Transgenderism has gone mainstream. With Time magazine featuring Laverne Cox on its cover the phenomenon has become the next great civil rights struggle.
Has anyone else noticed how strange it is that a man named Cox declares him or herself a woman?
Fortunately, we can again turn to Kevin Williamson for a cogent analysis of this current mania. He begins by identifying the fundamental principle that has led to this and many other impasses. That would be, the notion that reality is what we think it is, what we say it is, what we interpret it as.
This is, he explains, primitive thinking at its most modernized. Among other salient points, Williamson adds, those who follow this precept are obliged to police thought and language. By contemporary standards saying the wrong word or expressing the wrong thought is equivalent to genocide, mass murder and mayhem—mostly because such language and thought is imagined to be directing the latter actions.
The phenomenon of the transgendered person is a thoroughly modern one, not in the sense that such conditions did not exist in the past — Cassius Dio relates a horrifying tale of an attempted sex-change operation — but because we in the 21st century have regressed to a very primitive understanding of reality, namely the sympathetic magic described by James George Frazer in The Golden Bough. The obsession with policing language on the theory that language mystically shapes reality is itself ancient — see the Old Testament — and sympathetic magic proceeds along similar lines, using imitation and related techniques as a means of controlling reality. The most famous example of this is the voodoo doll. If an effigy can be made sufficiently like the reality it is intended to represent, then it becomes, for the mystical purposes at hand, a reality in its own right. The infinite malleability of the postmodern idea of “gender,” as opposed to the stubborn concreteness of sex, is precisely the reason the concept was invented. For all of the high-academic theory attached to the question, it is simply a mystical exercise in rearranging words to rearrange reality. Facebook now has a few score options for describing one’s gender or sex, and no doubt they will soon match the number of names for the Almighty in one of the old mystery cults.
Regardless of the question of whether he has had his genitals amputated, Cox is not a woman, but an effigy of a woman. Sex is a biological reality, and it is not subordinate to subjective impressions, no matter how intense those impressions are, how sincerely they are held, or how painful they make facing the biological facts of life. No hormone injection or surgical mutilation is sufficient to change that.
The issue, as Williamson defines it, is whether reality exists independently of our beliefs. A trangendered person believes that he is of the wrong gender. He believes it completely and fully and unshakably. In other realms of psychiatry his belief would be considered to be delusional. In fact, someone who takes his belief to be more real than reality is, almost by definition, delusional.
The trans self-conception, if the autobiographical literature is any guide, is partly a feeling that one should be living one’s life as a member of the opposite sex and partly a delusion that one is in fact a member of the opposite sex at some level of reality that transcends the biological facts in question. There are many possible therapeutic responses to that condition, but the offer to amputate healthy organs in the service of a delusional tendency is the moral equivalent of meeting a man who believes he is Jesus and inquiring as to whether his insurance plan covers crucifixion.
It’s one thing for an individual to hold to a delusional belief. It’s quite another thing when a culture decides that everyone must accept the delusion as reality.
The mass delusion that we are inculcating on the question of transgendered people is a different sort of matter, to the extent that it would impose on society at large an obligation — possibly a legal obligation under civil-rights law, one that already is emerging — to treat delusion as fact, or at the very least to agree to make subjective impressions superordinate to biological fact in matters both public and private.
It’s fairly obvious that nothing good is going to come of this.