Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Herald letter on “trans” matters

Here is the text of an interesting letter from one Max Blair of Kelvin Grove, Queensland, published in today’s Sydney Morning Herald under the title “Stereotypes reinforce male-female confusion”:

Richard Hill (Letters, May 6) tries to draw a comparison between homosexuality and gender dysphoria, accusing critics of sex realignment surgery for young people of a prejudice similar to homophobia. But his letter suggests he has his own prejudices.

Mr Hill says gender identity is "a persistent and innate psychological condition". This essentialist idea of the psychological "female" and "male" is not only sexist, it is the subject of harsh criticism in scientific circles because it pathologises gender in much the same way that eugenicists and racists pathologise race.

Gender dysphoria is discontent with one's biological gender. This has nothing to do with "females" in male bodies and "males" in female bodies. There is no such phenomenon because what is "female" and what is "male" are cultural inventions.

People with this condition are discontented with the cultural experience of their biological gender. Boys don't want to be "boys" (for example, aggressive) and girls don't want to be "girls" (e.g. subordinate). Children with gender dysphoria have been conditioned to accept gender stereotypes as gospel. To subject these children to sex realignment surgery only reinforces sexist ideas about what it means to be male and female.

Were indigenous children seeking to change their race because of discontent with the colour of their skin, it would be seen as eugenic madness to accommodate their will. Mr Hill asks: "Why should any children have to hate their body longer than necessary?" Why should children have to hate their body at all?

(http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/letters/defence-white-paper-waves-the-red-flag-at-china-20090506-av9w.html?page=-1)

I reproduce this letter here because it’s interesting to hear from someone from the ‘gender as a social construct’ crowd who opposes so-called ‘sex change surgery’ (or, as it is increasingly called, ‘gender affirmation surgery’—destroying the gender in order to affirm it?). So I share Ms Blair’s conclusion, but not, of course, the premise. What I find particularly interesting about Ms Blair’s letter is that she expresses well the thought that had occurred to me after my discussion with transgender defenders at this blog last year: if gender is just a construct, then why do something as drastic as destroying a perfectly healthy system of the body in order to live up to the expectations, whether one’s own or those of others, associated with a mere construct? Given the great advances made in social gender equality (to use the language of feminist propaganda), what does it even mean for someone of one sex to live as a member of the other sex? Indeed, one might have expected to hear regular rebukes from the feminists in the ‘gender studies’ crowd (I’m only familiar with a couple such rebukes; in addition to Ms Blair’s objection, the self-styled “feminazi” blogger has challenged the transgender agenda on the basis that it contradicts feminist theory).

So what really is the rationale for not treating gender dysphoria/gender identity disorder as a mental illness? In a nutshell it’s this, apparently, judging by MgS’s approving quotation of it:

In Schizophrenia, there may rarely be delusions of belonging to the other sex. Insistence by a person with Gender Identity Disorder that he or she is of the other sex is not considered a delusion, because what is invariably meant is that the person feels like a member of the other sex rather than truly believes that he or she is a member of the other sex.
(her bold type and italics,
http://crystalgaze2.blogspot.com/2009/04/burning-stupid-colby-cosh-edition.html)

MgS highlights the part before the comma, but it’s the part after the comma that I find remarkable: G.I.D. is not a delusion because its sufferers feeeeeeeeel, not think, that they belong to the opposite sex. Got it.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Stanislaus, Bishop, Martyr, A.D. 2009

6 comments:

Louise said...

It's ALL about precious feelings. Or at least, the precious feelings of the Ideologues, not the "conservatives" or Christians etc.

if gender is just a construct, then why do something as drastic as destroying a perfectly healthy system of the body in order to live up to the expectations, whether one’s own or those of others, associated with a mere construct?Excellent observation.

Zoe Brain said...

Gender Role is a social construct: Gender is not.

A little of what we call "gendered behaviour" has a strong biological basis. Rather more has a weak and tenuous biological basis. The vast majority is purely social construct.

Transsexuals affirm their biological/neurological gender- which may not match their biological/external appearance.

They then may or may not conform to a greater or lesser degree with the non-biological socially constructed gender role. It's usually a good idea to do so, to avoid attracting undue attention.

They always, regardless of what they look like, instinctively conform to the biologically dictated parts of gender role, and this is what causes much of the misery of gender dysphoria. Having to constantly over-ride instinctive behaviour, and often failing with dire social consequences, ostracism and even violence.

In summary: those who say Gender is purely a social construct are blind to the evidence, and ignore inconvenient facts. They tend to have a cavalier attitude to human misery too, arrogantly asserting "my ideology trumps your personal experience".

Ultra-Conservatives are often susceptible to rational argument. Ultra-Liberals are utterly impervious to it.

kevin said...

"They always, regardless of what they look like, instinctively conform to the biologically dictated parts of gender role, and this is what causes much of the misery of gender dysphoria. Having to constantly over-ride instinctive behaviour, and often failing with dire social consequences, ostracism and even violence."
So true. You can't impose your gender binaries on individuals who suffer accidents in development.
Its not about feelings, apart from the hubris of your heartless certainities.

sumptos devil s advocate said...

kevin,

http://aebrain.blogspot.com/2008/06/bigender-and-brain.html

----------

Pole,

You don't understand there are 3 groups in this matter: The John Money types, who think that gender is just a social construct and that any child can be raised to be any gender; the Milton Diamond types (like Zoe Brain), who think that there is a biological basis, but that the sexual differentiation of certain parts of the brain can and does go awry, moving in a course different from the sexual differentiation of the rest of the body, leading to transsexualism; and the Paul McHugh types, who believe that the sexual differentiation of the brain always matches the sexual differentiation of the rest of the body, and that those who are afflicted with transsexualism are either crazy or immoral.

Cardinal Pole said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone.

Zoe,

You speak of

"... the biologically dictated parts of gender role ..."

Examples, please. Off the top of my head I would only think of how one relates to members of the opposite sex, but then this would bring up all sorts of difficulties with the Sodomites' League intelligentsia, some of whom, as you have noted at your blog, are 'G.L.B. but not T.'.

Kevin,

You said that

"Its not about feelings ..."

Whom am I to believe, then: you, or MgS and Mental Health Today?

Sumptos,

You said that

"You don't understand there are 3 groups in this matter ..."

I was groping towards such a classification as you describe, but
you have articulated it better than I could have. Which group, if any, do you belong to, though?

Cardinal Pole said...

There she goes again: the latest from MgS--the same quotation, this time in the context of Prof. Tonti-Filippini's remarks:

"Insistence by a person with Gender Identity Disorder that he or she is of the other sex is not considered a delusion, because what is invariably meant is that the person feels like a member of the other sex rather than truly believes that he or she is a member of the other sex."
(my emphasis this time,
http://crystalgaze2.blogspot.com/2009/05/more-argument-by-assertion.html)