Wednesday, January 29, 2003

The Distinguished Lecture Series brought a Leslie Feinberg here yesterday to speak on "Trans Liberation." The blurb says "Trans Liberation is the phrase that has come to refer to all those who blur or bridge the boundary of the sex or gender expression they were assigned at birth: cross-dressers, transsexuals, intersex people, Two Spirits, bearded females, masculine females and feminine males, drag kings and drag queens. Activist Leslie Feinberg argues passionately for the acceptance of all trans peoples--and for the absolute necessity of building coalitions between all progressive political groups."

I'm not sure where to begin. The notion that sex is assigned at birth, and that maybe you can appeal for a reversal, is stunningly ignorant.

  • Transsexuals need liberation from their own psychoses, not from society. Where is the liberation in turning your body into a doll shaped like something that every cell of your body says you aren't?
  • I'm not sure what "Two Spirits" are supposed to be--schizophrenia maybe? (More people in need of compassion and professional help)
  • And I was under the impression that drag queens were simply a flamboyant variety of cross-dresser. The whole point of cross-dressing is to fool people into thinking you are radically different from what you are. I can conceive of this as ranging from harmless to disturbed, but I have no numbers on what the spectrum is like.
  • Bearded females are very common--it happens to a large number of elderly women, and a small number of younger women with a mild hormone imbalance. Not a big deal--if you don't mind there's no problem, and if you do the problem is easily cured by Gilette.
  • Intersex is a very rare condition. I can agree that these people may need care and protection from the waves of psychologist who want to study them, but it hardly seems worthwhile trying to revise a whole society's mores and marriage customs to make five or six people with a birth defect more comfortable in locker rooms.
  • I can't tell exactly what is meant by masculine females and feminine males. Maybe this means relative to cultural norms, or perhaps relative to the biological norms (a gracile male, for instance). I strongly suspect (from other observations) that the two meanings are not distinguished.

So from their list of 9 categories of "oppressed" people I find 6 types: one with a rare birth defect, two mentally ill, one with no significant problems, one with maybe a big problem and maybe not, and one group that just represents the tails of some kind of normal distribution. I can see how the transsexuals might be extreme varieties of cross-dressers, but I don't think all cross-dressers are mild forms of transsexuals. Aside from that, what exactly is supposed to link all these categories? What is supposed to be the common cause uniting an 80-year old grandmother with five-o'clock shadow and a 20-year old guy chopping off his genitals and pumping silicone into his chest? It is dishonest to proclaim an Apple and Rivet Pie Society and hope that I'll not notice that only one is actually edible.

Yes, by all means accept the slender fellow and Mrs. Hulk. But the transsexual's problem is in his head, not in society.

No, I didn't go hear it speak. I had other things to do.

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