Sunday, February 1, 2009

Will the Christian Fundamentalist Right Ever Grow Up?

Occasionally the Google Transsexual Blogs Search widget delivers a lulu. Today, the top blog listing quoted the title of an article on an over the top inflammatory website. The article title is “ACLU and Sexual Amputees Sue Illinois.” The website is attached to a reorganized group calling itself “Americans For Truth About Homosexuality.” From the tone and focus of this article it is clear that this group does not care about fair and balanced discussions, nor do they allow diversity of any kind.

The article, written by Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute, responds to a news article in the January 28, 2009 editions of the Chicago Tribune reporting on a lawsuit brought against the State of Illinois by two male to female transsexuals. The suit seeks to force the State to change the gender designator on their Birth Certificates from male to female. Doing so will bring this designator in line with that on their current driver’s licenses, passports and Social Security records.

Ms Higgins’ article transcends derogatory commentary and crosses the line separating civil dialogue and hate speech. As a sister transsexual there is much in her article that is offensive. In the second paragraph she harshly criticizes the Tribune for referring to them using female pronouns and describing them as women. Instead this article describes them as “terribly confused men.”

That assertion is unconscionable for they are NOT men, they are women in their minds and their hearts, if not their souls. They pursued Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS) in order to bring their physical bodies into congruence with their minds. Thus, regardless of the aesthetic outcome of their procedures, from a soft tissue anatomical perspective, they are women. They will remain women until the day they die. They can not be seen as ever having been men because their minds and brains have never been masculine. What will it take to get these organizations to finally understand this?

The article then tries to link the MtF desire for female external genitalia with Body Integrity Identity Disorder(BIID) sufferers. (Those with this disorder feel an intense desire to amputate a healthy limb.) She then quotes Dr. Annie Lawrence who said “. . . some researchers propose that it may be a disorder similar to Gender Identity Disorder (GID), or transsexualism.” This is a perfect example of quote cherry picking combined with total misunderstanding of what is being quoted.

She clearly sees this abstracted quote as proving her warped point, but it doesn’t. By including “propose” and “may be” in the same sentence, Dr Lawrence shows she is not issuing a definitive conclusion. Rather this is a preliminary comment. Further, “some” qualifying “researchers” indicates the presence of a division of opinion among relevant researchers on this proposed linkage. The author also is unaware of the extent to which Dr. Lawrence has been discredited within the transsexual community.

Her idea that the desire for reassignment surgery equals the desire for amputating a healthy limb makes no sense at all. For one thing, in medicine the term limb refers to arms and legs only. Hence a penis does not meet this standard definition of a limb. True, it is an appendage extending out from the lower torso. However, the head is likewise an appendage extending upward from the upper torso (with the neck connecting the two.) No one ever refers to someone’s head as a limb, so how can the penis be called one? It strains credulity and is illogical.

For another, say a guy develops BIID and obsesses about only having one leg, and convinces a surgeon to remove it. Whenever he goes shopping, such as at Wal Mart, everyone can see, especially at a distance, that he is missing a leg since he will either be on crutches or in a wheelchair. Yet a post-op male to female transsexual can enter the store behind him, shop extensively to her heart’s content, and no one will be able to tell that she ever had surgery of any kind. Perhaps this is the key point. BIID-related surgery produces visible results that cannot be hidden and that limit mobility. GID-related surgery produces invisible results that do not affect mobility at all. Hence, the two are not equivalent.

Let’s look at this from a different perspective. The human body is designed to walk on two legs and use two arms in its daily activities. Lose the use of one of these limbs, either through paralysis or amputation, and the guy is impaired in everything he tries to do. Lose his penis and ordinary daily activities continue unimpaired. So describing a post-op mtf transsexual woman as a “sexual amputee” is inaccurate, illogical, derogatory and insulting to transsexuals and limb amputees alike. This is why her comment “. . . it is difficult to see how amputating a healthy arm or leg is substantively different for amputating a healthy penis or breasts” merely underscores her ignorance.

Near the end of the article she further describes the two transwomen as deluded men who are seeking to include all of society in their delusion. She concludes from this that they are asking the state to commit fraud by correcting their birth certificates. I’m not an attorney, however, I am not sold on this idea. To me, they are seeking the right to correct a mistake on an official form made by the attending doctor at the time of their births.

The depth of visceral hatred evident in this article, to me, is worrisome. It is one thing to opine that the Tribune erred by using female pronouns in its story, and to civilly point out why she felt this way. This response reads more like an intentional attack on all transsexuals while case building for retention of GID and transsexuality in DSM-V when it is released in 2012. According to the article, BIID is not listed in DSM-IVR. Thus, by erroneously linking it with GID (already there) the author is trying to coat tail this new disorder into the DSM. Is it appropriate for lay religious organizations to be attempting to influence the DSM editorial process?

Late today (1/30/09) I went ahead and submitted the following website response to the organization.
After reading Laurie Higgins' article about the Illinois lawsuit posted on 1/30, I am confused and deeply troubled. Why do you hate transsexuals to the depth you do? Transsexual identities are very real, and all of the steps involved in transitioning are entirely valid. For male to female transsexuals, reassignment surgery does not create a new form of amputees. Rather, it allows the individual to finally have congruence between their physical bodies and their neurological selves. Why is that wrong?
It will be interesting to see what, if any response I receive, and when.


Anonymous said...

It is vital for Christian Fundamentalists to have groups to hate. This type of Christianity is, by design, powered by self-hatred (i.e. original sin) so only hating others even more than self can maintain the viability of the movement. Ideal groups to hate are those too small or weak to effectively fight fundamentalist bullying. Transsexuals meet this requirement. Fortunately Christian fundamentalists are not noted for intelligence so are ill suited for today's world and are gradually fading into oblivion along with other dysfunctional groups.

Brielle said...

the link to the article is broken