He's not a man, this Jerry. He's not even married like I am.
--Milos from Seinfeld
Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, in true gasbag form, has decided that he knows more about transgender experiences and Gender Identity Disorder than transgender people themselves do (as well as doctors and psychologists and anyone else who's listening). So he took to his column this week to remind everyone that what it takes to be a woman is making babies and what it takes to be a man is a penis.
Jesus fucking Christ, people, it's all that simple: those bra-burning feminists, dirty queers, and confused trans-folk should give up on their movement to live freely and honestly; it's making certain pundits feel insecure.
Autumn has a great line-by-line, but here's the gist of the article:
A 34-year-old who grew up in Hawaii and used to compete in beauty contests - she was once a finalist in the Miss Hawaii Teen USA pageant - Tracy, who now calls herself Thomas Beatie, apparently suffers from Gender Identity Disorder, syndrome 302.85 in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. According to news accounts, she has felt uncomfortable with her female identity since adolescence. When she was in her 20s, the Telegraph of London reported, "she became more masculine," began a lesbian relationship, "and researched what it meant to be a transgender male." There followed breast-removal surgery and testosterone injections. Tracy/Thomas grew a beard, changed her legal identity to male, and married her partner, Nancy.
But it takes more than a mastectomy and hormone treatments to overturn biology. Thomas may be a man in the eyes of the law, but she remains physically a woman, with a woman's reproductive system, a woman's genitals, and a woman's chromosomes. So when she and Nancy decided to have a baby, she had little trouble conceiving through artificial insemination. The result is the spectacle that has drawn so much attention: a bearded pregnant woman named Thomas, who identifies herself as a man, and has a lawfully wedded wife.
Well, there's really no confusing where Jacoby is coming from - he just plain doesn't like transgender people.
He seems to have it all decided - being a woman is dependent on
- the ability to produce children,
- chromosomes, and
Those women who can't, for whatever reason, have children aren't women, apparently, and people whose chromosomes or genitalia don't fit neatly into the male/female dichotomy
But the problem is deeper than that, you see. It's about our children:
Those of us for whom gender is not a spectrum of possibilities but a matter of either/or are more likely to regard the whole situation as profoundly aberrant and detrimental - especially for the baby about to be brought into the world.
That statement is a ruse hiding something deeper. There's no evidence that transgender parents are particularly worse than any others, so I'm not going to believe that Jacoby sat down, reviewed the studies and evidence, and came to a reasoned conclusion that Thomas Beatie is going to be a bad father. (Oh hell yes, I'm saying "father")
His "culture war" rhetoric betrays a more visceral response:
What you make of all this depends on your political outlook. Transgender activists, radical feminists, and others at the cultural extreme who insist that sex differences between men and women are patriarchal constructs, not hardwired facts of life, will applaud Thomas and Nancy as gender-bending pioneers challenging an oppressive male-female dichotomy.[...]
Increasingly, though, anyone who upholds those taboos and standards is denounced as a narrow-minded bigot, while those who defy them are celebrated for their nonjudgmentalism and tolerance.
You see, Thomas Beatie becoming pregnant has nothing to do with Thomas Beatie becoming pregnant. And respect for transgender people has nothing to do with transgender people. This entire story is an attack on Jacoby himself.
It's nice when these sorts parade their insecurities about their own masculinity around. The subtext of Jacoby's column is: if it takes more than having a penis to be a man, than am I really myself a man?
I don't have an answer to that question for Jacoby. But I can tell him that the sky isn't going to fall if we trust Beatie to decide for himself what his body, mind, and soul are telling him:
This story of the pregnant "man" hasn't materialized in a vacuum.
The news out of Texas last week was of the police raid on a polygamist compound in which underage girls have been forcibly "married" to abusive older men. From Australia came word of John and Jennifer Deaves, the 61-year-old father and his 39-year-old daughter who have had two children together and pleaded guilty to incest, but say they just want "a little bit of respect and understanding" for their illicit relationship. These are only the latest in an endless series of reminders that sexual urges and appetites can be powerful and perverse and lead to harmful consequences. That is why human societies have always constrained sexual behavior with equally powerful taboos and moral standards.
I'd respond to his assertion that having an incestuous relationship with one's daughter has anything to do with being a transman, but Jacoby says it better than I ever could have:
Could anything be more incoherent or sad?
Yup. I think there's a certain Boston Globe columnist who needs to do a little self-reflection.