Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Dennis Prager’s latest column, which questions why the rights of the transgendered are included in the struggle for gay rights, really has to be read to be believed. Prepare to have your jaw agape at the notion that someone could be this out of touch with reality. Some of the statements he makes are simply astonishing. Like this one:

The aim of GLBT is not merely that society not persecute gays and accept them as equal fellow citizens. If it were, the movement could largely disband. The battle for acceptance of gay people has largely been won.

Nonsense. We’ve made enormous progress, of course, and no one should doubt that. It is far safer to be out of the closet today than it has ever been and this is a very good thing. But ask any gay teenager, or even any teenager perceived to be gay, how his day is going and you’ll likely get an earful of just how far we have to go to win the “battle for acceptance.” Let’s not ignore how far we have come, of course; but let’s not pretend that there isn’t a long way to go.

And that’s just talking about the battle for acceptance; the real battle, of course, is for full legal equality. On that question, we have again made progress but there is a great deal yet to be done. We’re still fighting over gays in the military, something that more than 70% of the American people support. And gay marriage is still a huge issue, obviously.

And in most states and at the federal level it is still legal to fire someone or refuse to hire them solely for being gay, something that cannot be done on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity or a number of other factors. I have argued loudly that victory for equality is inevitable, that in another 20 or 30 years all of these battles will not only be won but we’ll be baffled by why it was ever an issue in the first place, much as we look back on the civil rights struggles today. But we aren’t there yet. And declaring that we are is nothing more than an attempt to make sure we don’t get there.

And few people, conservative or liberal, have any trouble accepting a transsexual, i.e., someone who has surgically changed his or her sex.

WTF? What universe does this guy live in? Hell, there is even bigotry against transsexuals in the gay community and among straight allies. Indeed, I would argue that our visceral reaction to transsexuals is far stronger today than to gays or lesbians; even the casually bigoted are used to gays and lesbians to the point where they at least don’t react with revulsion, but the same is absolutely not true of transsexuals.

I admit to having been guilty of this myself. The first time I met one of the prominent transsexual leaders in the gay rights community in Michigan, I was shocked at my own entirely involuntary, visceral reaction to her. I was horrified by it, actually, and it forced me to reexamine my own feelings. Here I was a longtime and staunch ally of gay rights and I was having this very negative internal reaction to this person.

I was ashamed of myself. And it made me all the more aware of how strongly the fear of the other can operate even in those of us who consider ourselves relatively enlightened on such matters. I overcame it, but it took some intellectual effort on my part. And I still feel ashamed of it. Whenever I see her now, I feel like apologizing for feelings I never even expressed.

And as I’ve come to know her a bit better over the last few years, my admiration of her courage and humanity has grown immensely. She’s a remarkably dedicated person who treats others far better than society has treated her. And it kills me that I had to overcome my own internal fear and suspicion of others in order to recognize those things.

But you see, I was used to gays and lesbians and counted dozens of them among my friends. That is why I feel so passionately about equality, because I want for each and every one of them what I take for granted for myself. But I counted no transsexuals among my friends. I didn’t know any of them. I wasn’t used to being around them. Now I do. And I am enormously grateful that their humanity toward others allowed me to expand my own.

Now Prager gets to the ridiculous conspiracy theory about why we include the T in LGBT:

But what does any of this have to do with the transgendered, i.e., people who do not psychologically identify themselves with their biological sex, who act as if they were a member of the opposite sex, and who have not changed their biology? Why does the left include the transgendered in its activism on behalf of gays? …

In his just-published book, “How Pleasure Works,” Yale professor of psychology Paul Bloom, described by Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker as “among the deepest thinkers and clearest writers on the science of mind today,” writes:

“Freud claimed ‘when you meet a human being, the first distinction you make is “male or female” and you are accustomed to making the distinction with unhesitating certainty.’ This is true for me at least; I get e-mails from strangers with foreign names and when I can’t tell whether the sender is a man or a woman, it is oddly unsettling. It shouldn’t matter – I have no intention of mating with them – but it does. When we see a baby in a diaper, the first question many of us ask is: Is this a boy or is it a girl?”

So, then, why the “T” in GLBT?

Because the left seeks to obliterate the distinction between men and women. This distinction is considered to be a social construct. That is why, to this day, despite all the scientific evidence (as if that were needed) proving how different male and female brains are, many left-wing academics still argue that boys play with trucks rather than with dolls because of sexist socialization; and girls play with dolls because of socialization.

And that is why, on the left, changing the definition of marriage is only worth a shrug. Since there are no inherent differences between men and women, what difference could it possibly make whether a man marries a man or a woman, or whether a woman marries a man or a woman? Or if children have two fathers, two mothers, or a father and mother?

Notice how he quotes Bloom for no reason at all. He doesn’t critique what Bloom said, nor is he informed by it. Remove it from the article and it is unchanged in any significant way. What he quoted was important, but he missed the point of it completely. Yes, we do tend to automatically break down all people into male and female. But the point, which Prager misses, is that this simple dichotomy simply doesn’t always apply.

As much as we tend to automatically assume that there are only two genders, reality always intrudes. The two genders are defined genetically by their chromosomal arrangement — XX for women, XY for men. But there are some born with XXY, for example; that’s called Klinefelter’s syndrome and it exists in 1 of every 1000 males (one of every 500 males has the extra chromosome but not the syndrome, which suggests even more variation). About 1 of every 1000 are also born XYY, but that rarely influences sexual orientation or gender expression.

And this doesn’t even begin to discuss the reality of the intersexed, those born with ambiguous or dual genitalia, and many other subsets of the transgendered category (which I’m sure I’ve ended up oversimplifying myself). The point is that in the real world, while the simple male/female designation applies perfectly fine for most of us, it doesn’t apply to all of us.

And the reason why those people are included, and should be included, in the struggle for dignity and equality is because they are, like the Ls and Bs and Gs, subject to the same kinds of bigotry and discrimination — indeed, probably more so than any of those three categories today, for the reasons I discussed above.


  1. #1 Emily
    June 3, 2010

    @snurp: Here are a couple links about the vervet monkey studies:
    What I called a “frying pan” was actually a red cooking pot, and it’s suggested elsewhere that the females were interested in it because its color resembled that of a baby monkey’s face.

    @D. C. Sessions #31: Yes, I completely agree about the (non)implications of a monkey study for how humans should be treated(in case that wasn’t clear). I mentioned the vervet monkey study because I’d seen it cited as “proof” that behavioral differences between human boys and girls are hardwired– e.g., one of Pinker’s comments here(ctrl + F “vervet”): http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/debate05/debate05_index.html

New comments have been disabled.