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Keeping up with the gender-benders: the next great identitarian crusade is here and ready to wreak havoc in the world of female sports.

In the last issue, Matthew Stuart introduced you to Michelle Dumaresq, three-time Canadian women's downhill mountain bike champion, and Danika Schroeter, who lost to Dumaresq by one second at this year's nationals in Whistler. Dumaresq is one of the people generally described as a male-to-female transsexual. Many of his female-born competitors would prefer a less politically correct description: "man with mutilated genitals." Schroeter expressed their resentment on the podium July 23 when she stepped up for silver, wearing a T-shirt reading, "100% Pure Woman Champ 2006."

For this unsportsmanlike behaviour Schroeter was slapped with a three-month suspension by her sport's governing body. And it was unsportsmanlike. The rules permit Dumaresq to compete as a woman; Schroeter should not have agreed to those rules and then used the podium to make a political statement. Lack of sportsmanship, though, is not the main reason Schroeter has become an object of denunciation in the world press, and on its own it probably wouldn't have earned such a harsh penalty. She is, rather, an exemplar for the next great identitarian crusade. As racists, chauvinists and homophobes were once pursued past the ends of the earth, soon orthodox opinion will begin stigmatizing "transphobes."

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No one can doubt this if they have lived through the redefinition of ordinary distaste for homosexual life and activity as "homophobia." Since "homophobia" has been found in the mainstream of virtually all human cultures, this was an extraordinary project, not executed without considerable bullying and dissimulation. But there has been one big undeniable benefit, which is that fully assimilated people in western countries now mostly do accept gays and lesbians as friends, family members and co-workers. And so they should. Homosexuality, like the loathing of homosexuality, is effectively a cultural universal. Since we don't know how homosexuality comes about, wild ethical judgments about it are improper. (Not that that stops anybody.)

The use of "homophobia" as a slur, at any rate, has had the intended effect. But will the magic work for "transphobia"? The fully transgendered, as a class, haven't been present continually since antiquity; they came into being with a set of surgical techniques. Homosexuals and transvestites are abundant in the records of history, but the distinctly "trans-gendered" are invisible. And there is an obvious difference between knowing one is attracted to members of the same sex, and "knowing" that one, in some inchoate sense, somehow belongs to the other gender. By what verifiable criteria does one determine that one has the subjective feelings, the inner life, of a person with a different set of chromosomes? One's homosexuality is easy to confirm objectively; transgenderedness is impossible.

It seems that the ability to wheedle surgical assistance is the chief practical criterion that distinguishes "sane" sexual self-mutilators from "insane" ones. The medical establishment convinced itself to perform sex-reassignment procedures on a mass scale based on a belief that many people were "men trapped in women's bodies" or vice versa. We are assured that the patients are screened for earnestness, yet many, perhaps the majority, never undergo complete reassignment. The quest to make "transphobia" the decisive excluder from polite society that "homophobia" has become must overcome the failure of the "trapped in women's bodies" hypothesis; the inexplicable fact that many "transsexuals" who insist "they've always known they were different" have had marriages and children despite the knowledge; the suspiciously large number of sex-switchers who retain the natural sexual orientation of their original gender; and the sheer implausibility and pathos of the hulking grotesques that usually result from male-to-female sex-reassignment surgery. Just for starters.

What's funniest about the ongoing Dumaresq controversy is the way it explodes modern liberal contradictions in thinking about sex. The argument for the infinite mutability and plasticity of gender relies on the premise--how often have you heard it?--that gender isn't merely about genital organs. But new genitalia are Dumaresq's sole calling card in women's sport; if she still had a penis she'd be biking with the men. Meanwhile, her detractors, who might be mistaken for "conservatives," are deploying the unconservative argument that gender is not biologically innate, but socialized, and that even if Dumaresq had female DNA she'd have an unfair advantage from decades of socialization as a competitive, fearless, rough-and-tumble boy. However "transphobic" it might be to say so, they have a point.
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Author:Cosh, Colby
Publication:Western Standard
Date:Sep 11, 2006
Words:717
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