From Christine Jorgensen to Caitlyn Jenner

Caitlyn Jenner just topped the record for speediest amassing of one million Twitter followers, previously held by President Obama. Considering all she’s been through, let’s wish her well going forward. It will be much more interesting to see the reactions of the general public to her story as time goes by. The roll-out phase has not been universally well received. 20081026_transsexual symbol

It was frankly hilarious to read some of the message board posts on this subject. Apparently the very last trailer park of Mississippi now has an internet connection. (I am working up an article for this blog on the topic of internet message boards. Watch this space.) Many people wanted to make the point that transsexuals are only doing all this in a bid for attention! Some said the trans-gender people were only going through with this massively radical procedure so they could act rebellious, and scoff and scorn Christianity. My own take on it is this. If somebody is signing papers to have their penis surgically removed, that individual is sincere. They have convinced me. They really mean it.

It doesn’t take much deep thinking to imagine the psychological anguish that someone would go through in this life situation. Of course, there is deep thinking and then there’s regular thinking, and then there’s no thinking at all. The transsexual need not be an object of pity. It’s not a disability, and for that matter the disabled aren’t looking for pity so much as acceptance, or maybe tolerance, or barring that a little plain old humanity. Still, the transsexual’s situation is unique. Not only does it cut to the core of their identity, it involves sex. How much easier it would be if it was about any other aspect of life. At least they wouldn’t have to deal with the jumble of ancient prejudices, fallacies, and often abject idiocy that society mass-produces for our sex lives.

To that add the further complexity that this is such a varied, multi-faceted situation. Some transsexuals only psychologically see themselves as being the opposite sex. Others have physically indistinct gender. The word hermaphrodite is probably an antique term, but the idea is that their genitals are neither distinctly male nor female. Those who are only psychologically transsexual may or may not have a physical difference in their brains. And these are just the variations that I know about. So, it’s complicated. And none of them volunteered for any of it. It was the hand they were dealt.

One final complication for these people is that transsexuality is rare. It is far less common than homosexuality, and look at the rancor and hassle that has attended that walk of life. Look at the stupid ideas, like that gay people choose to be gay. It’s an intellectual decision that they made, just like when heterosexuals sit down at the time of puberty with pencil and paper and work out that they will be straight.

603christine-jorgensen9Some folks on the message boards appear to think that Caitlyn Jenner is the very first sex change case of all time. Or maybe there were a few faltering attempts at it before, but now they have perfected it enough for a reality show TV celebrity to have a go. I guess Chaz Bono wasn’t famous enough. In fact, the first sex reassignment surgery dates back to Lili Elbe, in 1930. Then in 1952 there was the most famous case, Christine Jorgensen, who some believe was the first because that’s what the press said at the time. She was the first American sex change, and the first to receive female hormones. She was also the first real advocate for the transsexuals. It may be only a coincidence that Caitlyn Jenner has the same initials.

The struggles and hardships of transsexuals are a dad-gummed inconvenience for a lot of people. They don’t want to hear about it. They say you ought to just play the hand you are dealt in this life – although even in poker you get to discard. They believe that we should not have control over our own bodies. We must not “play God,” they say, although we change nature all the time in agriculture; selective breeding is the only way of feeding a population as big as ours. And somehow the devastation of the natural environment doesn’t count as playing God. They say we are just supposed to suffer the vagaries of this existence, not make changes that might counteract the ineffable will of Providence. 

Well, eff that.

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