Such delusion, of course, need not be sexual, or exclusively sexual, in nature: Our friends the psychologists have invented the term Body Integrity Identity Disorder to describe people with arms and legs who believe that they are, in their truest souls, amputees, and who seek to have their limbs amputated in order to accommodate that sense of identity. Of course that sounds insane — but more insane than amputating the genitals of a man who believes, against all reality, that he is a woman? (If he believed that he were a particular woman, say, Cleopatra, we would not be as easily taken in by the delusion, I suspect.) Sex-reassignment surgery once sounded insane, too. (It’s not that recent an idea: Read Cassius Dio on the emperor Elagabalus.)
In that context, what right has Miss Maddow, or anybody else, to put up moral crime-scene tape around the fact that some homosexuals may be unhappily homosexual, and may wish to live, instead, as heterosexuals? What right has she, or anybody else, to condemn those who would help them with that ambition?
There are nested structures of irrational belief informing these views. One of the key irrationalities is that there exists such a thing as homosexuality, meaning a single, unified human sexual condition that stands in symmetrical contrast to something called heterosexuality. “Homosexuality” as a category encompassing both the sexualities of homosexual men and homosexual women is probably meaningless; male homosexuality is not very much like female homosexuality. I suspect Miss Maddow would not have to spend very much time wandering the halls of MSNBC to discover as much. And “male homosexuality” is not really a very illuminating category, either. There are several distinct identifiable typologies of sexual behavior within that single set, just as there are many distinct identifiable typologies of behavior within the categories of male and female heterosexuality. The homo-hetero coin-toss is an intellectually destructive idea, and it has deeply distorted much of our thinking about human sexuality, which is far more complex and subtle than is our dialogue about it. Certainly more so than Rachel Maddow’s conversation.
It is easy to imagine why Mr. Cohen would go on Miss Maddow’s show: He was allowed to pronounce the name of his website on the air several times, and he has books and services to sell. Why would Miss Maddow, I wonder, pluck from obscurity such a man, and put on such a manic performance for the purpose of smearing him? The fact that she does so in the furtherance of sexual ideas that are narrow and authoritarian — a progressive might say “anti-choice” — tells us more about Rachel Maddow than it does about Richard Cohen, who turns out to be the tolerant half of the pair.
– Kevin Williamson is a deputy managing editor of National Review.