Friday, August 23, 2013

Bradley, or Is It Chelsea, Manning

Yesterday the world heard the news it had been waiting for. Readying himself for what should be a long stint in Leavenworth, convicted traitor Bradley Manning decided that he was really a she. Manning wished no longer to be called Bradley. Henceforth, left thinking people would be calling him Chelsea. One wonders what his cellmate will call him?

But, enquiring minds want to know, why didn’t he change his surname to Womanning? Sometimes life is puzzling.

On what basis did Manning change his gender identity? Glad you asked. Nothing about his body had changed from the day before yesterday to yesterday. What changed was in his mind. Manning had decided that he possessed the deep conviction that he was a she.

It’s not about biology or empirical evidence; it’s about belief. In psychiatry it’s called a delusion.

In the world of politically correct thought, each individual has an inalienable right to choose his gender freely. If Manning chooses to be a she, he is a she.

One can only wonder whether each individual has the inalienable right to choose his race.

From Wikipedia to Slate to The New Republic to the Guardian left-thinking media outlets rushed to trumpet the good news. They changed Manning’s name and excised all of the pronouns that might have reminded someone that Chelsea is really, by the evidence of biology, a he.

It’s not quite gender-reassignment surgery, but one might say, it’s a start. Note well, that since Manning’s biological makeup offends his belief system, he wants to undergo surgical treatment to force his body to correspond to his conviction.

Since the transgendered have recently been granted the status of persecuted minority, the thought police has been out in force, threatening and intimidating anyone who would dare think that Bradley is not Chelsea. If you dare evoke empirical evidence you will be subjected to withering contempt and endless ridicule.

First out of the gate is Erin Gloria Ryan who treats us to a mindless and intemperate rant against all those who would dare question Manning’s belief.

The rhetorical assault is necessary. Otherwise no rational human being would believe that you can change your gender by saying so. And no rational human being would accept that you are what you believe yourself to be.

In this context, Kevin Williamson has exhibited considerable courage by taking on the concept of transgenderism. He bases his National Review article on the work of famed Johns Hopkins psychiatrist Paul McHugh.

Williamson points to a psychiatric category called Body Identity Integrity Disorder, whereby patients are absolutely convinced that one of their arms, for example,  has been incorrectly attached to their bodies. They are so convinced that the arm is not really their own that they insist that the only cure is to have it amputated.

Naturally, there are surgeons who are willing to perform the procedure.

The same applies to patients who believe, despite scientific evidence to the contrary, that one of their legs is shorter than the other. They insist on having the longer leg shortened.

Again, there are surgeons who are willing to perform the procedure.

Defenders of transgenderism believe that a full psychiatric examination can separate those who are delusional from those who have, as they say, been trapped in the wrong body.

To which Paul McHugh responded:

When you discuss what the patient means by ‘feeling like a woman,’ you often get a sex stereotype in return — something that woman physicians note immediately is a male caricature of women’s attitudes and interests. One of our patients, for example, said that, as a woman, he would be more ‘invested with being than with doing.’ It is not obvious how this patient’s feeling that he is a woman trapped in a man’s body differs from the feeling of a patient with anorexia nervosa that she is obese despite her emaciated, cachectic state. We don’t do liposuction on anorexics. Why amputate the genitals of these poor men? Surely, the fault is in the mind, not the member.

If the fault is in the mind and not in the body, then physicians have a duty to treat the mind, not to mutilate the body. Williamson explains:

The duty of the medical profession is not to encourage and enable delusions, but to help those who suffer from them to cope with them. It is worth noting here that as a matter of law and a matter of social expectation, the fiction of sex change is treated as the paramount good: We are not expected to treat those who have undergone the procedure as men who have taken surgical and hormonal steps to impersonate women (or vice versa) but as people who have literally changed sex, which they have not….

But, you will ask, what about the science? This procedure has been in use for decades now. Surely, we have amassed a treasure trove of data about its effectiveness.

Williamson surveys the research:

A large number of those who undergo sex reassignment, as many as one in four by some estimates, pronounce themselves unhappy with the procedure. Dr. McHugh in a 1992 essay wrote about its long-term consequences: “Age accentuates the sad caricature of the sexually reassigned and saps their bravado. Some, pathetically, ask about re-reassignment.” Dr. James Bellringer, a British physician who has performed hundreds of sex-reassignment surgeries at the Charing Cross Hospital gender-identity clinic, points out in defense of the practice that about one-fifth of those who are denied the procedure attempt suicide; but a study conducted by the British National Health Service found practically identical — 18 percent — suicide-attempt rates for those who had undergone the procedure. (Mr. Avner, whose feline transformation also took a toll on his personal life — “Being a tiger is more important to me than humanity, which is difficult for many women to cope with” — was found dead of an apparent suicide.) The Aggressive Research Intelligence Facility, which advises the NHS on the effectiveness of treatments, conducted a broad review of the research literature and “found no robust scientific evidence that gender reassignment surgery is clinically effective,” according to the Guardian, the liberal newspaper that commissioned the review. A study by the scholarly journalBJUI (formerly the British Journal of Urology) found that some 24 percent of those who undergo reassignment reported that they were unhappy with the cosmetic results, and 20 percent reported that they were in general dissatisfied with the procedure. Those numbers would be high for nose jobs or breast implants; they are sobering for a course of therapy that involves elective amputations.

This is not good news. Yet, to those who believe that gender is a social construct, the evidence does not matter. Their goal is to force as many as people as possible to detach their thought from empirical reality.

Williamson writes:

It is a measure of the intellectual degradation of our times that the physical reality of these cases is considered, if it is considered at all, a distant second to the subjective impressions of people who are, not to put too fine a point on it, mentally ill and in need of treatment.


Sam L. said...

I read that the Army will not pay for the reconstruction he desires.

And Chelsea--reminds me of the Clinton daughter, and her parents, and that huge foundation slush fund they have.

LordSomber said...

“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.”
-- Abraham Lincoln

Anonymous said...

People choose their race all the time..."black race", "white race", etc. It's meaningless as there is only one race, the human race. Don't you find those people also "delusional"?

Dennis said...

I believe color is an evolutionary adaptation to the environment our ancestor spent most of their time. We all are human beings that carry that adaptation with us even though we live on a world that has become very mobile.
We don't get to pick the color we are because it is part of our evolution. Over time we may mitigate much of this through marriage, adaptation to our new environments, et al.
Race is a nonsensical categorization with little value except to those who would like to use it for for reasons that do not benefit the interests of most human beings. The emphasis of race in many ways is contemptible.
I suspect that some people need to learn to read better and understand that ideas are presented and commented on. Faux umbrage aside.
That said, it is interesting that Manning finds that he is a woman after the verdict. It might make one wonder why now. Does he think that might provide him with better treatment, better conditions, et al? Is this the same caricature that many feminists paint of men only in the reverse? We don't really know what it is to be either without living it from birth.
As barbaric as we are one might be careful with "spouting" supposed knowledge about something as personal as who we are as a person. Gender identification is NOT a settled science and is fraught with a large dose of Psych babble. It may be somewhat akin to believing in Freud or Marx especially given the dialectical nature of both. Empiricism seemed not to be in their bailiwick.

Dennis said...

Forgot to add, never let the facts get in the way of a good theory. We might try building some facts and not anecdotal evidence in this case.

Anonymous said...

Stuart your attitude is easy to understand but there is one drawback. You are self confident like french psychoanalyst talking about authism. Maybe you are right, it all aounds good, but what if you are wrong? Responsibility - this is the point.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Of course, I might be wrong. So might you. But, I can console myself with the knowledge that at least I know how to spell.