I’ve been trying not to have any. It’s not that the topic is unusually unpleasant. I just have this feeling that the moment my opinion of transsexualism changes from instinctive revulsion to a reasoned conclusion, something in my soul will be lost. There are some things you’re supposed to know without having to think about them.
While trying to avoid it, I’ve stumbled onto the topic by accident. Some time ago, I wrote a post about interspecies romance. (Go ahead and read the link if you like. I promise it’s not about that guy who screws horses.) The original motive was to defend some cartoons I like from the charge of softening kids up to the idea of gay marriage. I argued that romances between humans and mermaids or fairies or elves or Martians work not by undermining gender differences but by treating them as real and species-transcending. Ironically, one crosses an unbridgeable gulf not by making it narrower, but by making it wider, by making the difference between (say) Beauty and the Beast even greater than a species divide. However, one could change the accusation and say that these stories prepare kids for the idea of gender switching. If Zefram Cochran’s cloud monster can change species for love, why not…?
Actually, there’s even a story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses about a woman disguised as a man who falls in love with another woman, gets changed into a genuine man, and lives happily ever after.
We tend to think about transexuals (when we must) as just a more extreme form of homosexual gender nihilism, as if there’s a straight line which proceeds from feminism to homosexuality to gender reassignment. But that’s not quite right. While GLB and T are both going against the natural law on sex, they’re not going against it in the same way. Feminists and gays really do form a continuum, in that they’re both rejecting the idea of normative sex roles. “Men and women are the same from the neck up; business should have nothing to do with gender; marriage should have nothing to do with gender”–you get the idea. The trannies are actually rather different. They do strongly believe in distinct masculine and feminine essences, and they expect that whether one is a man or woman has a profound affect on one’s life. After all, if men and women are the same, what’s the point in switching? Just like a story like The Little Mermaid wouldn’t make sense if the difference between humans and mermaids is just a social construct. What’s more, these guys who think they’re women must regard sex as more than just “plumbing”, as feminists sometimes dismissively call it, if they can imagine that they’re “really” women even before they have their dicks…you know.
They’re making an error, but it’s not the same error as the gays’, even though for strategic reasons they attach themselves to the same rhetoric. I would actually say that transexualism, were it a distinct ideology, would be less dangerous than homosexualism, because it doesn’t attack gender complementarity. True, its normalization means some very bad things. Creepy men hanging out in women’s locker rooms. Confused children being given hormones to screw with their sexual development. But the normalization of homosexuality means redefining marriage, undermining the connection between legal and biological parentage, and forcing Christianity underground.
In fact, we primarily disagree with the transexuals, not on moral principles, but on two matters of fact. First, we disagree that before their mutilation they were really women and not really men. Sex has a spiritual dimension, but it is grounded in biological function, and the spiritual aspects proceed from this physical basis. We are not dealing here with genuinely difficult border cases like hermaphrodites. Someone who cannot become pregnant but who can impregnate a woman is certainly a man, regardless of how he feels about it. Second, we disagree that hormones and surgery turn him into a woman, as opposed to a mutilated man.
One can still pose the hypothetical question of whether it would be immoral to change one’s sex if it could be done by every physical marker, say by a sorceress with magical powers to pop one’s mind into another body with the opposite sex, perfectly formed and reproductively capable. (Of course, if you’re a Thomist and regard the soul as the form of the body, you will probably insist that this is metaphysically impossible and will deny that one can even construct a meaningful hypothetical case of sex switching. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Thomism is wrong.) I tend to think that it would be, because it would betray an improper attitude toward one’s sex, something that should be taken as a calling from God rather than a matter of picking and choosing.
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