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2 + 2 [is not equal to] 5.

I first got into trouble with the transgendered community when I accidentally referred to the late Brandon Teena as she. It was he, they informed me. Obviously, they said, I "just didn't get it."

Now, at first I conceded what I thought was their point. It's respectful to refer to someone by the name or designation he or she prefers. But this insistence that he was not just the polite term but the right term kept bothering me. Then I realized why. Brandon Teena wasn't male. She wanted to be perceived and treated as a male, which is fair enough, but that alone did not make her one, any more than my cat's perception of herself as (or her desire to be treated as) a person makes her human. (This, incidentally, doesn't mean she has no rights.)

In my last column I remarked that sexes (male or female) are biological and fixed, while genders (masculine and feminine) are largely behavioral and socially constructed. It follows, then, that you can change your gender. Thus the term transgendered is correct. You can't, however, change your sex--at least, not using the technology we now possess. Therefore, transsexual is actually a misnomer. You can take hormones. You can surgically deconstruct and/or reconstruct your genitals. But you are still a member of the same sex. Why? Because if you're female, no matter what you do to your limbs and outward flourishes, you'll still have two X chromosomes. If male, an X and a Y.

If, as happens in rare cases, you're an anomalous mixed bag of X's and Y's, you'll still have the chromosomes you were born with. You'll also still have the skeletal structure definitive of your sex, by which--God forbid it should ever come to this for any of us--a coroner could identify you as a member of that sex even when your flesh, hair, and clothing have long since turned to dust.

So you see, I felt it was respectful to call the brave woman born Teena by her assumed name, Brandon, or even to refer to her as he and him, because that, I assumed, fell into the category of self-definition. But I wasn't going to be forced, as if by order of law, to concede that she was thereby a male, because that's a contradiction of the facts.

Now, why am I so wedded to facts? Because though I know it's hopelessly unfashionable to say this, facts exist. And when a special-interest group of whatever stripe can rearrange reality at will, that's truly dangerous. That in fact is the very definition of totalitarianism as George Orwell so famously gave it in his novel 1984: Two plus two equals five. Of course, two plus two does not equal five, unless you've been brainwashed by Big Brother. Being able to say two plus two equals five, (or woman + hormones + plastic surgery = man) and believing it when you say it, is the very evidence that Big Brother has got you by the tail. When your conception of reality is dictated to you in violation of the facts, that's dictatorship. For the rest of us, however, who haven't been reeducated in Room 101, saying it, or being bullied into saying it, doesn't make it so. As Orwell wrote elsewhere: "However much you deny the truth, the truth goes on existing, as it were, behind your back."

In fine, I acknowledge and applaud every transgendered person's right to go by another name, take hormones, undergo plastic (or myriad other) surgeries, and, most of all, pursue happiness and enjoy life, liberty, and equal protection under the law. But I refuse to be intimidated by gender inquisitors into conceding that said person is a member of the opposite sex. Until we have the technology to safely alter chromosomes and every other definitive physiological aspect of a person's sex--that is, until we can truly build a synthetic transsexual in accordance with the facts--I will not have my pronouns dictated to me.

Differences of opinion are not declarations of war. They are the lifeblood of true intellectual exchange. I reject prevailing gender theory because I think it is intellectually unsound--riddled with contradictions that are the result of making hurt feelings and serf-interest the driving force of its philosophy and politics. I do not reject transgendered people. I reject the creed that so many of them profess. Ideas and emotions are not the same. Philosophy is not a polo mallet. Politics is not therapy. Those who wish to partake constructively in public debate would do well to learn these distinctions.
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Author:Vincent, Norah
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Oct 10, 2000
Previous Article:Testosterone.
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