I hoped someone else would respond to Kathryn Jean Lopez’ (March 21, 2021) homily against treating trans humans equally with others. Perhaps a Christian, or someone more religious or spiritual than I. But, no.
I’m a poor choice: I disagree fundamentally with her unabashed desire for a theocracy. She posits that important public issues (e.g. abortion, sex education, treatment of non-cisgenders by government, public businesses, sports, etc.) should be decided by someone’s interpretation of ancient texts; for her, the Vatican’s view of the Bible. I’m opposed to any theocracy, whether Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, etc.
I believe public issues should be decided here, not Rome or some other foreign place, through robust public discussion of who will be affected, how, what are the costs and merits, etc. Morality – of anyone’s view – is part of that debate, but no book or tome or ism or other self-declared “truth” should preclude listening to scientists, gathering facts, and giving all viewpoints a fair hearing.
I’d describe myself an American Constitutionalist. The Constitution is unequivocally against theocracy, even if the majority might want one; under its approach public issues are decided in our local councils, state legislatures, and the Capitol, by we the people (subject to the Constitution’s limits), not by the Pope, an Ayatollah, Chief Rabbi, or even the Dali Lama, bless their souls.
With my antipathy to her political basis, it won’t surprise that I disagree with Lopez’ view on transgenders. She assumes there are exactly two sexes. Scientists disagree. For a start, humans have several genetic combinations beyond XX and XY.
Lopez would have our diversity assigned by external genitalia at birth. What about those with both, or with parts that are poorly developed?
And crucially, on what basis do we choose external genitalia to define one’s gender, rather than the person’s mental/emotional orientation (equally a genetic expression)?
Her’s and many theologies (not all: the Jewish religion, interpreting basically the same Old Testament, recognizes at least six distinct genders) have an answer: variations of “Because I said so”. Rationality and science do not.
Lopez jumps from her flawed premise to questionable conclusions. Allowing trans women to compete in sports is “unfair to women.” But there have been thousands of sex-reassignment surgeries (about 11,000/year currently in US), so there are thousands of trans who are at and have passed through their peak athletic years. Name any sport in which trans athletes have more than a nominal presence. Hmm.
There are scientific reasons for that lack (read Shades of Gray: Sex, Gender and Fairness in Sport at barbellmedicine.com), including (for male-to-female trans) significant loss of muscle mass and having to take drugs which lower testosterone. Trans competitive athletes generally do about as well in their new classification after transition as they did before in their old. Testosterone, BMI, and muscle cross-section size are inferior predictors of performance than are nutrition and training regimens.
Oooh, she complains, impressionable youths are being misled when we “glamorize transitioning.” Again, where are all those former macho ROTC football linebackers who wacked off their johnsons to impress their peers? Or, those demure flirty-eyed Ms. Luna USA-types who, seeking glamour, decided to grow body and facial hair, biceps, and gain a package? C’mon, Kathryn, give us an argument which isn’t ludicrous.
Next, Lopez invokes those unfortunate youngsters who are supposedly traumatized by seeing incomplete trans in their athletic showers or bathrooms. Are we back to Victorian shibboleths? Our mental hospitals would be overflowing if each sighting of genitalia by the young led to mental infirmity. Don’t women’s bathrooms have stalls, anyway? Another Chicken Little problem.
About 1.4 million people in the US identify as transgender; it is not a trivial issue. I commend Kathryn for appreciating the extreme discomfort trans people feel. Over half of male-female trans attempt suicide before their transition; about 1/3 of female-male do.
My view: our trans population is as much a work of any Creator as any other human. Jetisson your immature “ick”. Let’s give them an equal chance at happiness and success as any other of us.
Jed Somit is a resident of Kapa’a