Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Bruce Jenner, Definitions, and the Emperor's Clothes

We all remember the story of the Emperor's New Clothes. The Emperor, wanting to appear trendy, always wears the finest clothes. A pair of con-men convince him that they have created him the finest clothes ever made--but they can only be seen by those who are not stupid or incompetent. Not wishing to admit that they are stupid or incompetent, everyone says they can see it to fit in with everyone else; in the end, it is only a child who points out the Emperor's nakedness. The child, unconcerned with maintaining appearances and what others might think of him, is the only one bold enough to point out the truth.

Now far be it from me to say that others are not pointing out the truth in the transgendered situation. However, I do feel a bit like the little child, exasperated among a crowd which seems content to smile and tell the Emperor that yes, his clothes look just fine.


"Courage"

For the most part I avoid mainstream media and news, especially if it deals with pop culture or celebrity; instead I rely on my newsfeed of secondary sources to keep up with what is important to those who love the Kingdom. I find my life is considerably happier when the stories coming to me deal with God's Kingdom than our own.

However, there is one definite exception--sports. I love Mike & Mike every morning, and LeBatard every afternoon, as I drive to and from work. And so eventually even I could not stay out of the Bruce Jenner focused news of the past week.

I couldn't avoid it because, this week, ESPN decided to give the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage to Jenner for his conversion into a woman, Caitlyn Jenner.

Ashe was a good choice to name a Courage award for--he overcame racism to become the first black player ever to win singles titles at Wimbledon, Australian Open, and US Open and the first black player on the Davis Cup team. During a blood transfusion he was given HIV and contracted AIDS; he used his platform to teach others about the disease and was among the first to make it known globally that HIV was not a "gay" issue but a human one. He was also an active voice in the anti-apartheid issues in South Africa. All around, "courage" is a good word for him.

For you see, "courage" is generally defined as the willingness to face agony, pain, or intimidation, or to act rightly in the face of popular opposition.

The runner-up to Jenner for this year's award is an ex-military serviceman who lost an arm and a leg to roadside bombs but runs and completes triathalons. That is willingness to face agony and pain, so it makes sense.

What I am failing to see is the 'courage' associated with Jenner's decision. The only pain he has faced is that he created for himself, with multiple surgeries to mutilate himself into a new form. I suppose some say it is courageous because he would face popular opposition, but anyone who has read the news knows that is not the case at all--the media is fawning over him and there is no way you can call it "courage" to say something for which the media will call you a hero. (Also a poor definition of the word 'hero' but, that's for another time.) Indeed, most of the internet is focused right now on shaming those who use the "improper" pronoun, calling him "him" instead of his preferred, "her." (Add another trip to the dictionary for his supporters--they seem to be choosing the wrong pronoun as the 'improper' one.)



"Gender"

Unfamiliarity with Webster aside, the bigger issue for me is how rapidly it has just been accepted in our society that gender is a choice. Keep in mind that the idea of 'transgender' first popped up just a couple of decades ago, and all of a sudden we have widespread media acceptance and popular shaming of those who are so "bigoted" as to say that because someone is biologically a male we should refer to him as a male.

If you (as I was in the past) are confused by how someone can just 'decide' that they are a male or a female, here is what has happened in the past twenty-five years or so: two words which were considered synonyms--gender and sex--have been very slightly redefined, but with significant result. A person's sex is now defined as the biological set up for reproduction that they were born with--that is, their genetic makeup and reproductive organs which make them male or female. A person's gender is defined as the set of social norms that a person sees themselves as--that is, do they tend to like 'girl things' or 'boy things.'

Now do not misunderstand: this distinction has some merit and some importance on rare occasions. There are those people born as hermaphrodites (both biological sexes), and one gender must chosen. There are some other rare birth defects as well which create difficult scenarios like this. These are painful situations, and our compassion should be with the parents, doctors, nurses, and individuals who are involved. But these are also exceptionally rare, and we must always be careful of changing rules and norms based upon exceptional cases. Such decisions rarely end well.

At any rate, this distinction while it may have some use in certain medical situations, has been expanded far beyond its boundaries, like a river which has crossed its banks and is flooding into areas intended to remain dry.

Now, we have men like Mr. Jenner who are stating that gender is purely a choice based upon how they view the world, and they can simply decide one day that, "I am no longer male."

That this is a significant claim with potential to impact society seems almost so obvious as to need to go unstated; however, as it seems most are simply accepting the New Clothes with no comment, I feel the need to point out the obvious.

Women and men are treated differently in society--and while sometimes this is quite bad (sexism, particularly in the workplace for example, or the high frequency with which males can rape females and get away with it)--often there are some benefits to the differences. Certain scholarships are offered only to women as a method of helping offset certain societal discrimination. Sporting events are divided by gender so that it is a more compelling and fair competition. Legally the mother (definition: the parent of a female gender) of a child is far more likely to retain custody as psychological study after study have shown that mothers have a unique relationship to their children. There are rules in place protecting women from being discriminated against as a hiring practice. Insurance policies cover different things for men and women. The bathroom at your local restaurant is divided into men and women.

So what now are we to do? Because Bruce Jenner made a choice to swap genders, should he be eligible to compete against women in the Olympics? Is that fair, to have top-notch male athletes switch genders to rack up gold medals? Or if Jenner had made the change as a teenager, would it be fair for him to take a girl's scholarship? Or if he switched genders after being married should he now be treated by the state as the biological mother--after all, he provided half the DNA and is now a 'female' parent, right? Should he be able to sue for gender discrimination if he is not hired? Should insurance companies cover him for male or female or both situations? Are you fine with a man and father to follow your teenage girl into the women's bathroom because he has chosen to identify as female?

These are the natural results of transgender becoming accepted as a valid lifestyle in our society. Now as a society we should accept and protect those who differ from ourselves....but of course there are always limits and the limits should be philosophical/logic based in reason.

"Philosophy"

You see, the position that gender is something one can choose based upon how they emotionally feel is philosophically untenable.

If you are an atheist/evolutionist, then you must admit that "gender" as so defined is, frankly, not a real thing--we are simply biological machines and creatures, and so one's "mind" is nothing more than its brain...and Jenner's brain is that which came with his male body. The fact is that to change genders requires one to CHANGE their biology...removal of genitalia, taking a large number of synthetic chemicals to change brain chemistry, etc. I find it so strange that in an era where our society is so pro-organic and pro-nature and pro-evolution that we would simply accept something which cannot be true if these other beliefs are true...to be a transgender is to make the claims that: (1) how you are born is not how you have to be; (2) taking a mass of synthetic chemicals to alter your brain is totally safe and fine and socially acceptable; and (3) evolution is false in that it does not account for the 'soul' or 'mind' of the person, for in fact one's personhood is different from their physical body. (Which, if so, has profound pro-life influences and abortionists position is undermined.)

Frankly speaking...for those who tend to support this lifestyle (atheist/agnostic, evolutionist, leftists), the idea that one can change gender is in direct opposition to the rest of their worldview.


So then, to accept this you must be a theist (believing that there is Someone or Something more than nature which gives us a personhood and identity) and that there is nothing wrong with changing your biology to match your emotions. However, to hold this is also an untenable position...for you must (1) admit that Whoever or Whatever created your biology made a mistake, and (2) believe somehow that you have the authority to override Him/Her/It.


There is a third option, however...the one which I feel leaves me as the child pointing out the obvious--"But he isn't wearing anything at all!"

Isn't it far more likely that Jenner is in fact a male; that gender and biological sex are linked as is obvious even to a schoolchild; and that for whatever reason he has developed a psychological condition which should be properly treated rather than avoided by changing genders?

Imagine that I came in one day saying that I was actually Asian inside--true, biologically I am white, but inside I've always been Asian. I like math and science, I appreciate Asian culture and cuisine, etc. So therefore, I am going to get some surgery to change my appearance--skin tone, eye shape and color, hair--and begin identifying myself as Asian. I should be called Asian, treated legally as an Asian (scholarships, etc.), and allowed to join Asian only clubs.

What would you think, if I continued to insist I was Asian? You would rightly refer me to a psychologist who would help me identify the root of my issues and find joy and peace in who I am. What you would NOT do is say, "Well I think that is marvelous. What a courageous thing to do. Go get that surgery!"


"Bigotry"

I know, I know--I will be called a bigot.  But I feel that I must point out the obvious, for there are simply some things which are true and factual--regardless of whether our society wishes it were so. One of those is that Bruce Jenner is a man, and though surgery and chemistry and makeup can hide this fact, it remains exactly that: a fact. But I suppose that makes me a bigot, for acknowledging a fact.

By the way, the word bigot is from the medieval German bei Gott, meaning "by God." It refers to people who are hypocrites to their philosophy, claiming to believe one thing but acting differently. In French it still retains this meaning, that of religious hypocrite. In America, we have changed this word and apply it to anyone who disapproves of someone else's life choices, even if those life choices are, themselves, "bigoted" in the proper sense--that is, in opposition to their own philosophy. Properly speaking it is bigoted to claim to be an evolutionist yet support transgender and it is bigoted to claim to be a theist yet support transgender. But in America, I will be the one called a bigot for making this statement.

Oh well. We long ago gave up caring about definitions of things, didn't we, Caitlyn?

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