Tag Archives: transgender

On being transgender

5 Jan




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.



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.




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.




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.




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.





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,



If gender is a social construct, why do transgender people KNOW they are the wrong gender?

23 Sep

Hey, remember last year when I complained about all the boring whore costumes women sport on Halloween?


For the record, I went as Lara Croft, and I was awesome!  This year, just to prove that pretty much nothing I write makes any sense at all (ha!), I have selected one of the sluttiest costumes I could find at our local Halloween Superstore:


Yes, I am dressing as Sexy Gretchen, the trampy beer maiden!  You know what made the decision for me?  This particular store is one of the only costume emporiums that CARRIES PLUS SIZES in ALL the “sexy” categories.

And you know how much I hate fat shaming, right?




Giant ladies have every right to cram their butts into skimpy costumes and continue on with their delusional belief that having massive tits makes up for the rest of the body.

Ah, that was mean.  Fat people are still people, but seriously SIZE 18 SEXY GRETCHEN COSTUMES!

That can only mean one thing:  yes, Mr. JB and I are going to wear the SAME COSTUMES!

The reaction from our friends has been pretty interesting.  Mr. JB actually has a long history of cross-dressing for Halloween, beginning with his award-winning turn as Carmen Miranda in the 9th Grade.


He has also taken his turn as Wonder Woman, Little Red Riding Hood and Little BoPeep, all of which have been absolutely hilarious, given his size and how normally conservative he is in appearance and dress.

Our younger friends all think matching costumes is an outstanding idea, and a few of them are even hatching plans to acquire their own sexy Gretchen costumes.  The Monster Ball may be awash in sexy beer maids this year. Clever Guy was over last night and he insisted on donning the costume and the blonde braids to pose for pictures which we immediately sent out to family and friends.  Clever Guy’s mom gets exceptionally giggly over her son dressed in silly costumes.

It’s really not that big of a deal, right?  Well, our older friends get downright hostile.  BigDaddy from down the street, who has two sons of his own, was actually rather angry when he saw the costumes.  Of course, his own sons dressed as Marilyn Monroe and The Evil Queen (from Snow White) last year, and they were totally gorgeous, but there is definitely a generational divide when it comes to the whole idea of cross-dressing, even when it’s done in jest.

Younger men don’t feel the slightest bit threatened by donning the wardrobe of the opposite sex, while older men seem to feel that wearing a dirndl and some sheer stockings with cute little bows somehow hurts men and masculinity.

I think there is a happy medium, and it comes down to how fiercely we believe that gender is something that can be consciously determined.  The men who are angry and threatened by Mr.JB’s antics are reacting to a certain concept of gender that is 100% rigid, and while I can agree that certain aspects of masculinity have been carved too deeply into the concrete of our social psyche, I do NOT believe that the extreme alternative of believing NOTHING about gender is innate or inherent is a better way of understanding how gender works.

Some ideas about masculinity really are very destructive. Men are more naturally stoic and less likely to allow their emotions to govern their actions than women are.  That has all kinds of benefits when it comes to demonstrating leadership qualities and accurately assessing risks and being willing to shoulder a disproportionate amount of work and responsibilities.

Being stoic and governed by rationality is a net positive, but it becomes destructive when men believe that is the ONLY acceptable way to be.  The most brutal consequence of defining masculinity so rigidly is suicide.  When men get staggered by life, and decide they no longer wish to continue, they tend to be extremely good at making effective plans to end their own lives.




Male suicide is a public health crisis reaching epidemic proportions, yet it still receives very little in terms of funding or attention.  Pink ribbons line the landscape from one side of the country to the other, despite the fact that the mortality rates are pretty much the same.

Deaths from suicide (mostly men) in 2010:  38 364

Deaths from breast cancer (mostly women) in 2010: 40 170

http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@nho/documents/document/f861009final90809pdf.pdf (p.2)

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_04.pdf (p.58)

It’s really kind of sickening that masculinity itself gets blamed for male suicide, when the problem has far more to do with a broader society that defines men only in terms of the utility they can provide for others. Here’s an actual quote from a study exploring why men commit suicide so much more frequently than women:

One way of taking back one’s own masculinity is to take one’s own life.


Yes men, if you really want to prove you are a man, please do it by killing yourself.

The majority of the report examines how working class men have lost their traditional manufacturing jobs, how divorce devastates men in particular, how downsizing squeezes male middle managers out of the corporate structure, how schools and colleges are failing to provide men and boys with the training they need to take their places in the new economy and then comes to the conclusion that masculinity is the problem.

Yeah, that must be it.


Let me think for a minute:  is there a  particular ideology circulating in the culture that claims masculinity is something you can just choose to do or not to do?  Is there some sort of political philosophy that claims one gender’s ways of doing and being are acceptable and the other’s is not? Is there a view of education that sneers at training and vocational skills, which tend to be the domains of boys?

Help me out here.

Over and over again, reports into the issues and challenges facing men come up with the same solution:  masculinity is the problem, so let’s get rid of it.

book 3

book 1

book 2


All of which rests on the assumption that masculinity isn’t something you are born with, it’s something you learn.  Something you perform. And with the right social programming, you can unlearn it.

man book

Which brings me to the title of today’s post:  if gender is something you learn, not something you are born simply knowing, how is it that some people KNOW they were born the wrong gender?

True story:  a member of Mr. JB’s distant family (his mother’s cousin) has two children.  The daughter was born with something called Turner Syndrome, which is a chromosomal abnormality in which all or part of one of the sex chromosomes is absent.


The daughter has no ovaries and she has a strangely masculine look to her.  She suffers from something called “neck webbing” and the disorder has obviously profoundly affected her life and understanding of herself as a person.  She very much considers herself a woman.  She is female.  She is 100% a she.


By all appearances, the son was a perfectly normal little boy, suffering from no disorders or problems anyone could detect.  But for as long as he can remember, he has harbored a terrible secret.  He is really a she, too.  The son is transgender.


I very sincerely doubt those two conditions, being transgender and having Turner Syndrome are unrelated.  Something having to do with sex hormones is very fucked up in the mother and she passed that along to her children.  They have different fathers, so it is almost certainly a problem with the mother. I absolutely believe that transgender people are suffering from a very serious illness, and they deserve all the compassion and treatment options that we would extend to anyone else suffering from a severe birth defect.

We are born knowing that we are a particular gender.  The idea that gender can be “performed” is true, to the extent that we can don the clothing and markings of our opposite sex.  That’s so trite an observation, is scarcely seems believable we need to acknowledge it, but something very malignant has happened in that intersection of feminism and playing dress-up.

Judith Butler is perhaps the most famous of the “gender is a social construct” theorists, and also one of the worst writers you will ever have the pain of attempting to understand.  The obfuscation that marks her writing is not a mistake, though.  It’s a very deliberate strategy to disguise the real agenda behind the “gender is a social construct” philosophy.

When Simone de Beauvoir claims, “one is not born, but, rather, becomes a woman,” she is appropriating and reinterpreting this doctrine of constituting acts from the phenomenological tradition.’ In this sense, gender is in no way a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts proceed; rather, it is an identity tenuously constituted in time-an identity instituted through a stylized repetition of acts. Further, gender is instituted through the stylization of the body and, hence, must be understood as the mundane way in which bodily gestures, movements, and enactments of various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self.


One gender is acceptable.  One gender is laudable.  One gender is to be preferred.  One gender is favored.

One gender is unacceptable.  One gender is detestable.  One gender is to be eradicated.  One gender is hated.

The idea that gender is something you choose is the very essence of feminism, and it’s the most perfect expression of how much feminism hates both men AND women.  Feminism is an attempt to redefine HUMAN as feminine, thereby eradicating any meaningful distinctions between men and women.  It’s kind of like insisting that everyone bleach their skin white and voila – racism disappears!  We’re all equal now!

Equally white.

Halloween is one of those great holidays that challenges the idea that gender is something you choose by deploying the irony of dressing up as the opposite gender.  Performing gender in the form of a costume doesn’t challenge gender difference:  it confirms it.

wonder woman

Seeing men dressed as women is hilarious precisely because you can’t just change your clothes and presto, you’ve changed your gender.

Younger men seem to get that we are all humans who exist on a continuum, clustering mostly in the tails with some important overlapping characteristics that allow us the opportunity to relate to one another and love one another.  I think we can credit early feminism with freeing us all from overly rigid expectations about how men and women “are”, but we can also condemn modern feminism, very loudly, for not being satisfied with equality and chasing down supremacy.

When there is room in our culture to tell men that one way to capture their masculinity to kill themselves, something has gone very, very wrong. Inciting people to kill themselves is the very definition of hate, isn’t it?  When a transgender girl in California is crowned homecoming queen, and then trolled mercilessly on YouTube with exhortations to “kill herself”, we quite rightly respond by condemning the people who hate her as bigots.



And I personally feel no compunction whatsoever calling out feminists who think masculinity is something that can be chosen, or more importantly NOT chosen, as bigots in the exact same vein.

This Halloween, consider dressing up as the opposite gender.  Or in a really trashy slutty costume, as long as you can find a date who will wear the matching costumes.

I highly recommend “Sexy Gretchen”.  Who doesn’t like sexy beer maids?  Even the ones with hairy chests.

Lots of love,


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