September 28, 2009
Our Sexual Identity Crisis
Perhaps you've heard the tragic story of David Reimer. Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1966, David was the victim of a botched circumcision that left his penis charred beyond surgical repair. His parents Ron and Janet, no doubt beside themselves, were confused about the best way to proceed. Then, one day, they saw a man named Dr. John Money on television.
Money was talking about his theory of "gender neutrality," which states that "gender identity" is learned rather than innate. The idea was that the sexes were the same except for the superficial physical differences; this implies that if a child were altered so as to superficially resemble the opposite sex and was raised as one of its members, he would be happy with that sexual identity. Hearing this, the Reimers hoped they had found their salvation.
They took their boy to Money, who told them that their son's penis could not be restored and that he stood a much better chance of living a happy life if "sex-reassignment surgery" (in reality, reassigning sex is about as possible as reassigning species) were performed and he was raised as a girl. The Reimers agreed, and the surgery was performed when the boy, who would be named "Brenda," was 22 months old.
In reality, the kindest way to describe Money's theory is fanciful. His idea of "gender neutrality" was still in vogue when I was a youth, and "vogue," in the most frivolous sense, is the correct term. It was always more style than science; it was something that I, even as a teen, knew was bunk. Yet who would listen to people such as me? We were old-fashioned, behind the times. And it didn't matter that Money was Alfred Kinsey redux and believed pedophilia was lovely if it was for "love." It didn't matter that David and his twin brother, Brian, said that Money sexually abused them during photo shoots. He was a "doctor," a Ph.D. on the cutting edge of a brave new world.
Only, David ("Brenda" at the time) wanted nothing to do with that world. Although he was never told he was a boy, had been surgically altered, was dressed and raised as a girl and was regularly seeing Money for therapy, he resisted his "gender assignment" from the outset. He acted like a boy, played with boys' toys and objected to seeing Money from the age of seven. It wasn't going well -- and it wouldn't end well.
At the age of 14, in a rare commendable act of teen rebellion, David threatened suicide if he were forced to continue with Money's prescriptions. This prompted his parents to finally tell him the truth about his condition. With his eyes opened, he then replaced his estrogen treatments with male hormone therapy, took the name "David," started living as a boy, underwent reconstructive genital surgery and later married a woman who already had children. Yet the damage had been done. His tormented life which began in such a tragic way came to a tragic end: he did commit suicide, at the age of 38.
Dr. Money, too, is now dead. Yet he died with his ideological boots on; not only did he fail to repent, he fraudulently portrayed David's case -- the one for which he was most famous -- as a success for years after its failure was obvious. This, and his refusal to ever own up to the failure, only increased the chances that other children would be thus scarred.
As a testimonial to how quickly fashions pass away, Money's theory has joined him in the grave. The stake through its heart came in the 1990s, with brain research and an improved understanding of intrauterine development proving conclusively that the sexes are different even within the womb and the skull. These new findings expressing old wisdom were related as revelation, reflecting the idea that nothing is truly valid until vindicated by "science." So there was no collective mea culpa from the psychological establishment for clouding reality and misleading generations of naïve parents. They just continued without missing a beat, as if it were a matter no more significant than recommending the wrong size shoes for the kids. Worse still, they have now moved on to their next mistake.
We have heard about the curious case of Caster Semenya, the 18-year-old South African runner who has been competing as a woman. Semenya has become the focus of suspicion (I'll use masculine pronouns, as I'm convinced this individual is a boy who experienced abnormal intrauterine development) because of his masculine physique, deep voice, development of facial hair, male mannerisms and the fact that he has been winning races by wide margins. As a result, a battery of medical exams to determine his true sex has been conducted, although the results have not been officially released. Yet the real story here is not what investigation may tell us about Semenya. It is what our reaction to Semenya tells us about ourselves.
This is reflected in comments found throughout the Internet. For instance, consider "JimBob" posting under this Daily Mail piece, who said,
"Why is everyone talking about genetics? What about Caster's own mind - if she believes within herself that she's female, then she is."
Echoing this sentiment here, "Green Is Good" wrote,
"SHE identifies HERself as a female. Done."
Then, back to the Mail, "Livio" opined,
"This is a clear case of gender identity discrimination. What if she is a man who identifies himself as a woman?"
That's interesting. What if you're a lunkhead who identifies himself as intelligent?
Yet it isn't sufficient to just dismiss this with sarcasm, as this isn't the rambling of only a few twisted minds.
What these posters are expressing is the handiwork of today's Dr. Moneys, "transgender" theory. This is the idea that your "gender" can be whatever you want it to be -- male, female, both male and female or neither, etc. -- that it isn't limited by biology. If you have a problem with this, bravo, but then you should have a problem with the word "gender" itself. Why? Because its current usage (it used to apply only to words) was originated by people such as Money for the purposes of facilitating the relation of their theories. Understand that while many people use "gender" as a synonym for "sex," that is not its social sciences definition, which dictates that it refers to social rather than biological differences. Yet people love to use this and other elements of the lexicon of the left. It's a fascinating phenomenon. If you replace a simple, one-syllable word such as "poor" or "sex" with impressive sounding terms such as "underprivileged" or "gender" for ideological reasons, people, oblivious to the underlying agenda and wishing to sound sophisticated, will glom onto them. You see, simpletons, who are relatively rare, prefer simple words. And the only other group that does is rarer still: true intellectuals. But I digress.
So, returning to Semenya, many people express the shocking idea that his actual sex should have no bearing on whether he should be allowed to compete with women. It's that modern phenomenon -- image is everything, reality is negotiable.
This notion has so taken hold that we've recently heard of two stories out of Britain wherein young boys, ages 12 and 9, showed up in school earlier this month as "girls," sporting girls' clothing and ponytails and bearing feminine names. And the schools are kowtowing to them, telling other pupils that they'll be punished if they don't handle the "sex change" "sensitively." Yet sensitivity is not for the other children, who are upset and confused; in just the way that David Reimer's body was mutilated in deference to yesterday's latest theory, their minds must be mutilated in deference to today's.
Now, even if someone subscribes to "transgender" theory, it is striking that he would allow a child who is too young to decide to have sex decide what sex he should be. How did we get to this point?
These parents, like Ron and Janet Reimer before them, are listening to the respected social scientists of their day. These "experts" tell them that there is something called "gender dysphoria," which is the persistent feeling that one is a member of one sex trapped in the body of the other. It's enough to convince many parents, such as those of German Tim Petras, who received female hormone "treatments" at age 12 and now goes by the name of Kim. Yet on what basis is this diagnosis really made?
It is truly reflective of this age, where relativism has obviated reason. That is to say, if there are no absolutes, no Truth to use as a yardstick for judging among feelings, the feelings themselves become the ultimate arbiter. Then, of course, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a Fig Newton if it feels like one.
But one of the problems with emotion is that it is by its very nature irrational. And if anyone would defend an emotion-based diagnosis such as "gender dysphoria," note that it's brought to us by the same psycho-babblers who have given us something dubbed "body dysmorphia." This is this persistent feeling that a certain body part, such as an arm or leg (or multiple body parts), doesn't belong on one's body. And if you think it isn't taken seriously, know that doctors have amputated healthy limbs on this basis.
Be shocked -- that is, unless you accept "gender dysphoria" as legitimate. Then you'd better be introspective. For what is the difference? Why would you accept the emotion-based diagnosis of gender dysphoria but not the emotion-based one of body dysmorphia? Why are the feelings of those who suffer from the latter invalid but the feelings of those who suffer from the former a credible arbiter? Both groups have persistent feelings that their bodies aren't as they should be. Both groups cannot bear to live in their bodies as they are. Both groups want to have their bodies altered. And both groups have found "experts" willing to put them under the knife. Sure, it strikes us as the most horrid malpractice when a doctor amputates healthy body parts, such as a pair of legs. But, then, should we call it something else just because those healthy body parts are between the legs?
Lamentably, today the answer is often yes, and this speaks volumes about our society. That is, we've all heard that old stereotype of a lunatic, the guy in an asylum who thinks he is Napoleon. Now the asylums have largely been emptied, and I think I know why: we've turned the outside world into an asylum. What was once only acceptable to a small group within the scariest of walls -- detachment from reality -- has now been mainstreamed. You can be a man who thinks he is a woman, yet no straitjacket is slapped on you. It is slapped on the mouths of those who dare say self-image isn't reality.
And that is the point: there is something called reality. When feelings tell one he is, or should be, something he is not or shouldn't be -- a girl, a legless man or Napoleon -- the sane conclusion is that you're confronted with a psychological problem, not a physical one. It may be intractable, and it is certainly easier to mutilate the body than cure the mind. But you cannot mutilate reality, only obscure it. If a man loses his genitalia in an accident, does he cease to be male? Or, if "gender" is a continuum as today's Moneys say, is he less male? Did David Reimer cease to be a boy because he was mutilated and given estrogen against his will? Of course, the "experts" would say the answer is no, since he never saw himself as a girl. Again, though, feelings cannot be the arbiters of reality. After all, I may have hypertrichosis like Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy, undergo operations to create a snout, paws and a tail, howl under the moonlight and change my name to Spot. Yet am I sane if I call myself a different species?
So what are we to conclude about "gender" science? Decades ago its "experts" said society could turn your boy into a girl if it felt like it; now they say he can turn himself into a girl if he feels like it. Is it just a coincidence that Dr. Money's "gender neutrality" theory accorded with his day's feminist claim that sex roles should be discarded because the sexes are essentially the same? Is it just a coincidence that the current "transgender" theory accords with our day's homosexual claim that sex roles should be discarded because everyone and his values are essentially different? It is at all possible that these theories have less to do with sound science than the spirit of the age?
We have gone from the proposition that "gender" can be whatever society says it is to the proposition that it can be whatever the individual says it is without ever stopping to wonder if the second idea is just a crank like the first. But most won't wonder because today we place more faith in doctors than doctrine, and today's doctors say that eternal common sense and yesterday's doctors' nonsense are wrong. Yet the most significant thing that distinguishes them from Dr. John Money is that they are still alive, and their theory is not yet dead.