Chelsea Manning: A moral and philosophical muddle
Is respect a one-way street? There is a highly authoritarian absolutism about the "phobia" industry, especially where it concerns sexuality
Following his sentencing for the mass leaking of classified material, Bradley Manning announced that he wants ‘gender reassignment’ treatment and plans to live his life as a woman:
Manning said she would like to be known as Chelsea E Manning and be referred to by female pronouns. "As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me," she wrote. "I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition."
The US Army prison service being unwilling to fund this sort of thing, the usual clamour of LGBT activists erupts: it’s unconstitutional that the US taxpayer not pay for C/B Manning’s manhood to be lopped off! But should the rest of us now refer to Manning as ‘she’?
The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) issued guidelines for reporting on Manning's transition, advising journalists to "use the name and pronouns that someone prefers … It is not about surgeries and hormones. If a person wants to talk about these very personal topics, fine, but one's gender identity and right to be respected aren't dependent on taking such actions, nor are these necessarily public topics”.
Over at National Review, Kevin Williamson insists that lopping off body parts to assist ‘gender reassignment’ is mutilation, not medicine:
A man who believes he is a woman trapped in a man’s body, no matter the intensity of his feeling, is no such thing. The duty of the medical profession is not to encourage and enable delusions, but to help those who suffer from them to cope with them … It is a measure of the intellectual degradation of our times that the physical reality of these cases is considered, if it is considered at all, a distant second to the subjective impressions of people who are, not to put too fine a point on it, mentally ill and in need of treatment.
His piece has generated a vast body of comments. My favourites are here:
What if it were a black man who "identified" as white? Would you be in favor of bleaching his skin and fixing his nose and calling that "treatment"?
You have two male identical twins, 25 years old. One presents himself to his doctor saying "I am unhappy with my sex, change my genitalia." The other presents himself to his psychologist saying "I am unhappy with my sexual orientation, help me change my mind." The leftists say the government must require the doctor to do his patient's bidding in the first case, and must even provide the money to pay for it. In the second case, the leftists would have the government forbid the undertaking altogether. What a muddle
This indeed is all a moral and philosophical muddle. But in this muddle we spot the usual power-grab by gender extremists with allies in the media and human resources bureaucracies who insist on defining the issues in a way that suits their cause.
Two things are going on here.
First, the LGBT tendency is deliberately using language to label anyone who disagrees as ipso facto a phobe – someone with an ‘irrational’ hatred of otherness.
Genders are just a ‘construction’ anyway, so it’s much better that children explore their sexuality with the help of free-thinking adults, rather than be stuck with ‘roles’ arbitrarily assigned to them at birth by reactionary hegemonistic heteronormative parents.
Anyone offering support for people who want not to be homosexual is homophobic: such services have to be banned.
This is part of a wider Leftist/progressive agenda to frame global discussion. People who support ‘after-birth abortion’ are not repellant childophobes. People wondering about extremists tendencies in many Muslim communities are Islamophobes. Mobs of Muslim Brotherhood fanatics burning down Coptic churches in Egypt are never Christophobes, but oppressed people expressing legitimate grievances.
Second, rationality itself is defined to mean only what the LGBT tendency supports. It’s rational for men to want to cut off their widgers and take drugs to grow breasts so that they look like ‘women’. It’s not rational to wonder whether this might be a sign of mental illness.
It’s rational for a man who has had gender-reassignment surgery to expect to use the women’s changing-rooms, but not rational for the women there to wonder if this might be a bit … weird. Is a person born as a female who goes through a full life having children and menopause really no more a ‘woman’ than Bradley/Chelsea Manning?
The ultimate baffling philosophical question here is this. If the LGBT tendency is right, there are no absolutes: every person’s emotions and instincts, however unusual or seemingly perverse, must be respected by ‘society’. Yet if I am expected, nay compelled, to respect the wishes of Bradley/Chelsea Manning to want to be treated as female (whatever that means), why should heartfelt instinctive uncertainty about - or even fear - of homosexuality or transgenderism likewise not be respected?
Maybe nature through chromosomes or hormones or whatever has made some people straddle a scientific borderline between men and women who are robustly heterosexual. But maybe nature likewise has made a good proportion of people feel unhappy/uneasy about that category, if only for sound evolutionary reasons (the existential impulse within any biological group is to reproduce itself).
Why should such feelings be denounced and reviled to the point of being punished by the state? Is respect a one-way street?
Charles Crawford is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. A former British Ambassador in Sarajevo, Belgrade and Warsaw, he is now a private consultant and writer: www.charlescrawford.biz. He tweets at @charlescrawford
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