Reality vs. Identity in the 21st Century
"If being misgendered feels like 'a knife is being stabbed into [your] stomach,' I’m pretty sure that you need to get out more."
I'd suggest that they have never actually been stabbed in the stomach. Admittedly, nor have I (it being thankfully rare in the WEIRD world)... but I suspect it's *much* worse than any pain inflicted by words.
At which, with no hesitation, the young boy declared, “you’re a liar!” Wow, just wow.
How old was this young person to have such strong feelings about this? Who did not teach him about the birds and bees?
up is down and down is up in this strange new world we live in.
I can't stop wondering about the adverse impact of the estrogen taken by trans women and whether there will soon be a glut of men with breast cancer. Is this a valid concern and if so, was it not communicated? Is the risk not quite the same as having naturally-occurring estrogen? If valid, what then ever happened to the edict of doing no harm?
On a less grave note, it wasn't that long ago that women simply did not wear pants. I wonder whether the recent hysteria could have been at least somewhat mitigated if gender norms had evolved past skirts, pants, and makeup...
A cogent essay. Thank you.
An interesting book is "Pandemic" by Sonia Shah about the origins of cholera. She mentions what I call the "pathogen load hypothesis". Sexual reproduction seems so inefficient compared to budding or even parthenogenesis that one wonders how it came to dominate both the plant and animal worlds. The constant reshuffling of genes by sexual reproduction gives the organism less chance of falling prey to the same pathogens and/or parasites that kill other members of its species. Not unlike an "arms race" between pathogens and parasites and the individuals and clades that they infect. A race that everything living has won SO FAR. Sex is much more than just one of the ways to reproduce.
These deep dives are empowering. Thank you Heather for the article and especially the audio clip.
Re: the 'two-spirit' band wagon everyone is jumping on. A friend of mine, an Ojibwe elder who has spent time with the Navajo and Cree, told me that the description of the 'two spirit' claims currently being lobbed by the AMA and others are bastardizing the idea.
The Ojibwe word 'Niizh Manidoowag' from which 'two spirit' is said to be derived, describes the individual drawing on the strength of the masculine or feminine spirit from within themselves to act out sex specific roles. This could be in times of need where they would step outside the traditional male and female roles, such as a widowed mother drawing on the warrior spirit of her husband or a father taking on a greater role rearing children in the absence of a mother. It could also be used to describe men and women who, when coming of age, might assume less traditional roles. In this way it is thought of as an individual choosing to carry the spirit of the opposite sex as a set of gifts bestowed by ancestors that are then acted out. This could be the skilled female hunters and skilled male cooks etc.
At birth, children are understood to be carrying the spirit of their fathers and grandfathers, mothers and grandmothers according to their matching sex. This is further inculcated in their culture when as infants they receive symbolic tools specific to their ordained roles and according to their sex in their spirit naming ceremony: the hunting weapons, cooking implements etc
The real point, is not to erase sex differences, or celebrate them, but to recognize the qualities that sex expresses that can make life in community easier. These ideas underscore the value they place in sex as the determinant factor for cultural roles. The spirit of a particular sex is an emergent quality of the sex-specific role.
This is not to say that tribes don't have variations on these ideas. That is obviously the case. But the Ojibwe language suggests that they, like many first nations, recognized feminine men and masculine women. They make room for the a variety of roles and gifts. They make exceptions without destroying the value of the norms.
Associations or organizations advancing these ideas bereft of their original value and intention, mow down the 'indigenous culture' they claim to celebrate. Like so many bastardized ideas emerging from critical theory, it is the inverse of the claim. Their own academic description of 'two spirit' as a 'pan indian' term, reveals an assimilating force devised in the halls of academia to level the fields and subordinate meaningful values rooted in biological behaviours. As a consequence we see the language carelessly reduced to valueless tetherless symbols dangled at the end of the all-consuming ever-changing dominant gender ideology. The words are emptied and meaning is replaced. It sure seems like a repeating pattern to me. Whatever it is, 'two spirit' is absolutely masquersding as something it is not.
After a good chat about these things, my friend left me with this story to make sense of what's going on here. He said that the story he was sharing originated with the Hopi indians in the southwest and was passed down to him by a Navajo elder:
Two warrior brothers came to a town together, but entered seperately. The first shared stories of illness and famine and destruction with the villagers. The second entered with the cure. It was said that they were the two wings of the same bird.
You have stepped foot into a discussion I've been having with myself. At least I think they've both been me. For way to long we have not been telling people "NO". Several decades ago - did it start in the 60s? - we decided that old rules are, just by nature of being old, are outdated. After all we were then, and are now, so much smarter. No one wanted to be seen as the ageing scold. Some rules needed to be tossed into history's waste bin,. But I fear we have discarded too many social guard rails, their absence allowing far to many of us to drive right off the road.
I have been growing firmer in my belief that we need to say "no" more often - on various levels.
To girls who think they want to be a boy. No. You don't. Everything you've heard about privilege is BS.
To boys who think they want to be a girl. If you have a penis, you aren't a female. If you want to be a female anyway, to bad, you are a male, though you aren't yet a man.
It has been pointed out that we are now seeing comedians mocking wokeisim, and this marks a change for the better in the culture. I hope we have reason to be optimistic.
1) “The difference, I hasten to point out, is that double and triple negatives are entirely a human construct, with effects on communication and clarity, but in no way reflecting underlying reality. Our pronouns, in distinct contrast, refer to a reality that we do not change simply because we change the way that we talk about it.”
Positing that at the basis of ‘reality’, underlying it, is entropy, the entire human project has been directed at mitigating the effects of that reality. Our entire enterprise has been to adapt our environment to our perceived needs, rendering our physical existence increasingly vulnerable to ‘butterfly effects’. We are making ourselves increasingly fragile in the physical world and our ability to get away with it is being put to the test. This hyper-novel cultural manifestation (gender fluidity made roughly physical) seems proximate—literally a proxy—to that existential issue. Or another way to say it is that it is an extension of it.
You may be drawing a line here that is essentially arbitrary and what we need to address as a species is how we wield all our tools. When we create tools, in this case hormonal medications and surgery (and social media), that make things possible, those things and their consequences are manifested--as long as those consequences are acceptable. This goes all the way back to our capture of fire and the nuances of language developed in gatherings around it.
2) “But children’s flights of fancy, their fantasies that could be their greatest strength as they imagine all of the ways to be human, should never be cemented into permanence. That risks turning their greatest strength into their greatest tragedy. The adults in their worlds are doing them a great disservice—which is putting it mildly."
Children’s fantasies (and adults’ fantasies for them) have always been cemented into ‘permanence’ in ways moral, intellectual, artistic; and also physical, appearance for one, but in sports often to extremes as damaging as transition, and probably in greater numbers. These of course are in pursuit of excellence rather than a kind of equity/equality (depends?) and are achievable by relatively few, but still deemed, so far, worthwhile.
Oh boy. That’s terrifying. The kids are getting indoctrinated young.
Do you have a view on whether Swyer’s Syndrome is ‘intersex’ or is it properly described as a DSD? As I understand it, it can afflict men or women and results in the individual having non-functioning gonads. I am not sure whether all Swyer’s individuals have different chromosomal patterns than would be normally associated with their sex observed at birth.