Politics & Policy

Dress Up Games in Academia

I'll "transgender" you.

Last summer, I said some mean-spirited things about the “transgendered” (6/11 and 6/17 G-files). Indeed I even apologized for some of my comments — a rarity — in the wake of dozens of angry e-mails from the ambiguously gendered.

The problem then was that I painted with too broad a brush. Some people are born with real complications — for want of a better word — and I shouldn’t have mocked them for it. So I want to be very clear that I am not talking about these people today.

I am talking about another, significant element of the transgendered. I am talking about — and please forgive the technical jargon — the teeming ranks of idiots, morons, malcontents, and avant-garde sophisticates who have nothing better to do than wear dresses.

If you’ve ever wanted a more distilled example of the over-weening self-indulgence, over-rationalization, and sheer unmitigated polysyllabic buffoonery of America’s academic elite you need go no further than “Gaining a Daughter: a Father’s Transgendered Tale”by Lennard Davis in the March 24 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Lennard Davis is a Foucault peddler at State University of New York in Binghamton. He is one of these guys who uses lots of phrases like “modes of discourse” and “socially constructed” as if they were intellectual trump cards that defeat all common sense. But the basic gist of all of it is the usual mix of the obvious and the ridiculous. You know, society teaches people to be different (obvious) and all of these socially imposed differences are oppressive and must therefore be exploded, blah, blah, blah (ridiculous). Forgive me, but if I go on displaying how much of this crap I learned in college, my dad will start demanding a refund again.

Anyway, Davis’s son told his parents that he had a big announcement to make. For a moment Davis expected him to say he was gay, to which the Davises were prepared to say “Great!” Instead, their 19 year-old boy declared that he was transgendered. Shockingly, for a guy who teaches this stuff, Professor Davis didn’t really know what that means. But that’s okay, after you read his piece, you won’t know either. The younger Davis is not gay, he doesn’t want a sex-change, he likes girls. Ultimately all we learn about him is that he wants to wear dresses — which his dad is eager to help him buy. He says, “I’m a girl. I want to wear dresses, makeup, and challenge the whole patriarchal, bourgeois idea of gender.”

Dr. Davis tries to grapple with the fact that his own son has become the perfect show-and-tell item for his classes. He talks to his friends — almost all of whom admit that, while shocked, they dig wearing something frilly themselves from time to time. Still he tries to convince his flesh and blood that maybe cross-dressing is a bad path. “I thought I could logically argue my son out of that penchant,” he writes. Son, he argues, “If women are oppressed and femininity is a construct, why should you essentially reinforce or parody the feminine? Isn’t that giving in to patriarchy? Reinforcing the gender binary?”

Ah, but his son was prepared. In order to break down the binary, we must be able to dress as we want, he argued. Ultimately, Davis comes to grips with the fact that he must be a bigot if he thinks there is anything wrong with his son wearing pumps and nylons.

I can’t do justice to the wealth of silliness and illuminating arcana on display in this article. Therefore I cannot recommend it enough for anybody who gets a kick from this sort of thing. In the meantime, let me jump to the conclusion.

Davis’s memoir virtually brims with effete liberal haughtiness disguised as soul-searching. It seems we are supposed to admire this man for his bravery and compassion — he’s accepting his son for what he is! When a liberal (in this case Leftist) confronts and transcends his own bigotry, it’s time to bust out the made-for-TV movie of the week. “Whether I liked it or not, a disenfranchised and despised group was in need of support; what made it difficult to accept was the fact that my son was in that group.” What a hero!

What a farce.

Don’t get me wrong, if this was a story about how he’d come to grips with the fact his son were gay — or even, heaven forfend, a Catholic or Republican — I might be able to muster some real empathy and sympathy. Instead I have nothing but visceral contempt for this self-righteous yutz.

Apparently, the atmosphere of the Davis household was so redolent with post-modern gobbledygook and emotionally infused jargon that his own son has internalized it as his own sexual identity. Consider that nowhere in his lengthy explanation of his son’s transgender odyssey does Professor Davis ever recount that his son feels comfortable wearing dresses. Surely he must, but my point is that we never hear the kid say, “I feel natural wearing a dress” or “I like being a girl.” Instead his primary motives seem to be entirely political.

I want to be a girl to smash the binary. I want to be a girl to overturn the patriarchy. I want to challenge the “bourgeois idea of gender.” He is a “girl” in the same way that rich white kids of an earlier generation were “Maoists,” “Trotskyists,” or “Castroists.” They too complained to their dads, “Why can’t you love me for what I am?” The point is they were never any of those things, they just like the currency such poses afforded them in social and especially parental transactions.

I know we are all supposed to exult in the blessed status of outcasts and victims, but this kid is just a wannabe. He’s political theater. He’s full of crap. Or maybe, to be more charitable, he’s a kid who wants his dad’s approval. But one thing he’s not is a girl — in any meaningful way whatsoever. And if his father were a real father he would make this clear to him without showing him off in the Chronicle of Higher Education.


Steve Martin used to have this routine where he explained how his cat stole his credit cards. Martin left the house one day only to return to find that Muffin had bought thousands of dollars in cat toys and hid them under his bed. Martin tried to return them, but the store said no because they all had cat slobber on them.

I’m reminded of this because I am in Vegas, that’s right, Vegas. I just gave a speech here and I might as well have just signed the check over to Bally’s. What do these people need with my money anyway?

Anyway, what does Vegas have to do with Steve Martin’s cat toys? Well, as many old time readers know, I spend a vast amount of my time in what some people call the misanthrope- maturation chamber, but which I call home. Working out of the home office as it were, I developed a keen relationship with my staff. Chief among my underlings is my couch. Like the Lone Ranger and his horse, or Al Sharpton and the hot buffet at the local Sbarro, I have developed a certain rapport with my couch. We communicate on a fundamental level. Literally, I’ve worked out a very nice groove with him, and as I grow so fat that I throw off compasses and blind night-flying birds, I am sure that the groove will grow as well.

Which is why I’m so disappointed. Who would have guessed that while I’m here in Vegas, my couch would be back in D.C. making like Fredo Corleone at the Tropicana? Just look where he’s been hanging out.

And he’d been behaving so well ever since the incident when he thought he could order a Polynesian rattan chaise longue as a mail-order bride. That Third World patio furniture will do anything for a green card.


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