Oddly enough, I don’t have much to say about Bruce Jenner. Others have provided excellent commentary and I don’t feel the need to add to the mix. What I will say is that my heart goes out to the man. I cannot imagine what it is like to feel like you are a woman trapped in a man’s body. While I think his decision to alter his body to make it look like a female’s body is a tragic one, I understand why he would do so. He is trying to look like what he thinks he truly is, and he thinks that these alterations will make him happy. Unfortunately, I think he’ll find out too late that it won’t bring him the happiness he thought it would, and he may even come to regret the decision. While we should be firm in our convictions and position that his actions are wrong, we should never do so at the expense of his humanity. He is a person. A confused person. A lost person. A person who needs love, and not just words of moral condemnation. This is a time that we need to proclaim the truth, but proclaim it with compassion and love.
What I would like to focus my attention on is why our culture is divided on the issue of transgenderism and gender-reassignment, and then show how the logic of the liberal view is applied inconsistently.
Why the divide?
When it comes to transgenderism, the divide between conservatives and liberals centers on where they locate the problem, and what they identify as the solution. Is the problem with the body (liberals) or the mind (conservatives)? Is the solution changing the body (liberals) or changing the mind (conservatives)?
Liberals argue that one’s true identity is not determined by one’s biology, but by one’s self-perception and self-determination. If a gendered male thinks he is a woman, then he is a woman regardless of the biological and anatomical evidence. The solution to the tension between his mind and his body is to surgically and chemically manipulate the body so that it fits the mind.
Conservatives, on the other hand, argue that one’s gender identity is determined by their biology rather than their self-perception or desire to be something else. If a gendered male thinks he is a woman, the fact remains that he is still a man because the biological and anatomical evidence is clear that he is a male. The solution to the tension between his mind and his body is psychological therapy so that his self-perception can be realigned with biological reality. Mutilating his body to make it appear like a woman’s body no more makes him a woman than surgically attaching feathers to his body would make him a chicken. You will always be a man and your DNA proves it.
The Transabled and Liberal Inconsistency
The liberal support of transgenderism and gender reassignment is inconsistent with their position on the transabled. Transability, more technically known as Body Integrity Identity Disorder, is a mental illness in which people perceive themselves to have a physical disability despite the fact that their body is perfectly healthy. For example, a woman with perfectly functioning legs may perceive herself to be a cripple, and she has a strong desire to cripple her legs so that they will not work. Or a man may perceive himself to be an amputee, and has a strong desire to have his arms surgically amputated so that he can become his true arm-less self. Someone else may perceive their true self to be blind, and desire to be made blind by a medical doctor so that they can fulfill their true identity.
Sane people rightly define this as a psychological disorder, and seek to help the person via psychological counseling. The goal of the counseling is to bring their minds into conformity with their physical reality. Virtually no one thinks the real problem is with their body, and the solution is to mutilate their body so that their body can match their mind’s self-perception. But why not? That’s the solution liberals advocate in the case of transgenderism. When the mind conflicts with a perfectly healthy body, they cheer on the person’s decision to mutilate their body so that it conforms to the mind and makes the person happy. So why object to the man who wants a doctor to amputate his healthy arm or blind a healthy eye if that will make him happy? Either the mind’s self-perception always trumps biological reality or it does not.
If we see that something is wrong with the mind of the transabled, we should equally see that something is wrong with the mind of the transgendered. If the proper solution for the transabled is to adjust their minds to fit biological reality, then the solution for the transgendered is to adjust their minds to fit biological reality as well. Both psychological conditions are a travesty, and both are reason for us to reach out in compassion to help those who suffer from them. But we lack compassion when we affirm a person’s mental delusions as normal, and cheer on their decision to mutilate their body to conform to their mental delusion. This is not compassion, but abandonment.
See also “Gender is not a social construction”