Bruce (now Catylin) Jenner’s sex change is by no means the first, as such procedures have existed for almost 65 years, starting with Christine Jorgensen. Even after all this time, though, much of society still has not fully come to peace with transgendereds and transsexuals. These people consider it “weird”, “abnormal”, and a psychological disorder; often using those precise words in a hostile, scornful way, full of sense of kneejerk contemptuous distaste. Some go even further, expressing outright hatred against such people for being who they are, with some driven to suicide in the process.
You would think that after all these generations of social justice movements society would finally see that “abnormal” does not equal scorn-worthy. After all, we’ve accepted the rights of many groups to participate in society to the maximum extent their work ethic, opportunities, and talents. We’ve allowed to groups plainly not White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant middle class and wealthy males: women, religious minorities, racial minorities, and GLBTQ to take their rightful place at the table. Yet, for all this, society apparently still has a long way to go before accepting “abnormal” or somehow “deficient” people as fully human members of society. To a great degree, this still includes, but is by no means limited to, transsexuals and transgendereds.
“Abnormal” Does Not Equal “Scorn-Worthy”
“Normal” and “Abnormal” are vague terms that are easy to misuse (i.e. equivocate about), which itself is liable to render fruitless any meaningful discussion at a party or the bar. Only for the sake of argument, I will assume that transgenderism and transsexualism are indeed disorders and are indeed abnormal, at least in the most demonstrably provable sense of the word, the statistical sense (e.g. only a tiny fraction of the population is such).
Applying the “disorder” label to “abnormal” people only proves that mainstream society considers the “abnormality” undesirable for some reason. It does not prove it is intrinsically a threat to the well-being of others or one’s self the way. True, cancer, AIDS, polio, smallpox, etc. are actual abnormal conditions, but the difference is that each of these are or were indeed such an intrinsic threat to that person or (sometimes) another person, which is why nobody objects to labeling them undesirable conditions. This cannot be said of transgenderism, transsexualism, homosexuality, or any other non-mainstream sexual/gender phenomenon. None of these conditions can plausibly be deemed a threat to the person’s or another’s life, health (physical or mental), human rights, political liberties, property, money, or anything of value (however slight). Indeed the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from its diagnosis manual in 1973. I have not researched why the APA removed homosexuality from its diagnosis manual, but I can tell you my own view of why it was right for them to do so, for what it is worth.
For a condition to be worthy of eliminating, it must present the threat to life, health, etc. as explained above. If the condition does not intrinsically cause those negative consequences for anybody else, then it is difficult to see how the condition can truly be called a disorder. Furthermore, whatever negative states occur to the “abnormal” person are almost solely based on societal prejudice rather than the condition itself. In other words, that gay men, as a group, are prone to suicide, depression, etc. at above average rates is true only to the extent that his social environment considers him worthy of scorn or other severe mistreatment. Gays living in more open-minded social environment are much more likely to be in good mental health.
For these reasons, I personally have discarded the idea that “normal” means within the statistically predicted range of human functionality / abilities and more toward “normal” meaning not in and of itself a plausible threat to one or another’s life, health, etc as described earlier. Thus, I stand by my assertion that appealing to transgenderism, transsexualism, etc as a “disorder” is a “red herring”, even assuming it were objectively true to label transsexuality and transgenderism “abnormal”.
Though I’m as statistically “normal” as a person can get, I will risk a presumption about transsexuals and transgendereds’ perspectives anyway. I strongly suspect that no transgendered or transsexual insists on being considered statistically “normal” so much as insists that their statistically “abnormal” condition be divorced from “worthy of condescension at best, contempt at worst”. In fact, other “outsider” groups insist on being considered “normal” only to the extent that mainstream society places negative connotations on at least their own “abnormality”, and if they are consistent they will insist society purge negative connotations from all harmless “abnormalities” in general. At the end of the day, transsexuals, transgendereds, etc. only insist that “scorn-worthy” and “mock-worthy” be severed from the “abnormal” label. That’s all.
Closing Words About “Normality”
As I implied in my post about “stupid” people not deserving scorn, over 20 years ago I, completely lost faith in mainstream definitions and criteria for “normal” behavior and “respect-worthy” person, especially given the history of the past century and especially half-century. Mainstream society proved wrong about non-Protestants 100 years ago, racial minorities 50 years ago, GLBT 20 years ago, and depressed/mentally ill people almost as long ago. This is why I no longer just swallow mainstream definitions of “normal”, “respect-worthy” and “scorn-worthy” (not just on sexuality and gender identity issues). The recent publicity about Bruce (now Catylin) Jenner’s sex change only further reinforces these views. It is time for mainstream society to completely discard the narrow definition of “normal” (i.e. conforming to society’s expectations of what ought to be the case) and to my broader definition based on how prone the condition intrinsically is to harm the person and to others.