екатерина (Yekaterina). In any case, whatever it means and wherever it comes from, it’s not related to katharē.

#7 Comment By Bcaldwell On June 4, 2015 @ 11:16 am

So we have come to the point in our culture where anything goes. There used to be a time when even progressives would call a freak show….a freak show. But no more. Make no mistake, the whole Jenner thing is a freak show. Not because Jenner decided to start mutilating his body via unnecessary plastic surgeries twenty years ago, but the fact that we find as a culture that this is no big deal on the wholesale end. It is a big deal.

There is a thing called absolute reality. Absolute reality deals with the physical and immutable . You can call yourself a trans- whatever, but the underlying truth is that you were born with either XY or XX chromosomes and as of yet, there is no procedure or treatment to change that reality.You either are born with a penis or vagina. Those characteristics define gender. Gender is not subjective when describing a person, it is objective. You are either A or B, you cannot be a not A or a not B solely, meaning you cannot be neither. If you are not A then you are B and vice versa. Words mean things despite the attempts by the popular culture to redefine them or in this case(transgenderism) to negate the definition altogether

Bruce Jenner is still a man and no matter the amount of plastic surgery replete with “enhancements” and “augmentation”, Jenner will still be a man even with the long hair and sculpted body brought about by needless plastic reconstructive surgery. I will bet that 10 years from now, he will still be the same person who considers himself to be a fraud that he considered himself to be prior to this modern debutante party. He deludes himself and everyone who accepts this as normal/healthy deludes themselves as well.

#8 Comment By Ben H On June 4, 2015 @ 11:23 am

Look who else is obsessed, obsessed with this obscure, very private story:
[10]

#9 Comment By Turmarion On June 4, 2015 @ 1:12 pm

Raskolnik, in brief:

1. The evidence seems to favor at least a certain amount of structural and functional differences between male and female brains, on average. I’d assert this contra some feminists, BTW.

2. Number one, to me, is not an argument against gender egalitarianism. More women might prefer to study biology than physics, for example, and that’s fine; but there should be no barriers to those who do want to study physics. More women, if given the chance, might want to stay home, and that’s fine–society should support them. It should also support those who work and make it easier to juggle family and work.

3. If 1) is true–and we’re still in the infancy of understanding this kind of thing, but it seems to me it probably is–then the idea that some men are born with female-structured brains and vice versa is not surprising. It’s probably rare, but logically possible.

4. There are a number of conditions that fall under the rubric “intersex”: various abnormal chromosome patterns (e.g. XXY), ambiguous genitalia, and sometimes chimeras (where some of a single individual’s cells are XX and others are XY). Whether one wants to consider a brain that is “wrongly” structured for the body it’s in another category of “intersex” is somewhat semantic.

5. “Gender identity” is a complicated combination of nature and nurture. E.g. men in all societies tend to be more aggressive, less verbal, more competitive, more oriented towards spacial perception, etc.; women are less aggressive, more verbal, etc. However, this manifests itself differently. In some societies women weave; in some, men. Sometimes you get what are to us odd combinations–samurai were expected to be fierce warriors and accomplished poets. What is gender appropriate in one society is not in another. Also, some societies have narrower and more rigid expectations for gender roles than others–e.g. even during the Crusades, the Arab Muslims were appalled at how many freedoms Europeans gave their women!

6. For any given society, the combination of nature and nurture-based traits that that society defines as “male” and that which is defined as “female”, like anything else, follows a bell-shaped curve. Thus, on average, one can define a male or female gender identity. It’s not a numinous, phantasmal thing at all.

7. There are always going to be the tails of the curve, as I think has been mentioned here: ultra-macho guys and ultra-feme women; the relatively androgynous; and those who identify with the opposite gender. This latter may be because of brain structure or some other unknown factor.

8. I think we should give as much space for people as we can without social disruption. As was also pointed out, the men at the far right of the curve are probably in jail. Aside from that, if a girl wants to work on cars or wear men’s clothing or date a guy–or a girl–how is that my business? If a guy wants to crochet and own a flower shop and wear a dress and date a girl–or a guy–who the hell cares?

9. Finally, I think the medical industry makes huge amounts of money from us. It sells us anything it can, whether or not it’s workable or salutary. An example is the pushing of statins for cholesterol, when not only is the danger of lipids and cholesterol in question now (at least at the levels that have been claimed), but the evidence is that outcomes for those who use statins are no different than for those who don’t use them. In that vein, if it ever becomes possible to reliably use brain scans to detect “trans” patters, I wouldn’t object to using that as part of the process. I think a lot of people who opt for surgery are actually just lower-level gender non-conformists who have other issues, especially with being rejected; and who, if they were more accepted and given other treatment, would never want to have surgery at all.

On the other hand, if it can be demonstrated that for some segment X of the population, sex reassignment surgery is indeed the best course with the best outcomes, then I don’t have a problem with that at such, theological considerations aside.

Does all that make sense?

#10 Comment By Ketepi On June 4, 2015 @ 1:51 pm

Gregory Manning says: Have you forgotten these little items?

……

The Telegraph article to which you linked frightening. Get a load of this:

“Ken Plummer is emeritus professor of sociology at Essex University, where he has an office and teaches courses, the most recent scheduled for last month. ‘The isolation, secrecy, guilt and anguish of many paedophiles,’ he wrote in Perspectives on Paedophilia, ‘are not intrinsic to the phenomen[on] but are derived from the extreme social repression placed on minorities . . .

‘Paedophiles are told they are the seducers and rapists of children; they know their experiences are often loving and tender ones. They are told that children are pure and innocent, devoid of sexuality; they know both from their own experiences of childhood and from the children they meet that this is not the case.'”

We have heard about the “isolation, secrecy, guilt and anguish” of gays for decades. Now, we hear about the “isolation, secrecy, guilt and anguish” about Bruce Jenner and other suffering transgenders. Next it will indeed be pedophiles we are asked to accept, as well as those who prefer sex with animals.

There is “isolation, secrecy, guilt, and anguish” associated with drug addiction and alcoholism, but we don’t coddle the addict and celebrate their addictions. We ask addicts to go to treatment; in many cases, they are compelled by law to attend treatment centers. Yet, they too, before they are able to accept they are sick, “know their experiences are loving and tender ones.” Why can’t the people they harm see this?

Is it possible that “isolation, secrecy, guilt, and anguish” are code words for behavior that harms an individual as well as the individual’s family and associates? Why is it that we are asked to understand and celebrate sexual disorders, but not other sicknesses of body, mind, and spirit?

#11 Comment By Al On June 4, 2015 @ 1:55 pm

I thought Sheldon’s comment very interesting. It is good to see that some on the other side recognize (to an extent) the insanity of all this. But what Sheldon and other liberals like him fail to see is that liberal ideology is the very reason that any of this can occur at all. The reason that “one individual’s sex change has become the new cause celebre” and that “large segments of our society have lost any sense of priorities, propriety, and proportion” is because of liberalism’s worship of the self.

“As one views modern man in his innumerable exhibitions of irresponsibility and defiance, one may discern, if he has the courage to see what he sees…a prodigious egotism. This egotism, which is another form of fragmentation, is a consequence of that fatal decision to make a separate self the measure of value…

And there is no precept in modern ideology with which to rebuke [this egotism]; for, is not this equal man a kind of king, superior to the trappings of royalty, and cannot such a one do what he will with his life? The various declarations of independence have given him freedom from all the bondages.

Inevitably there follows an increase in selfishness. It is the simple nature of egotism to view things out of proportion, the “I” becoming dominant and the entire world suffering a distortion. Once more we are face to face with the fact of alienation from reality. No man who knows himself in his ab extra relationships can be an egotist. But he who is cognizant mainly of self suffers an actual distortion…”

-Richard Weaver, “Ideas Have Consequences”, 1948

That is the main reason the media is so in love with this (the other is their love of anything obscene and shocking), and it is the reason society at large is heaping praise on this man and thinks he is “courageous”. In a society of delusional egotists, Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner has publicly committed an act of supremely delusional egotism. That this occurs in our liberal age is not accidental. It is a direct consequence of liberal thought.

#12 Comment By Viking On June 4, 2015 @ 2:15 pm

Perhaps someone has already brought this up – I read thru the comments rather cursorily – but since Jenner has not had genital reconstruction, isn’t (s)he more a transvestite than a transsexual? BTW, the Orwellian aspect occurred to me as well. I remember reading that the old Soviet Union was a society where yesterday’s weather could be changed by government fiat. (“Ukase”, IIRC, is the Russian word for that.)

#13 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On June 4, 2015 @ 6:57 pm

I think that Del Noce (Carlo, please correct me if I’m wrong) said that the source of the current obsession with “rights” is a sort of deep existential terror brought about by the cultural rejection of metaphysics.
The fact that we have been brought to a terrifying and meaningless life without our consent entitles us to ask the world for infinite reparation.
I think that this also explains why contemporary Western culture is a culture of death.

#14 Comment By panda On June 4, 2015 @ 7:15 pm

“Perhaps someone has already brought this up – I read thru the comments rather cursorily – but since Jenner has not had genital reconstruction, isn’t (s)he more a transvestite than a transsexual? BTW, the Orwellian aspect occurred to me as well. I remember reading that the old Soviet Union was a society where yesterday’s weather could be changed by government fiat. (“Ukase”, IIRC, is the Russian word for that.)”

1. The Soviet Union did many things, but ordering retroactively changing weather is not one of them. In fact, adverse weather events were super-welcome, as they could be used to explain away crop failures..
2. Ukase (or rather ukaz,указ) is simply the Russian word for decree or executive order.
3. Most importantly, when it came to sexuality, the USSR had it all: anti-sodomy laws, forced psychiatric treatment of homosexuals, socially sanctioned violence towards “sissies” and so on. On this particular issue, the socons and the Communists were in total agreement.

#15 Comment By Zorro On June 4, 2015 @ 8:13 pm

Tumarion,

The evidence seems to favor at least a certain amount of structural and functional differences between male and female brains, on average. I’d assert this contra some feminists, BTW.

Ok, can we have a citation to this evidence? It is all very well to “assert” this, but I’d like to see some studies that say that? The gold standard would be a suitably trained neurologist who could determine genetic gender (DNA XX/XY) merely from reviewing brain scans.

Absent evidence to the contrary it is safest to assume that human brains do not show morphological differentiation by gender (or race or nationality for that matter) and that all talk of “male” or “female” brains is mythological. Nothing wrong with myths so long as they are acknowledged for what they are. Making medical decisions on the basis of myths would seem unwise.

I would be very interested however to see hard evidence to the contrary.

#16 Comment By David Friedman On June 4, 2015 @ 9:16 pm

This thread is probably a bit stale by now, but certain unsupported assertions shouldn’t be allowed to stand without comment. Both Raskolnik and Wycoff took issue with my point that the transgendered commit suicide and are murdered out of proportion to their numbers (but curiously, nothing else I wrote). Of course they are, they’re all depressed!
Let’s take the easy part first. High levels of murder (and violence in general) against transsexuals are real. Some data are below. It should be easy to follow the links to more.
Is there some trait you are born with that attracts violence? Or is it that culturally demonized groups become the targets of violence because they’ve been demonized? The answer to that is so obvious it’s painful to have to even ask.
This blog and many of the comments it has attracted virtually blame the fall of civilization on our willingness to accept transgendered people as members of society. Blame the victim much?
Then there is arguably more difficult point about the relationship of gender dysphoria and mental illness, specifically depression. This important because depressed people are at great risk of suicide. The transgendered commit suicide at about twice the rate of the general population. But let’s wonder about which is the chicken and which the egg. Are transgendered people born both with a propensity for being transgendered and for being depressed (I’ll bet some are) or, perhaps, do they become depressed because of the stressful circumstances of their lives growing up? They’re confused about their identities, they’re bullied, they’re harassed, they’re sexually exploited and they’re excluded. How many of you might just become depressed if you spent the first 15 or 20 years of your life in that kind of environment?
Simply linking depression and being transgender is a superficial analysis. It’s way more important to consider if there is a causal relationship. Again, explore some of the links below.
It’s hard to study small populations, like transgendered people, but it’s being done more and more. There is research out there. You can learn from it.
Here are links to a small sample of it.
[11]
[12]
[13]
[14]
Violence against transgender people: A review of United States data Rebecca L. Stotzer
Aggression and Violent Behavior Volume 14, Issue 3, May–June 2009, Pages 170–179
Larry Nuttbrock, Walter Bockting, Andrew Rosenblum, Sel Hwahng, Mona Mason, Monica Macri, and Jeffrey Becker. Gender Abuse and Major Depression Among Transgender Women: A Prospective Study of Vulnerability and Resilience. American Journal of Public Health: November 2014, Vol. 104, No. 11, pp. 2191-2198.

Walter O. Bockting, Michael H. Miner, Rebecca E. Swinburne Romine, Autumn Hamilton, and Eli Coleman. Stigma, Mental Health, and Resilience in an Online Sample of the US Transgender Population. American Journal of Public Health: May 2013, Vol. 103, No. 5, pp. 943-951.

#17 Comment By Turmarion On June 4, 2015 @ 9:36 pm

Zorro, I’m not a biologist or neuroscientist, and I don’t have a lot of time to sort through stuff right now. As a preliminary, I’d suggest [15], [16], [17], [18], and [19].

I don’t think anybody could identify a person’s gender solely on the basis of a brain scan yet; but that doesn’t mean that won’t ever be possible, and maybe sooner than we think. On the other hand, the thesis that there are noticeable differences between male and female brains may be wrong. We don’t know yet; but the evidence for subtle differences seems to be convincing to me. If Hector is around, maybe he’ll have something to chip in; ditto anyone here who is a psychologist or neurologist.

#18 Comment By David Friedman On June 4, 2015 @ 9:38 pm

I apologize for another post, but Zorro’s comment compels me.

The scientific data set supporting differences between male and female brains is huge.

A search of PubMed, which is the authoritative compilaton of all biomedical research published in peer reviewed journals brings back 13,000 hits for the query “sex differences in human brain.” Here are two sites and one citation that can lead you to everything you ever wanted to read on this topic

[16]

[20]

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Jan 14;111(2):823-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1316909110. Epub 2013 Dec 2.
Sex differences in the structural connectome of the human brain.
Ingalhalikar M1, Smith A, Parker D, Satterthwaite TD, Elliott MA, Ruparel K, Hakonarson H, Gur RE, Gur RC, Verma R.

#19 Comment By Turmarion On June 4, 2015 @ 9:38 pm

I’d also add, Zorro, that even if it could be indisputably established that some men have female brains and vice versa, that’s not ipso facto an argument for surgery, hormone treatment, etc. As I said above, I have a suspicion of the medical industry in areas like this. I don’t honestly know what the best approach would be in such situations; but I think non-surgical approaches ought to be researched and emphasized first. I wouldn’t rule out any surgery ever for anyone under any conditions; but I’d say it ought to be a last-ditch thing.

#20 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On June 4, 2015 @ 10:27 pm

zorro has doubts about the sexual dimorphism of the human brain. There is plenty of literature corroborating the dimorphism. Just google “sexual dimorphism of the brain”. We don’t need a full review here.
On the other hand, we don’t need this as a proof. Good old deductive reasoning works just fine, even though in this inductivist era we seem to forget it.
We know for sure that men have a larger brain than women. We also know for sure that normal men and women are roughly equally able and fit to their environment. Therefore, if brains of significantly different size and weight allow for roughly the same performance, they must be structurally different.

#21 Comment By wycoff On June 4, 2015 @ 10:58 pm

David Friedman says:
June 4, 2015 at 9:16 pm
This thread is probably a bit stale by now, but certain unsupported assertions shouldn’t be allowed to stand without comment. Both Raskolnik and Wycoff took issue with my point that the transgendered commit suicide and are murdered out of proportion to their numbers (but curiously, nothing else I wrote). Of course they are, they’re all depressed!

There’s more to mental illness than simply depression, though it fits in your narrative. I think your premise- that transexuals would be mostly fine if it weren’t for the haters- to be approaching absurdity. These people have fundamental mental issues that reach to the core of their being. It’s no surprise that those issues manifest is a number of destructive ways.

As for violence, are transsexuals targeted more than the average person? Very likely, and that violence should be stopped. But how much of the violence stems from people who don’t take kindly to being lied to by their romantic partner when they find an unexpected appendage (even if the transsexual himself truly doesn’t think he’s being deceitful, just expressing himself)? I’m not saying that such violence would be justified, but I think that it definitely plays a role in the numbers.

As far as not taking issue with anything else you wrote- frankly, the part of the statement I responded to was so sweeping and trollish that I didn’t pay much attention to anything else you wrote.

#22 Comment By wycoff On June 4, 2015 @ 11:06 pm

…but I just double checked, David Friedman, and the rest was just more of the same from you. Not worth much more of a response than what you received. I get it, you think we’re backwards and hateful for not believing what you believe. But given your other arguments in this thread, I tend to not to give much credence to what you think about me (and I’m sure the feeling is mutual).

#23 Comment By Zorro On June 4, 2015 @ 11:23 pm

Hm you guys very interesting. Thank you! I intend to look this material over in more depth tomorrow. Frankly I don’t have the math to read this stuff too critically, but it looks like some researchers might be onto something here.

I’m not sure all this adds up to the idea that a particular male could be indisputably shown to have a “female brain.” I assume there would be a lot of crossover, and that the categories “male brain” and “female brain” would display significant overlap. It also does not sound like such a distinction could be indisputably shown upon brain scan, at least not yet.

Following this out in my ignorant way, I would assume that hormones would have something to do with the development of any discernable differences. Chasing that upstream I am wondering how such a hormone glitch could have occurred (lots of ways I assume) and I also wonder whether someone who was in every other way so typically male as Bruce Jenner could produce this one “female” organ. Many mysteries.

Glad to have some of this filled out though, so thank you again.

#24 Comment By Raskolnik On June 4, 2015 @ 11:30 pm

Turmarion,

It’s true that there is evidence that the brain is sexed. But as I understand the data, the most robustly established result is that observable differences are linked to the influence of sex-specific hormones. Since all the neuroanatomical studies studying transsexualism so far have involved people on hormonal treatment, there is an ineliminable methodological problem, insofar is it is impossible to control for the presence of hormones (and according to the LGBT lobby it would be unethical to withhold those hormones).

Beyond that, while I understand your argument, I have to disagree with your analysis. It is not merely a “semantic” difference at stake. The claim that the LGBT lobby makes here is twofold. First, “gender identity” is an irreducible element of one’s lived experience, absolutely independent of any physical substrate. This is the claim that motivates the subsequent claim that men can get pregnant and women can have penises. Second, the “gender binary” is ripe for deconstruction; one can occupy either end, or both simultaneously, or fall somewhere in between, or exist completely outside of it. This motivates the endless proliferation of “gender identities” in the rapidly expanding LGBTIAWTFBBQ+ acronym.

This model is totally incompatible with the account you provide of the relationship between biology and culture. I would dispute your characterization, but it’s beside the point, because you are fundamentally misunderstanding the claim being made by the LGBT lobby. At bottom the claim is in fact incoherent and internally inconsistent, which is probably, in combination with your natural compassion and decency as a human being, why you’re trying to square this particular circle.

But the thing to keep in mind is that the trans lobby are more vitriolic enforcers of gender norms than all but the most hardcore conservatives, and even there it’s probably a wash. Indeed, if a boy wants to wear makeup and dresses, or a girl wants to cut her hair short and play in the mud, what exactly is the big deal? Only nowadays if you’re a boy who wants to wear makeup and dresses, you’re liable to be told (implicitly or explicitly) that you are, in fact, a girl. And if you’re a 65 year old former Olympian whose idea of femininity is glamour magazine chic, LGBT-friendly rightthinkers will praise your courage and progressivism.

#25 Comment By Raskolnik On June 4, 2015 @ 11:34 pm

David Friedman,

More than 90 percent of murdered transgenders are sex workers, and the murder rate for transgender sex workers is exactly the same as the murder rate for non-transgender (I refuse to use a certain ridiculous neologism) sex workers, within the margin of error. Try harder.

#26 Comment By Corinth On June 5, 2015 @ 3:29 am

Raskolnik, literally nothing you’ve said on this page of comments is factually accurate.

#27 Comment By Corinth On June 5, 2015 @ 3:33 am

Furthermore, calling “cis” a “ridiculous neologism” is [21]. I was fortunate enough to take two years of Latin in high school, but you could have just as easily learned the term from chemistry.

#28 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On June 5, 2015 @ 8:34 am

Raskolnik

As I understand the data, the most robustly established result is that observable differences are linked to the influence of sex-specific hormones.

Yes, but as far as I’m getting it, the stronger influence takes place during the development of the embryo in the womb. It looks that when the child is born, les jeux sont faits.

#29 Comment By Turmarion On June 5, 2015 @ 8:42 am

Raskolnik, I think we’re more or less in agreement on a lot of things; and I’d even agree with you that ” if a boy wants to wear makeup and dresses, or a girl wants to cut her hair short and play in the mud, what exactly” then nobody has any business coming and telling you you’re not really a girl/boy.

To the extent that you’re correct about the ideology of the LGBT lobby, then to heck with them. I admit I don’t read much of what the organized LGBT lobby says–certainly what little I have read seems to involve a lot of obfuscating jargon. I actually don’t care much for the LGBT lobby; but I don’t care much for any lobbies, gay or straight, conservative or liberal. There’s an old Hank Williams, Jr. song, “Coalition to Ban Coalitions”; and while I disagree with his politics on pretty much everything else, I sometimes think a lobby to ban lobbies might not be a bad idea.

#30 Comment By Turmarion On June 5, 2015 @ 8:53 am

In fact, just to be clear, I’d argue that there is a strong demarcation between children and adults. I don’t think any assumptions of transgenderism or gender dysphoria should be assumed for a child, no matter how gender nonconforming he or she is. By definition, a child’s personality is not yet fixed, so anything like this is premature and ideological.

It’s kind of like mirror image freakouts. A conservative loses it because his two-year-old son wants to wear a dress or his three-year-old daughter wants to play with trucks. Some conservative pastor just yesterday–I think it was someone connected with the Duggars–was saying that you have to make sure you raise your sons around “manly men” so they don’t turn out like what’s-zer-name Jenner. God forbid your son not be into sports and roughhousing! God forbid your son like to cook! God forbid your son prefer to read and stay home!

I fit all those criteria; and while my parents were relatively conservative, I thank God regularly that they never felt threatened by what my preferences were, or thought I had to do the machismo thing, and so on. I hate to think what it would have been like if I’d had parents whose beliefs were like those of that pastor.

On the other hand, it’s equally wrong to swoop in and say “Johnny is really a girl! Susie is really a boy!” and to make a big deal about how they need to go on hormone therapy and sue the school over bathrooms. Everybody on both sides just needs to breathe and let kids be kids. Most gender non-conformity in kids is either transient–a boy usually grows out of wanting to wear makeup and a dress–or not even a matter of concern–who cares if Bobby likes to cook or Jenny likes to work on cars?

I think there’s way too much ideology on both sides, which brings me back to the lobby to ban lobbies.

#31 Comment By JamesG On June 5, 2015 @ 10:30 am

A mild observation: I believe the ranks of the “Isn’t she wonderful” army are full of people who are opposed to GMO food, always buy “organic”, hate pesticides and synthetic clothing and at least “suspect” vaccinations.

But they are not only okay with but are actually enthralled by a person having ten-hour-long surgeries, being injected daily with synthetic hormones and pretending to be something completely different from what their genome says they really are.

We live in strange times.

#32 Comment By wycoff On June 5, 2015 @ 10:38 am

Turmarion says:
June 5, 2015 at 8:53 am

On the other hand, it’s equally wrong to swoop in and say “Johnny is really a girl! Susie is really a boy!” and to make a big deal about how they need to go on hormone therapy and sue the school over bathrooms. Everybody on both sides just needs to breathe and let kids be kids. Most gender non-conformity in kids is either transient–a boy usually grows out of wanting to wear makeup and a dress–or not even a matter of concern–who cares if Bobby likes to cook or Jenny likes to work on cars?

Excellent point. And the David Friedmans of the world, who consider any skepticism about transgenderism or the avant garde sexual left’s demands about what to do about it to be akin to hate, will likely be screaming “child abuse” if parents don’t immediately take their child to get hormone therapy or other treatment. If people like that get their way and CPS starts trying to force hormone treatments, then I expect that there will be serious resistance.

#33 Comment By grumpy realist On June 5, 2015 @ 12:47 pm

Meh. This is all a tempest in a teapot, brought on by the Kardashian black hole in the media. The story has sex, Kardashians, a famous athlete, psychic angst, transsexuality, and screaming from the Right all tied up in one pink bow. No wonder the 24-hour maw called the entertainment media is going nuts.

It’s an interesting gedanken-experiment as to what it would be like if we could change our sexes as easily as changing hair color.

I suggest that those who are freaking out start reading more science fiction.

#34 Comment By M_Young On June 5, 2015 @ 1:10 pm

“A mild observation: I believe the ranks of the “Isn’t she wonderful” army are full of people who are opposed to GMO food, always buy “organic”, hate pesticides and synthetic clothing and at least “suspect” vaccinations.”

Exactly…and not a ‘mild observation’ to me, but one that gets to the crux of the matter. The pig headed denial of biological reality, indeed the insistence that anyone who doesn’t deny biological reality is a bigot, while at the same time posing as ‘keeping it real’, being down with organic food, insisting on ‘locally grown’ this or that.

I will say that at least the younger millennials (early to mid 20ies) are so into their devices and video games etc that it seems that the whole neo-hippy, organic wannabe thing is going by the wayside.

#35 Comment By Raskolnik On June 5, 2015 @ 1:24 pm

Corinth,

Congratulations on your knowledge of classical languages. I had five years of high school Latin, as well as three years of Greek (both Homeric and Attic). More recently my attention has turned to Sanskrit. I was, obviously, not referring to the mere prefix cis- in my post, which is in any case not a neologism, but to the truly ridiculous combination of this prefix with a fine grammatical term used in the analysis of Indo-European languages like Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit.

As for the rest, I’m afraid you’ll need a better rebuttal than “Nuh uh!!”. Such a facile response makes you appear appear quite childish.

#36 Comment By David Friedman On June 5, 2015 @ 11:36 pm

Okay, I’ll come clean. I am a neurobiologist. I’ve taught medical students for decades. And, as far as I can tell, the only hate expressed in my name on this forum has been expressed by others.

The evidence for differences between male and female brains is not argued anymore in my field. We also mostly don’t think it much matters in society at large. There is huge overlap between the capabilities of men and women, so knowing what the average is, doesn’t tell you anything about an individual.

Sex hormones do program the brain to be male or female early in fetal development. It doesn’t always work right. It’s not precise like math, it’s biology, which is really messy.

No one knows why some people might consider themselves to be in the body of the opposite sex or gay or, for that matter, a football player. We just don’t understand that yet.

No responsible doctors are proposing to give hormones to gender non-conforming kids. That would be called malpractice.

The only reason any of this matters is because some people feel it necessary to forbid the “normalizing. . . of minority sexual expression and identity.”

Gay and trans people aren’t fired from jobs because a boss feared that their very presence might lead to polygamy or pedophilia, they are fired because of who they are.

Unless you think you are falling in love with her, or simply want to bed her, who cares if the apparent woman sitting across from you has XX or XY chromosomes? Women with andgrogen insensivity disorder (AIS, totally real – look it up) are XY males, who because they lack the receptor that recognizes testosterone, grow up looking like and feeling like they are girls, including an apparent vagina (but no uterus). For most, it is only when they reach the age of puberty and don’t begin menstruating that the condition is discovered.

How would you treat them? Where, in your clearly dichotomous sexual and gender categories do they fit?

How about the kids who are born with ambiguous external sex organs, or who are true hermaphrodites? I’ve seen no answer to that yet.

Whatever you think of how the media has has handled the Bruce to Caitlyn Jenner media circus, there are real people out there who are dealing with this every day. And it has nothing to do with whether “cis” is appropriate to use or not.

#37 Comment By Loic On June 6, 2015 @ 4:03 pm

A society, or rather its media, that so barefacedly calls the obvious its opposite (“a sexually procreative man is in fact a woman and always was”), can almost certainly not be trusted in its representation of far more pressing, transcendental, and world historical issues: such as Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, ISIS, etc…

#38 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 6, 2015 @ 7:09 pm

David Friedman is a sane man.

#39 Comment By Corinth On June 7, 2015 @ 3:27 pm

Raskolik, let’s look at the claims you’ve made:

[Murder and suicide are] “way more common” because transgenderism is nearly 100% comorbid with MDD and various other mental illnesses.

This should be plainly false to anyone on it’s face; virtually nothing is 100% in life. But [22] “Comparison with previous reports on the psychiatric comorbidity among [Gender Identity Disorder] patients revealed that the majority of GID patients had no psychiatric comorbidity. GID is a diagnostic entity in its own right, not necessarily associated with severe comorbid psychological findings.”

And all the available data indicate that mental health outcomes are not better post-transition, implying that transition (surprise, surprise) does not resolve the underlying psychiatric morbidity.

[23] “after sex reassignment, 80% of individuals with GID reported significant improvement in gender dysphoria ; 78% reported significant improvement in psychological symptoms ; 80% reported significant improvement in quality of life ; and 72% reported significant improvement in sexual function.”

If transgenderism were in fact neurologically based–which I strongly doubt is the case

While there isn’t nearly enough research into this area, a [24] “conclude[s] that current data suggests a biological etiology for transgender identity.”

Only nowadays if you’re a boy who wants to wear makeup and dresses, you’re liable to be told (implicitly or explicitly) that you are, in fact, a girl.

This simply doesn’t happen. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the [25], as a starting point. Children who enjoy the toys or clothing or whatever of the opposite gender are vastly more likely to be told to cut it out than encouraged, and there is a large gulf between children who demonstrate a persistent claim (over years and years) about their own gender identity and children who are simply non-conforming in terms of dress and play. Before being treated medically in any way, children must pass through a gauntlet of psychologists and doctors. Significantly more trans children are turned away (or never even make it that far because their parents enforce harsh gender norms) than non-trans children making it any further than the first psych visit.

More than 90 percent of murdered transgenders are sex workers

I’m unsure how to find significant stats about this, but the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program’s [26] finds that only 1.25% of cases where the offender anti-LGBT violence was unkown to the victim was “pick-up/hook-up violence.” I attempted my own cursory review of this year’s murders, but it was extremely emotionally draining and I had to stop at mid-March. Of the more than ten trans women killed in the US so far there is no evidence that any was engaged in sex work. Many cases were domestic violence, two were police shootings, and in one tragic instance a father shot and killed his daughter. While it doesn’t have that specific stat, the [27] has a lot of information about bias and violence that you may find enlightening.

So, there you go. You’re simply completely wrong about everything.

#40 Comment By Ron On June 8, 2015 @ 1:22 am

Sorry, but the age of indoctrination and coercion is over. What you call atomized individualism is here to stay, for better or worse. We need to figure out a way to persuade young folk to develop a proper regard for others when they make decisions. We can’t exactly dictate what ‘proper regard’ is, though. We can only keep the question in front of them and ask them to address it.

#41 Comment By Raskolnik On June 8, 2015 @ 8:07 am

Not sure if anyone is still reading this, but I want to correct this statement of David Friedman’s:

“No responsible doctors are proposing to give hormones to gender non-conforming kids. That would be called malpractice.”

This is 100%, utterly and completely false. Not only are LGBT activists calling to give hormones to prepubescent gender-nonconforming children, this is already happening.

[28]

#42 Comment By David Friedman On June 8, 2015 @ 4:34 pm

Here is a recent review of the approach recommended by the mainstream medical comhttps://www.uptodate.com/contents/overview-of-the-management-of-gender-nonconformity-in-children-and-adolescents?source=machineLearning&search=treatment+of+transgender+children&selectedTitle=1~30&sectionRank=1&anchor=H233773#H233773munity

#43 Comment By Raskolnik On June 8, 2015 @ 7:28 pm

David Friedman,

I understand that the medical consensus may not involve giving sex hormones to pre-pubescents, but there are LGBT activists saying that the refusal to provide gender non-conforming pre-pubescents with sex hormones is a violation of their human rights, and physicians who are all too happy to oblige this lobby, who have indeed already started supplying pre-pubescents with hormones.

#44 Comment By AMERICANRIGHTS On March 30, 2016 @ 2:12 pm

Caitlynn Jenner is a MAN! HE is not a women. HE IS Always going to be a MAN if he has a penis. He is not a hero for this ACT!
Our 1st Amendment right allows me to have the right to state that. Rights that many men & Women have died for. FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Let’s see how people forget these right’s and start bashing for what I just stated.