TRANSGENDER IS NOW A POLITICAL ISSUE. IT SHOULDN’T BE

Caitlyn Jenner

FILE – In this Jan. 18, 2020, file photo Caitlyn Jenner, a well-known transgender person, speaks at the 4th Women’s March in Los Angeles.  (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

Our political parties have made the transgender condition a political issue. This is wrong. No private attribute of any person should ever be a political matter. Every person is the owner of his or her condition. It is nobody’s business except that person’s.

The condition of transgender has also become a social issue. This is understandable. As with almost every condition arising from human nature, it is a mystery; and mysteries intrigue us all and set us pondering. I say ‘a mystery” because no one really knows what the human condition is or is supposed to be. We may think we know, but we don’t.

Nonetheless, some observations about transgender seem to make sense.

First, it exists in every human community and is therefore not a cultural construct.

Second, it seems linked only tangentially, if at all, to sexual biology. People who have the transgender condition find their biology at odds with who they are. Nor is one’s biology any indication of sexual attraction. People of all conditions may be attracted to those of the same biology, or opposite, or both. Transgender people are no different in that regard.

If we have learned anything about sex and gender conditions these past 50 years — and I think we have learned much — it is that how these three attributes play out is a mystery and entirely personal and thus not to be interfered with by any other person.

Now comes the politics. Let me dispose of them forthwith:

Some on the political right want to deny that the transgender condition is anything other than a delusion or a quirk of the mind. My own experience belies this view. One realizes that one is transgender long before any thought about it arises. it is simply something that one knows. The doubter may say, “but that knowing is an illusion,” yet is it ? Perception is a physical attribute; transgender is of the whole being. the concept of “soul” enters here. We do not know what the soul is, but we do know that human life is more than mere biology or cellular physics. What that may be, we do not know, yet we know it is there. A mystery ? No less so than the precepts of any religion are a mystery — as they have always been.

The dispute here is simply a difference of opinion about what life’s mystery is. If we respect one person’s idea of life mystery, we should respect another’s.

Some on the political left want to force the transgender condition into legal clothes. This too is a mistake. No more than the mythical Procrustes could force his guests into one bed by stretching them or shrinking them, can we jam the legs of transgender into a legal bed.

One such bed is the matter of pronouns. Transgender people have become accustomed to adopting their gender pronoun rather than their biology pronoun. That is ok; I see no reason why gender should not replace biology as a seedbed of one’s pronoun. Difficulty begins when people start substituting neutral terms for gender nouns. Of late some on the far left have come up with “birthing person” in place of “woman” in order to include transgender women as women. There is no basis at all for doing this. there are plenty of biological women who cannot give birth. The noun “woman” suffices for all.

I also se no reason why transgender people have any right to force everyone else to accept a transgender person’s definition of the condition. First, there are too many views, among transgenders, of what this condition is. How else do we see some people calling themselves “they” — a plural pronoun — or “genderfluid” ? These are clearly attempts to search — for what probably cannot be found.

Second, as it is a mystery, it should be enough for the society at large to view transgender as a mystery : a question with no good answer. Or, as Queen Elizabeth I once told an inquiring parliament, I give you an “answer answerless.”

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere