A while ago, I appeared on an episode of the Drunken Peasants at the request of the Amazing Atheist, and had a good chat with a young feminist who goes by the moniker Awesome Rants. One of the things we discussed was the idea that there are more than two genders, an idea I dismiss as not only ridiculous, but as actively harmful against people born with gender specific congenital abnormalities.
The recent suicide of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn has ignited the debate about these medical conditions, with far too many people, in my opinion, characterizing transgender as simply another gender that we cannot accept. Leelah’s suicide is a tragedy, and the contribution her parents made to her despair evokes simultaneous pity and fury in me. I pity them because they have lost a child, and that is always a terrible thing for any parent to endure, but I am also furious at how they refused treatment to a medically ill child while claiming to love that child, unconditionally.
But I don’t really want to talk about Leelah, specifically. I want to discuss how the existence of transgender people undermines one of the most basic premises of feminism, and how feminists would rather throw transgender people under the bus than accept a basic human reality: gender is not a choice. It is not the product of social conditioning. It is not a performance. It is a biological reality that you do not choose.
Let me tell you my personal history, and how I have come to develop my ideas about what it means to be transgender. My husband’s mother has a cousin, and that cousin has two children. Her eldest daughter Sarah was born with Turner Syndrome. This means she has no ovaries. Turner Syndrome is a devastating chromosomal abnormality, and women who are born with this condition tend to be very low in stature, have atypically broad chests and low hairlines, low-set ears and webbed necks. These women are sterile and do not experience menstrual periods. The lack of estrogen can lead to heart disease, diabetes, vision and hearing problems and a host of auto-immune diseases. Turner Syndrome cannot be cured, but it can be treated and options for treatment are determined by the woman who has the syndrome and her medical team.
No one in their right mind would ever claim that a woman with Turner Syndrome is simply another gender, making a quirky lifestyle choice. No one would blame a woman for being born with this defect, or claim that she is simply confused and imagining her lack of ovaries. Turner Syndrome is a devastating medical illness and is treated as such, and rightly so.
Let’s go back to the cousin. So the first daughter is born with Turner Syndrome, and is met with compassion and provided with treatment options, to be determined at her discretion, based on her life goals.
The second daughter is transgender. She was born with the brain chemistry of a female, and the external genitalia of a male. Serendipity came down in favor of this daughter, and her name is Alex, and it is one small grace that she does not have to alter her birth name as she confronts her own medical illness. Alex is extremely fortunate to be living in a family that understands she has a chromosomal abnormality not materially different from the older sister. At some point in neonatal development, something went wrong with both girls. One was born without ovaries and the other was born with incorrect genitalia.
The huge difference between them is that while Sarah is treated as a person crafting a life around a terrible illness, Alex is not. Alex is alternately treated as mentally ill, confused or attention-seeking. Alex does not have access to insurance-provided treatment options that address her condition, although her sister does. Sarah’s condition is treated as life-threatening, because it can be, under adverse conditions. Alex’s condition is not seen as life-threatening, although as Leelah Alcorn demonstrates, it most certainly can be, under adverse conditions.
When feminists and social justice warriors treat Sarah as a bona fide medically compromised person, but treat Alex as simply an “alternate gender” – a person selecting their gender from a wide range of possibilities, they are, in a very real sense, foreclosing the possibility of treatment for Alex in a way that would never happen for Sarah.
This is disgustingly cruel. The only reason feminists insist that gender exists on a spectrum is to flog their tired ideology about gender as a social construct. Feminists don’t give a single fuck about the people who actually have to live with these conditions. All that matters is the ideology. Women like Sarah and Alex prove beyond all reasonable doubt that gender is not a choice. You are born male or female and your brain will tell you who you are. Insisting that women like Alex are just a different sort of person is like insisting someone who has cancer is just experiencing a different sort of cell division.
Yeah, it’s different all right. And lethal.
In many ways, the conversation about transgender people and treatment options mirrors the conversation in the deaf community: should deaf children be raised as Deaf, or should they be given cochlear implants as children? Do parents have a right, even an obligation, to address a birth defect like deafness to provide their children with a fully human experience? If all deaf children were given implants at birth, an entire culture and language could die in a generation. Is that acceptable? Who decides?
For me, this would not be a complicated choice: if one of my children were deaf, I would do everything in my power to give them hearing. Deafness is a defect I would correct. Similarly, if one of my children were born transgender, I would do everything in my power to make sure they lived life as the gender they know themselves to be.
But I understand the argument against either of these things. It’s a complicated conversation that hits on issues of autonomy and health and well-being, but at no point will you find any advocates on either side suggesting that the Deaf be given no choices and no treatment options at all. The debate in the Deaf community is the same as the debate in the transgender community: is it a disability or a culture?
And I come down in both cases on the side of disability. This does not mean there is not a culture, but it does mean that our primary orientation towards both conditions should be on treatment options. There is no “right age” for treatment to begin. Leelah Alcorn spoke of knowing herself to be transgender from early adolescence. A woman like Sarah, who has Turner Syndrome, began treatments almost from infancy to address the various ways her illness manifested.
Casting any of these issues as lifestyle choices for the sole purposes of supporting a broken ideology is despicable, in my opinion. I used the word “sick” in my conversation with Awesome Rants, and I regret using that particular word, because too many people took it to mean “mentally twisted”, the way torturing animals is sick.
I meant sick as in “not medically well”. It’s not sick like having a cold or sick like having cancer. Being transgender is a congenital abnormality that results in a person having medical issues that must be addressed to allow for optimal health, both physical and mental.
Sarah, by the way, is a nurse. She works in the endocrinology unit of her local hospital, caring for people who have chromosomal abnormalities like herself. She is treated with respect, compassion, kindness and can openly discuss her condition and issues.
Alex is agoraphobic and has not left her home for over two years. She is treated with contempt, ridicule, regularly threatened with violence and lives in an online world where she is told her condition is just a different gender by those who pretend to be her allies.
Our whole family is in crisis mode trying to save Alex’s life. My husband and I are seriously considering legally adopting Alex, who is now 19, so she can move to Canada where she will be given a variety of treatment options to address a very serious medical condition.
There are two genders. Male and female. They exist in our brains and when our biological sex does not match the gender we know we are, the consequences are shattering. To treat transgender people as just one shade in a rainbow of colors is cruel. It’s demeaning. It’s dehumanizing. It’s a lie.
Just one more example of how feminism itself is mental illness.
And it’s high time for a cure.
Lots of love,