GENDER AND JENNER
Transparency vs. the "In" Doctrines
At a party, years ago, a friendly three-year-old asked me if I had a penis or a vagina. Her mother put her head in her hands, weak from embarrassment. Kids can say the darndest things, with no grasp of adult norms, pretense, or a political agenda—just wide-open wonder. At just three years of age, she had figured out that there are two sorts of people, male and female.
She took baths with her one-year-old brother and had asked her mom why he looked different from her. So mom had to explain the difference. Mom must have felt some culpability at giving out such adult information to a three-year-old. Mostly, I was surprised to hear that the little thing could speak in complete sentences.
Then, kids grow toward adulthood, and their grasp of things becomes a balancing act between "in" doctrines and uncensored facts. Many people feel confusion at the variety of correct and incorrect interpretations. Often, they turn to law enforcement for a career, which typically only operates from the external facts, as the TV show Dragnet expressed it—"Just the facts, please."
On an episode of the TV show COPS, for instance, Miami-Dade police officers conducted a sting operation against prostitution. They arrested a cross-dresser, and to establish the external facts, an officer asked him bluntly, "Do you have a penis?" His answer, no, was evasive, so the officer asked him again, "Do you have a penis?" Whereupon the prostitute admitted that he was, in fact, a male. He would have said more, if the officers had let him, how much he hated his failed male-self—how much he wanted others to allow him to live as a woman.
We play these games with the greatest of ease in a time of comfort, peace, and wealth. When push comes to shove, people want to know who you really are—enemy soldiers, for instance; and they do not bother to ask if you have a penis. They pull your pants down to see for themselves! This sort of thing happened in Russia during World War II. The invading German Army went through village after village sorting out who was Christian and who was a Jew. They made each male pull his pants down to look at his penis. One Jew, Salomon Perel, deceived the soldiers by saying he was neither a Russian nor a Jew, but a Volks-Deutscher, a German whose ancestors had emigrated to Russia in the 18th century.
The soldiers believed him, but Perel had to join the Hitler Youth to allay any suspicion and stay put until the end of the War. He could not allow anyone see his penis, or they would shoot him. Odd to think his deception would go that far—to live as one of the enemy, just to stay alive. When the War ended, Perel revealed himself to his Hitler Youth comrades—who remorsefully told him they never had a clue about the death camps—then emigrated to Israel. There, in a nation comprised of his own kind, he would never have to pretend or deceive again.
The movie-director Agniezka Holland turned Perel's story into a movie, Europa! Europa! in 1990. Perel's life should serve as the goal of everyone. He reached a point where he tired of pretense and dishonesty, and wanted a place he could call "home," where he could live as himself. Deception and falsehood hurt a person, and raise suspicion in the people around him. He learned about that in the most urgent circumstances imaginable.
Gender vs. Jenner, Manning, Hornscheidt, Lady Caroline,
Mary North, et al
The history of modern cross-dressing must start with Bruce Jenner, who won the gold medal in the Decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics. Jenner became a household name. He joined other elite-champions athletes of that era as a Wheaties breakfast-cereal champion—along with Mohammad Ali, Chris Evert Lloyd, and gymnist Mary Lou Retton. Then, in 2015, Jenner decided to have a sex-change and become a woman. Wikipedia declares Jenner the most important trans-gender person in the world, although most people, if speaking honestly, would say that Caitlyn can't hold a candle to the handsome Bruce.
The second most-important sex-change operation is Bradley Manning, who now goes by the name Chelsea. Manning served in the U. S. Army as an intelligence-analyst, but the Army court-martialed him and imprisoned him for passing secrets to Julian Assange, who publicized them on his website Wikileaks. President Barack Obama paroled Manning before he left office, who served only 7 years of a 35-year sentence.
I resent Manning very much for what he did, and Obama for excusing his misdeeds, but I also feel sorry for Manning, the abused son of alcoholic parents, who was born wtih fetal-alcohol syndrome. I just wish he had chosen a more focused outlet for his life-long resentment. He shouldn't blame the nation for his personal problems.
But while some men want to live as women, and visa versa, some people want to do away with the gender thing altogether. No men, no women, just unisex people. A few people have made a thing of their lack of gender—floating the proposal to do away with distinctions and seeing how the society reacts to it. In Germany, for instance, the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper published an article in its November 16, 2014 issue about Professor Lann Hornscheidt at Humboldt University in Berlin, who requests that people address him in gender-neutral language, as "Profx.
Hornscheidt," since he does not feel exclusively like a man or a woman and feels that he should not have to choose. At the same time, he does make an effort to include himself as a standard leftist: anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-capitalist.
But Profx. Hornscheidt is, in fact, a woman. She was born as Antje Hornscheidt in Velbert, located in Rhineland-Westphalia.The photo of this tall, rangy person in male clothing and short brown hair will leave you guessing; and no matter what anyone says about tolerance, you will hazard a guess, whether the person has a penis or a vagina. You will look for something to give away Hornscheidt's ruse.
The Tageszeitung (taz) of Berlin published an interview with Hornscheidt in its May 25, 2015 issue. The text of the interview reads uneventfully, conducted in the "please" and "thank you" tradition of polite, intelligent discourse, but taz titled the interview "Den Blick auf Geschlechter verwirren," or in English "Confusing the boundaries of Gender." One has to ask, what is the point of Hornscheidt's efforts—clarity, that is to say, transparency, or obfuscation?
I would express the concern more starkly—not a lack of transparency but deliberate deception. Put the problem in a pedestrian, parental context. You bring your daughter to Hornscheidt's office, and you figure out that Hornscheidt—the unisex-spiel and the tall mannishness aside—is a woman and probably a lesbian. Having to deal with deception by someone in authority with possibly predatory intentions erodes your trust in the system.
I wonder how the historic namesake of Humboldt University, Alexander von Humboldt, the eminent scientist and naturalist, would respond to Hornscheidt. She changed her name and professional title after attending an "Arbeitsgruppe" (working group) titled "Feministisch Sprachhandeln" ("Feminist Speech Dynamics"). So, not just a conference about this-theory or that-hypothesis, but organizing with a political agenda.
The novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald weighs-in on deception in his novel Tender is the Night, published in 1933. The novel concerns an American ex-pat couple living in France—Dick and Nicole Diver—and the people around them. They include a petty-aristo Englishwoman Lady Caroline Sibley-Biers and fellow-Americans Abe North and his wife Mary.
One night at 2:00 a.m., a phone-call from the jail in Antibes awakens him. The jailer says he needs Dick to help someone post bail, and when he arrives, he is surpised:
Mary North and Lady Caroline, dressed in the costume of French sailors, lounged on a bench outside the two dingy cells. . . . "It was merely a lark," said Lady Caroline with scorn. "We were pretending to be sailors on leave, and we picked up two silly girls. . . ." The lack, in Lady Caroline's face, of any sense of evil, except the evil wrought by cowardly Provençal girls and stupid police, confounded him.
Lady Caroline reacted, writes Scott Fitzgerald, with the “outraged air of a Briton who momentarily expected the Mediterranean fleet to steam up to her assistance." What else can we expect from an imperious pretender, except that a superior force will back up her right to pretend? Lady Caroline doesn't just pretend: she believes! And she doesn't want anyone to thwart her Trojan Horse.
Lady Caroline's Trojan-Horse ruse concerns me the most, since it represents an intrusion into the personal space of other people, under false pretenses. An old friend told me something similar about her place of work, on the same floor with the local Verterans Administration offices. She told me she took a break from her job and went into the women's bathroom. She was sitting in the stall and saw in the next stall a person with large red heels facing the toilet. It perplexed her, since women's feet normally point out. She went to the VA office and asked about the intruder. VA office-workers told her that the individual was a man who wanted a sex-change operation.
This may have occured in the early-80s, right after the release of the giallo movie Dressed to Kill, starring Angie Dickinson and Michael Caine, and directed by Brian De Palma. Who can forget the sight of Angie Dickinson standing in an elevator with a tall blond cross-dresser behind her, ready to slash her throat? Everyone likes to think they are safe in public bathrooms and elevators.
Rather than run to legislators or put pressure on the public, trans-people and gays in general need to win the trust of the pedestrian public, because when all the moral hoopla is removed, the truth about this situation is that the public is afraid. Seen in the light of the rape of boys by clergymen and the Dunblane massacre in Scotland, the public has enough justifiable fear about the intentions of gays and lesbians not to trust them, no matter how much lobbying they do. Bradley Manning did not go to prison for cross-dressing. He went for giving away the secrets of his country. He violated his oath to "serve" his country, not betray it, so he earned his prison time.
If the problem boils down to women who want to pretend to be men, or visa versa, most people do not have a moral problem with that. Live and let live. Let people live the life they want, just find it in their own nation. Nationhood requires character and leadership-orientation backed with courage. In your own nation, no one has to pretend or obfuscate. The security lets citizens live transparently. They find their paradise the way Salomon Perel did. Build a society on the ideal of transparency. As a solution, that should be a no-brainer.
Left-wing people salute Manning for the courage to betray the US. They may not feel so generous if someone betrays their country. After all the hard work they went through to create it, the idea of a disgruntled crumb-bum selling it down the river would enrage them, exactly as Manning's actions enrage most Americans.
Leftists would have to abandon their posture of disaffection toward the US, and embrace pro-active nation-building. It's more than some of them could manage. They could excuse themselves, saying that they don't believe in nationhood, just as they don't believe in gender; but don't leftists register their real estate somewhere? Their extra-national pretense is hardly more than adolescent nihilism—with little innate value, except as a ruse.