Politics & Policy

Transgender Bender, Revisited


Well, I’m in Switzerland. The junket part doesn’t start until Saturday. Right now I’m here hanging out with Poppa Goldberg, who just happened to be here for a convention of newspaper editors around the same time I was coming to Switzerland for my entirely justifiable and wholly necessary junket. Unfortunately, I come from a long line of Goldbergs who get miserable head colds at the most inconvenient times. So instead of posing like I always fly business class on the flight over, I looked like I was about to give birth. My cold is so bad I can’t even mispronounce German right — when I try I sound something like a German dub of Darth Vader by a drunk actor.

Still, I would hate to malign Switzerland by letting the internal pressures within my enormous gourd get the best of me. So let me just say two things about this land I am in (remember I will be filing for more than a week from the Helvetic Confederation, so I doubt anyone will feel they are getting less than their fair share of Swiss 411). This place is expensive and pretty. From the looks of them I have no doubt — but also no physical proof — that one could say much the same thing about Swiss women.

This afternoon we had a nice lunch at a café and it cost more than the per- capita income of Kuala Lumpur. If my dad wasn’t covering the bill, I would probably have to sell a kidney for tonight’s dinner. As it stands now, he has a look in his eyes which says “there goes your inheritance” every time I order another glass of wine.

I have been reading a great deal about Switzerland and I feel I’m already more than capable of addressing really the only question G-File readers have wanted answered about Switzerland — “Is Switzerland a nirvana of individual rights because everyone is required to have a gun?” Still, we will wait until I can talk to the experts before we get into that.

While we are on the topic of experts and my fear of maligning subjects, people, etc., let me address one last time this pesky issue of transsexuals. I’m sorry for the readers who are as bored to tears with this topic as I am. But the letters from PhDs, activists, and various varieties of transsexuals have not ceased. It’s not quite on par with the Goth onslaught from a couple of months ago, but not for a lack of trying by the transsexuals. As some of you will recall, I wrote about a New York Times profile of Rikki Ann Wilchins. I then wrote a follow-up in which I apologized for, or tempered my comments on, transsexuals. Some people thought I was going soft. The truth is I got a number of enlightening e-mails from various people who were born with organs from both sexes, etc., who told me I was painting with too broad a brush. They were right and I was wrong.

Still, since then I have had any number of e-mail arguments with various transsexual or transgender activists and “scholars.” I use quotation marks around the word scholars because it is quite clear that the people who are angry with me are activists first and scholars second.

Now, Ms. Wilchins herself has written a letter to National Review Online. Ms. Wilchins says that she doesn’t mind my “personal attack” on her so much because she hears such comments about her “body, gender, and genitals” daily on the streets of New York. She does mind, however, that I chose to ignore the “substance” of her complaint that gender-different Americans are being “murdered” at a rate of one a month. And, I am somehow providing aid and comfort to their murderers.

First, was it a personal attack? Yeah, sure, I guess it was and I wouldn’t want to try to argue otherwise. But let us remember that she, more than perhaps anybody on the scene today, says the personal is political. She says that her gender status is centrally relevant to her identity, her politics, her cause, her movement. Indeed, she suggests she would not exist were it not for her gender status. In other words, Ms. Wilchins put the personal into evidence. As for her hearing such attacks every day on the streets of New York, we’ll just have to take her word for it. We do not have to take her word for it that 12 people a year are murdered because they are transsexuals (statistics from activists of the left, the right, and even the trans-gendered believed without skepticism). But let’s stipulate that. That way we can address the charge that I am a party to murder, made by her and several others. I simply will not be shamed or mau-maued on this point. There is perhaps no better exercise in stating the obvious than to say “murder is bad and should not be condoned,” so let’s just stipulate that I am against murder. But I am also profoundly opposed to the notion of “hate crimes.” If — and I do mean if– twelve people a year are being murdered because they are transsexuals, well, then, there are some number of murderers who should go to jail for murdering people — not for murdering transsexuals. Hate crimes introduces a medieval understanding of the purpose of law – that some people are more deserving of the law’s protection than others. If someone murders someone because of their race, religion, sexual preference, gender or lack thereof, then that person has committed cold- blooded murder and he should go to jail for the rest of his life or get the electric chair. Ditto if the victim was sleeping with the murderer’s spouse, short-changed him on a business deal, or kicked his cat. Murder is murder. And if police or prosecutors are working at half-speed to solve and convict because of the identity of the victim then they should be fired.

I have learned a great deal about the diversity and variety of the “transgendered.” It is a group that is difficult to write or speak about — I have learned — without being unfair to someone. But even my most sweeping statements about these people or about Ms. Wilchins cannot be attributable to murderers, unless we want to get into the sort of argument that blames Al Gore for the Unabomber. As eager as I am to get into that argument, I think it sufficiently silly that I will refrain.

But I do think it is a classic tactic used by people on the Left to stifle debate. I am opposed to affirmative action and say so in my column. That does not make me culpable in the slightest for the racist murder of any black person. I am opposed to many forms of so-called gay rights, including gay “marriage.” I am not responsible for any violence done to gay people. I often refer in a self-mocking way to the Hebraic people’s caution with money and with my own girth. I am not responsible for violence against Jews or Jerrold Nadler. I say a dual gender world is here to stay, with some people caught between the two and hence forced to make difficult and painful choices. Ms. Wilchins says I am abetting murder by saying so. I say she is exercising a form of cultural censorship and she is the one who should be ashamed.

Ms. Wilchins says I want her to disappear because it will make my view of the world easier to cling to. The truth is that my view of the world is pretty easy to cling to because it is everywhere. As for her specifically, it would take a team of physicists perhaps a decade to identify a particle small enough that would provide an adequate metaphor for how little her existence weighs down upon me. If she wants to say that I am sanctioning murder by saying that, that is her right. But that doesn’t make it so.


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