Alex Blaze

Camille Paglia Says Chaz Bono 'Mutilated' his Body

Filed By Alex Blaze | May 06, 2011 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Camille Paglia, Chaz Bono, interview, ted Haggard, transgender

While I appreciate commentators who eschew popular opinion and conventional wisdom, priding oneself in being a contrarian-for-the-sake-contrarianism doesn't necessarily mean that someone is right. Which is probably why I never really got into Camille Paglia's work, although it should be mentioned that her hey-day was well before my time and maybe I'm just missed something, being a young'n and all.

Here she is saying that Chaz Bono "mutilated" his body by transitioning. (Update: video fixed.)

What I find particularly interesting is her statement at the end about how she could have been trans if she were born a few decades later. She sounds a lot like this guy:

For the first time since we've met, Ted isn't looking directly at me. "Here's where I really am on this issue," he half whispers. "I think that probably, if I were 21 in this society, I would identify myself as a bisexual." After a weekend of Ted trying to convince me of his unambiguous devotion to his wife and kids, I'm at first too surprised to say anything.

"So why not now?" I ask finally.

"Because, Kevin, I'm 54, with children, with a belief system, and I can have enforced boundaries in my life. Just like you're a heterosexual but you don't have sex with every woman that you're attracted to, so I can be who I am and exclusively have sex with my wife and be perfectly satisfied."

"But what does it have to do with being 54?"

"Life!" he says. "We live an ordinary life."

There is the theory about virulently homophobic men, that they're in fact worried that people will find out that they're gay or bi so they say terrible things about gay people between visits to cruisey public bathrooms.

Does that apply to trans men as well? I don't think I've ever read about a cis man who said that he questioned his gender identity when he was younger but came to the conclusion that he wasn't a woman, but every now and then I come across a cis woman while reading LGBT and feminist media with such a narrative.

That may not apply to Paglia, who isn't hiding the fact that she questions her gender identity. On the other hand, she seems to blame her transphobia on that questioning.

Anyway, does she think she's Chaz Bono's shrink? Does she even know him that well? I mean, I'm a blogger and even I think she's making an awful lot of assumptions about what's going on in Bono's head. Is she projecting a lot of her own problems onto him? She seems to see a lot of herself in Bono, especially where she implies she could never transition because it's a fad for the younger generation, as if Bono is 19-years-old instead of 42.

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

She should have experimented with a T shot.

Just one dose would have resolved her doubts about who she is.

It is well documented that the administration of cross sex hormones have a mitigating effect on patents suffering from severe gender dysphoria. The effect is so marked that the treatment is used to confirm or reject the GID diagnosis. Fortunately, psychological outcomes precede permanent physiological secondary sex characteristic changes, making it an ideal diagnostic confirmation/contraindicating tool.

Nothing like the merest whiff of actual transsexuality to show a patient who's confused who they really are. If they're TS, the incredible relief is immediate. If not... they'll never, ever, do it again.

There are few exceptions to this. About 2%.

Ah, Camille...anything to remain relevant.

I don't know, I think her chronic need to reference herself in a show of who's penis is bigger is so tiring. I swear, she suffers from Kristin Wier of SNL's "Penelope"-ism.

"remain relevant"? She never was relevant, even during her heyday.

ZoeB, OMG you sure got that right. Two days after my first T injection I knew I was "righting" myself physiologically.

Hi Jake.

It's almost a stereotype, no matter which way we go, the feeling of rightness is like an avalanche.

I'm a little different - my hormone levels switched to female naturally, as part of the chaos of 3BHDD syndrome. So not only was my body changing, but I was hit by the incredible relief too, months before I started HRT, and when transition was the furthest thing from my mind.

I couldn't not transition. Not because of the body changes - I subscribed to an FtoM magazine to learn techniques about hiding those - but because after the tiniest dose of normality, I couldn't go back. I make no apologies for that, some things are humanly impossible.

Kathy Padilla | May 6, 2011 10:20 AM

"What I find particularly interesting is her statement at the end about how she could have been trans if she were born a few decades later."

Because no older people ever transition or come out? The other obvious parrellel - are you gay if you're celibate?

the brutal arrogance is stunning. what a total lack of respect. and, so full of shit.

I have always regarded Paglia the court jester of the right-wing. what a jerk.


Way to be ironic, Sue. She pretty clearly sits as a left wing jester. Those happen to exist as well.

Paglia is just a jackass that functions like Fred Phelps. She vomits some garbage and the bloggers eat it all up and give her much needed publicity. The left's Ann Coulter.

Ha ha, Lucrece! You got it and I agree. The left's Ann Coulter...or somebody's Ann Coulter.

Yes, but at one point the Penelope skits were funny.

Other than the time she called Barney Frank an "asexual blob," her entire existence has been as substanceless as the nutritional value of a packing peanut.

Ugh. Thanks for exhibiting why the old feminist movement alienated so many, especially queers, in under a minute, Camille.

Such a blabbering nonsensical answer. She's in way over her head, and I think she knows it. It's tragic when people and groups fight for tolerance and equality then turn around and exclude others because they don't agree with their idea of tolerance and equality.

"Ugh. Thanks for exhibiting why the old feminist movement alienated so many, especially queers, in under a minute, Camille."

That's ironic, Drew, since her whole schtick was that she was so beyond feminism that feminists hated her because she was the true feminist as anti-feminist. (I know that sounds like crap, but that's how she talks) So I'm sure she would take great umbrage at being painted with the 'feminist movement' brush.

There's a massive difference between being challenging what one believes and being completely dismissive and rejecting of who one is. Paglia has had a history of failure at knowing the difference.

I don't get why we can't just let other people be in control of their bodies to use as makes them happy. Seriously, why is it any of her business if Chaz has whatever surgeries he wants on his body? Is the argument here really "if you let him do it, everyone will want to do it!" As if (a) that would actually happen and (b) it would be a big problem if it did. Why does she have to be all up in everyone else's business? Oops, I forgot that if we do not use our own bodies in the "proper" way, the world will explode...

"I don't get why we can't just let other people be in control of their bodies to use as makes them happy."

Because people need to be re-enforced in their own beliefs by forcing everyone else to live like them, of course.

Where to begin... well, I was at least as disturbed by Paglia referring to Bono as "Chastity" and "she" as the mutilation comment. I suppose people are entitled to view transition surgeries as mutilation, although I clearly disagree. But to misgender him and fail to use his correct name is just disrespectful.

The psychology of lesbians in relation to FTMs and transition is so complex, to say the very least. There are many, many dykes who either question their gender identity or know that their true gender is male, but are afraid to admit it to themselves or others, or are afraid to transition. I would say 99% of the FTMs I know previously identified as lesbians. And of all the lesbians I've known in my life (starting in the 70's), with retrospective interpretation, I would say 75% of them were probably really FTMs.

Other lesbians see so many of their ranks choosing transition, they're afraid of being 'left behind' and losing their culture or at least their peer group; or resent comrades gaining male or heterosexual privilege; or question their own gender identity because of peer pressure rather than actual dysphoria; any of which leads to stress and possibly a bad attitude about trans people.

So I can't say I'm terribly surprised that she said these things. Also, my experience is that older lesbians are, generally speaking, less accepting of gender variations than younger ones. In the quotes from both Camille and Ted, they allude to the possibility of youth which they felt would have given them the freedom to do what they wanted.

Well, speaking as a lesbian in her forties - I was probably more disturbed by the fact that she failed to refer to Chaz properly than the mutilation comment (although that disturbed me as well).

I've always thought that people should be referred to in the manner that they choose, not the manner that someone else chose for them.

Chaz Bono is male - and he should be referred to in that manner.

My lady, who is in her fifties, listened to my description of this clip and was also offended by the disrespect.

Neither she nor I want to be anything other than female, though. :)

Robin Tyler | May 8, 2011 2:02 PM

Here we go again. We fight prejudice, and then ageism rears it's ugly head by saying 'older lesbians are less accepting then younger ones."
So, I must reveal that I am 69. Again, when I worked at the 82 Club in 1962 & 1963 (as a female impersonator, the only woman in the show), the terrific impersonators on stage were born as men,
and lesbians in tuxedos were the waiters. Talk about gender variations! My first encounter with prejudice was when I perfomred at the Michigan Women's Music Festival in the late 70's, and referred to myself as a Butch. Needless to say, a group of 'politically correct' dykes (a vocal minority) came after me. I can name a few very famous women performers who were part of this group, but for the sake of saving them the shame, I won't. Next, in the feminist movement, a small group of very vocal public personalities, such as Andrea Dworkin and a few others, decided what we
were going to read, and what not. In the past 15 years,lipstick lesbians became the rage. So, this new wave of younger ones, who accept gender variations, and in fact, celebrate them,are carrying on the tradition of us older ones. We just had to get through decades of prejudice within and without our own community.

If you performed at Michfest in the 70s, how can you not be aware of their virulently transphobic "womyn born womyn only" policies? Michfest is pretty much Ground Zero for bigoted second-wave feminists who hate (and fear) transsexual women.

I still want to know who "this guy" is!

There are younger lesbians like Julie Bindel, Lynn Baker (AKA Dirt) and legions of radical lesbian feminists who express the same hateful attitudes about transpeople as their elder predecessors and icons such as the late Mary Daly, Germaine Greer, Janice Raymond and Camille Paglia

It seems extremely likely that Dirt's transphobia springs from self-hatred and an unwanted desire to transition.

Paglia is an arrogant pain in the ass, but she captures our imagination because she has a talent for finding exactly what it is we want to talk about but are afraid to. She questions orthodoxies in our community that we want to question but that we shy away from because we know we'll just be shouted down and accused of oppressing someone.

Good for her for interrogating the gospel that gender is an immutable characteristic unaffected by culture, and that gender identity and sexuality are completely separate phenomena, for proposing that yesterday's lesbian may be today's trans man.

I can't stand her. I love her.

No, Steven, you are very presumptuous. You sound exactly like Az Hakeem and Julie Bindel.

You act as if any of this has anything to do with you or "your community". It is way beyond the realm of "you and your community" but that still doesn't preclude the hegemonic intrusions of people like you.

This is the clap trap Julie Bindel has been spreading around the internet:

I really don't know anything beyond the Hillary Swank portrayal of this person. I really don't know what Chaz Bono's personal situation is, either. That's beside the point, however. These are the kinds questions that have been raised for generations, now. All these things were resolved long ago. Only each one of us knows what our own personal story is. Your gender and queer theory is oppressive to people you don't know anything about. If you want a sex change go for it. If you don't you should keep your offensive speculations to yourself. People like you are truly in the way.

The idea that respecting the integrity of trans people's identities is some kind of "oppressive orthodoxy" and that ideological bigots should be celebrated for attacking trans people is unspeakably offensive.

It's funny how complete invalidation is "questioning orthodoxies and interrogating gospels" when it's someone else who's invalidated. Considering the overwhelming shortage of people in the day-to-day doing similar invalidating, and all.

My experience has been that despite the shared history of gay rights and trans rights, the average cissexual gay person is much more ideologically transphobic than the average cissexual straight person -- and the most transphobic people in the entire damn world are feminist intellectuals from the second wave era.

These people value "purity of ideology" above all else, and they hate us because we spoil their precious purity.

Kind of like those brave preachers who aren't afraid to interrogate the idea that homosexuality isn't a product of sin and rebellion against god, and that gays are capable of long lasting, loving relationships rather than constant bathroom cruising, They are all such brave counter-culture warriors!!!

Robin Tyler | May 7, 2011 1:54 PM

As a lesbian feminist who has had a breast reduction (I was a size DD and E in the other breast, and reduced to a size C because of back pain,) as well as having a nip and a tuck, I suppose Camile would accuse me of mutilating my body. My former assistant, Lenny, who was a lesbian and like a daughter to me, transitioned, and is now like a son to me.
Coming from the 'old butch' generation, I don't agree with Rory that 75% of us were really FTM's. I did know a lot of butches who worked at the 82 club in NY in the 60's who were, but the majority of butches I knew, were not like this. But of course, it is not about numbers. It is about the right to control our own bodies. If only Camille could transition her mind, from being mean and prejudice to being an open, loving human being. Congratulations Chaz, you made the right choice for you, followed through, and had the courage to go public.

This woman's transphobia fails to surprise me considering the fact that she's a feminist. Most radical feminists are transphobic.

I used to consider myself a feminist pre-transition, but distanced myself from the movement afterwards due to being made to feel unwelcome amongst radical feminists for committing the crime of being a transsexual. It's actually a shame because (considering how liberal we are) transsexuals could be a good ally to the feminist cause - if the feminists weren't so hell-bent on treating us like ****.

Robin Tyler | May 9, 2011 12:22 PM

This was my first time at any Festival, so I had no idea what Womyn born womyn meant. Wasn't that saying made up later, as a response to the transgender issue? I just did not hear that expression at the Michigan Festivals in the 70's. I went on to produced both the Southern and the West Coast Women's Music Festivals (25 in all) in which both transgender and transitioning workers and non-workers were welcome.

The phrase might not have been common until later on, but Lisa Vogel and Barbara Price have openly acknowledged that they have always excluded trans women from MichFest.