No, this is not a review of an X-rated version of the Transformers movie which, felicitously enough, I have never seen (the Transformers…there is no X-rated version, so don’t go looking). Rather, a comment on a report I heard last Monday, January 26th, 2015, that Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (how’s that for a handle?) decreed that so-called ‘transgendered’ inmates could be placed in a correctional facility of their choice, whether or not they have had ‘reassignment’ surgery (oh, the euphemisms!). Of course, the Globe and Mail’s law professor columnist Kyle Kirkup was gushing in his approval, as a matter of advancing human rights.
Before we discuss rights, I wonder first how that’s going to work out on a practical level? Let me guess: This will by and large be men who ‘think’ they are women (i.e., a woman somehow accidentally in a man’s body) being transferred into female prisons. There may be a few women who think they are men permitted into men’s prisons, but that, I would imagine, be rare, and would create a lot of, shall we say with our own euphemism, ‘problems’.
Of course, they will be permitted to bring their prosthetics with them, to complete this fantasy, rubber and all.
I am not sure one would have even thought of making a comedy along these lines in the eighties, or even the nineties. There have always been cross-dressing ‘transvestite’ movies and shows: Of Shakespeare’s 38 surviving plays, one-fifth purportedly involve cross-dressing in the plot. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis pretended to be girls (alongside Marilyn Monroe, who did not need to pretend) way back in the innocent apple-pie days of 1959 in Some Like it Hot (which, curiously enough, was one of the only American movies to receive a ‘C’ or condemned rating by the Catholic Church’s Legion of Decency…boy, how times have changed); Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie (1982), the lamentable early-eighties sitcom Bosom Buddies, with a young Tom Hanks; and the then-avant-garde The Crying Game, with its infamous ‘reveal’ at the end, that the black woman with whom the Irish I.R.A. protagonist falls in love is, get this, actually a man! I am still scarred (no, not ‘scared’, for I am no homo-phobe, but scarred, yes, I will admit to that).
One reader has warned that I should add a note of caution on the last movie, which crosses a kind of rubicon: In every other cross-dressing movie, play, novel, we generally know the protagonist’s real sex. I mean, just look at Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in the poster above: It is obvious that they are men dressed up as women, and that is part of the joke. Who would actually be convinced? And we laugh at those who are. Not so in The Crying Game, where we are led to believe all the way through the film that the ‘female’ lead is in fact female, and the movie tries to draw us in to the attraction felt by the tough IRA man, in a sort of a paternal, only slightly sexual way. She is revealed in the end as really a ‘man’ in a rather explicit, graphic scene, a humiliation for the tough Irishman, and I would warn any reader to avoid having that image in their memory; indeed, just avoid the entire movie. (I usually mention in class, when referring to a movie, or any media, as an example that I am in no way recommending them).
Now, after the now-quaint innocence of the Bard, the hidden-gay eighties and the more-publicly-gay nineties,we are entering realms of idiocy that only governmental bureaucracy could devise. Their decisions are beyond satire which, I lament with others, is dead or dying swiftly. As soon as you make a joke, you realize the next day that it is actually true.
Oh, how quaint the term ‘transvestite’ now even seems! I recall dimly that some of the Roman emperors and mediaeval kings engaged in this practise. I even recall a photo of one of my brothers as a child dressed up as a woman for Hallowe’en one year, many moons ago, and all in fun, of course. Underneath the clothes, like the she-male in The Crying Game, they were as male as you could be. Now, with ‘advancements’ in transgender surgery (who said anything about a health crisis and waiting lists for surgery?), one is never quite sure. Not, of course, that I check (that reminds me of a scene from the first Crocodile Dundee movie…), but, since it came up, just wondering.
Such transgenders (I will stick to the men ‘becoming’ women, as the norm, by and large) are now permitted into all-female colleges, female washrooms, and, now, female prisons, for how dare we discriminate? Would not that be imposing our own paternalistic, heterosexual, two-sex worldview upon these questioning individuals, who prefer to exist on a ‘spectrum’ of gender?
I am all for mercy and compassion, but these two oft-misused-and-abused terms cannot be used to violate the more fundamental virtue of justice, which is giving others what is owed to them. We owe to the other inmates of the uni-sex prison, or the other co-eds, or the other users of the washrooms that dot the restaurants of our fair land, at least some modicum of privacy and decorum. To have a middle-aged ‘man’ walk in to a female change-room, claiming he is a ‘woman’ is, not to be too punny, a travesty.
Here is the rub: Our sexuality is determined by our body, and our soul grows and develops along with the body. We are body-soul composites, and there is no ‘inner’ person-soul hiding within the body, an error stemming from a certain reading of Plato, and Descartes’ subsequent ‘ghost in a machine’ version of human ensoulment.
Rather, the soul and body cannot be separated (except in death), and we are a unitary ‘person’, composed of this unity between soul and body. When we are conceived, there is a genotype that determines what sex we will be (XX or XY as our 23rd pairs of chromosomes). Our hormones, the development of our bodies, and all of our psychosocial attributes, flow from this genetic determinacy, shaped in turn by our environment and our social interactions as we grow up and mature.
Thus, we go from being ‘male’ and ‘female’ to being ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, a husband and a wife, a father and a mother, under parental and societal tutelage. At least, it used to be so.
There are very rare physiological disorders that disrupt this process, most of which can be ameliorated by modern medicine. One may have a genetic disorder in the sex chromosomes (too many or too few), or one may have a hormonal imbalance, both of which may lead to some kind of hermaphroditism. These are usually corrected at birth, or at some stage of early development, after determining the true sex of the individual (based on genetics).
But these rare disorders are just that, medical anomalies, and cannot be used as a norm to justify, in the present case, expensive, irremediable and maiming surgeries, nor social experimentation of the most radical kind.
The transgenders, almost to a ‘man’, do not suffer from these rare physiological conditions. They are confused individuals, suffering from psychosocial maladjustment of complex etiology, who for such a variety of reasons, have never fully accepted their sexual role. Of course, this disorder is a ‘spectrum’, in the sense that our society is confused in general on what it means to be a man and a woman.
Our culture is dismantling the complementarity of the sexes, man and woman, both top down and bottom up. We are denying philosophically that there is such a thing as masculine and feminine, and that one’s role in life is whatever one makes it. If there are parts of army training, for example, that women cannot do, such as climb over a wall fully encumbered, or the requisite three chin-ups for women in the Marines, then such obstacles are quietly removed; so much for Private Suzie escaping from ISIS on a tactical retreat. The National Post reported recently on the problem of transgender (or, as some put it, ‘transitioned’) athletes competing in sports. How do female athletes compete with females-who-were-once-males, and who still have male upper-body strength and endurance? As one transitioned athlete put it, “the flaw with gender testing is that it attempts to put everyone in one of two boxes”. No kidding. The all-gender Superbowl may be next…
Washrooms are now being labelled ‘unisex’ to avoid discrimination. I am not sure if it is connected to this tendency, but our new local Tim Horton’s has two one-person-only washrooms for either sex. Gone are the days, it seems, of men’s communal washrooms with their convenient urinals. That, dear boy, would be discrimination, for a transgender may not be able to use a urinal. We will soon see signs like the one at the left, with perhaps even more ‘images’, so that no one feels left out.
The claim is made that although we are born with bodies of a particular sex, this must not determine our, well, our ‘sex’. Must we live under the constraints of our 23rd chromosomes? Now our bodies can be surgically modified, at public expense of course, to fit any point on that spectrum that fits in with our desires, our proclivities and our sexual imagination.
I will predict, here and now, disastrous consequences for such a course, not least in the short term for the confused individuals who ‘question’ their sex to the point of trying to change it (most need spiritual and psychological counselling, not surgery and hormonal therapy), but also for society striving to re-form itself to accommodate their disorder.
Queer times indeed.
January 29th, 2015