dotCommonweal has a new writer for the blog. Two great essays from Rand Richards Cooper this week, including one today titled, “Trans America.”
In 1969, I was a fairly sheltered and over-protected kid. My parents had various magazine subscriptions, though, that were occasionally dicey–if they had known. National Geographic had a thing then about frontal nudity of non-westerners. I think it was Life magazine that had an absorbing piece on people who had undergone sex-change operations.
The science of things fascinated me. But I also found myself troubled and affected by the graphic description of surgery and of the human experiences of people who switched from woman to man and man to woman. I remember imagining having parts of my body cut out and carved out and feeling sick to my stomach. All in all, probably too much too soon for a little kid.
In a healthier family or psychological environment, I suppose talking that out with someone would have helped me process a mix of curiosity, compassion, inappropriate exposure, shame (at intruding on someone else’s story) and other things a ten-year-old boy might feel.
Fast forward well into my middle age, and I know at least one trans person. A friend suggests I know more. But she thinks I don’t count sexual preference as important enough to decide if a person is a friend, a parishioner, a believer, or active in the Church. And that’s true–hopefully not from the view of an apathetic bystander. I really don’t care, except for the person cultivating personal holiness, and being a disciple of Jesus, and such.
I think I share Mr Cooper’s skepticism somewhat. From his conclusion:
But gender dysphoria still seems like a disorder to me, and gender reassignment a nightmare. Maybe knowing someone well who went through it would help get me over the hump. Lord knows that at sixteen, I would have found gay marriage bizarre. Real connections to real people have a salutary way of humbling us and correcting our ideas.
To those who share my doubts, I’d ask, How to balance skepticism with respect for real people in their life predicaments? And to those who are celebrating Trans America, I’d ask: Is there room in the public square, in the public conversation, for those of us who harbor doubts?
In my mind, I wonder: is it possible some people are truly trapped and Mr Cooper’s “nightmare” is actually a way out? But not all?
I confess a degree of skepticism over the celebritizing of Caitlyn Jenner. If I knew the person I would care. But since it is the media bringing a famous person into my awareness, I tend to rebel against that. And I don’t think a wealthy middle-aged celebrity has to worry much about bullies at school, or neighborhood tormentors, or others who plague so many children and youth. Story not relevant, not even to most trans persons, it seems to me. Caitlyn Jenner doesn’t have to worry about rent, a job, or legal stuff. Not at all.
I like the “real connections to real people” notion. I think that is the start. I hope trans people are finding the needed support from friends and loved ones to continue on a path to healing and fulfillment, if not holiness. I hope I would be a good friend or supportive family member. I know I would be listening carefully.