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On being transgender

5 Jan

 

transgender

 

A while ago, I appeared on an episode of the Drunken Peasants at the request of the Amazing Atheist, and had a good chat with a young feminist who goes by the moniker Awesome Rants. One of the things we discussed was the idea that there are more than two genders, an idea I dismiss as not only ridiculous, but as actively harmful against people born with gender specific congenital abnormalities.

 

 

The recent suicide of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn has ignited the debate about these medical conditions, with far too many people, in my opinion, characterizing transgender as simply another gender that we cannot accept. Leelah’s suicide is a tragedy, and the contribution her parents made to her despair evokes simultaneous pity and fury in me. I pity them because they have lost a child, and that is always a terrible thing for any parent to endure, but I am also furious at how they refused treatment to a medically ill child while claiming to love that child, unconditionally.

 

But I don’t really want to talk about Leelah, specifically. I want to discuss how the existence of transgender people undermines one of the most basic premises of feminism, and how feminists would rather throw transgender people under the bus than accept a basic human reality: gender is not a choice. It is not the product of social conditioning. It is not a performance. It is a biological reality that you do not choose.

turner

 

Let me tell you my personal history, and how I have come to develop my ideas about what it means to be transgender. My husband’s mother has a cousin, and that cousin has two children. Her eldest daughter Sarah was born with Turner Syndrome. This means she has no ovaries. Turner Syndrome is a devastating chromosomal abnormality, and women who are born with this condition tend to be very low in stature, have atypically broad chests and low hairlines, low-set ears and webbed necks. These women are sterile and do not experience menstrual periods. The lack of estrogen can lead to heart disease, diabetes, vision and hearing problems and a host of auto-immune diseases. Turner Syndrome cannot be cured, but it can be treated and options for treatment are determined by the woman who has the syndrome and her medical team.

 

No one in their right mind would ever claim that a woman with Turner Syndrome is simply another gender, making a quirky lifestyle choice. No one would blame a woman for being born with this defect, or claim that she is simply confused and imagining her lack of ovaries. Turner Syndrome is a devastating medical illness and is treated as such, and rightly so.

 

Let’s go back to the cousin. So the first daughter is born with Turner Syndrome, and is met with compassion and provided with treatment options, to be determined at her discretion, based on her life goals.

 

The second daughter is transgender. She was born with the brain chemistry of a female, and the external genitalia of a male. Serendipity came down in favor of this daughter, and her name is Alex, and it is one small grace that she does not have to alter her birth name as she confronts her own medical illness. Alex is extremely fortunate to be living in a family that understands she has a chromosomal abnormality not materially different from the older sister. At some point in neonatal development, something went wrong with both girls. One was born without ovaries and the other was born with incorrect genitalia.

 

The huge difference between them is that while Sarah is treated as a person crafting a life around a terrible illness, Alex is not. Alex is alternately treated as mentally ill, confused or attention-seeking. Alex does not have access to insurance-provided treatment options that address her condition, although her sister does. Sarah’s condition is treated as life-threatening, because it can be, under adverse conditions. Alex’s condition is not seen as life-threatening, although as Leelah Alcorn demonstrates, it most certainly can be, under adverse conditions.

 

trans

 

When feminists and social justice warriors treat Sarah as a bona fide medically compromised person, but treat Alex as simply an “alternate gender” – a person selecting their gender from a wide range of possibilities, they are, in a very real sense, foreclosing the possibility of treatment for Alex in a way that would never happen for Sarah.

 

This is disgustingly cruel. The only reason feminists insist that gender exists on a spectrum is to flog their tired ideology about gender as a social construct. Feminists don’t give a single fuck about the people who actually have to live with these conditions. All that matters is the ideology. Women like Sarah and Alex prove beyond all reasonable doubt that gender is not a choice. You are born male or female and your brain will tell you who you are. Insisting that women like Alex are just a different sort of person is like insisting someone who has cancer is just experiencing a different sort of cell division.

 

Yeah, it’s different all right. And lethal.

 

cochlear

 

In many ways, the conversation about transgender people and treatment options mirrors the conversation in the deaf community: should deaf children be raised as Deaf, or should they be given cochlear implants as children? Do parents have a right, even an obligation, to address a birth defect like deafness to provide their children with a fully human experience? If all deaf children were given implants at birth, an entire culture and language could die in a generation. Is that acceptable? Who decides?

 

For me, this would not be a complicated choice: if one of my children were deaf, I would do everything in my power to give them hearing. Deafness is a defect I would correct. Similarly, if one of my children were born transgender, I would do everything in my power to make sure they lived life as the gender they know themselves to be.

 

But I understand the argument against either of these things. It’s a complicated conversation that hits on issues of autonomy and health and well-being, but at no point will you find any advocates on either side suggesting that the Deaf be given no choices and no treatment options at all. The debate in the Deaf community is the same as the debate in the transgender community: is it a disability or a culture?

 

And I come down in both cases on the side of disability. This does not mean there is not a culture, but it does mean that our primary orientation towards both conditions should be on treatment options. There is no “right age” for treatment to begin. Leelah Alcorn spoke of knowing herself to be transgender from early adolescence. A woman like Sarah, who has Turner Syndrome, began treatments almost from infancy to address the various ways her illness manifested.

 

Casting any of these issues as lifestyle choices for the sole purposes of supporting a broken ideology is despicable, in my opinion. I used the word “sick” in my conversation with Awesome Rants, and I regret using that particular word, because too many people took it to mean “mentally twisted”, the way torturing animals is sick.

 

I meant sick as in “not medically well”. It’s not sick like having a cold or sick like having cancer. Being transgender is a congenital abnormality that results in a person having medical issues that must be addressed to allow for optimal health, both physical and mental.

 

nurse

 

Sarah, by the way, is a nurse. She works in the endocrinology unit of her local hospital, caring for people who have chromosomal abnormalities like herself. She is treated with respect, compassion, kindness and can openly discuss her condition and issues.

 

 

Agoraphobia

 

Alex is agoraphobic and has not left her home for over two years. She is treated with contempt, ridicule, regularly threatened with violence and lives in an online world where she is told her condition is just a different gender by those who pretend to be her allies.

 

Our whole family is in crisis mode trying to save Alex’s life. My husband and I are seriously considering legally adopting Alex, who is now 19, so she can move to Canada where she will be given a variety of treatment options to address a very serious medical condition.

 

There are two genders. Male and female. They exist in our brains and when our biological sex does not match the gender we know we are, the consequences are shattering. To treat transgender people as just one shade in a rainbow of colors is cruel. It’s demeaning. It’s dehumanizing. It’s a lie.

 

It’s sick.

 

Just one more example of how feminism itself is mental illness.

 

And it’s high time for a cure.

 

Lots of love,

 

JB

A few thoughts about traditionalism and adults who depend on other adults

28 Oct

 

vacuum

I am often mistaken, especially on Twitter, as a “traditionalist” woman attempting to revitalize gender roles to enforce an old-style division of labor in which women exploit and take advantage of male labor, effectively rendering men disposable commodities designed for women’s comfort.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Every single day of my life I am deeply, profoundly grateful for the serendipity that allows my husband and me to have the family and life we do. One of my biggest complaints about feminism and the modern dialogue about family life is that it deliberately discourages both women and men from actively planning for the future they want and so many people end up deeply unhappy when they discover they have not made the choices that allow them to have any practical choices at all. This comes about because we simply do not discuss with our children how things like college majors and job choices will impact family structures and I personally believe that is a deliberate strategy on the part of Marxist feminism in particular to render the family a meaningless unit, incapable of supporting the individuals within, leaving society with no choice but to expand the control and power of the state.

 

And that pisses me off.

 

At no point was I ever encouraged to consider how my educational aspirations would affect my choices in life. I was taught, like most of us, to pursue my passions and interests and do what I found interesting and fulfilling. Like most 18 year olds entering college, I thought watching movies was pretty fun and it certainly interested me, so I enrolled in Film Theory. How very clever of me. There are basically three things you can do with a degree in Film Theory

 

  1. You can continue on and take a PhD in the subject matter and pray to all the gods that ever existed in the entire history of the universe that you can land an academic job (the odds are not in your favor)
  2. You can pray to all those same gods that you land a job as a film reviewer (the odds are still not in your favor)
  3. You can don a green apron and start perfecting your mochawhappachino skills.

barista

I came to my senses after one summer deploying my Barista of Arts summa cum latte degree and enrolled in an MBA program, but I went there still not understanding how my choices would play out and impact my later life choices. I could have taken management accounting which would have been a useful skill, but I found international strategy so much more interesting, so that is where I specialized. Again, how clever of me. Not one person around me was having any discussion of any kind about how these choices would affect the life I wanted for myself and the family I imagined. And even when self-proclaimed feminists are specifically asked to discuss this issue with women, they refuse to do so and turn the conversation back to pantsuits and corner offices. Feminists actively discourage women from making their family plans a priority and they ignore men completely when it comes to this issue.

 

I lucked out. I met my husband in graduate school and we had shared values and goals that we discussed with one another, almost in hushed tones, as if what we were planning was unspeakable in polite society. “I would like our children raised at home. Would you?”

 

And so it all played out. My husband makes sufficient income to support us comfortably, – again a stroke of luck and not a deliberate plan. His job allows him to do a significant portion of his work at home, meaning he has been deeply involved in our children’s lives from birth. He is not gone 16 hours a day while I hold the fort and the children barely recognize him.

 

And that all comes down to luck.

 

It shouldn’t.

 

I am not a woman at home, dependent on my husband for my income because I believe that is the right and proper role for women and men. Nonsense. I am here because at no point was I ever encouraged to think about making choices that would allow me to be economically productive while being the wife and mother I wanted to be, so I made stupid choices. There are so many occupations that are more friendly to the family life my husband and I both wanted, but I didn’t make them. I take responsibility for that, but I am also angered and disappointed that we do not encourage men or women to consider their family plans when the time comes to make these decisions.

 

Here is how I deal with this issue with my own children: when my children express an interest in a particular career or occupation, I encourage them to think about that in terms of a family. When my son says he would like to be a cardiologist, I ask him if he thinks he would like to be married and have children. Would you like to see your children? A cardiologist works long hours and has to deal with emergencies and he will miss many dance recitals and baseball games but he will have a lot of money and do very important work. I do not discourage my children from any interests, but I do ask them to consider how that interest will impact the life they want for themselves.

 

I do not believe that men and women have set, concrete roles to play in society. I very strongly believe that the ideal way to raise children is at home with a loving parent present, but whether that is mom or dad makes no difference to me. Two parents working alternating schedules so one is always home, a fulltime daddy, a fulltime mommy – what matters is that children are being cared for by a loving parent.

 

That doesn’t happen by accident. It takes planning.

 

The only place I have encountered that is willing to even discuss these issues is the men’s rights movement. The ability to plan and make choices that allow for flexible, non-traditional, non-rigid family roles is deeply tied to men’s rights. Men’s right to choose parenthood is profoundly important. A whoopsie – baby does not necessarily have an impact on a woman’s life or choices because she has choices. And she can impose legal responsibility for those choices on a man, who has no say at all. This has an obviously enormous impact on what choices are open to men who know they can be held legally responsible for children they did not intend and do not want. Lack of reproductive rights severely restricts men’s choices.

 

The discussion over shared parenting leads directly into the debate about who is the better caregiver for small children – women or men. The answer is very simple: men and women are equally capable of being loving, caring parents. Until men have the legal right to be assumed caregivers for their children, men’s care-giving choices are again severely restricted.

 

The epidemic of male suicide is linked directly to the emotional vulnerability of men and how we do not have places in society for men to safely and openly discuss the challenges and stresses of their lives. Daddy groups would go a long way towards addressing this need for men to safely and openly discuss their own issues, free from the thought-policing of feminists and in ways that are specific and comfortable to men.

 

And what happens when men try to gather and speak about these issues? What happens when women and men come together to address how the enforcement of traditional gender roles affects all of us?

Feminists call in bomb threats, pull fire alarms, scream into bullhorns, blow noisemakers and harass and verbally abuse the men and women who have gathered to talk.

 

cake

Feminists talk big words when it comes to gender roles and gender equality, but the reality is much more like having their cake and eating it, too. Feminism is not interested in having men abandon their traditional roles as stoic, silent providers. They just don’t want women to live up to the inverse of that kind of rigid thinking about gender, but the truth is that traditional gender roles can be suffocating for some people. Traditional gender roles can be chains that bind, for men and women both.

 

I am not against the traditional division of labor in families. I consider it none of my damn business who gets up when things go bump in the night or who cooks dinner or who kills the spiders. What I do care about is that those roles are not rigidly enforced either through social conditioning or by refusing to discuss the issues that tend to lead to traditional gender roles.

 

I want them to be choices, carefully considered and freely made.  By both men and women.

 

As it stands, women have far more choices than men because they can legally hold men responsible for their own choices and yet reap the spoils of men’s care and labor through family courts. Given the starkness of men’s choices, is it any wonder they either reject marriage and family completely, or adhere to traditional provider roles where they at least have some chance of surviving the devastation of family breakdown?

 

No one is served by this situation. Women have taken full advantage of socially engineered freedoms that give them the chance to modify or outright reject traditional feminine roles, or to fully embrace and enjoy those roles. Men have no such freedom. I have yet to meet a feminist willing to discuss how men’s lack of legal rights restricts their choices in a way women would never tolerate.

 

There is a word for this situation: gynocentrism. Women do not want to perch endlessly on their pedestals, waiting for their knight in shining armor. They want to get on and off the pedestal at will, depending on what they want at any particular time. Men are still expected to be shining knights. They do not get to dismount their steeds and must live to serve women. How the hell is this equality?

 

I love that my husband supports me and does not require me to earn an income. I love that I have spent a huge part of my life caring for our home, our children, our family. I love that I am allowed to choose what parts of the feminine I wish to embrace. I am also ridiculously fortunate. Lady Luck smiled on me.

 

That’s unacceptable. As the saying goes, “luck is not a factor”. Or it shouldn’t be.

 

True freedom, true equality, true choices – they will only come about when men and women have equal rights under the law. Men’s rights will push the conversation about families, children, careers, choices into the open. If women can’t impose legal or social responsibility on men, they will have to start talking to them.

 

My guess is that lots of men will be more than happy to accept traditional male roles, in exchange for wives who accept traditional female roles. Lots of men will negotiate a balance with their partners that works for everyone.

camo

 

But there will also be a ton of men who grab the camo diaper bag, kiss their corporate wives good-bye and head to the park for Daddy and Me playday.

 

And that’s a good thing.

 

Lots of love,

 

JB

 

 

 

 

NAWALT: Not All Women Are Like That

20 May

grey

Kelsey McKinney has a post up at Vox exploring why the “Not All Men” meme has taken off as of late.  Typically, she seems utterly unaware that “Not All Women” has been circulating for years, and the clever feminist interpretation is simply a rip-off of a man’s work.  Le sigh.

 

Let’s explore a little history. Most of this is Kelsey’s writing – I’ve just fixed her pronouns to reflect NAWALT.

 

Over the past few weeks, the meme “not all women” — meant to satirize women who derail conversations about men’s rights by noting that “not all women” do X, Y, or Z sexist thing — has exploded in usage: But it would appear that not all women (and not all people generally) are fully caught up on the meme, where it comes from, and the point it’s getting across. Here’s a brief history of the term, and why it’s taken on such resonance lately.

 

1) What is a woman?

 

Might as well start here. A woman is an adult female of the species homo sapiens. To clarify, “adult” here does not mean someone who’s able to pay their own rent, or treat others with respect. Adult simply means that this female has gone through puberty and is no longer a girl.

 

Some additional notes about women:

 

A woman is someone who expects to be paid the same as a man for doing less work, less well.

 

A woman is someone who interrupts a man when he tries to discuss an issue that pertains to men and boys.

A woman expects her husband to provide her with resources.

 

pretty

 

What’s that you say? Not ALL women expect to be paid the same as a man for doing less work, less well? Not ALL women interrupt men when they want to discuss issues that pertain to men and boys?

 

Thanks for pointing that out. You’re who this meme is about.

 

2) What is “Not all women”?

 

Let’s say a post is written on the internet about how women do not listen to men when they speak about issues that pertain to men and boys and interrupt them more often than they interrupt women speaking about issues that pertain to women and girls. At a blog or site of sufficient size, it’s practically inevitable that a commenter will reply, “Not all women interrupt.”

pigs

 

This phrase “Not all women” is a common rebuttal used (most often) by women in conversations about men and boys in order to exempt themselves from criticism of common female behaviors. Recently, the phrase has been reappropriated by men’s rights activists and turned into a meme meant to parody its pervasiveness and bad faith.

 

3) How did “Not all women” start?

 

 

The exact origins of “not all women” are muddy at best. “Not all women” may be a shortened version of “Not all women are like that” or NAWALT, which appears regularly on any sites devoted to exploring issues that affect men and boys from the perspective of …. men and boys.

 

 

4) What’s so bad about “Not All Women”?

 

big red

 

When a woman (though, of course, not all women) butts into a conversation about a men’s issue to remind the speaker that “not all women” do something, they derail what could be a productive conversation. Instead of contributing to the dialogue, they become the center of it, excluding themselves from any responsibility or blame.

 

“Not all women.” Fine. But pointing out individual exceptions doesn’t help us understand or combat behaviors that really are mainly committed by women, from small things like interruptions up to domestic violence and rape. Not all women beat their partners, but people who beat their partners are mostly women. Pointing out that you’re not one of them doesn’t help us figure out how to understand and deal with that problem.

slap

5) Wait. So how is “Not all women” different from “femsplaining”?

 

Femsplaining is a term used to describe an explanation that is given in a condescending, patronizing tone. Though a man could be guilty of femsplaining, the idea originated from women talking down to men in order to explain things, often things the men in question understand better than the femsplainer does. Amanda Marcotte is a good example of femsplaining.

 

The “not all women” interruption could be considered a subset of femsplaining, because it attempts to redirect a current conversation in a way that privileges women’s’ perspectives over men’s. Also, like femsplaining, it’s rude.

 

6) How does “Not All Women” fit into the history of men’s right’s activism?

“Not all women” is just the latest iteration in a long tradition of MRAs pointing out the ways in which language can be used by women to defend practices that benefit them and harm men.  “In the best interests of children” is commonly used to deny men the right to shared custody, for example.  The way we think and deal with gender gets expressed in language — and that includes, say, interrupting someone with a corrective “not all women.”

joke

Some analysts, like Sara Mills, have drawn a distinction between two forms of sexist language: overt and indirect. Overt sexism is embodied in hate speech, when a person is actively trying to hurt someone because of their gender. Indirect sexism includes things like gender stereotypes, misandrist humor, and conversation diversion. Mills argues that overt sexism has been driven underground, only to create an environment where indirect sexism flourishes. And derailing tactics like “Not all women” are a prime example of indirectly sexist language.

 

7) So what can I do?

 

You can try not interrupting, because interrupting is rude, and use that time instead to think about whether or not injecting “not all women” is going to derail a productive conversation. You can start by recognizing that some conversations are truly not about women and participating in those conversations requires you to set your ego aside and consider the world from a perspective you may not be used to considering.  You can contemplate the idea that women may in fact be the recipient of privileges that have come at the direct expense of men. You can acknowledge that there are some important rights and freedoms that men do not have and that there are responsibilities and obligations that apply only to men and not to women.

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The MHRM is a place that welcomes all, so long as everyone understands that the discussion centers around the needs of men and boys, and that women will be criticized in ways that might  make them uncomfortable.  Responsibility, agency and culpability will be discussed.  Women will be assumed adults capable of that conversation. And that might make some women feel a sad.

 

blame

Boo fucking hoo.

 

Welcome to being a grown-up.

 

Better late than never.

 

Lots of love,

 

JB

 

 

 

 

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