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The Transgender Thing

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Has there always been a substantial, legitimate desire for sex change within humanity?

Perhaps because it is so popular with retirees, Arizona seems to have become a last-stand state on issues associated with rapid cultural change. The focus on a transgender issue is the latest. 

I’m not sure how this started, but State Representative John Kavanagh recently proposed legislation requiring transgender individuals to use the public restroom coinciding with the sex registered on his/her birth certificate. If the bill had passed, it would have been a crime to violate this law.

Due to the ensuing uproar, a law was passed allowing only business owners to enforce sex-at-birth-related restrooms. How they will monitor the situation, I’m not sure. Maybe everyone in Arizona needs to start carrying a birth certificate, just to be safe.

Until this came up, I knew little about the growing number of transgender people. By coincidence, however, an article came out in The New Yorker on the subject titled “About a Boy,” by Margaret Talbot.

The boy named Skyler was born a girl. Now a senior in high school, he is undergoing his transformation. At age sixteen he started taking testosterone. At seventeen he had a double mastectomy. He is now a senior in high school and has yet to decide if he will also have genital reconstruction.

Apparently sex change is the coming thing among many young people and has become the new civil rights cause. There are many activists, therapists, physicians, organizations, and Internet sites dedicated to dealing with “gender dysphoria,” defined as distress over one’s biological sex.

A Transgender Symbol

As I studied the article, I was struck by the clout young people seem to have with their elders in accessing sex-change therapies. I wonder, along with psychologists quoted in the article, if they should postpone a decision until the age when the brain is fully developed. Some of us never achieve mastery over the concept of long-term consequences, and I may be one.

Skyler in the article seemed extraordinarily intelligent and sure of her/himself, and both parents are supportive of the transformation. However, they are divorced and one can’t help but wonder if the guilt that goes with that has led to exceptional indulgence. At some point Skyler may decide he wants to have a penis created. This will cost about $100,000. Is this covered even partially by insurance, and will the parents go along if it isn’t? Perhaps they yearn for the good old days when a teenager was bold to ask for a car.

The photograph of Skyler reveals a beautiful person, whether male or female, but he’s only about five feet six inches tall. If I were going to “go male,” I think I’d want to be a six-foot-plus model–but maybe I just don’t get this. At the same time, Skyler thinks that he will probably want to date other males. Now I’m really confused. Wouldn’t that be easier as a female? And what if he totally messes up a regular guy who would have felt free to love him as a girl?

Other problems could emerge as well. Many of the very young suffering from dysphoria are being encouraged to take medication to postpone puberty. The idea is that it will buy time to ensure clarity and produce a more authentic sexual look if the commitment to transformation is eventually made. However, there are a lot of unknowns about the long-term side effects of the pharmaceuticals, including consequences for bone growth.

One gets the impression of enabling adults, both parents and professionals, forging ahead into unknown and possibly dangerous territory. And one can’t help but wonder if there has always been a substantial, legitimate desire for sex change within humanity or if this is something new.

If, as the article estimates, about one in every ten thousand feels the need for a sex change, will that percentage rise as transgender becomes more accepted? Is this “normal,” or are we mutating due to pollution in the air and water, to chemicals in our processed food, antibiotics in the creatures we eat, electromagnetic waves in our technology, and the incessant stimulation of provocative media? Of course sex changes will impair fertility, so could this be a species adaptation to the need to limit population growth?

It will take decades for the consequences of this development to play out, but the underlying question is way too complicated and the trend way too strong to be contained by the “potty” legislation supported by Arizona conservatives. It has, however, made one a little more alert on entering a public restroom.

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