When journalist for The Intercept Glenn Greenwald referred to Charles Manning as a ‘she’ on Twitter, I commented that Manning is still a ‘he’. It provoked Greenwald to respond by classifying yours truly as a sort of Untermensch undeserving of participating in public debate,
“It takes a very warped sickness to want to interfere in and dictate other people’s gender identity. You should focus on that.”
Of course, I neither interfered in nor dictated Manning’s gender. However, I did refuse to call people by whatever made-up gender they’ve come to identify themselves with other than their sex given at birth, which is either male (XY-chromosomal) or female (XX-chromosomal). Progressive beliefs don’t affect our DNA. Aside from a rare Klinefilter syndrome that adds extra X’s in males, these are the only two genetic genders available to people.
Needless to say, I respect Charles Manning and his actions. I have no trouble calling him Chelsea. In terms of his imprisonment, I believe Chelsea Manning should be pardoned and released from prison as soon as possible. While Manning has made a mistake handling classified information, he made it as a private soldier who had received little training in doing so. The system failed Manning. He shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
However, I resist the ‘modern’ consensus to go along with people’s psychological problems, as if I ought to salute every madman who thinks he’s Napoleon, or treat people who think they’re an animal as such. These are problems of the mind, not of the body. But what bothered me most was Greenwald’s passive aggression towards me for merely disagreeing with him. Are we still living in a free society governed by free speech, or is this Solzhenitsyn’s Soviet Union?
Unlike Greenwald, I in fact understand why his point of view differs from mine. Perhaps Greenwald should work on that. It’s because he, and many others who support his views, has made mutually exclusive assumptions about the world we live in that differ from many other people. In his view, perhaps people are born with a transgender psyche. Perhaps he regards it normal human behavior for people to choose their gender.
Indeed, who then, other than Manning, should be allowed to dictate his gender? No one. Hence, it makes sense for Greenwald et al to accuse me of “interfering in” or “dictating” what Manning’s (psychological) gender ought to be, because I refuse to play along with their game.
In my worldview, however, people aren’t born with a transgender psyche. I believe people are born either boy or girl, but that society can choose to affirm or interfere with the corresponding psychological identity. In Manning’s case, I believe it was society that first interfered with his gender. Perhaps a traumatic life experience triggered Manning to hide his male identity in favor of a female one, e.g. a psychological defense mechanism to help him process an earlier adverse experience.
Where Greenwald and I hold a difference of opinion thus comes down to us having made different assumptions about the world. But these assumptions remain unchallenged on both sides. We should therefore be able to discuss those assumptions openly. But then there’s the possibility that some assumptions are so painful to people they expect society to hide them. New taboos often replace old taboos, changing nothing.
I find it a “warped sickness” that our society has trapped many so-called transgenders in a gender that was never really their own choosing. It was society—a traumatic experience—that chose it for them. For example, should we allow a child’s parents to interfere with its gender, just because they’d rather have a boy instead of a girl, or a girl instead of a boy?
In Greenwald’s world, such a child is condemned to a life of psychological suffering. By contrast, in my world, men like Manning can receive recognition for their suffering. Society should protect transgenders not only against their abusers, but also against themselves.
By offering transgenders a way out of this artificially induced gender trap, I believe my assumptions about them are more humane than Greenwald’s.