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Don't let kids watch Chaz Bono on Dancing with the Stars?
September 5, 2011 8:46 AM   Subscribe

Don't let your kids watch Chaz Bono on Dancing with the Stars, warns Dr. Keith Ablow (a forensic psychiatrist and "street therapist"), or the depiction of transgender reassignment as a heroic journey rather than tragedy may normalize it and affect their burgeoning sexual identities (a kind of observational learning effect). Transgender advocates vociferously disagree.
posted by shivohum (153 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yes, let's shield our children from our fellow human beings who may be a little different.

Actually, shielding kids from shows like DWTS might not be a bad thing.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:50 AM on September 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was not aware our motorways required therapy.
posted by The Whelk at 8:50 AM on September 5, 2011 [19 favorites]


He's on Fox News - what do you expect?
posted by pinky at 8:51 AM on September 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


You know who needs fewer bollocks? Fox News, that's who.
posted by chavenet at 8:52 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


To me, the most pressing issue about Chaz's appearance of Dancing With The Stars* is whether or not he'll dance to his Mom & Dad's songs. As for the transgender stuff...the more time you spend around transpeople, the more you get used to it, and better we get people used to it young, I say.

*I'm still waiting for Al Gore to be a contestant, actually, That'd be impressive
posted by jonmc at 8:52 AM on September 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


Maybe I’m not a tomboy; I’m just a boy! Maybe I’m not just being bullied because I’m a sensitive, reflective young man interested in flowers, not football. Maybe I’m not just uncertain about my sexuality. Maybe I’m a girl!

Maybe I'm not a Fox News Medical Team writer; I'm just an asshole!
posted by phunniemee at 8:53 AM on September 5, 2011 [72 favorites]


Also: don't let kids see Keith Ablow. They might go bald.
posted by chavenet at 8:54 AM on September 5, 2011 [17 favorites]


Kudos to Fox for unfailingly finding the bottom.
posted by gallois at 8:54 AM on September 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


I don't watch "Dancing with the Stars", but I'll be voting for Chaz as needed (I think you vote on which of the two lowest ranked dancers can stay each week, correct?) If he can outlast Nancy Grace, I will never stop laughing.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:54 AM on September 5, 2011 [20 favorites]


Fox News butthead is a butthead.
posted by crunchland at 8:55 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


googly's first 3 rules of How To Quickly Spot a Bullshit Artist:

(1) Uses a professional title (Dr., MD, Ph.D., Esq., etc.) every time his/her name is mentioned in print or other media.

(2) Lists where s/he went to college in their short bio.
(2a) That college is a small private school or lesser-known Ivy such as Brown or Dartmouth.

(3) Has 3 or more different professional photos of him/herself on their website.
(3a) These photos all feature different outfits.
(3b) At least one photo is a self-consciously "serious thinker" pose.
posted by googly at 8:56 AM on September 5, 2011 [21 favorites]


Should Fox News even deserve linklove?

*ponders*
posted by infini at 8:56 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Christ what a blow.
posted by The Whelk at 8:57 AM on September 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


This idiotology masquerading as science is just a weak attempt to justify bigotry. Faux News never ceases to disappoint, do they?
posted by misha at 9:01 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe I’m not a tomboy; I’m just a boy! Maybe I’m not just being bullied because I’m a sensitive, reflective young man interested in flowers, not football. Maybe I’m not just uncertain about my sexuality. Maybe I’m a girl!

Condemning transgenderism in the media in the name of protecting children from strict gender roles. Bravo.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:02 AM on September 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


what the hell does Ablow think will happen if kids watch Chaz Bono on television? Does he really think that kids will think it is cool and sneak off to try some surgery of their own? I think his bigger worry is that they might see someone different and accept them as not being all that different after all
posted by 2manyusernames at 9:04 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


This article made me want to cry, but I can't because I'm a dude. Damn you, deep psychological conflicts that fuel this gender dysphoria.
posted by mintcake! at 9:06 AM on September 5, 2011 [14 favorites]


I just don't trust bald people, they made dangerous decisions to be that way and I don't think it's right to be exposed to them.
posted by The Whelk at 9:08 AM on September 5, 2011 [16 favorites]


Yeah, but what about the damage caused by having grown up watching his parents' horrible tv show? Won't someone think of the 70s children?
posted by JanetLand at 9:09 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


(2) Lists where s/he went to college in their short bio.
(2a) That college is a small private school or lesser-known Ivy such as Brown or Dartmouth.


Not sure what is bullshit artist about this - this describes lots of legitimate and non-asshole doctors (my orthopedic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, for example).

However, credentials sure aren't everything: in looking at this bio, I see that Dr. Ablow is a professor at the university I attend - at another school in a completely unrelated field from mine, but frankly this embarrasses me as a Jumbo. Does anyone have any thoughts about how I might register this opinion with the school (and possibly encourage others to do the same)?
posted by naoko at 9:10 AM on September 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure Bob Mackie's outfits caused more sexual confusion among the youth then anything DWTS could do.
posted by The Whelk at 9:11 AM on September 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yeah, don't watch a goofy dance show with all different sorts of people on it... instead find something on any other channel that just features good, old-fashioned American violence on it.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 9:11 AM on September 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is incredibly sad:
Bono's paternal relationship became strained after Sonny became a Republican Congressman from California. The differences in their political views separated them, and the two had not spoken for more than a year at the time of Sonny's fatal skiing accident in January 1998
I can't imagine a father allowing something like political views to get between him and his daughter.
posted by 2manyusernames at 9:13 AM on September 5, 2011


Condemning transgenderism in the media in the name of protecting children from strict gender roles. Bravo.

I actually remember somebody on Metafilter using that bullshit argument to justify transphobia in a long-ago thread. I think it was during debate about the Michigan Womyn's Festival stuff. Though I'd guess she was more sincere about it than this FauxNews asshole.

BTW, I don't know enough about the trans community to know how widespread this view is, but not everybody is fond of Chaz Bono as their representative.
posted by kmz at 9:14 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was a very masculine little girl and very much wanted to be a boy. I wonder what I would have thought if I had learned about transgender? But it's not exactly something people just decide overnight. I am impressed that most doctors involved with the process have their patients going through extensive counseling to make sure it is the right decision. They also do it very gradually and do the more surgical things later on in the process. For many people it takes years and even decades. I've known people who started the process and then decided it wasn't right for them. Chaz was 39 when he finally started to really live as transgender.
posted by melissam at 9:15 AM on September 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is especially interesting, because among people that I know, the Venn diagram of [people who watch Dancing with the Stars] and [people who watch Fox News] is a completely overlapped circle.
posted by phunniemee at 9:17 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chaz is not "their representative". He is A representative, a public figure who happens to be part of a very diverse population who are as varied in their beliefs and life approaches as any other population on this planet who can be grouped by an arbitrary characteristic.
posted by hippybear at 9:18 AM on September 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


My only concern with watching Chaz Bono is whether or not he can dance. I'm guessing not, but then I've been surprised before.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:20 AM on September 5, 2011


I watched some B-roll this morning that ABC released, and he actually is a pretty natural mover. He's pretty loose and confident and has rhythm, which are some of the biggest differences between people who do well and people who don't.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 9:21 AM on September 5, 2011


It’s position is that Chaz Bono’s chemically and surgically altered appearance is a blessing to us all...

If only a misplaced apostrophe was the biggest thing wrong with this article.
posted by BlooPen at 9:21 AM on September 5, 2011


boys coming to terms with integrating the dawn of manhood with exquisite feelings of vulnerability...
stopped reading, puked in mouth.
posted by Abinadab at 9:21 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I learned from this thread that Chaz Bono is the son of Cher and Sonny Bono, and not Bono from U2.
posted by silby at 9:26 AM on September 5, 2011 [19 favorites]


>I can't imagine a father allowing something like political views to get between him and his daughter.

Patti Davis.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:29 AM on September 5, 2011


So would Fox be protesting this if it wasn't on an ABC show?
posted by octothorpe at 9:30 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just browsing around Dr. Ablow's web site, I find the same prolix writing style that leads me too, to aspire to lead an examined, energized, life of excellence.
That's some outstanding snakeoil salesmanship right there.
posted by Abinadab at 9:32 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, Bono's children all have the last name Hewson. Funny how that works.
posted by hippybear at 9:38 AM on September 5, 2011


I was a tomboyish girl - and I knew about transgendered/transexual people. I wondered whether I would be happier as a boy - but I realized I wouldn't because I didn't "feel" like I was a boy. Gender identity is innate - you just know whether you feel male or female or maybe something in-between.

also, if anyone wants a reference for pre-modern trangenderism - in Dekker and Van de Pol's Tradition of female transvestism in Early Modern Europe - there are citations for women who expressed the feeling that they were men inside, or happier living as men (as well as citations for many women who cross-dressed for economic reasons).
posted by jb at 9:39 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm glad something about this was posted here, I was hoping it would be.
posted by hermitosis at 9:39 AM on September 5, 2011


googly's first 3 rules of How To Quickly Spot a Bullshit Artist:

(1) Uses a professional title (Dr., MD, Ph.D., Esq., etc.) every time his/her name is mentioned in print or other media.

(2) Lists where s/he went to college in their short bio.
(2a) That college is a small private school or lesser-known Ivy such as Brown or Dartmouth.

(3) Has 3 or more different professional photos of him/herself on their website.
(3a) These photos all feature different outfits.
(3b) At least one photo is a self-consciously "serious thinker" pose.


Not a bad list, though "Is promoting a book titled Inside the Mind of Casey Anthony" can do the job a lot quicker, if applicable.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:42 AM on September 5, 2011 [16 favorites]


Yes, Bono's children all have the last name Hewson. Funny how that works.

Heh. I wonder if people think Madonna's kids have the last name Madonna? Or maybe more appropriately they think Cher's kids have the last name Cher?
posted by kmz at 9:46 AM on September 5, 2011


Uh, I hate Chaz Bono as much as strident cracker Nancy Grace. They both just suck, full stop. But I hate Fox News more. Dance away, you fools. Fox is the villain here.
posted by nj_subgenius at 9:47 AM on September 5, 2011


Keith Ablow is a nasty bit of work, deserving of our condemnation and revulsion. He is s cancer in our society; it is a shame we can not surgically excise him from our collective body.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:47 AM on September 5, 2011


Pseudoscience dies hard. (Jesus told me that)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:48 AM on September 5, 2011


I love how Chaz acting like a man makes him big scary weirdo, but it's TOTALLY NORMAL for Bristol Palin to dance around in a monkey-suit.
posted by hermitosis at 9:49 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if people think Madonna's kids have the last name Madonna?

If only it were that simple for Madge.

Four kids, four different last names. Lourdes Leon, Rocco Ritchie, David Banda (although his legal last name is Ritchie), and Mercy James.
posted by hippybear at 9:53 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


and Mercy James.

This is kind of an awesome action-hero type name.

"I AM MERCY"
posted by The Whelk at 9:54 AM on September 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't know, I couldn't even finish that article. So hateful.
posted by sweetkid at 10:04 AM on September 5, 2011


I figured that Bono was, you know, Bono's actual last name, and he just stopped using his first name at some point. Like Madonna or Prince, but in reverse.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:12 AM on September 5, 2011


2manyusernames: This is incredibly sad:

Bono's paternal relationship became strained after Sonny became a Republican Congressman from California. The differences in their political views separated them, and the two had not spoken for more than a year at the time of Sonny's fatal skiing accident in January 1998


If Chas really wanted to say "fuck you" to his dad, he could have embarked on a series of operations to make him into a tree.
posted by dr_dank at 10:15 AM on September 5, 2011 [27 favorites]


kmz: "BTW, I don't know enough about the trans community to know how widespread this view is, but not everybody is fond of Chaz Bono as their representative."

I thought this was kind of an interesting reaction to that (disclaimer: fictional interview!).
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:24 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can't believe I'm saying this, but Keith Ablow might be at least partially right. If you don't know trans people exist, it's a lot harder to realize that you are one. Not impossible, but harder. If you don't know that there are trans people in the world, then being one seems Really Fucking Scary.

Where I and Keith Ablow diverge, of course, is that they seem to think keeping gender-variant kids scared and alone is a Good Thing.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:25 AM on September 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


(Keith Ablow is of course a "he" - not a "they" - but my original comment referred to him as "Fox News". But I think he'd be pissed off about my use of a non-gendered pronoun for him, so I'm okay with this error.)
posted by madcaptenor at 10:31 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are we going to get to a point where being trans isn't controversial? Could we just skip the intermediate part, please?
posted by jiawen at 10:55 AM on September 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


"If Chas really wanted to say "fuck you" to his dad, he could have embarked on a series of operations to make him into a tree."

So wrong yet so funny.
posted by MikeMc at 11:01 AM on September 5, 2011


What surprises me about it the most -- from a standpoint of internal logic, I guess -- is that if you're looking at contestants on Dancing With The Stars and wondering whether your kids will want to emulate them, what about Kendra Wilkinson and Holly Madison, who were both Hugh Hefner girlfriends? Or "The Situation"? Or Kate Gosselin?

Even aside from what you think of Chaz Bono -- which is a WHOLE other conversation -- if you aren't ready to explain distasteful people to your kids, letting them watch Dancing With The Stars is a SUPER bad idea.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:05 AM on September 5, 2011 [17 favorites]


(Which isn't to say I find him distasteful. I just mean even if you do.)
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:05 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would never let my children watch Fox News OR Dancing with the Stars!
posted by theredpen at 11:08 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


After the comment about Madonna's four kids with different last names I went on Wikipedia to check the story behind that, and found this instead:
Psychiatrist Keith Ablow suggests that her mother's death would have had an immeasurable impact on the young Madonna at a time when her personality was still forming. According to Ablow, the younger a child is at the time of a serious loss, the more profound the influence and the longer lasting the impact. He concludes that "some people never reconcile themselves to such a loss at an early age, Madonna is not different than them."
I want his racket, diagnosing celebrities who are not my patients on the basis of nothing more than a scan of their bio and then offering the trenchant analysis of a tenth grader called on in class to discuss The Scarlet Letter. I think I could at least be more entertaining, or use my powers less for evil.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:12 AM on September 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


"I want his racket, diagnosing celebrities who are not my patients on the basis of nothing more than a scan of their bio..."

Ablow and Dr. Drew should have a dance-off.
posted by MikeMc at 11:30 AM on September 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


I'll jump in as devil's advocate here. I think he makes a few good points. Adolescents tend not to be super-comfortable yet in their own skin; they tend to catastrophize everything; and they also tend to internalize whatever propaganda they're fed about how people judge their external appearance, whether it's about the brand of clothes they need to wear or the necessary appendages they need to have in order to live a fulfilled life. So a triumphalist tale about physical mutilation bringing psychological comfort might not be the best thing for the average ball of identity-based angst that is yr normal 16 yr old -- at least not without a savvy adult around to point out how the TV show is trying to manipulate its audience & tug at its heartstrings.

People should feel free to express their gender however they like, at whatever place along the spectrum they wish, in how they act and what they wear. But radically altering an otherwise healthy body with surgery and hormones is vanity, pure and simple, and should not be celebrated any more than a facelift or a hair transplant.
posted by philokalia at 11:32 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, philokalia... bigot in public much?
posted by hippybear at 11:35 AM on September 5, 2011 [37 favorites]


philokalia: "But radically altering an otherwise healthy body with surgery and hormones is vanity, pure and simple, and should not be celebrated any more than a facelift or a hair transplant."

You are clearly highly educated about this subject and I would like to know more!

Tell me how, when I mutilated my body, that was vanity. Tell me that nobody should celebrate my life now -- healthy, hearty, happy -- because my life before, in which I cut myself, hurt myself, hurt others, pushed away my friends and family, hid away in a darkened room and never saw daylight, was fucking fantastic, because my body was unmutilated. Whole. Just. As. God. Made. It.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:36 AM on September 5, 2011 [61 favorites]


I was just about to say that the biggest issue with transgendered folk in America is that they are too celebrated.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:36 AM on September 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


radically altering an otherwise healthy body with surgery and hormones is vanity, pure and simple

Potato, patato, vanity, gender identity disorder.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:38 AM on September 5, 2011


Ablow seems to be making a bit of a career with this shit; as the last two links point out he was the leading "expert" all over Fox about that J Crew ad with the mom painting her little son's toenails pink a few months ago.

Bigotry sells. Always.
posted by mediareport at 11:38 AM on September 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


So a triumphalist tale about physical mutilation bringing psychological comfort might not be the best thing for the average ball of identity-based angst that is yr normal 16 yr old -- at least not without a savvy adult around to point out how the TV show is trying to manipulate its audience & tug at its heartstrings.

People should feel free to express their gender however they like, at whatever place along the spectrum they wish, in how they act and what they wear. But radically altering an otherwise healthy body with surgery and hormones is vanity, pure and simple, and should not be celebrated any more than a facelift or a hair transplant.


Let me guess: You haven't read a single goddamn thing about transgender or intersex people.
posted by odinsdream at 11:38 AM on September 5, 2011 [13 favorites]


I want his racket, diagnosing celebrities who are not my patients on the basis of nothing more than a scan of their bio and then offering the trenchant analysis of a tenth grader called on in class to discuss The Scarlet Letter. I think I could at least be more entertaining, or use my powers less for evil.

Madonna is a celebrity of much contrast. For example, Like a Virgin. As well, the time she had pointy boobs. Finally, she has acted in major motion pictures. As I have shown, Madonna has been very important throughout history. In conclusion, Madonna has taken on many roles in our society.
posted by threeants at 11:45 AM on September 5, 2011 [36 favorites]


If Chas really wanted to say "fuck you" to his dad, he could have embarked on a series of operations to make him into a tree... [11 favorites +]

I'm sorry, am I alone in not finding this funny?
posted by naoko at 11:53 AM on September 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


Nope.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:54 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, am I alone in not finding this funny?

It's not funny because if we had surgery which could add limbs to people, we'd not have nearly so many war amputees.

(I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself.)
posted by hippybear at 11:55 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


So maybe someone here can explain to me why Cher's annals of plastic surgery are funny, and Chaz's are DEADLY SERIOUS and the stuff of tear-jerking tv. Surely Cher's body altering surgeries were also driven by psychological discomfort. Why else would you go through cosmetic surgery?

I'm not making any moral judgments here about cosmetic surgery: I simply assert that both mother and child here are operating within the same paradigm, in which a person ties their self-worth to their body. That, to me, is vanity.
posted by philokalia at 11:56 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think, by definition, declaring "vanity" about anyone's decisions is a moral judgement.

I'll leave actually answering your shockingly ignorant bigot question to someone else.
posted by hippybear at 11:59 AM on September 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


(a forensic psychiatrist and "street therapist")

This guy is kinda like a "street therapist" too.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:00 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ablow co-wrote a book with Glenn Beck. What more do you need to know?
posted by wittgenstein at 12:02 PM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Everybody needs a hug.

Anyway, philokalia, I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt here and trying to give you the most charitable reading I can. I'm a cis dude and not the best person to answer your question, but I'd start for one with the fact that this is not just cosmetic - hormone therapy will have a lot of effect on one's psychological well-being as well, and for trans people, it appears to be largely beneficial.

This isn't just about the fleshy bits. It's about fixing a problem.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:03 PM on September 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


Thing is, yeah, Chaz has said some messed-up stuff, and he's rather more gender-essentialist than I would like him to be given that he's going to be seen as a trans figurehead whatever he does, but. He's visible, he's out there, he apparently doesn't mind making documentaries and appearing on asinine dancing shows, and frankly he's reaching a lot more people than the Julia Seranos of this world. I remember people hating on Isis King when she described herself as "born in the wrong body"* but there she was, on Top Model, being trans and being visible.

The violence and discrimination against us won't stop when we arrive at the perfect combination of words to describe ourselves; it'll stop when people are used to us, when we're just another set of people and there's nothing more special about us than anyone else.

* that's not the ideal narrative we were coercively assigned male at birth etc. words words words

On preview, philokalia, I hate to bring it down to something so melodramatic, but I have a feeling that being subtle here would be like throwing garlic cloves at an aircraft carrier, so: people don't often die by their own hand for wont of breast enhancement or a facelift.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:03 PM on September 5, 2011 [18 favorites]


But radically altering an otherwise healthy body with surgery and hormones is vanity, pure and simple, and should not be celebrated any more than a facelift or a hair transplant.

I am constantly learning the lesson that I should be less judgmental about people's choices in regards to what I might consider purely "cosmetic" surgery.
posted by endless_forms at 12:19 PM on September 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


OK, long story:

In 1975, Robert Reed from The Brady Bunch did a two part episode of Medical Center that portrayed him undergoing reassignment surgery. It was full of "Parental Discretion Advised" and warnings up the wahoo. I was 8 years old.

My mother forbid me to watch it, not so much because of the warnings, but because she knew what it was about and was afraid I would go around telling everyone I wanted a sex change.

She knew, even then.

I, of course, secretly watched it. It was badly done, with the revealing shot post surgery done with a whole lot of Vaseline on the lens and from 3 towns away, but the point was made.

And for a little while, yes -- I did think that was what was "wrong" with me and that if I could get that surgery I would finally be "normal."

But life went on, and I found other gay kids and figured out where I really fell in the broad spectrum of gender, and I realized that for me (and ONLY for me) that it wasn't about surgery so much. While today you might think me transgendered if you met me, I think of it more of as instances of my life as "The Accidental Transgendered." It works for me, I am happy.

I hope Chaz kicks ass, and that anyone who sees DWTS realizes that he's made a really long journey to get to where he is.

We all travel roads, some more winding than others. We only do it once, so damn anyone who forces you onto theirs out of some misguided sense of propriety or "values" or not wishing to frighten the horses. Fuck that. Live big.
posted by ltracey at 12:20 PM on September 5, 2011 [26 favorites]


It's also kind of a thing that you have to have recommendations from a psychiatrist to get on hormones, and yet more recommendations to get surgery. Even if Chaz' mighty CONFUSE RAY did convince kids they're transgender when they're not, they're not going to get over hurdle one when it comes to actually doing something about it.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:28 PM on September 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


people don't often die by their own hand for wont of breast enhancement or a facelift.

How do you know? People kill themselves out of unhappiness for all sorts of reasons: social isolation on account of body dysmorphia is one of them, whether the person is queer or straight. We recognize this as diseased thinking. The solution is not to prescribe facelifts, but to change the thought process.

Look, if you truly believe plastic surgery will make you happy, then go for it. Miracles of modern medicine, and all that. But there's nothing particularly heroic about it. I still think it's wrong, and dangerous for kids, to insist that bodies matter so much. This is not just a queer issue -- anorexia and steroid abuse are now huge issues in local middle schools. Middle schools!! Kids need to hear that other things are more important for real happiness, and the surgical pursuit of some imaginary ideal body is not a reliable way to get there.
posted by philokalia at 12:31 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it's important to hear opinions like Philokalia's. There is feminist opposition to gender reassignment as well. I was just reading this piece from anti-civilization Deep Green feminist Lierre Keith (note I disagree with this very very much, as well as most of her other philosophy):
“Well, I’ve personally been fighting about this since 1982. I think ‘transphobic’ is a ridiculous word. I have no strange fear of people who claim to be ‘trans.’ I deeply disagree with them, as do most radical feminists.

Try this on. I am a rich person stuck in a poor person’s body. I’ve always enjoyed champagne rather than beer, and always knew I belonged in first class not economy, and it just feels right when people wait on me. My insurance company should give me a million dollars to cure my Economic Dysphoria.

Or how about this. I am really Native American. How do I know? I’ve always felt a special connection to animals, and started building tee pees in the backyard as soon as I was old enough. I insisted on wearing moccasins to school even though the other kids made fun of me and my parents punished me for it. I read everything I could on native people, started going to pow wows and sweat lodges as soon as I was old enough, and I knew that was the real me. And if you bio-Indians don’t accept us trans-Indians, then you are just as genocidal and oppressive as the Europeans.

Gender is no different. It is a class condition created by a brutal arrangement of power. I can’t fathom how mutilating people’s bodies to fit an oppressive power arrangement is frankly anything but a human rights violation. And men insisting that they are women is insulting and absurd.

There is no such thing as ‘woman’ or ‘man’ outside of patriarchal social relations. These are not biological conditions–they are socially created, by violence in the end. If I can’t be a rich person born in a poor person’s body, then I can’t be a woman born in a man’s body. Not unless you are going to argue that man and woman are biological or essential conditions. The whole point of feminism is that they are neither; gender is social to the roots, and those roots are soaked in women’s blood.
In her case it stems from the belief that civilization is evil and therefore any sort of surgery is bad, but also from the idea that gender is a social construction. Anyone who has ever had hormonal treatments or has had to take drugs that alter hormones as a side effect knows this isn't true, but the idea is still out there.
posted by melissam at 12:40 PM on September 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


philokalia: stop stop stop.

Just fucking stop.

You obviously don't have any empathy about this kind of situation.

You probably don't have any knowledge about what it means to be outside the mainstream at all as far as sexual or gender issues go. You seem to be incapable of moving outside your own experience and supposing that others may have some other strikingly different experience from you and that it may be completely valid and worthy not only of exploration but perhaps even surgery required to reconcile it with physical reality.

I can't begin to answer your horrible bigoted questions because I don't have any gender dysphoria. I'm a guy, very happy to be a guy. But I'm a guy who likes to fuck guys. And I'm a guy who is pretty much guy-ish who likes to fuck guys, which places me at odds with the bigots who think that guys who like to fuck guys have to be all swishy and wanting to do interior decorating and concerned about hair product and such.

So... I have a tiny bit more experience with what it's like to be outside the mainstream of "normal" than you have (whatever the fuck "normal" means other than the tyranny of the majority, which is a horrible thing to have "normal" mean when being born whoever you are is "normal", even if that means feeling like you need to have surgery to reconcile your inner self-image with your physical being).

So just stop it. You're saying things which diminish your standing here on MetaFilter (and to the world-wide audience which reads it in the millions every day) with every ignorant bigoted word you type.

Not everyone is someone like you; not everyone is someone you understand. You have a hard time projecting yourself into other people's shoes. Fine. Say that. But don't say that everyone who seeks gender reassignment surgery is undergoing an unnecessary procedure which is wrong, dangerous, and vain. It's horrid that you've equated Chaz Bono with an anorexic. It's horrid that you equate the multi-year process of hormone treatment and gender reassignment surgery with having a facelift.

You're saying horrible bigoted things. Just fucking STOP IT.
posted by hippybear at 12:42 PM on September 5, 2011 [49 favorites]


I can't imagine a father allowing something like political views to get between him and his daughter.

posted by 2manyusernames at 12:13 PM on September 5 [+] [


How do you know it was all Sonny's fault? I'd imagine anyone growing up in such a visible and vocal, and politically active family would have developed strong opinions of her own about a number of subjects.
posted by Gungho at 12:46 PM on September 5, 2011


If you teach your children to accept different people, they might turn into different people and then you will have to accept different people, too, OMG!
posted by Foam Pants at 12:57 PM on September 5, 2011 [12 favorites]


Could Michelle Bachman and her husband "Cure" Chaz of the whole gender thing?
posted by Cranberry at 1:04 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


philokalia: "The solution is not to prescribe facelifts, but to change the thought process."

Fantastic idea! Do you have a machine that does this? You could make a mint.

Hint: you can't psychoanalyse someone out of being transgender. Been tried. Didn't work. Hurt a lot of people.

philokalia: "Kids need to hear that other things are more important for real happiness, and the surgical pursuit of some imaginary ideal body is not a reliable way to get there."

We've established that you can't psychoanalyse people out of being transgender. I mean, aside from my doing it just now, the last seventy years of trans history have proven it pretty conclusively. The only solution for trans people is to transition. The current generation of trans kids are considerably looser with their gender identities than the generation that came before me (I'm on one of those cusps; I became an adult just as the internet was becoming a huge thing) and yet still they transition. It's important, it's necessary, it saves lives, and it gives life: real life, with the opportunity to be happy and successful and breathing.

Kids need to hear about all the things that are important for real happiness. For some, the surgical pursuit of some imaginary ideal body (seriously?) transition is one of those things. Hiding information about transgender people from children, telling them that it is wrong, unnecessary, harmful, or sinful will be hurting some of those children, just as assuredly as telling children that it's wrong to be gay or wrong to be non-Christian or wrong to be black.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:04 PM on September 5, 2011 [15 favorites]


radically altering an otherwise healthy body with surgery and hormones is vanity, pure and simple

I won't pretend to know much of anything about what it must feel like to be transgendered, and I'm sure it is much more complex than I can imagine. So hopefully what I am about to say isn't too ignorant or simplistic.

But being a cis-woman with PCOS hormone issues, I can tell you that there is a specific kind of emotional distress and even self-loathing attached to having bodily characteristics that do not typically belong to your gender.

At 46, I'm not fond of what time and gravity have done to my body and would dearly love to have a tummy tuck, breast lift & brow lift (not to mention a bunch of other little vanity-fueled tweaks I'd make if it were affordable and risk-free.) But of all the things I dislike about my body, the thing that causes me actual distress is dealing with facial and body hair that grows in places and amounts that are far more masculine than feminine.

If you are female, imagine how you would feel about having to deal with a beard. Not just a few stray chin hairs, but actual cheeks-to-neck coarse hair that would grow to a length of several inches if not removed. Many PCOS women have this problem, and if you spend any time on a PCOS forum you will see post after post venting about the frustration, mental anguish and despair over feeling unfeminine, unattractive and abnormal.

Needing to shave in the mirror every morning like a guy, having stubble by the time you get home from work every evening, needing to wear a ton of makeup to cover up the shadow. Is it really just "vanity" to have that shit lasered off? Is that really in the same category as having a facelift to erase the effects of normal aging? What about a guy who has grown large, female-like breasts due to hormonal issues... is getting a breast reduction simply "vain"? It seems to me that it is in an entirely different category from having pectoral implants to look more buff.

To me it is like the difference between having a nose job on a perfectly ok-looking nose vs. having a cleft lip repaired. You have the nose job because you want to look prettier. You fix wrong-gendered aspects of your body because you want to feel normal. Even if those repairs happen to be extensive because the whole body feels wrong.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 1:05 PM on September 5, 2011 [41 favorites]


While I would agree that there are differences in motivation, etc; I think that hair splitting over what surgery is vanity or not is ridiculous. People have the right to do what they want with their bodies, whether that is related to their gender identity, a terrible accident, or simply wanting to have fewer wrinkles. The underlying psychology and motivation may be very different, but I don't think it's productive for other people to analyze and judge these things.

The only exception would be someone endangering their health in severe ways for something that gives no obvious benefit (those who undergo repeated surgery that threatens their life). Very subjective here, so something best left to doctors/psychologists and those close to the individual.

(I'm not trying to equate transgender with nose jobs, I just get annoyed that inevitably people start talking about "good" and "bad" plastic surgery whenever this comes up and start making all sorts of judgements about people whose inner thoughts they don't know at all)
posted by wildcrdj at 1:12 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Different individuals do different things for different reasons, some healthy, some not.

I was just explaining this to my mom the other night when she called to ask me some questions about what "transvestite" actually means. In my explanation I told her that GLBTQetc. types don't really have any say in who gets media attention, or what kind, and so basing her ideas on what's "healthy" or "normal" on what she sees on television (mom has cable now) is no more helpful than basing them on that one weirdo she saw at the supermarket one time.
posted by hermitosis at 1:24 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


radically altering an otherwise healthy body with surgery and hormones is vanity, pure and simple

I was thinking about this a little more, particularly with respect to the anti-civ/tech feminist I posted above. What is fascinating is that bone modification, sometimes quite serious, is a staple of even very primitive human societies. I've seen skulls that were thousands of years old and have some amazing modifications. Call it vanity, but it seems to have been important to people's psyches and cultural belonging for thousands and thousands of years.
posted by melissam at 1:26 PM on September 5, 2011


Describing the surgery as vanity isn't really about the surgery. It's a particularly offensive way of labelling it a choice. Trans people are perfectly healthy and don't need surgery in the same way that gay men don't need to have sex with other men.

Yes, you can defend both with the "my body, my choice" slogan, but that's missing the larger point. It shouldn't matter if it were, but it is not a choice.
posted by cotterpin at 1:32 PM on September 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


As a side-note, ArmyOfKittens, you mention above that Isis King was giving the "wrong narrative" (I'm guessing because use of "born into the wrong body" promotes a perception of trans people as "wrong") but what is the "correct" narrative?
posted by Navelgazer at 1:41 PM on September 5, 2011


I've seen skulls that were thousands of years old and have some amazing modifications.

An arbitrary distinction, unfortunately. If it's something we agree with, then we talk about "tradition" and what's "natural" to humans. If it's something we disagree with, we talk about how "primitive" or "unenlightened" those other people are/were.
posted by hermitosis at 1:42 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


strident cracker Nancy Grace

indeed
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:45 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Navelgazer: yeah, that's pretty much it. There's no one "correct" narrative (and I don't really agree with the people who criticised Isis since, y'know, it's her story and no-one else's), but many politically-active trans people prefer stuff like "coercively assigned male at birth" and such, since it suggests that it was other people, and not biology, that decided we should be raised as something other than ourselves.

Personally, I'm on the fence.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:51 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks. Yeah, I'd imagine that's a tricky area. I too would err on the side of letting people use their own words to describe their experiences.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:01 PM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ditto. What fits me fits me, and my experience is no more universal than any other trans woman's.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:18 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cool. I was just worried because I had described reassignment above as "fixing a problem" and I realized immediately afterwards how potentially problematic my language was. If so, I apologize.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:21 PM on September 5, 2011


I think, yeah, totally, "fixing a problem" is iffy language when it comes to many people's trans experiences, but I'm certain I could start sticking pins in my transsexual phone directory and the fifth or sixth pin at the latest would strike someone who absolutely would describe their transsexual status as a problem that needed fixing. I wouldn't go there myself -- although I would have ten years ago -- but I'm not going to strike it out of the language because I can totally do that. Y'all are lucky I don't use my powers on a whim, or while drunk.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:33 PM on September 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


These are all interesting perspectives, but it seems to me that Chaz Bono going on Dancing With The Stars doesn't force anyone to express (or even have) an opinion about his surgery or his sexuality because ... it's Dancing With The Stars. We didn't have a national conversation about blond mullets of the '90s when they cast Ian Ziering. Yes, that's overly glib, but on the other hand ... IT'S DANCING WITH THE STARS. He's there to dance and tell his life story as processed into a couple of minutes before the announcer guy says, "Dah-ncing the tango with his paht-ner, Lacey Schwimm-ah..." I mean ... being transgender is something people do in the world, and he's going to say he did it, but I don't think it's going to be an endless themed performance, like, dancing to "Macho Man" and "My Guy" and some epic argument about the appropriateness of a number based on "Tootsie." I just ... I don't think it's going to be that big of a deal. Which, I realize, is what makes it a big deal in some ways, but it's not a transgender documentary, you know?

I mean, everyone is entitled to an opinion, but I can't imagine sweating my opinion of someone else's surgery (assuming I bother having one) just because he's going to ... whatever, do the rumba to the house band's cover of "Unbreak My Heart."
posted by Linda_Holmes at 2:51 PM on September 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


madcaptenor: I always thought the same thing about Bono.

Learn something new every day, I guess.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:55 PM on September 5, 2011


My point being, I guess, in case it's not clear, which I'm now worried it isn't: Whatever anyone thinks of his surgical choices, I subscribe to a certain amount of "Who asked you?" in matters such as these. He's just going on a dumb TV show, and I'm not sure why it needs to invite any more scrutiny of him than it invites of anyone else.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 2:57 PM on September 5, 2011


Linda_Holmes, my ideal world agrees with you, but...

Look, I've not led what many people would consider a "sheltered life." I moved to NY at 18 and spent most of my time around the most "underground" scenes I could find. Still, I have almost never met an "out" (if that's the right word) trans person outside of drag bars. Ten years ago, when I'd visit my ex-GF at Mount Holyoke, I'd hang out with a couple of FTM friends of hers, which was a much-needed revelation. They were happy to discuss their hormone therapy and everything else, but for the most part they were just cool, chill (and super-smart) individuals with their own interests. Not knocking drag queens at all (at all!) but it did me a world of good to hang out with some trans guys just talking about music and philosophy and whatever, without an "performance" aspect to it.

But I've somehow never met anybody like them since. Now, mind you, I don't doubt that I've met a great many trans people since then, but I definitely didn't know. And this is likely the common experience for cis people. The cis-fear drives trans people into keeping that part of their lives private, for obvious reasons, and the lack of sunlight maintains the cis-fear.

And while I don't know much at all about Chaz Bono, it seems like the very normalcy of him being on DWTS is absolutely the point. I get that he's controversial within the Trans community and I don't fully understand why, but he's going to be on the screens, being as "normal" as a celebrity child of Sonny and Cher can be, and a lot of people, hopefully, are going to take some blinders off.

So yes, it should be no big deal. But shining a light on things like this are what brings us to that point, painfully slowly, but eventually.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:25 PM on September 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't follow the show, so just out of curiosity, can Chaz dance, or what?
posted by jonmc at 3:28 PM on September 5, 2011


Linda_Holmes: "I don't think it's going to be an endless themed performance"

If he was dancing around, like, a giant penis totem pole I would Tivo the shit out of that.

no seriously, I suddenly want to get all TRANS PRIDE and make some sort of vaginal super-art outside a shopping centre somewhere.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:35 PM on September 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


What I want to know is why Ablow thinks that Chaz *didn't* jump through all the hoops he'd make someone jump through in order to transition? I'm sure he didn't do something as reporter-like as picking up the phone and calling him to ask...

Ablow is just as fact-free and bigoted in writing about teens and drugs, in case you want to know.
posted by Maias at 3:35 PM on September 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Totally get that, navel. Point taken.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 3:40 PM on September 5, 2011


Don't let your kids watch Chaz Bono on Dancing with the Stars

FTFY
posted by Schneider at 3:59 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


If only people with cancer would just learn to accept their tumors, we wouldn't have so many unnecessary surgeries...
posted by jiawen at 4:26 PM on September 5, 2011


If [Chaz Bono] was dancing around, like, a giant penis totem pole I would Tivo the shit out of that.

We could come full circle and call it "The Dawn of Manhood", sort of like the pre-hominids in the first act of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
posted by George Clooney at 4:30 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


The conversation about what trans means and what gender is and to what extent gender is innate rather than culturally determined is interesting and important and also seems to me to be absurdly beside the point here. Without breaking a sweat I can think of a variety of people who go on TV where our children can see them and demonstrate their existence about whom we do NOT have this freak-out OMG THEY SHOULD BE MADE INVISIBLE conversation. Child molestors. Thieves. Murderers. Liars and traitors to monogamous partnerships. Vicious racists and sexists. Vicious homophobes. I can get behind invisibilizing some things. Don't say the n word. Children might hear you and think it's an acceptable term to use in our society. I cannot get behind invisibilizing other things, like gender expression of any kind. What is the point of getting into why and how what what does it all mean. The problem is that whatever it means to be trans, people are freaking out that the very concept as embodied by a human being might make it to prime time, where no doubt it will air opposite Law & Order SVU or To Catch a Predator or Real World.
posted by prefpara at 5:12 PM on September 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Navelgazer, your experiences. - or lack thereof - are pretty much why I'm casually out about being a pricklady.
posted by egypturnash at 5:18 PM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I will shield my son from Cher. Have you seen her bad plastic surgery? Yikes.
posted by stormpooper at 5:19 PM on September 5, 2011


I agree that it should be no big deal for Chaz to perform on DWTS as himself, but honestly his transgender identity is what he's known for at the moment, and is the whole reason he's on the show, as far as I can see. So of course it's going to invite some comment, and I'm sure he's expecting it. Ablow's comments are disgusting, but unfortunately not surprising. I've seen Chaz on Letterman a few times, and it's utterly frustrating -- I think both times Letterman was like, wait, wait, I'm still confused (big laugh from audience). I was embarrassed for all of them.
posted by sweetkid at 5:25 PM on September 5, 2011


I moved to NY at 18 and spent most of my time around the most "underground" scenes I could find. Still, I have almost never met an "out" (if that's the right word) trans person outside of drag bars.

This just made me think that maybe Toronto is a bit more open - or at least York University is. While I was there (1998-2002), we had a student council member publically switch pronouns and begin transitioning while in office.

(He also stole my nickname - "j" - by legally changing his name to that. I couldn't ask people to call me j after that, or I would have looked like a big copycat).
posted by jb at 6:21 PM on September 5, 2011


Or how about this. I am really Native American. How do I know?

Actually, I want to respond to this idea... This argument assumes that race is or isn't (just like gender is or isn't) as if we aren't actually in constant dialogue about what it means to authentically belong to a certain racial category. Is it one drop of blood? The shade of a brown paper bag? Or something else entirely? I have black friends who get called oreos and I've heard white people claim to be black on the inside because they love rap music. If I say "you're talking black" people will understand what I mean, just like they'd understand "talking white." Whiteness itself keeps getting redefined. Are Italians white? You'll get two different answers depending on when you ask - 1911 or 2011. So who decides what race I am? Society? Is it genetic? Biological? Does my appearance matter? What if I'm Mariah Carey and pass for 100% white but have one black parent? Does my skin color outweigh my genes, or the other way around?

To pretend that this problem doesn't exist to make a rhetorical argument is bullshit and it undercuts the speaker's credibility. All of these questions are real and they apply with equal force to gender. Is gender determined by biology? Appearance? Societal construction of behavior and dress? Language? Is gender a binary or a spectrum? If you want to sweep away these problems and close your eyes to the complexity of the real world, maybe you can live with making garbage arguments about what gender people "really" are and how absurd it is, and how insulting it is, for them to "claim" another. But it's actually not absurd for people to construct their own identity. And people who want to dictate to others what identity they may or may not claim are no better than the oppressive culture that binds us into bullshit categories in the first place.
posted by prefpara at 6:27 PM on September 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


Wearing clothes is just plain vanity. I've said it before and I'll say it again, rags held together with duct tape should be good enough for anyone.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:28 PM on September 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


Philokalia: So a triumphalist tale about physical mutilation bringing psychological comfort might not be the best thing for the average ball of identity-based angst that is yr normal 16 yr old -- at least not without a savvy adult around to point out how the TV show is trying to manipulate its audience & tug at its heartstrings.

My 16 yr old son is quite savvy enough to watch Chaz Bono dance, if he wants to. I trust him to recognize manipulative tactics if/when they come around. I've tried to rise him to question the status quo and think for himself, and I am absolutely confident that seeing a post-operative transexual man is not going to make him decide to become one because the idea seems so seductive. Which I guess is your argument against it?

That's...bizarre. Do you really feel that someone decides to have sexual reassignment surgery on a whim? Because they've seen a man on TV who did? I don't feel qualified to go into what it takes, but as far as I can tell it is a lengthy process to even get to the point where you are considered a potential candidate for reassignment surgery.

Maybe you should educate yourself a little more before passing judgment.
posted by misha at 6:30 PM on September 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


Shitload of pseudoscience going on in this thread. I don't agree with philokalia that you can equate gender reassignment with cosmetic surgery, but that doesn't mean he's not making a valid point. All the research I've seen about this comes from the liberal arts, a shitload of socialogical and antrhopological gender studies jibber jabber that's not equipped to come out with theories like "gender is innate" or "gender is socially defined". Sorry but that looks like bullshit to me. We don't have any fucking idea why some boys want to carve themselves into girls or vice versa, and there are probably a lot of different reasons behind it, and most of them probably don't fit into an archetypal queer science narrative.

We've established that you can't psychoanalyze people out of being transgender

You can't psychoanalyze people out of being psychotic either, so we can conclude the CIA is really attempting to poison the food of the homeless guy I keep seeing on 2nd avenue. What kind of argument is that?

It's ridiculous to recommend parents shield their children from Chaz Bono. But it is one of the things that a responsible parent should have a prepared narrative about it, be it positive or negative. Fuck me if I know what's the "right" thing to say, though.
posted by falameufilho at 9:05 PM on September 5, 2011


I still think it's wrong, and dangerous for kids, to insist that bodies matter so much.

My goodness, where on earth would they possibly get such a crazy idea.
posted by desuetude at 9:13 PM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


this.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:58 PM on September 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


falameufilho: "You can't psychoanalyze people out of being psychotic either"

It's totally superb that you came into a thread with multiple trans people in and made that comparison. Bravo. I mean it. Audacious.

Other things you can't psychoanalyse people out of: being gay, black, tall, short, ginger, from Spain. It's possible you may be able to psychoanalyse people out of being obtuse, but I'd need to see more studies.

The main difference between being transgender and being, say, from Spain, is that for many transgender people the chance for a happy life is increased by modern medical technology and methods; in this it shares much with many types of physical and mental disability.

It's hard to make myself want to engage with you at all when you come charging into the thread with stuff like We don't have any fucking idea why some boys want to carve themselves into girls or vice versa but hey, I'm psychotic so I thought I'd give it a shot.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:13 PM on September 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


ArmyOfKittens, I didn't call you psychotic, please don't pretend like I did. That was a logical extension of a silly argument you made: just because psychoanalysys doesn't work, that certifies it as *real*. I don't think it is so, and that's my beef with these discussions - they're based on academic gender studies fluff and ideology and not on a lot of science.

As for barging "into a thread with multiple trans people", honestly, if your intention is having a transgender echo chamber, I'm really sorry to disturb you. But I thought the point here was to have a debate.
posted by falameufilho at 4:54 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


(transgender echo chamber is a fucking awesome name for a band)
posted by falameufilho at 4:55 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think Peter S. Beagle's short story "The Last And Only, or, Mr. Moscowski Becomes French," from the collection "We Never Talk About My Brother" provides an interesting perspective on the comparison of transgender identity to racial identity. Can't find a full text online, alas, but I can say that the book overall is pretty amazingly awesome.
posted by Scattercat at 5:09 AM on September 6, 2011


A debate about sensible things. Not crazy. Transsexuality exists, and is not treatable psychiatrically. To argue or suggest otherwise is daft. There are decades of precedent, good practice, and proof.

As for "real" science (lol your anti-social sciences weirdness!), well, there's not a lot out there. There's this:
From the abstract: The present findings of somatostatin neuronal sex differences in the BSTc and its sex reversal in the transsexual brain clearly support the paradigm that in transsexuals sexual differentiation of the brain and genitals may go into opposite directions and point to a neurobiological basis of gender identity disorder.
But there's not a great deal else, for a number of reasons, distrust being a primary one, but also because it's often hard to find us once we're done with treatment. Plus when it comes to looking this deeply into the brain you have to wait for us to die. As much as you might personally despise "socialogical and antrhopological gender studies jibber jabber" it's pretty much all there is on this subject.

You're welcome to remedy this. I'm sure, with your intriguing and unique perspective on boys carving themselves into girls, you'll find many volunteers.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:15 AM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't get the "where's the science" argument, dude. When there's no science (let's pretend you're right and there's no science), BOTH SIDES are unproven. Not one side. Both sides. So if you want to say there's no science to prove that being trans is "legit" or non-pathological or whatever, you have to accept the corollary which is that there's no science to prove that being trans is some kind of illness or non-"real" condition.
posted by prefpara at 6:12 AM on September 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


...you have to accept the corollary which is that there's no science to prove that being trans is some kind of illness or non-"real" condition.

The only reasonable verdict I draw from the repetitive nature of this kind of dialog is that some people have a deep need to feel emotionally, morally, or psychologically superior to others, and that comes across as this kind of "show me the science!!1" nonsense.
posted by odinsdream at 6:21 AM on September 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Jill Psmith over at I Blame the Patriarchy is also a radical feminist, but would strongly disagree with Lierre Keith on transgender issues (as, in fact, would most feminists I personally know - just wanted that out there!).
posted by eviemath at 6:39 AM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


millions of young people who do watch "Dancing with the Stars

Like who? My 74 spry and hip mom?

Someone needs to research his demographics more.
posted by stormpooper at 7:21 AM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


But I thought the point here was to have a debate.

What is there to debate? Are you arguing that children who see someone on a TV show will want to copy that person? Arguable, I suppose. Although if we were really truly concerned about this, and if there were any evidence that this would be true for a lot of kids, then shouldn't we actually be concerned about all the murderers, rapists, liars, cheats, and other assorted assholes who are much more common in TV-land?
posted by rtha at 7:51 AM on September 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


ArmyOfKittens: "lol your anti-social sciences weirdness!"

My academic background is in psychology, so I like to think I know a little bit of what I'm talking about. I may be biased against the social sciences / liberal arts trying to explain the world with an inadequate toolset, but I wouldn't call it "weirdness". Thanks for the links and specially the J. Michael Bailey critique, though, I'll try to read that - I'm sure it will be educational.

Also, sorry for the use of the verb "carve". I used it carelessly and your reaction shows it was probably inappropriate. The thing is all the transgender narratives I've seen are loaded with this underlying note of self-destruction (read this AskMe thread for an example). It can probably be argued that the self-destructive feelings come from shame, guilt and general non-acceptance by society, but it can also be argued that the transgender transition could be itself an act of self-destruction.

prefpara: "So if you want to say there's no science to prove that being trans is "legit" or non-pathological or whatever, you have to accept the corollary which is that there's no science to prove that being trans is some kind of illness or non-"real" condition."

Thank you for expressing what I may have failed to do so myself. That's my PRECISELY my argument. Nobody has any idea, but that doesn't stop people from dealing in absolutes.

rtha: "What is there to debate?"

QED
posted by falameufilho at 8:11 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


it can also be argued that the transgender transition could be itself an act of self-destruction.

I would never suggest that this was universally not the case, but of the post-transition trans people I know -- and I know a lot -- not a single person would it apply to. I think you're looking too hard for a reason to deny the validity/utility of transition.

Shame and guilt can be a problem for a lot of trans people, including me, but this is not particularly a symptom of being transsexual but rather a result of the way trans people are treated; the subject of this thread being another example. Just as the "guilty gay guy" raised in an intolerant society is not responsible for his guilt, and just as his guilt does not in any way make him any less homosexual or his desire to fuck dudes any less real or valid, so too the guilty, self-hating trans person.

I still think you're being utterly bizarre in insisting there is no proof either way as to the non-pathological nature of transsexuality, given the decades of evidence and testimony, from doctors as well as patients, but at least we've moved from insta-disdain to actual engagement.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:21 AM on September 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


QED

I guess we can debate the causes and treatment of gender identity till the cows come home. To my mind, there is nothing to debate regarding kids seeing different kinds of people on a dumb TV show.
posted by rtha at 8:44 AM on September 6, 2011


The thing is all the transgender narratives I've seen are loaded with this underlying note of self-destruction (read this AskMe thread for an example).

This made me cringe. That's not some abstract "narrative" you're calling out. It's a cry for help by a living, breathing member of this community, someone who is actually likely to see your characterization of his words. I'm not saying you can't talk about what's said in this community or use an AskMe post as an example, but when you do I think it's important that you're thoughtful, kind, and sensitive to the fact that what you write may be seen by the people you discuss.
posted by prefpara at 8:45 AM on September 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


* assuming treatment of one's gender identity is desired/necessary.
posted by rtha at 8:46 AM on September 6, 2011


ArmyOfKittens: "I think you're looking too hard for a reason to deny the validity/utility of transition."

I'm not trying to deny anything, I am sure there are happy well-adjusted people whose only chance of happiness and well-adjustment came through the transition.

"Shame and guilt can be a problem for a lot of trans people, including me, but this is not particularly a symptom of being transsexual but rather a result of the way trans people are treated"

That's exactly what I meant, I don't think this shame/guilt generates spontaneously - it does come from the outside in.

"I still think you're being utterly bizarre"

C'mon really? "Utterly bizarre"? Let's tone it down. What I'm saying may be different from what you believe, but not bizarre.

prefpara: "but when you do I think it's important that you're thoughtful, kind, and sensitive to the fact that what you write may be seen by the people you discuss."

I don't think I was insensitive, honestly.

rtha: "To my mind, there is nothing to debate regarding kids seeing different kinds of people on a dumb TV show."

We agree on that.
posted by falameufilho at 9:07 AM on September 6, 2011


falameufilho: "C'mon really? "Utterly bizarre"? Let's tone it down. What I'm saying may be different from what you believe, but not bizarre."

You realise we're not abstractly discussing a neutral topic? This all actually applies to one of us? I'm still not convinced, given the way you entered the thread, that you're engaging in good faith.

And yeah, it was extraordinarily bad form to link to that ask thread. Sheesh.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:15 AM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think I was insensitive, honestly.

You linked to an AskMe thread about someone's personal problems and attempted to link their transgenderism with your impression that they're self-destructive. I happen to disagree with your assessment, and I'm sure others would.

The more troubling thing is that you're linking what you see as self-destructive behaviour with their transgenderism for no good reason. It seems far more logical that, as ArmyOfKittens already touched on, that the typical life experiences of a transgendered person growing up are what's destructive, not the transgenderism itself.

Perhaps you could start there and provide some reasoning why you feel otherwise.
posted by odinsdream at 9:45 AM on September 6, 2011


That's exactly what I meant, I don't think this shame/guilt generates spontaneously - it does come from the outside in.

Tangentially: If the conditions of transsexuality come from outside, from society, and we want to argue that the application of surgery and hormones are unneccessary, then we are in effect proposing to modify/eliminate the entire construct of gender in society as the potential solution.
Best to approach it via both solutions, really. :)
posted by Theta States at 10:00 AM on September 6, 2011


ArmyOfKittens: "You realise we're not abstractly discussing a neutral topic? This all actually applies to one of us? I'm still not convinced, given the way you entered the thread, that you're engaging in good faith."

I think you and I have different definitions of what "good faith" means, but given the pile-up I'll just take a bow and leave. Cheers.
posted by falameufilho at 10:41 AM on September 6, 2011


> millions of young people who do watch "Dancing with the Stars

Like who? My 74 spry and hip mom?


EXACTLY. All the kids that Ablow's worried will be unduly influenced by Chaz Bono are all getting unduly influenced by Snooki instead because they're all watching Jersey Shore.

...Except Ablow probably thinks that's okay becuase it celebrates crass consumerism instead.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:15 AM on September 6, 2011


But I thought the point here was to have a debate.

No, the point here is to share cool and interesting things we find online so others can see them. If discussion results, that's a side effect, but is hardly "the point". In fact, some of the best posts involve no "debate" at all, and are discussions involving people sharing points of agreement or even simply "thanks for posting."

If you think the point of MetaFilter is to debate, then you're doing it entirely wrong.
posted by hippybear at 3:19 PM on September 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


falameufilho > The thing is all the transgender narratives I've seen are loaded with this underlying note of self-destruction. It can probably be argued that the self-destructive feelings come from shame, guilt and general non-acceptance by society, but it can also be argued that the transgender transition could be itself an act of self-destruction.

That might be because people who completely hate a major part of who they're stuck being can be self-destructive. Just sayin'. I mean, when I was stuck in a bad living situation last year, I had occasional thoughts of suicide during the times when I could see no way out. Back when I was stuck being a boy and thought I'd never change that, guess what? I had occasional thoughts of suicide.

Sometimes the old self needs to be destroyed to make way for the new. Trannies like butterfly and phoenix metaphors for a good reason! I have things in common with who I was before estrogen, there is continuity. but I am definitely not the same person. On the other hand how many people are someone new over the course of five years anyway? You change, you grow, you learn, you recover from mistakes.

It's been about fifteen years since I started my transition. I'd say I'm pretty much done with it now that I've finally gotten around to getting rid of my facial hair. I am an order of magnitude happier with myself and my life; I am much more prone to hang around drawing something awesome now that I don't get lost in these endless loops of how shitty my life is due to being a boy when I know I'm a girl inside. I don't care about why I'm like this - my favorite theory is currently "feminization of brain structure from all the plastic I was exposed to in my youth + not being destined to be a super-butch dude in the first place" - and I really don't care one way or the other. I just care that I am finally comfortable in my body and can get on with making awesome art.
posted by egypturnash at 3:51 PM on September 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


I apologize for last night's nasty comment, but it has been two weeks since my bf's top surgery and the whole "carving" analogy and assumptions about transgender narratives set me off.

The hospital where he was supposed to get his surgery decided just days before his surgery date that they were no longer going to transgender surgeries. No explanation, just a "change in policy." Fortunately, a nearby hospital took in him and other patients of his surgeon with no issues. When you're at the mercy of someone who doesn't understand (or doesn't care or doesn't want to understand) your life, you never know who's going to turn you away.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 4:36 PM on September 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


This thread is both encouraging and (surprisingly) disappointing to me. I am glad that others here are defending trans people much more eloquently than I ever could. That is an aspect of MetaFilter, as a community, that has always been something I admire. But I am kind of weirded out by some of the attacks (and they do read as attacks to me, sorry) here. I expect everyone on MetaFilter to understand that delegitimizing some basic aspect of a person that they have no real control over is Not Cool. I guess gender stuff is too much of a grey area for many people to automatically notice that that's what you're doing when you criticize or deny transgendered people. I almost tacked "and ideas" onto the end of that sentence, but that's the thing; criticizing transsexuality as A Thing is attacking people who are mostly just trying to live their lives. There's no logical fallacy you're going to uncover that will make trans folk slap their foreheads and say, "Oh, duh! If only I'd thought of that earlier..."

I guess what I'm saying is that trans people exist and what bothers me is that the criticisms seem to boil down to, "No you don't! You don't exist!" or "Sure, you exist, but you're still sick and wrong!" No one needs to put up with responding to that. It should warrant an automatic dismissal. I'm willing to believe that the folks doing that in this thread don't really mean to do that, but; that is kind of what you're doing, guys.

And yeah, I am trans. MetaFilter's generally positive attitude toward trans people was actually a factor in my eventually sitting down and deciding that I have to do something about All This. I think it's pretty irrelevant to everything most of the time, but I guess I feel better disclosing here.
posted by byanyothername at 4:47 PM on September 6, 2011 [14 favorites]


I have been of the opinion for some time now that compassion is something that is clearly not innate in human beings. I think it must be something that requires work, thought, and imagination. A failure of imagination, either through insufficient capacity or merely insufficient desire and motivation to try, appears to result in a chronic inability to imagine yourself in circumstances you have not experienced firsthand. People who are not willing, or not able, to imagine themselves in someone else's circumstances are unable to experience or express compassion. It's really a tragedy.

Trans folks, with their mere existence, seem to expose the limits of some people's ability to be compassionate. Few others make this failure more painfully obvious. I hope that we can overcome this as a culture, sooner rather than later. It may require the dismantling of our current understanding of sex, gender, gender expression, and sexuality. I don't think that's an unreasonable price to pay to stop the relentless cruelty aimed at trans people.
posted by Hildegarde at 6:20 PM on September 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I just want to tell the trans people who've shared their experiences in MeFi, especially this summer, that I'm so thankful. You've helped me fill in a lot of gaps in my knowledge. It's not that I want to be an ignorant clod, it's just that I know *THIS MANY* straight, bi, gay people who live along the spectrum of gender identity but don't want to change the gender they identify with, and so so so few who do -- but to understand this latter group a little better, I have turned to MeFi, and I'm in awe of all of you who can share your experiences, honestly. You're amazing. Thank you.
posted by sweetkid at 7:10 PM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hippybear, regarding your comment above, I have actually had this conversation:

Them: "But.. you don't .... seem like a gay guy"
Me: "I don't?"
"Like.. you don't... I dunno, like.. you know? You're not, like, effeminate or anything"
"Nope."
"And.. I dunno, you don't wear stylish clothes or go to the gym, no offense, but..."
"None taken."
"And you ...I mean, you're married. To a girl."
"Yep."
"Then...... so you're gay... how exactly?"
"Vastly prefer fucking dudes. Happened to fall in love with one particular tomboy. Nature is weird that way."
"But... I just don't understand"
"Do you want proof? Will you be convinced if I blow you right here?"

A lot of people just can't process the fact that other people might fall outside of their comfy definitions and labels and stereotypes and absolutes. It makes their heads explode.

Anyway, I've got ... whoa, four! trans girlfriends in various stages of hormones -- something about our nerd music community brings out all the queers and ladyboys, but other than modifying a few personal pronouns, nothing at all has changed. We're still the same group of pals, now with 20% more boobies. What's not to love? I wish the rest of the world wasn't so uptight and hateful; it really is amazing to watch a friend become happier and more confident about who they are.
posted by jake at 9:52 PM on September 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


OK, like many people of trans* history, I've had this conversation before with people (including at least one psychotherapist) who took the position that basically "absence of evidence is evidence of absence." Except, if you know where to look and how to look, there is plenty of evidence for biological causality for transsexualism/transgenderism and intersexuality. This list (forgive me hurried HTMLizing) is excerpted from an email conversation I had back in Aug 2009 asking for more evidence. It is woefully out of date, especially with all the recent discoveries regarding the role of the SRY in gender development.
posted by Fiberoptic Zebroid and The Hypnagogic Jerks at 1:51 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


falameufilho: "Also, sorry for the use of the verb "carve". I used it carelessly and your reaction shows it was probably inappropriate. The thing is all the transgender narratives I've seen are loaded with this underlying note of self-destruction (read this AskMe thread for an example). It can probably be argued that the self-destructive feelings come from shame, guilt and general non-acceptance by society, but it can also be argued that the transgender transition could be itself an act of self-destruction. "

You supported your armchair hypotheses about the emotional motivation of transsexuals by holding up a plea from a scared college freshman who came to AskMe for personal advice? Yeah, that's spectacularly pretty bad faith. You owe that kid an apology.
posted by desuetude at 8:39 PM on September 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


The Whelk: "and Mercy James.

This is kind of an awesome action-hero type name.

"I AM MERCY
"

but not Lourdes or Rocco?

"I AM THE LOURDES"
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:26 AM on September 9, 2011


It's also ridiculous to analogize gender and race or other aspects of identity since none of those other things are related to genuine biological differences related to biology's fundamental function: reproduction. We can argue all day about the aspects of gender that are socially constructed, but there are clear physical differences and brain and hormonal differences that do not apply with regard to race, etc. And just because gender can be a spectrum and there are grey areas and intersex and transpeople doesn't mean these differences don't exist.

How we interpret those differences, of course, is a whole other ballgame with a whole nasty history of oppression but bottom line is men don't ordinarily come with the equipment needed to get pregnant and women don't ordinarily come with the equipment needed to impregnate someone.
posted by Maias at 9:02 AM on September 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


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