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Womanhood As Performance Art

A Canadian transsexual banned from the Miss Universe Canada pageant is considering a lawsuit. Excerpt:

A Vancouver transgendered activist, Jamie Lee Hamilton, said Talackova could sue for violation of her human rights.

“She was born with male genitalia and is being treated as a second-class citizen,” Hamilton said. “Under the eyes of the law and the medical profession, she’s a legal female.”

Prof. Patrizia Gentile of Ottawa’s Carleton University, who did a dissertation on beauty pageants, equated the ban with the exclusion of blacks and Jews from pageants in earlier times. “We’re seeing more and more transgendered women wanting to be beauty contestants,” she said. “The rule is incongruent with the culture.”

Besides, she said, “Your genitalia have nothing to do with how you perform femininity.”

That statement does a whole lot of philosophical work, doesn’t it? Is gender essential, or does existence precede essence? What about race and ethnicity? Does skin color have anything to do with how you “perform” blackness, or whiteness, or whatever? If Prof. Gentile’s reasoning on gender is sound, why couldn’t an Anglo-Saxon who, say, wished to identify as an Inuit, and lived as if she were an Inuit, not sue for a violation of her human rights if she were told she couldn’t take advantage of set-asides for native peoples? Her DNA would have nothing to do with how she performs Inuit-ness, right, Prof. Gentile?

Seriously, what’s the limit on this line of thinking? Is it a human rights violation to tell someone who is an ace Tony Bennett impersonator, a guy who looks and sounds exactly like the crooner, that it’s against the law for him to sell tickets to a concert claiming that he’s Tony Bennett? His DNA profile and real name has nothing to do with how he performs as Tony Bennett, right?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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