The Corner

The Big Questions That Flow From Jenner’s Big Change

If you’re completely sick of hearing about Jenner, I understand.

But quite a few folks responded to this section of today’s Morning Jolt

Jenner’s Big Change Raises Even Bigger Questions

I thought I didn’t have a ton to add to the deafening national hullabaloo about Bruce Jenner-turned-Caitlyn Jenner . . . and then I realized I did.

If you’ve felt like you’re born in the wrong body . . . that must be really difficult to live with, and I hope you find some path that brings you to a place where you can be happier with yourself. God bless you, He loves you, too. People who are in this situation ought to be treated with the same respect everybody else gets. (I can hear you asking right now: “Jim, just how much respect does anybody in America get today? We’re all Rodney Dangerfield!”)

It’s not too much to ask that somebody like Jenner not be assaulted, not be harassed, not be deprived of any rights that anybody else has.

But it is a bit much to ask the rest of us to not find his decision, or the entire process, at least a little weird.

This is why some conservatives are really eager to see Hillary Clinton asked how many genders there are. Because a bunch of us have walked around for a really long time thinking the answer was “two.” Even if you want to change your gender, you’re changing from one to the other, no? But apparently some want to be classified as a third one. And now, because apparently a lot of vocal types think that having only two or three terms doesn’t accurately describe them, Facebook now offers users 51 categories. That seems like a lot. I mean, for perspective, Baskin Robbins has only 31 flavors.

We old fuddy-duddies walked around thinking we lived in a world where once you’ve got a gender, you stay in a gender. If I met Bill on Tuesday, and we make an appointment for lunch next week, I presume he’s going to be the same gender when I see him next. According to some progressives, this perspective is unreasonable. I am not making this up.

Here’s an item in the 2012 program for the Netroots Nation conference, a gathering of liberal bloggers:

Transgender Etiquette

There are many transgender people at Netroots Nation. To be inclusive, please keep in mind the following:

Please do not assume anyone’s gender, even people you may have met in the past. A person’s external appearance may not match their internal gender identity. Pay attention to a person’s purposeful gender expression. It’s polite to ask: “What pronoun do you prefer?” or “How do you identify?” before using pronouns or gendered words. Or better yet, ask for their name.

Really? “Please do not assume anyone’s gender, even people you have met in the past”?

The program goes on:

Please listen to transgender people’s needs and stories when they are volunteered; yet please respect people’s privacy and boundaries and do not ask unnecessary questions.

Don’t assume the gender . . . but don’t ask unnecessary questions, either!

So is it insensitive or disrespectful to ask? If I ask, am I crossing a boundary? For someone who is “gender fluid” — one of Facebook’s 51 categories — then yes, you wouldn’t necessarily know their gender du jour without asking. But to someone who identifies as “agender” — another one of the 51, “someone who does not identify with any sort of gender identity” — the question might be construed as insulting or an attempt to shoehorn them into making a choice they reject.

Progressives are trying to set up a social interaction Kobayashi Maru in which no matter what you do, you end up offending someone who can now review your interaction under their new IRS tax code of greeting etiquette and audit you for an act of intolerance for using a pronoun somebody doesn’t prefer.

No, really. Bruce Jenner said to Diane Sawyer that he’s fine with being referred to with male pronouns. No less than GLADD declares, “At this time, Bruce Jenner has not requested that a new name or pronoun be used, therefore we are respecting his wishes and will continue to refer to Jenner by his current name and with male pronouns. Some transgender people prefer to change their name and/or pronoun quickly. Other transgender people may take more time to decide what name and/or pronoun feels right to them. To be respectful, use the name and/or pronoun requested by the individual.” Yet two Washington journalists took it upon themselves to create a Twitter account correcting anyone who refers to Jenner as “he.”

Among some Americans in 2015, the urge to play Sensitivity Police and throw someone into Social Media Jail is overwhelming, and steamrolls over logic, consistency, and good faith.

We fuddy-duddies thought that gender was pretty much a matter of whether you had an “innie” or an “outie” in the non-belly-button sense. There’s now a concerted effort to say it’s defined by how you feel. The old system had the problem or perceived injustice of defining people by a gender contrary to how they felt; the proposed new system of 51 or so separate genders is going to require us to make giant, sweeping changes throughout society.

Think about all the ways we’re divided by gender in society: Bathrooms. Locker rooms. Professional athletic leagues. Olympic sports. Scholarships. Universities. Title IX sports programs!

If a company’s management consists entirely of men and transgendered, are women represented? (The highest paid woman CEO in America . . . was born a man.) Can a transgendered man reassigned as a female who owns a business qualify as a female-owned business for Federal purposes? How about someone who identifies as “transfluid”? If not, who is the federal government to tell these individuals that they’re not really as female as they feel?

Can a male student who identifies as a woman attend a women’s college? (Answer: In some cases, yes!) Can that student compete on a woman’s sports team? Can a man who self-identifies as a woman compete in the WNBA?

Hillary Clinton wanted to host a women-only fundraising event. Would she have excluded transwomen? How about a “genderfluid” individual who felt feminine that day?

What entrance do transwomen use at a mosque?

What percentage of women believe that transwomen should be able to use every corner of our society that is traditionally and/or legally set aside for women? I’m sure some women think all transwomen should go to every women-only space. I’m also sure some women don’t, and they’re going to complain that some biological men are stepping into realms in which they don’t belong. When the biological-women-only-feminists and the transgender activists clash . . . the trigger words are going to fly. There won’t be enough safe spaces.

Maybe adding a society-wide non-male, non-female category of gender identity is worthwhile; I’m sure bathroom construction contractors would love this idea. (Economic stimulus! Adding a third bathroom to every major facility in America!) But if you declare, “I have concluded that the two-gender model that society operated on for generations is insufficiently sensitive to how I see myself; thus every institution in the country has to reorganize itself to create a third category to fit my self-identity,” and others reacts by saying, “eh . . . nah, not gonna do it,” it’s not crystal clear that they’re the ones being unreasonable.


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