Could the Problem of the 21st Century Be the Gender Line?
The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line.
- W.E.B. DuBois
While I see his position as one of defending bigotry, I sympathize a bit with North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory when he tells NPR, "Most people had never heard of this issue five months ago.”
I was one of those people. Until quite recently -- certainly before Caitlin Jenner and going back to the early 1950s when ex-GI Christine Jorgensen had sex re-assignment surgery -- the term transgender meant a person had submitted to hormone treatment and surgery that involved, for a male, cutting off the penis and surgically creating some approximation of a vagina. A male or female who chose to wear clothing of the opposite gender was known as a transvestite. That semantic understanding seems to have gone the way of negro and colored people. It's now a matter of how one feels inside one's body. Somewhere in time a semantic shift occurred in the minds of enough people that it has now reached the level of law where we see a classic battle between a reform-minded, liberal federal government and that old standby of conservatives and bigots, states' rights.
In North Carolina, a law known as HB2 was passed that limits protections for LGBT people and requires transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the gender noted by a physician on their birth certificate. That sounds nice and neat -- certainly to the conservative and bigoted mind. But what if one was born with real, physical ambiguity down in the pudendum area? Or what if a cocktail of chemical hormones and life experience led someone to see and feel him- or herself differently than the working stiff did who noted an infant's gender on a birth certificate -- or for that matter, feeling different about oneself than the socially- and politically-correct views of certain southern, God-fearing conservatives? What if Norman Mailer, who is dead, was wrong when he wrote that little anti-feminist gem I read titled Prisoner Of Sex? Of course, many of us loved the strutting pugilistic Uncle Norman, especially when he protested the Vietnam War; but, then, Norman was famous for being a magnificent, often drunken, asshole.