Bono, Glamour, and Posthumous TransBaptism: Welcome to the 1950s, 2.0


No posthumous messing around with my life by people who never met me, please. I am who I am, not who you think I wish I were.

It’s true when I’m talking about Mormons, who practice posthumous baptising of the dead, and it’s true when I’m talking about transactivists, who are now busily running around “baptizing” dead people into the church of trans.

Carrie-Anne Brownian outlines a few examples in her excellent article,  Transing the dead: The erasure of gender-defiant role models from history. Brownian says:

Women such as Joan of Arc, Mulan, Carson McCullers, Radclyffe Hall, Mountain Charley (Elsa Jane Forest Guerin), George Sand, and Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt, to name but a few, are now being claimed as transmen.

Why? Because they took male names, dressed in men’s clothing, or did men’s jobs. And the only possibly explanation, say the revisionism activists, is that they actually were men, on the inside.

Or maybe there’s a simpler, less sociologically trendy explanation, one that doesn’t include exploiting dead women who can’t defend themselves. Brownian says:

For much of recorded human history, even into the twentieth century, women who wanted to serve in combat, travel or live alone, work in most professions, get published, compete in sports, or conduct research felt compelled to disguise themselves as men.  That didn’t make them transmen; it made them girls and women with no other options in a patriarchal, androcentric world.  No one would have, for example, published George Eliot, or taken her seriously as a writer, had she used her birth name of Mary Ann Evans, just as Kathrine Switzer had to sign up for the Boston Marathon as K.V. Switzer as recently as 1967 because women weren’t allowed to compete.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why more feminists aren’t up in arms over this insanely sexist revisionism. Isn’t it possible that some people are just strong and tough and good at fighting and writing and running and working hard . . . while being women? Weren’t we fighting for acceptance of that very idea? Is this where 21st century progressive thought has brought us: the idea that any women who isn’t filmy, frilly creampuff, with a baby in one arm and a perfume atomizer in the other, must actually be a man?

How is this feminist? How is this anything other than the worst kind of reductionism and objectification?  How is this good or even fair for women in any way? And why aren’t they ashamed of themselves for digging up the dead? Who does that?

Oh, how progressives love to point a quivering, defiantly un-manicured finger at conservatives for trying to put women in a box, for trying to mute and quash and erase them by confining them to rigid little gender roles. And they’re not wrong. I’ve had my say about this more than once.

But look what’s happening now. We say we want to embrace the in-betweeners, those men and women — somehow, it’s usually women — who don’t fit comfortably into narrow gender boxes. But as soon as we begin, we discover to our horror that it’s kind of hard work. It doesn’t make viral headlines to say things like, “There Are Some Traits Which Many Women Exhibit, And Other Traits That Many Men Exhibit, But There Is An Awful Lot Of Overlap Even Among People Who Are As Straight As Straight Can Be; So Maybe Gender Is About More Than What You Look Like Or How You Act; Maybe It Has To Do With Your Soul OH CRAP, THAT MEANS THERE IS A SOUL And That Means Maybe I Should Put My Wang Away.”

And women. Get. Erased. Again. I said “wang” because boy oh boy, it’s always men who benefit from the transing of non-frilly women. Guess who just got named one of Glamour’s Women of the Year? Bono. Bono, the man who is not a woman.

Okay, more accurately, he was awarded a “Man of the Year” award at the Women of the Year Awards. Now, I think Bono is actually a good guy with good intentions. And no, of course Glamour magazine doesn’t matter. It’s just another place for rich people to get dressed up and give each other prizes.

But if we’re really so worried about the example we’re providing for our children, let’s start with deciding not to tell them that we can’t even fumble through a bogus Woman of the Year ceremony without looking to a man for help. The Onion called it back in 2007 with Man Finally Put in Charge of Struggling Feminist Movement. Great. Great. Thanks a lot, progress. I hate to think what will happen after Bono dies. Maybe they’ll decide that he was actually a raccoon, and the world just wasn’t ready to handle it.

And what’s even more terrifying is when, rather than looking to straight men, we come full circle and decide, one more time, that being a woman is all about the shoes, the dress, the pleasing voice. The whole Caitlyn Jenner insanity was worth getting upset about — not because it marked some acceptance of sissified men, but because it showed how ready we are to say, “This is all a woman is.” We were so ready to just erase women, to tell them that anyone could be what they are, as long as there’s enough lipstick and collagen involved.

As Brownian says:

In the brave new world of the transactivists, everyone is a collection of rigid sexist stereotypes, and any deviation from this 1950s-style binary must really be the opposite sex.

Transactivist revisionism, she says, is making the 21st century “like the 1950s 2.0.”

Here’s an idea that came straight out of my lady brain, so you may need to brush some of the common sense off before you’re ready to handle it:

There’s nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know.”

Gender is confusing. Sex is confusing. Maleness and femaleness are mysterious, and they’re not getting less mysterious just because women can now vote and be doctors and stuff. Our roles are not always clear-cut. Sometimes you think you’ve gotten to the bottom of it, and then you discover an exception to your new rule. It doesn’t mean there aren’t rules; but it does mean they are mysterious, and mysteries are truths that keep on opening up and opening up, as long as you keep looking.

So if you don’t know what it all means, can you just . . . shut up? I know shutting up doesn’t help you sell magazines or makeup lines, and it won’t get you celebrity as a specialist or a theorist or a reality TV star, but at least it’s simple.

You don’t know what it means to be a woman? Just say so, and then go do something useful with your life, like digging ditches or baking bread. Or defying your Islamic persecutors even though it means giving birth in a Sudanese prison while under a death sentence. You could do that. A woman did that, without even being even kind of a man.

That’s hard, too. I don’t know if I could do it. But if you can’t bring yourself to stop making the lives of living women worse with your nonsensical, misogynist, transprogressive yapping, at very least you could leave the dead alone.

Image: MipsyRetro via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Am I my brother’s enabler?

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Don’t worry, I’m not going to write about Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner; not really. (The best take I’ve read on that topic is here.)

I do want to talk about a question circling, like a fly around an overripe peach, the topic of Jenner, transsexuals, sex, gender, gender dysphoria, and gender reassignment surgery: the question of whether we ought to call someone “she” just because that someone wants to be called “she,” even if we think that someone is really a he.  It’s the question of how we should respond to someone whom we think is horribly mistaken.

How can we remain loyal to the truth, and to sanity, if we play along with a sick (and dangerously popular) fantasy? It’s not doing the person, or the world in general, any favors to pretend that up is down, so why should we pretend that he is she, just to avoid hurting someone’s feelings?

Well, you could make a good case that it’s just simple courtesy to refer to someone by their chosen name (and accompanying pronoun). How can we extend Christian love to someone while using a name that’s been rejected as foreign and hurtful? How can we have a conversation with someone if we offend them with our opening words?

On the other hand, you could also make a good case that of course it’s acceptable to say “he” of a man who has been surgically, chemically, and cosmetically altered to resemble a woman. Jeering and mockery are out, but many people simply can’t bring themselves to say “she” when that’s no woman. We can remain courteous, and refrain from any obnoxious grandstanding, and still refuse to be dragooned into using the vocabulary that E! Magazine insists we use.

Because I don’t know any trans people, it doesn’t matter much to me. I just say “Jenner” when referring to the trans person in the news, and I could go with either “he” or “she” and still sleep at night.

But here’s where I get hung up. From the camp that insists,”HIS name is BRUCE andHEEEE is a MAN,” I keep hearing that calling Jenner “Caitlyn” is enabling – that saying “she” is making it easier for a wounded, misguided, suffering, probably mentally ill person to persist in a self-immolating delusion. I hear that, by saying “she,” we’re complicit in a sin and a crime, and that we’re actually obligated to refrain from playing along with something so wrong.

“Enabling.” Well, there is such a thing, of course. Enabling is when you offer a shot of whiskey to someone who’s struggling to stop drinking, because hey, it’s his choice. Enabling is when you bail your no-good, DUI, vandal, rapist son out of jail because it might frighten him to spend a night in the tank with actual criminals. Enabling is when you lie to your buddy’s wife to cover up for his infidelity. Enabling is cleaning up the mess, sheltering a sinner from the consequences of his behavior, making it easy for someone to avoid facing the truth of what his life has become.

But it’s not “enabling” to treat someone with respect. It’s not “enabling” to treat someone as an equal. It’s not “enabling” to say, “Nah, I guess I don’t need to swat you down.”  It’s not our place to treat everyone we meet as if they are in some way our patient, our spiritual underling, our disappointing ward.

And yet, lately, everyone with a keyboard and the ability to skim Wikipedia deems himself enough of a expert to dish out therapeutic protocols to everyone who crosses his path. It wouldn’t be good for you, with your complicated spiritual and psychological struggle you’ve been dealing with for decades, and which I have learned about just now via Reddit, to hear me use the pronoun “she.” I’ve never met you and never will, I don’t know anyone like you, and I know nothing about your condition, but I wouldn’t want to enable you, via the precious 450 pixels I could dish out to make up the pronoun “she.”

Uh huh.

Fulton Sheen once gave twenty bucks to a beggar on the street. His companion was annoyed, and asked, “How do you know he won’t spend that money on booze? How do you know he really needs it?” Sheen’s response: “I can’t take that chance.”

He wasn’t that man’s therapist. He wasn’t his substance abuse counselor, his confessor, his parole officer, his accountant, or his father. He was simply a stranger on the street, coming into brief contact with someone with an outstretched hand. There are worse things we can do then to enable the Holy Spirit to pass, with simple kindness, between us and a stranger.