Camille Paglia on transgenderism: Personal experience, common sense

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The transgender debate is very personal to cultural critic Camille Paglia, professor of literature at University of the Arts in Philadelphia, as she tells Washington Free Beacon writer Sam Dorman, in a highly-quotable interview about her latest book Free Women, Free Men. Paglia, a Catholic-raised atheist lesbian who nevertheless reveres the classic arts and literature produced by Western Civilization, dissents strongly (and entertainingly) from leftist and feminist orthodoxy. In this interview, Paglia debunks Democrat excuses for Hillary Clinton's defeat, explains Donald Trump's victory, evaluates the political impact of Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein, and Elizabeth Warren, and criticizes the Left for ignoring the ethical realities of abortion. But I particularly want to call your attention to this passage, in which she describes her own experience of "gender dysphoria" and articulates what used to be commonsense about transgenderism, locker rooms, and personal pronouns.

[Dorman:] You say you were never encouraged by "misguided adults" to believe that you were actually a boy or "that medical interventions could bring that hidden truth to life." Do we have an obligation to not participate in or encourage someone's gender dysphoria in adulthood, or just childhood?

[Paglia:] My lifelong gender dysphoria has certainly been a primary inspiration for my entire career as a researcher and writer. I have never for a moment felt female--but neither have I ever felt male either. I regard my ambiguous position between the sexes as a privilege that has given me special access to and insight into a broad range of human thought and response. If a third gender option ("Other") were ever added to government documents, I would be happy to check it. However, I have never believed, and do not now, that society has any obligation to bend over backwards to accommodate my particular singularity of identity. I am very concerned about current gender theory rhetoric that convinces young people that if they feel uneasy about or alienated from their assignment to one sex, then they must take concrete steps, from hormone therapy to alarmingly irreversible surgery, to become the other sex. I find this an oddly simplistic and indeed reactionary response to what should be regarded as a golden opportunity for flexibility and fluidity. Furthermore, it is scientifically impossible to change sex. Except for very rare cases of intersex, which are developmental anomalies, every cell of the human body remains coded with one's birth sex for life.

Beyond that, I believe that my art-based theory of "sexual personae" is far more expansive and truthful about human psychology than is current campus ideology: who we are or want to be exceeds mere gender, because every experimental persona that we devise contains elements of gesture, dress, and attitude rich with historical and cultural associations. (For Halloween in childhood, for example, I defiantly dressed as Robin Hood, a Roman soldier, a matador, Napoleon, and Hamlet.) Because of my own personal odyssey, I am horrified by the escalating prescription of puberty-blockers to children with gender dysphoria like my own: I consider this practice to be a criminal violation of human rights. Have the adults gone mad? Children are now being callously used for fashionable medical experiments with unknown long-term results.

In regard to the vexed issue of toilets and locker rooms, if private unisex facilities can be conveniently provided through simple relabeling, it would be humane to do so, but I fail to see why any school district, restaurant, or business should be legally obligated to go to excess expense (which ultimately penalizes the public) to serve such a minuscule proportion of the population, however loud their voices. And speaking of voices: as a libertarian, I oppose all intrusion by government into the realm of language, which belongs to the people and which evolves organically over time. Thus the term "Ms." eventually became standard English, but another 1970s feminist hybrid, "womyn", did not: the populace as a whole made that decision, as it always does with argot or slang filtering up from ethnic or avant-garde subgroups. The same principle applies to preferred transgender pronouns: they are a courtesy that we may choose to defer to, but in a modern democracy, no authority has the right to compel their usage.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 16, 2017 7:24 AM.

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