What does an almost forty-year-old, out and proud lesbian do when her partner comes out as a transgender male? I don’t really know. I can only tell you what this lesbian chose to do: I chose to stay. I chose to stay because, when I really got honest, if Simon was a boy, he’d always been a boy, whether I’d acknowledged it or not.
I chose to stay because Simon is brave, kind, honest and loving ways in ways that Amy could never quite muster up the openness, the transparency, to be. I chose to stay to honor the family that we created together. I chose to stay because I can’t imagine my life without him.
When I begin to overanalyze what staying with Simon means for my lesbian identity, I get a little panicked. Losing the lesbian label feels a bit like losing part of myself.
But then I look at the person I committed my life to almost ten years ago, I look at our child who adores us both, and I know that with Simon is where I want, where I need, to be. I love him. And he still gets me like no one else does. These things transcend labels.
Cid Isbell hadn’t been nervous about the seven-hour operation until the day before he went into the hospital. But once he made it to his San Francisco hotel room, he began burning sage for good vibes.
“Advanced surgery for female-to-males has been way behind male-to-female until now,” Isbell said. “The surgeons always told me, ‘it’s easier to make a hole than a pole’ but now we’re catching up.” And catch up he did.
Inside the operating room, a surgeon lifted up a six-inch length of flesh that looked exactly like a penis but had been crafted out of a chunk of Cid’s arm. He handed it, almost ceremonially, to the lead surgeon, who began sewing it between Cid’s legs, just above where his vagina used to be.
The whole procedure took most of the day, and when Cid finally woke up and glanced down, he said: “Wow, I have a penis! That looks freakin’ amazing.”
A whole new world opens up for Cid, née Diana:
The day after his surgery, Cid is groggy but in high spirits.
Never shy, he pulls back the covers to show off his penis. It doesn’t have a dressing, so that it can be checked every hour to make sure the blood supply is working.
“I called the nurse to say a tube was stuck to my scrotum and then I thought, wait, I have a scrotum? Cool!” he said.
Laughing hurts, but Cid is joshing anyway. “I’ve decided I’m a virgin again. I have a few woman friends who are arguing about deflowering me. Then I had some gay men who are, like, I want to be the first. I might just auction myself on eBay.”
Okay. It’s easy to laugh at this insanity, but for political economist Dale Kuehne, this kind of thing is neither funny nor trivial:
While today’s conversations push the boundaries of how we understand gender, they don’t understand that this brave new world of identity is about more than gender.
The students with whom I associate—from middle school to college students—have understood for several years that we now reside in a world beyond gender. The youngest of them probably don’t realize that TIME’s article announced anything “new.”
For many of them, gender discussions, even of the transgender variation, are just so yesterday. When we talk about personal identity, we don’t include the mundane questions about being male and/or female. A person can certainly identify as male or female if they wish, but there is little expectation that one would do so.
After all, today Facebook gives us over 50 “gender” identities to choose from. (Conversations about this can involve questions about why there are so few options.) And rather than looking to gender or variations on a gender, more and more young people are seeking to discover their identity by widening the options to include “otherkins” (people who consider themselves to have a non-human identity, such as various animals, spirits, mediums, and so on).
Young people today are much less binary when it comes to understanding identity because “male” and “female” as categories don’t express a unique or comprehensive identity.
When I tell this to many adult audiences, they laugh, believing that young people will grow out of this “stage.” They’re surprised that I don’t share their sense of the immaturity of our youth.
That’s because the young people with whom I interact are extraordinarily perceptive, compared to adults. As one high school student recently asked me, “Why does our school demand that we figure out if we are male or female or some variation? How could we figure it out even if we cared about gender? Can you tell me what it feels like to be woman? Can you tell me what it feels like to be a man? Of course not. No one knows.”
If everything is reduced to gender—even liquid gender—then how can anyone know by a solely internal exploration if they feel male or female?
What does it feel like to be a man? It can’t just mean that I am attracted to women, because it is okay to be attracted to men. It can’t just mean I feel like a lumberjack—because what does it mean to feel like a lumberjack? It can’t simply mean to be drawn to women’s clothes because what makes some garments women’s clothes?
In short, if the ultimate source of reference is the self, and if no other self than the individual is a reference point, how can you know who or what you are?
Indeed. The kids are right.
We don’t live at a tipping point; we already live beyond the tipping point. Whether adults realize it or not, the most important conversation today is not about gender, but about identity, as released from the confines of gender.
Kuehne, I should say, thinks this is a very bad thing, because it is part — indeed, perhaps the end point — of the total deconstruction of the relational bases of society and its refashioning to serve the needs of the sovereign Self. (His book about the Sexual Revolution and identity is here.) Not long ago, a high school girl visiting from out of town was telling me how difficult it is to know how to address a girl at her school who insists that she is a boy, but who also plays on the female athletic teams — and demands that her female teammates call her “he”. The school authorities support all this.
It’s face-planting stuff, but it’s also a frontal challenge to the natural order, and beyond that, it’s a metaphysical challenge. Is reality nothing more than what we choose to call it? Does the Self have the power to re-order reality to suit its desires — and, in our deracinated culture, does it have the power to compel others to live by its illusions at the risk of being denounced as bigots, or even sued?
I notice this morning that TAC publishes a rave review of The Crisis of Modernity by the late Italian philosopher Augusto Del Noce, translated by our own Carlo Lancellotti. In the book, Del Noce recognizes the Sexual Revolution as primarily a metaphysical one intended to destroy the basis for traditional morality. In an essay first published in 1970, Del Noce wrote:
Indeed, [Wilhelm] Reich’s thought is based on the premise, which of course is taken as unquestionably true without even a hint of a proof, that there is no order of ends, no meta-empirical authority of values. Any trace not just of Christianity but of “idealism” in the broadest sense, or of a foundation of values in some objective reality, like history according to Marx, is eliminated. What is man reduced to, then, if not to a bundle of physical needs? …
Having taken away every order of ends and eliminated every authority of values, all that is left is vital energy, which can be identified with sexuality, as was already claimed in ancient times and it actually difficult to refute. Hence, the core element of life will be sexual happiness. And since full sexual satisfaction is possible, happiness is within reach.
More Del Noce:
The idea of indissoluble monogamous marriage and other ideas related to it (modesty, purity, continence) are linked to the idea of tradition, which in turn presupposes (since tradere means to hand down) the idea of an objective order or unchangeable and permanent truths (the Platonic True in itself and Good in itself). On top of everything else, the affirmation of these themes is one of the glories of Italian thought, because what else is Dante’s Comedy if not the poem of order viewed as the immanent form of the universe? …
Interesting. In the Commedia, the Inferno is where individual souls are trapped for eternity, isolated from communion with each other, in worlds they fashioned for themselves, because they preferred their own “truth” to the objective truth of the divine order. Del Noce:
But if we separate the idea of tradition from that of an objective order, it must necessarily appear to be “the past,” what has been “surpassed,” “the dead trying to suffocate the living,” what must be negated in order to find psychological balance. The idea of indissoluble marriage must be replaced by that of free union, renewable of breakable at any time. It does not make sense to speak of sexual perversions; on the contrary, homosexual expressions, either masculine or feminine, should be regarded as the purest form of love. …
Sexual liberation, as Del Noce saw, is based on the denial of metaphysics — that is, the denial of the claim that there is an immanent order in the world. Del Noce said traditionalists can’t even have a dialogue with the sexual liberationists because they deny the very foundation of tradition: belief in an unseen order.
The normalization of transgenderism requires the denial that gender and gender difference have essential meaning. It requires us to believe that truth is whatever the willing individual wishes it to be. And it greases the slippery slope to the loss of our very humanity. Ever heard of species dysphoria? You will.
It’s anarchy, and it can’t last. There will be an immense amount of destruction before this passes, and the natural order reasserts itself. Point is, the craziness in these two stories I posted at the top of this blog are hilarious, in a way, but deep down, not funny at all. The profound disorder within those people is, and is becoming, valorized by our culture, a political act that is undermining the basis of political and social life.