Should the LGB Separate from the T?

A leading same-sex marriage advocate is pushing back on the trans movement.

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Andrew Sullivan, one of the most important voices in the argument for marriage equality—certainly, from a conservative point of view—argues that transgender identity politics is a bridge too far.

I wondered when this would happen. How long would it take, I asked, before a younger generation revolted against the new left orthodoxy that there is no sex binary, or gender binary, or indeed any place for biology in understanding the differences between men and women? How long before boys rebelled against the notion that their sex is actively toxic and in need of psychotherapy? Or how long before girls felt violated or just uncomfortable seeing people of the opposite biological sex in their bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers? How many are miffed that they have to compete with biological males in athletic contests?

New data suggests that that time could be now. For the first time, we’re seeing a sharp drop in tolerance of “LGBTQ” people among the younger generation. This is an entirely new phenomenon. It used to be the young that spearheaded toleration and inclusion. Now they’re suddenly bolting in the opposite direction: “The number of Americans 18 to 34 who are comfortable interacting with LGBTQ people slipped from 53 percent in 2017 to 45 percent in 2018 — the only age group to show a decline,” according to the annual [GLAAD] Accelerating Acceptance report. And that is down from 63 percent in 2016. (Perhaps they should rename the report Decelerating Acceptance.) “36 percent of young people said they were uncomfortable learning a family member was LGBTQ in 2018, compared with 29 percent in 2017, and 24 percent in 2016. 34 percent were uncomfortable learning their doctor was LGBTQ vs. 27 percent a year earlier. 39 percent were uncomfortable learning their child had a school lesson on LGBTQ history vs. 30 percent in 2017.”

Or check this out: 62 percent of young men regarded themselves as “allies” of LGBTQ people in 2016; only 35 percent now say the same — a near-halving of support. Women “allies” have dropped from 65 to 52 percent. 

The change in attitude is indeed shocking. One would expect either a modest change or a change in the opposite direction. After all, we have normalized same-sex marriage and made remarkable progress on transgender understanding in a very short period.

Sullivan argues that’s precisely the problem:

The turn began in the year that the Obama administration — with no public discussion or congressional support — imposed critical gender theory on America’s high schools, determining sex to be whatever a student says it is. The imposition of trans ideology by fiat on the entire country’s young — along with severe public stigma for those with even the slightest questions — was almost textbook left authoritarianism. Well meant, perhaps. But dictatorial.

While that’s a somewhat over-the-top characterization, I’m sympathetic to the broader point. Unlike racial, gender, and gay equality—debates that took place over decades with attitudinal shifts coming slowly—the trans movement seemed to come out of nowhere. The notion that people ought use the public restrooms that comported with their anatomy went seemingly overnight from a blinding flash of the obvious to so monstrously intolerant that it would be inconceivable to play professional basketball games in a state that deemed it otherwise.

Still, it’s old farts like Sully and me that are the problem* here. Surely, the young simply take this sort of thing in stride? Certainly, the few teenagers that I know seem to.

Sully thinks otherwise:

Even GLAAD, the culture police for the gay left, concedes that the transformation of the gay-rights movement into a trans movement steeped in critical gender theory in the past few years is likely the reason: “The younger generation was coming in contact with more LBGTQ people, particularly individuals who are non-binary and don’t identify simply as lesbian or gay.” GLAAD of course blames Trump, and social media, and vows to crack down ever more firmly on those who aren’t fully onboard with its agenda. The last thing GLAAD would do is ask itself if it is actually exacerbating the problem, and that the redefinition of almost everyone’s sex and gender to accommodate less than 1 percent of the population is why this resistance is happening.

Now, some may call Sully obtuse or even hypocritical here. After all, the same arguments were made against gay rights and, in particular, same-sex marriage. Why, marriage had always been between one man and one woman, just as there were always just those two sexes. Obviously, though, he doesn’t see it that way.

Take a look at this video of a young student in Britain refusing to concede that there are more than two genders. The kid had been thrown out of class for stating his opinion. He is told he has to keep his opinion in his own home and to obey the school’s authority policy. Now imagine those who agree with the student that there are not 54 genders and never say it. Kids are not stupid. They know they are being propagandized. This poll suggests the backlash has arrived, and it will likely grow.

I’m honestly not sure there’s any evidence that the transgender issue is what’s driving the changes in the poling. Or, indeed, that we have any idea. It could just be an anomaly that won’t be repeated in other polling.

It’s happening among young straight women especially, women who were once bedrock supporters of gay rights: “Driving the dilution of acceptance are young women whose overall comfort levels plunged from 64 percent in 2017 to 52 percent in 2018.” Hmmm. Why do you think that could be? Did Trump do this all on his own? Maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with the increasing presence of biological males in their sports, restrooms, locker rooms, and other traditionally all-female spaces. Maybe it is being told that your biological sex is meaningless, that someone with a dick is no less a woman than you are, and that boys can have periods too. As for young men, they are becoming aware of how the feminist left regards them.

Again, I think this is over-the-top and, frankly, beneath someone of Sully’s intellect. Nobody is arguing that boys can have periods; they’re arguing that people who have periods can be boys. That is, they’re arguing that what defines being a “boy” or a “girl” isn’t just what’s between their legs. Surely, that’s not too much for someone who grew up with the argument that his preferred form of intercourse was immoral because, “hey, the parts aren’t designed to work that way” to understand. I mean, it was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, amirite?

Of course, we could find out more with a more carefully parsed survey. We could, for example, end the claptrap that dictates an “LGBTQ” identity and start referring to reality again. We could ask separate polling questions about feelings about gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people. We could ask about gay rights and about trans rights separately — because they are very, very different experiences. That way, we could better understand what’s going on.

On this, I’m a thousand percent in agreement. “LGBTQ” is simply too complex a set of phenomenon to lump into a single category. While I see the utility in grouping them for some discussions, they mask a whole host of attitudinal and policy issues. It makes sense to disaggregate them in polling to see what’s driving the attitudes in question.

Having gotten the ranting out of his system, Sullivan circles back to compassion:

All of this is a disservice to transgender people, most of whom are very invested in the sexual and gender binary, not in hock to postmodern jargon, and who could simply make the argument that their brains appear to be of one gender and the rest of their bodies the other — and that they’d like to be treated with dignity and respect. Instead of demanding a redefining of everyone’s sex and gender following critical queer theory, what if activists simply asked for equal treatment for transgender people? I think that’s a persuasive argument, I passionately support it, and it would win if accompanied by the voices of trans people who are not on the extreme left and who can tell their stories and bring others along in a slow but durable and human way. That’s how we won marriage — by telling our stories, talking about what we all have in common, and insisting that including gay people in civil marriage would not affect straight marriage in any way.

Like Sullivan, I don’t have any good answers for how to deal with transgender athletes. I simultaneously despair for Caster Semenya and the psychological abuse to which she’s been subjected and think it’s unfair for her to compete as a woman.

But, surely, the answer starts with treating people whose situations we don’t understand with respect and compassion. And I agree with Sullivan that we’re more likely to get there by listening to their stories and seeing them as fellow humans struggling to cope with a world arranged for people unlike them.

Alas, Sullivan closes with this:

Of course, there is almost no chance that the gay-rights Establishment will relinquish the “LGBTQ” label. They, like most extensions of the Democratic Party, have completely embraced postmodern critical gender and queer theory. My fear is that this will fail to win support and that, as the trans movement keeps pressing and pressing, the backlash will grow and gays and lesbians will become collateral damage. The T activists, having embraced an extremist theory of gender, could undermine not just their own case but also equality for the Ls, Gs, and Bs. They could swiftly reverse the gains we have won. They sure have made a good start in turning the next generation against us.

Having read a couple of his other essays on this broad topic, I understand that Sullivan is deeply worried that a complete victory for the school of thought means that we’ll abandon the idea of gender as a binary construct altogether and, by extension, render gays and lesbians irrelevant. That is, to the extent that being gay requires that both partners identify unabashedly as men, there’s no such thing as being gay if there’s no such thing as “a man.” I’m dubious of that argument for a variety of reasons but haven’t spent a lifetime emotionally invested in my gender identity.

In the short term, though, the addition of the T may keep the animus that once motivated Republicans against Democrats on gay marriage alive for another few election cycles. In the longer term, though, it’s the Republican position that will be anathema to voters.

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*To be clear: While it had never occurred to me before the controversy over the North Carolina bathroom bill that anything other than anatomy ought decide which facility one should use—as I wrote in the early days of the blog, “urinals would be nigh unto useless for people with female genitalia, their psychological predispositions notwithstanding“—I quickly came around to the notion that, if we can’t provide private restrooms, letting people choose was the least hurtful option. Still, I’m still working through trans issues that don’t seem at all problematic to the teenagers in my life.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Gender Issues, LGBT Rights, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. SKI says:

    Andrew Sullivan has, for a large number of years, been riding on his former reputation. Not sure whether it perfectly coincides with his all-but total withdrawal from engaging with differing opinions on his blog – a endeavor that often impacted and sharpened his thinking – but, for me at least, he is virtually unreadable and has been for a number of years. The thinking is shoddy and the arguments are mostly hackery.

    Still, it’s old farts like Sully and me that are the problem* here. Surely, the young simply take this sort of thing in stride? Certainly, the few teenagers that I know seem to

    As someone who is about the same age, I really hope it it isn’t the age. IMO, it is more the shelter.

    When you have to deal with real people, whose worth and intrinsic humanity you can’t/won’t deny, labels seem a whole lot less relevant.

    I would also note that, at least in my religious tradition, the acknowledgement of humans not being strictly binary goes back centuries. In fact, in Judaism, angels are canonically non-binary – which led to a decision by in 1998 in Israel that a trans individual who transitions are in fact the gender they transition to.

    Put bluntly, the excuse that “it’s always been this way” isn’t true or meaningful. It is just a failure of imagination and a denial of the value of other people’s lived reality.

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  2. mattbernius says:

    I’m dubious of that argument for a variety of reasons but haven’t spent a lifetime emotionally invested in my gender identity.

    I think you hit the nail on the head here James. While he has been a strong voice for gay marriage, I have a hard time believing Sullivan would have held those views if he want directly effected by the issue.

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  3. SenyorDave says:

    Sullivan emigrated from England and became a US citizen. Now he is a strong advocate for making it harder to come here, especially through asylum. He was a major voice for legalizing gay marriage, and and married his married when it became legalized. Now he appears to be hedging on “T” rights. I wonder if we are seeing a pattern here.
    “I’s always been that way” – could apply to almost anything in society that changes. My dad went to high school in NYC in the late 1930’s, and the black kids were almost always steered into the trades. Heck, it was the way it always been done, and the whites were pretty happy with it, so it must have been okay.
    Totally agree with SKI’s take. Sullivan’s blog had some interesting give and take, but w/o Sullivan gets very tired. He does seem like I got mine, so everything is fine now.

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  4. wr says:

    @SenyorDave: “I wonder if we are seeing a pattern here.”

    Yes, and it’s the same one that has been constant through his career — Sullivan is liberal, generous and thoughtful on any issue that concerns himself, his rights and his own comfort. On every other issue he’s conservative. A narcissist posing as a thinker, he has for reasons I have never been able to fathom, convinced people for years that he’s some kind of deep thinker, when all he’s really got is a small ability to string words together in a way that sounds moderately appealing — he’s basically George Will with better hair.

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  5. Teve says:

    he’s basically George Will with better hair.

    this morning I turned 43. George Will is 78, and he has less white hair than I do. Who does he think he’s fooling?

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  6. An Interested Party says:

    To echo what others have said, Sullivan reminds me of Clarence Thomas…they both seem to have the attitude of “I got mine now the rest of you who are like me are on your own”…

    …he’s basically George Will with better hair.

    Or rather, he’s George Will without the toupee…

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  7. SenyorDave says:

    @wr: I also forgot about Sully’s legacy. Two items that he could apologize for the rest of his life and it would not be adequate, IMO. One was this piece of garbage from the run-up to the Iraq war:
    “The middle part of the country–the great red zone that voted for Bush–is clearly ready for war. The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead–and may well mount a fifth column.”
    I just read something he published in 2010 that attempted to explain (rather inadequately, IMO) his use of the fifth column phrase and how he really didn’t mean it in the way it sounds.

    The other terrible thing he did was regarding the Clinton Health Care plan and his publishing of a hit peace written by a Republican operative named Betsy McCaughey who prepared her articles in cooperation with Phillip Morris (the Clinton plan was to be largely funded by increases in tobacco taxes).

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  8. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @SKI:

    In fact, in Judaism, angels are canonically non-binary – which led to a decision by in 1998 in Israel that a trans individual who transitions are in fact the gender they transition to.

    Not only in Judaism. In countries of Romance Language there is an expression, “debating the gender(sex) of the angels”), that’s used for endless and meaningless debate about some type of issue that can’t be settled.

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  9. SKI says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa: Interesting.

    In the Mishnah, codified in the 3rd century CE, there are 6 recognized genders. Reality has a way of ignoring our neat attempts to fit everything into binary boxes – and leaders who have to deal with human complexity need to recognize that.

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  10. Sleeping Dog says:

    Since Sully often expresses views that line up with contemporary progressive values and is reasonable and articulate, it is easy to forget that he is a classical conservative and a disciple of the British philosopher Michael Oakeshott. That he’d question the creeping leftist orthodoxy on gender fluidity shouldn’t be surprising.

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  11. Gustopher says:

    I’m honestly not sure there’s any evidence that the transgender issue is what’s driving the changes in the poling. Or, indeed, that we have any idea. It could just be an anomaly that won’t be repeated in other polling.

    It’s such an odd, unexpected result that I suspect the polling. Either these results or the previous results, or what they are measuring.

    Trumpism has made people more comfortable being openly bigoted, and that is something that might swing the numbers, but not the underlying attitudes that much. For the moment, I think this poll is far less important than people are making it out to be.

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  12. Kylopod says:

    The lumping together of gay and trans isn’t some modern construct; the two have been placed under the same umbrella for a long, long time simply because the ignorant have been unable to tell the difference.

    Indeed, that’s true for just about any of what might be described as gender transgression. In the 1938 movie Bringing Up Baby, after Cary Grant is caught wearing a woman’s frilly bathrobe he exclaims, “I just went gay all of a sudden!” (This is widely believed to be the earliest recorded example on film of the word gay to mean “homosexual.”) The line was ad-libbed by Grant, but there’s a definite implication in the scene that the older woman who catches him thinks he’s a transvestite and therefore homosexual. That’s what people thought back in the day.

    Homosexual, transvestite, transsexual–those were all merely different flavors of the same thing in the minds of many. Homophobia has always been driven in part by fear of a breakdown in traditional conceptions of masculinity and femininity. That’s why it’s so prevalent in professional sports. Underlying a great deal of homophobic rhetoric is the notion that gay men are failures as men, and lesbians as women. Their true sin isn’t that they violated the Bible, but that they aren’t “real men.”

    Even now, it’s hard to completely separate the fight for gay and trans acceptance because it gets into fundamental questions of how you define things. (For instance, if a biological male who transitions to female has always been attracted exclusively to women, does that make her gay? Or if she always liked men, is she now straight?) As long as society insists on seeing gay and trans people in a similar light, they’re going to be in it together in their fight for broader acceptance.

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  13. MarkedMan says:

    @wr:

    Sullivan is liberal, generous and thoughtful on any issue that concerns himself, his rights and his own comfort. On every other issue he’s conservative.

    I’m half joking here, but isn’t that basically the definition of a conservative? People who call themselves Conservative believe that any public effort to level the playing field is absurd and immoral on its face – unless it benefits them or theirs.

    Sullivan has always displayed such a tendency, especially when it comes to issues outside of those of men in general, or gay men in particular. He can sometimes eventually see the light, but his instinct is to equate “I’m not concerned about it” with “Therefore no one should be”.

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  14. Monala says:

    Instead of demanding a redefining of everyone’s sex and gender following critical queer theory, what if activists simply asked for equal treatment for transgender people?

    What the hell is he talking about? Outside of a few obscure academics, who is trying to redefine everyone’s sex and gender? No one is telling cisgender* people that that they are not men and women or boys and girls, or that they can’t continue to use the male and female restrooms they’ve always used. They’re simply asking for trans people to be allowed to be who they are – which is equal treatment.

    It’s ironic that Sullivan doesn’t see how much this sounds like the arguments that SSM would somehow destroy straight marriages.

    * The fact that the term cisgender, meaning someone whose gender identity matches their anatomy, even exists, shows that trans people are not trying to eliminate male and female as real things.

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  15. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    As someone who is about the same age, I really hope it it isn’t the age. IMO, it is more the shelter.

    It’s generally harder to change attitudes one has held for a long time. On trans issues, I’m more-or-less liberal intellectually and still somewhat reactionary viscerally. I’ve known more gay people than openly transgender people, for one thing. Mostly, though, I’ve had a lot longer to process the former than the latter.

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  16. Matt says:

    @MarkedMan: Indeed that’s why I stopped reading his blog long ago.

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  17. MarkedMan says:

    @Monala: I’m not really trying to defend Sullivan here but I read him fairly regularly (although not the column referenced here) and one of the things that has him all higgledy-piggledy was a column by some crusader that took him to task when he said that just because someone with a vagina called themselves a man, didn’t make them one. He pointed out that he would never be sexually attracted to such a “man”. The columnist explained that if only he opened his mind he would see the vagina-man as a true man and would be sexually attracted. Sullivan got himself in a twist over this and pointed out that as a gay man he had been told his whole life that he could shed his gayness by just Opening his mind up to women.

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  18. Monala says:

    @MarkedMan: while I don’t think anyone should presume to define someone else’s attractions, that person was not telling Sullivan that cisgender men and women are not men and women. They were saying that trans men are actually men.

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  19. Modulo Myself says:

    It’s funny how the real staunch anti-trans people are the least masculine men imaginable. Rod Dreher, Ben Shapiro, Sullivan, Jordan Peterson–they’re simply dweeby idiots, none of whom are interesting enough to pull of their schtick anywhere but with bigoted Christians.

    I do think there’s a weird movement of ‘conservative’ men out there who lack the coolness and effortlessness of traditional masculinity, at least as it has been defined. Look at Trump. He’s like the least cool most hysterical drama queen out there, and yet his cult seems to think this is how men have always been.

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  20. Raoul says:

    Can’t we all just get along? Really surprised by Sulli here.

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  21. Monala says:

    @Modulo Myself: so maybe they fear that their male bonafides will be questioned if trans people are accepted. Seeing a recent Twitter thread about a cisgender woman who is butch in appearance being harassed when using the women’s restroom makes me suspect that folks on the right are more likely to do the questioning.

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  22. Gustopher says:

    @MarkedMan:

    one of the things that has him all higgledy-piggledy was a column by some crusader that took him to task when he said that just because someone with a vagina called themselves a man, didn’t make them one. He pointed out that he would never be sexually attracted to such a “man”. The columnist explained that if only he opened his mind he would see the vagina-man as a true man and would be sexually attracted.

    Vagina-Man is the worst superhero name ever.

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  23. Modulo Myself says:

    @Monala:

    Probably. Men can be threatened by women who are good at what they are good at. For people at the lowest end of the order, if all you have is walking around and being a man you’re going to find trans people threatening when they do the same.

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  24. Gustopher says:

    Quoted from Sully:

    Take a look at this video of a young student in Britain refusing to concede that there are more than two genders. The kid had been thrown out of class for stating his opinion. He is told he has to keep his opinion in his own home and to obey the school’s authority policy.

    Imagine if the kid’s opinion was that black people were inferior because they didn’t have as much Neanderthal DNA. Would Sullivan be as eager to jump to the kid’s defense?

    (As we learn more about the human genome, I assume we will discover differences in populations based on things like Homo sapiens breeding with Neanderthals once they got to Europe, and some of those differences will be better and worse, but mostly kind of just different. But white supremacists will have a field day. I expect Neanderthals will be discovered to have been misunderstood, and to have really been more advanced.)

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  25. Sullivan’s position seems to be “I got what I wanted. To hell with the rest of you.”

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  26. @MarkedMan:

    See now this is an area where I might agree with Sullivan. If a trans woman is dating a cisgendered man (I think I’m using the terms correctly) and does not tell the man that she is transgender then I would consider that a form of what you might call emotional fraud.

    I think I wrote a post about this issue several years ago but I can’t find it at the moment.

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  27. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’ve known more gay people than openly transgender people, for one thing.

    And, that was what I was driving at with my choice of “shelter”.

    Most of us are good people and, when we recognize the humanity in others, we refrain from attacking or denigrating them. Familiarity leads to recognition of our shared humanity.

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  28. MarkedMan says:

    @Monala:

    They were saying that trans men are actually men.

    Perhaps, and I may just be behind the times, but I thought a trans man was someone who actually had surgery. In this case it seems to reference someone who identifies as male but has a woman’s body.

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  29. Alex Hamilton says:

    I’m a millennial and fall into the trend the survey highlighted. LGBTQ people being treated equally as heterosexual people is something that almost everyone in my age group has long fought for. What is happening now though is gender anarchy. It turns me off and scares the crap out of a lot of my peers, especially ones who now have kids.

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  30. grumpy realist says:

    @Doug Mataconis: If we ever get the point where switching sexes happens to be a much more complete switchover down to the chromosomes in our cells and coaxing the body to produce different adrenal glands and sex characteristics I suspect we’ll have different opinions about transgenderism. At the moment we’re more attempting to mimic the other sex via surgery and hormones from the outside.

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  31. Andy says:

    James,

    Interesting piece as always.

    A few points:

    1. This isn’t really new for Sullivan and, actually, a lot of the gay community agrees with him.
    Many gay and lesbians feel they are under assault from a segment of the trans activist community. I highly suggest you read this earlier piece by Sullivan and also this piece by Sky Gilbert (a gay, Canadian drag queen). The arguments they make are not easy to summarize, so I won’t try to here, but both, I think, deserve a fair reading.

    2. There is a fundamental difference between support for gay marriage and the demands of trans activists. Gay marriage was about extending long-existing legal benefits and social status to gay couples – a move that did not – and does not – affect anyone else in any material way.

    Trans activists, by contrast, seek to redefine sex and gender in ways that will (and is) having material effects on other people:

    – First is the entire idea of gay & lesbian identity, discussed in the two essays linked above. For example, if a gay man is not sexually attracted to a trans man then they are labeled as transphobic.
    – Second is “women’s” sports. Allowing biological men (who are trans women) to compete as women undermine the fundamental reasons why women’s sports exists as a separate entity. When it comes to physical competition, biology matters more than gender identity in non-trivial ways.
    – Third, it’s not just about bathrooms. The trans activist community is telling cis-gendered women they are bigots if they object to the presence of dicks in female exclusive spaces. In short, if you don’t want to shower male bodies, then you’re a bigot.

    More broadly is the attempt to call any segregation based on biological sex trans-phobic. I think it’s a bridge too far to demand that society should always ignore biology and treat individuals only according to their gender identity.

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  32. Monala says:

    @MarkedMan: as I understand it, the surgery is expensive and not covered by most insurance. So it could be years before someone identifying as trans is able to obtain the surgery.

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  33. Gustopher says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Sullivan’s position seems to be “I got what I wanted. To hell with the rest of you.”

    It reminds me of the Italians and Irish up in Boston. They were discriminated against for years, and as soon as they were viewed as white, they wanted all of the white privilege, which mostly meant not having to mix with the blacks.

    The result was massive pushback to bussing and desegregation.

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  34. SKI says:

    @Andy:

    2. There is a fundamental difference between support for gay marriage and the demands of trans activists.

    Is there? Don’t both come down to the basic belief that *everyone* is entitled to live full, complete lives with full civil rights?

    Trans activists, by contrast, seek to redefine sex and gender in ways that will (and is) having material effects on other people:

    “Re-define” or “ask to have their essential humanity recognized”?

    – First is the entire idea of gay & lesbian identity, discussed in the two essays linked above. For example, if a gay man is not sexually attracted to a trans man then they are labeled as transphobic.

    Not exactly. If they refuse to consider that they could be attracted to a trans-man, than yeah, they are trans-phobic. If, they aren’t attracted to a particular man, than no.

    Same as every other human interaction.

    – Second is “women’s” sports. Allowing biological men (who are trans women) to compete as women undermine the fundamental reasons why women’s sports exists as a separate entity. When it comes to physical competition, biology matters more than gender identity in non-trivial ways.

    This, as James has discussed before, is indeed a problem. But it isn’t the trans womens’ fault. Not should it be their burden.

    And it isn’t just trans women. Caster Semenya isn’t trans. She just has a natural advantage over fellow competitors – in the same way Michael Phelps had over his fellow competitors. We celebrated and marveled at his. But we call hers unfair and cheating. Why is that?

    – Third, it’s not just about bathrooms. The trans activist community is telling cis-gendered women they are bigots if they object to the presence of dicks in female exclusive spaces. In short, if you don’t want to shower male bodies, then you’re a bigot.

    Well, ya kinda are… because they aren’t “male bodies”. They are people who are women.

    More broadly is the attempt to call any segregation based on biological sex trans-phobic. I think it’s a bridge too far to demand that society should always ignore biology and treat individuals only according to their gender identity.

    Well, we have to deal with biology in terms of medical treatment. Other than that, why do we have to?

    How do you propose to deal with someone who is born outside the typical binary conception?

    Put bluntly, you do sound transphobic.

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  35. Modulo Myself says:

    @Andy:

    For somebody who thinks that free speech is absolute and words can’t hurt people, you’re pretty uptight about the possibility of being called ‘transphobic’ or hearing about Judith Butler’s ideas on gender.

    I mean, what’s your argument–redefining gender is sooo dangerous society can’t handle it? Do you think that applies to some dipshit pseudo-scientist who ends up in Quillette talking about IQ? Nah…that’s different–black people should relish talk about their genes. It’s not like being called a TRANSPHOBE.

    Lol–you people would be so much better as humans if you would have the guts to say what you mean, instead of hiding behind the bullshit you were raised to repeat.

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  36. Gustopher says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    See now this is an area where I might agree with Sullivan. If a trans woman is dating a cisgendered man (I think I’m using the terms correctly) and does not tell the man that she is transgender then I would consider that a form of what you might call emotional fraud.

    “Emotional fraud” is a ridiculously harsh term.

    It’s something that should be mentioned, if nothing else because it can generate a strong response (best for the trans person to get rid of those who cannot accept them earlier) and it can affect life plans (Do you want kids? How important is it that you try the “normal” way first).

    I’m bisexual. A lot of people don’t think bisexual men really exist — it’s just a stopping point on the way to going gay, or it’s just a dalliance, or whatever. And a lot of people intellectually understand that it’s no big deal (Are you only attracted to one person? Of course not), but cannot handle it in a partner. So, it’s something I want to ensure people know upfront.

    By the way, a lot of those people who either don’t believe bisexual men exist, or would be unwilling to date one, are basically allies. They support my rights, they don’t want me discriminated against, etc. — they just can’t make that last jump, and that’s fine.

    Likewise, I think I would have a hard time dating a trans person. I support their rights, won’t consciously discriminate, ponder whether I am subconsciously discriminating, don’t think others should discriminate, call them by their preferred pronouns (even though I think singular they is ugly*), want them to have access to medical care, etc. I’m basically an ally.

    And lots of people, despite saying that they would be just fine dating someone of another race, never do.

    But “emotional fraud” is a pretty ridiculous accusation, unless that’s your go to phrase for men who claim to be single while having affairs.

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  37. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    2. There is a fundamental difference between support for gay marriage and the demands of trans activists. Gay marriage was about extending long-existing legal benefits and social status to gay couples – a move that did not – and does not – affect anyone else in any material way.

    Trans activists, by contrast, seek to redefine sex and gender in ways that will (and is) having material effects on other people:

    How does having to refer to someone by their preferred pronoun affect me in a material way? Because, basically, that’s it. There are a few edge cases here and there, and some are hard (women’s sports), but most are only problems when people are looking for problems.

    Many gay and lesbians feel they are under assault from a segment of the trans activist community. […] For example, if a gay man is not sexually attracted to a trans man then they are labeled as transphobic.

    Here I think you are right, and I don’t think you need to limit this to “many gays and lesbians” — many of the loudest trans activists are basically as horrible as bicycle activists.

    First, we have the problem that transphobic itself is treated as binary (as binary as many bigoted transphobic people treat gender — ha!), rather than a spectrum. I would say that I am transphobic, but not a bigot.

    Second, the rules are changing and in flux, but a lot of the worst activists believe that you must be held accountable to whatever idiotic rules they have in their head.

    I don’t like the term Social Justice Warrior, because it’s right-wing bullshit. Social justice is worth fighting for, and it’s only laziness that prevents me from doing so. But, there is an edge on the activists (pretty much all activist movements have this edge) that is just a bunch of insufferable nitwits.

    I take a modest pleasure in explaining to those people that the root of tolerance is tolerate not embrace. I’m an asshole like that.

    But, for the vast majority of people, if you’re well meaning and treat them with respect, they aren’t trying to trip you up on paragraph 12, subsection 27 of the current rules of gender.

    Finally, I’d like to join the pile on of saying you sound transphobic. On a scale of 0 to 1, you sound like a .4 — transphobic enough to be a nuisance, but not all the way to bigot. More transphobic than James Joyner, less transphobic than Jerry Falwell Jr.

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  38. Modulo Myself says:

    @Gustopher:

    It’s best to be honest, but maybe if your trans telling somebody who is attracted to you that your trans might elicit a violent and hateful response. What you see is what you get with dating. Nobody is bound to explain their inner lives in gory detail upon meeting somebody. It would be odd if they did, actually. So I don’t what Doug’s imagined duration is for telling someone you’re trans. 2 minutes, 2nd date, about to go 2nd base?

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  39. Gustopher says:

    @Andy: From the Sky Gilbert article:

    If someone had told me as a child that I could actually be a little girl, I would have jumped at the chance. Anything to escape the pressure cooker of an active boyhood crammed full of sports and rough play.

    […]

    When I was 12 years old, I was terrified of being gay. I knew the sexual implications of my gendered behaviour. I also knew—even at a time before I experienced real sexual desire—that it was “bad” to be gay, and that being gay meant ending up alone and lonely. My mother took me aside, and quietly reassured me: “You might be gay, you might not be, but I think you’ll have to wait until you are older to think about it, because you’re just too young to think about it now.” I’m wondering if, had all this happened in 2019, she would have instead been persuaded to raise me as a girl.

    I don’t know anything about Sky Gilbert, but they are an idiot if they believe that growing up trans would be less reviled than growing up gay. (I give up on pronouns — I’m guessing Sky is a stage name, and that “she” would be appropriate, but they are writing about being a young boy…)

    Some boys play with dolls. Some boys call their dolls action figures, and some do not.

    Gilbert’s problems have more to do with the societal reinforced roles for boys and girls than anything about their own gender.

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  40. Gustopher says:

    @Modulo Myself: These days, you generally either meet someone who is a friend of a friend, or you use an online dating app.

    Either way, a disclosure can happen before you even go on a date. If I were afraid of a violent response, I’d stick to those. Or disclose via text when setting up a date.

    (Am I wrong? Do people go to bars trying to meet other people for more than a random hookup? Do people want to be accosted by strangers when going about their lives? How do you even know who is available?)

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  41. Andy says:

    @SKI:

    This, as James has discussed before, is indeed a problem. But it isn’t the trans womens’ fault. Not should it be their burden.

    And it isn’t just trans women. Caster Semenya isn’t trans. She just has a natural advantage over fellow competitors – in the same way Michael Phelps had over his fellow competitors. We celebrated and marveled at his. But we call hers unfair and cheating. Why is that?

    I never said it was anyone’s fault. I also never said anyone was cheating.

    The fact remains that trans women who went through puberty as men have inherent advantages in competitive sports above and beyond the advantages that Micheal Phelps has. What that means, especially in terms of elite competitive sports, is that trans women will consistently dominate cis women and trans men will never be able to compete with cis men at the elite level at all. If that is the result one is seeking, then fine, but stands in contrast to the original purpose behind sex-segregated sports.

    Well, ya kinda are… because they aren’t “male bodies”. They are people who are women.

    Well, this the crux of our disagreement. They are male bodies (unless they’ve undergone transition). Being a trans woman doesn’t magically turn a penis into a vagina or negate the effects of testosterone. Gender as a social construct is different from sex as a biological reality.

    @Modulo Myself:

    As per usual, your opinions about what you think I believe are false and completely without merit. As I’ve told you before, I don’t play that game. Furthermore, your comment about a “dipshit pseudo-scientist who ends up in Quillette talking about IQ” makes zero sense since the author of the piece I linked to is not a scientist (pseudo or otherwise) (and does not talk about IQ at all.

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  42. Modulo Myself says:

    @Andy:

    They’re totally with merit. You love free speech when it comes to allowing racism, but you’re worried about people called transphobes. You link to Quillette (which has published tons of racist stuff about IQ) and you’ve blathered to me about Charles Murray et al but you are also really angry about the ‘redefinition of gender’ and how it’s a bridge too far for society.

    So it’s pretty clear based on my interactions with you that I’m right about this. I mean, it’s not even arguable. You love freedom of expression when it comes to saying things about people who are, say, black, but something very much bugs you about trans people having the same rights as Charles Murray.

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  43. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    How does having to refer to someone by their preferred pronoun affect me in a material way? Because, basically, that’s it.

    I’m not talking about pronouns and I didn’t mention pronouns for a reason as it’s irrelevant to the point I’m making. (I have no problem with using whatever pronoun someone requests as long as they aren’t an asshole about it.)

    First, we have the problem that transphobic itself is treated as binary (as binary as many bigoted transphobic people treat gender — ha!), rather than a spectrum. I would say that I am transphobic, but not a bigot.

    I think that’s a very good way of putting it.

    I don’t like the term Social Justice Warrior, because it’s right-wing bullshit. Social justice is worth fighting for, and it’s only laziness that prevents me from doing so. But, there is an edge on the activists (pretty much all activist movements have this edge) that is just a bunch of insufferable nitwits.

    I don’t like the term either. They are zealots, and zealots, regardless of flag, share common and undesirable characteristics.

    But, for the vast majority of people, if you’re well meaning and treat them with respect, they aren’t trying to trip you up on paragraph 12, subsection 27 of the current rules of gender.

    Agree completely. And in my own experience, I have yet to run into a trans zealot, the few I know are nice, decent people.

    Finally, I’d like to join the pile on of saying you sound transphobic. On a scale of 0 to 1, you sound like a .4 — transphobic enough to be a nuisance, but not all the way to bigot. More transphobic than James Joyner, less transphobic than Jerry Falwell Jr.

    Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. I don’t think I’m very transphobic, but then I don’t agree with how all-encompassing of a weapon that accusation that has become.

    In contrast, I find it both interesting and annoying that many people here seem primarily concerned with fitting me into a box based on one comment. Actually, let me correct that – that probably describes my typical experience on OTB generally.

    I won’t respond in kind nor will I try to “rate” anyone’s level of wokeness. I’m not much interested in publically judging you or anyone else based on my own flawed and subjective criteria.

    I don’t know anything about Sky Gilbert, but they are an idiot if they believe that growing up trans would be less reviled than growing up gay. (I give up on pronouns — I’m guessing Sky is a stage name, and that “she” would be appropriate, but they are writing about being a young boy…)

    I would put it differently – I have no idea what it’s like to be a gay drag queen in Canada and it would be presumptuous of me to declare them an idiot for giving an opinion on their own lived experience.

    And he addresses that:

    It is interesting that in some countries—some of the most sexually conservative places on earth, as it happens—it is illegal to be gay or lesbian, but perfectly legal to be trans. This year, India decriminalized gay sex; but they have included transgender people in the national census for the last five years. Conservative Nepal has included transgender people in its public records since 2011. In Iran, homosexuality is punishable by death. In fact, the Iranian government pays for sex reassignment surgery—because there is a powerful strain of thought that says anything is better than growing up to be a gay man. Unlike Iran, Canada is not a theocracy. Nevertheless, we are more beholden to such bigotries than we would like to admit.

    Back to quoting you:

    Gilbert’s problems have more to do with the societal reinforced roles for boys and girls than anything about their own gender.

    That’s the irony. The trans activists he’s talking about think that boys who act like girls might actually be girls and the more zealous among them want to start grooming such boys to actually be girls – to include transition before puberty.

    His point is that assuming a boy is a girl just because he does “girl” things is just reinforcing those same stereotyped gender roles that many have been fighting for decades.

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  44. Andy says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    None of that makes any sense. Even the ad hominem is lame. You have yet to make any kind of argument, you’re just retreading incoherent opinions about what you think I believe and then giving yourself a pat on the back for how right you are.

    Despite your supreme confidence, you don’t actually appear to know anything about me, much less possess any coherent insight into my beliefs or opinions. You’re entitled to your opinion, of course, but I think further conversation with you is not constructive.

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  45. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    Trans activists can be really annoying and there are complicated issues around transgenderism that can be politically incorrect(Surgeries and hormones are surgeries and hormones, with the health implications around that, for instance).

    But it’s important to remember that the average transwoman or transmen is not Caitlin Jenner or Laverne Cox. They are discriminated against, they have lower wages, lower life expectancy and they are far more likely to commit suicide. In fact, they are one of the most discriminated groups of our society. In many countries there is the association between transwomen and sex work, in part because many of them won’t find another line of work.

    A recent study pointed out that 50% of transwomen tried to kill themselves as teens.

    In the end the issue is not imposition of critical gender theory or whatever is on Sullivan’s head. The issue this is one of the most discriminated groups in our society, and it’s a matter of decency to try to find ways to protect groups that are discriminated.

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  46. Modulo Myself says:

    @Andy:

    Trans activists, by contrast, seek to redefine sex and gender in ways that will (and is) having material effects on other people:.

    Just to follow up, you’re saying redefining sex and gender has material effects but free speech re: racism doesn’t have any material effect. In a certain pathetic way, you don’t know this, so maybe that’s your defense.

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  47. Modulo Myself says:

    @Andy:

    Again, I know a great deal. You show up to defend racist stuff on Facebook as being within the bounds of free speech but you get very upset about the ‘redefinition of gender’ and how terrible a step that is. They are material effects for speech made by trans people, but not, you know, for racists. It’s not hard put 2 + 2 together here, sorry. You haven’t even defended yourself. Maybe you don’t how.

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  48. Andy says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    You haven’t even defended yourself.

    I don’t feel any need or obligation to defend myself against misrepresentations and sophistry from some internet rando.

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  49. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    I won’t respond in kind nor will I try to “rate” anyone’s level of wokeness. I’m not much interested in publically judging you or anyone else based on my own flawed and subjective criteria.

    I was rather deliberately trying to undercut the “you’re transphobic, so you are the devil!” undercurrent that pointing out someone’s transphobia has.

    You are pretty transphobic, but not the devil.

    I would put it differently – I have no idea what it’s like to be a gay drag queen in Canada and it would be presumptuous of me to declare them an idiot for giving an opinion on their own lived experience.

    Except the Canadian drag queen is giving their opinion on a life experience that they haven’t lived, and which they have apparently not spoken to someone who has.

    Their post is ambiguous though — they might not have been saying that growing up trans would have been easier, they might simply be saying that being a girl would have been easier.

    But, since body dysphasia is related to gender, not attraction, had nothing else changed other than Sky’s gender, they would have been one of those ever popular gay men in a woman’s body, which is (from everything I have heard) not as much of an ideal solution as it seems on the surface.

    That’s the irony. The trans activists he’s talking about think that boys who act like girls might actually be girls and the more zealous among them want to start grooming such boys to actually be girls – to include transition before puberty.

    Every trans person I have met who has explained it has said that they felt a deep uncomfortableness with their body from long before puberty. Not fitting their body, or their body not fitting them.

    I cannot speak to the trans activists in your head (or Sky’s head), but the general consensus is to give the kid space to explore who they are, support them, and wait for it to be so obvious it cannot be ignored. There is some debate as to whether that can happen before puberty or not.

    I have friends who thought their kid might be trans, but at the moment it looks like she is just a tomboy with a great sense of what makes her parents uncomfortable, and a willingness to torture them. Ha ha ha. She’s awesome. (She went to a boy’s name, which she has kept, and masculine pronouns, which she has since rejected… she might be enby (the initials of non-binary, but phonetically, so it’s a much cuter term) or something, but it’s not so obvious that it cannot be ignored)

    The fears of “what if we transition a kid who shouldn’t be transitioned” is basically nonsense. Surgery on one’s genitals, plus a life of hormone therapy, plus potentially many other surgeries, is not something someone does lightly, even a kid.

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  50. Monala says:

    @Gustopher: I agree. He seemed to make a leap between the idea that gender is non-binary (meaning not everyone can be classified as male or female), to saying that trans people want to get rid of gender altogether. He also seems to fear that trans acceptance will result in more stigma for non-gender conforming cisgender gay kids. He may be right, but that stigma won’t come from trans activists but from the same folks who are anti-LGBT now.

    He also seems to believe that parents are going to assume their gay kids are trans and push them into transitioning. I just can’t see that happening.

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  51. Gustopher says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    The issue this is one of the most discriminated groups in our society, and it’s a matter of decency to try to find ways to protect groups that are discriminated.

    Fun Story: a friend of mine started a company, and hired a transgender woman because she was entirely qualified. Treated her like a person. When they needed to hire another person, she recommended someone, and since people recommend their friends and are friends with people with similar life experiences…

    Anyway, my friend now has thirty some odd employees and more than half of them are (known to be) transgender. It’s a weird niche business, so it’s like the gay steelmill from the Simpsons.

    I find this hysterical.

    My friend is a foot-in-his-mouth ally. If there is a wrong thing to say, he will find it, all while meaning well.

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  52. grumpy realist says:

    @Gustopher: except that statistics seem to show that roughly 50% of kids who claimed sexual dysphoria ended up settling down happily in their birth sex (although often being gay or lesbian.)

    50%. That’s a hell of a failure rate, especially in light of the present crappiness of our technology for changing sex. As said, at present the best we can do is surgery to carve the body plus a lifetime of hormones from the outside, resulting in a higher risk of cancer and other potential problems. We really really shouldn’t be doing this unless a) the individual is absolutely desperate and b) is absolutely certain that transitioning will solve his/her problems.

    (And no, I’m not very happy with people-with-dicks who end up in women’s dressing rooms, and I don’t think I’m the only one. As long as you insist on holding on to your male lower parts, go to the men’s dressing rooms. It has to do with women’s fear of being raped and we have a bit of a knee-jerk reaction about seeing male genitals outside very private circumstances.)

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  53. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    I was rather deliberately trying to undercut the “you’re transphobic, so you are the devil!” undercurrent that pointing out someone’s transphobia has.

    Fair enough.

    You are pretty transphobic, but not the devil.

    BTW, who made you the adjudicator of transphobia?

    Except the Canadian drag queen is giving their opinion on a life experience that they haven’t lived, and which they have apparently not spoken to someone who has.

    Well, there’s only one thing that can be said about belittling the opinion of a gay man you’ve never met for expressing subjectively stupid opinions about his own gay experience:

    You are pretty homophobic, but not the devil.

    Their post is ambiguous though — they might not have been saying that growing up trans would have been easier, they might simply be saying that being a girl would have been easier.

    Yeah, exactly why I don’t think it’s appropriate (for me at least) to render a judgment.

    I cannot speak to the trans activists in your head (or Sky’s head), but the general consensus is to give the kid space to explore who they are, support them, and wait for it to be so obvious it cannot be ignored. There is some debate as to whether that can happen before puberty or not.

    I also can’t speak for the trans activists in your head (or sky’s head), but yeah, I agree kids should be allowed to explore who they are – ideally free from people telling them what they are or should be, or pressuring their parents to conform to some agenda (whatever it may be). Because children tend to be impressionable.

    I have friends who thought their kid might be trans….

    Sounds like your friends are good parents.

    The fears of “what if we transition a kid who shouldn’t be transitioned” is basically nonsense.

    It’s ultimately for parents to decide as they are best positioned to understand and attend to their child’s needs.

    @Monala:

    Hey, you know, I’m right here. Instead of all the “he seems to believe” assumptions, why don’t you ask what I actually believe? Or maybe ask for clarification?

    I agree. He seemed to make a leap between the idea that gender is non-binary (meaning not everyone can be classified as male or female), to saying that trans people want to get rid of gender altogether.

    I try to choose my words carefully. I said some trans activists, not “trans people” generally. That’s a pretty big distinction. And yes, some trans activists have gone beyond the perfectly reasonable and defensible argument that gender is not binary (which most people who know anything about the topic agree on) to other areas that are not as reasonable or defensible.

    He also seems to fear that trans acceptance will result in more stigma for non-gender conforming cisgender gay kids.

    No, I’m pointing out what many gay and lesbian people are worried about.

    He may be right, but that stigma won’t come from trans activists but from the same folks who are anti-LGBT now.

    Well, gay and lesbian people who experienced homophobia from the trans community may beg to differ (and the other side of that coin are trans people who have experienced transphobia from gays and lesbians).

    He also seems to believe that parents are going to assume their gay kids are trans and push them into transitioning. I just can’t see that happening.

    No, I was explaining that there are gay and lesbian people who fear that trans activists will (paraphrasing) pressure parents in that direction.

    This isn’t something I’m making up, it’s an actual (and often acrimonious) debate within the LGBT community that I’ve been following for some time.

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  54. Monala says:

    @Andy: I wasn’t talking about you, I was talking about what Sky Gilbert wrote in the article you posted. “He” in my comment is Gilbert. And I was responding to Gustopher’s comment where he quoted directly from Gilbert’s article. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

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  55. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @SenyorDave: For what it’s worth, Sullivan came to The New Republic as a late entry into Martin Peretz’s “Rethink liberalism and get paid for it” editorial shift. Some of the guys hired during that era–Krauthammer, Fred Barnes, Mort Kondracke to name a few went on to become conservative or conservative-ish talking heads on Fox News and at other outlets. Sullivan is just following the same trend line.

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  56. @Gustopher:

    Perhaps “emotional fraud” is a strong word but I would argue that failing to disclose this early in a relationship is, at the very least, a form of misrepresentation.

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  57. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I actually think “emotional fraud” is fine but agree with @Gustopher that there’s some sort of scale. If I were on the dating market and the woman in question has a penis, I want to know about it pretty damned early because, like Andrew Sullivan, I’m pretty particular about such things.

    But “emotional fraud” is a pretty ridiculous accusation, unless that’s your go to phrase for men who claim to be single while having affairs.

    Leaving aside the morality of the cheating, my view on these things is that it is indeed emotional fraud to give the impression that you’re open to a full romantic relationship when you’re simply out to get laid. If you’re just hooking up on Tinder, there’s no expectation of disclosure. On eHarmony? Yes, it’s fraudulent not to reveal immediately.

    Back to the trans issue, if I were chatting someone up at a bar, I wouldn’t expect them to tell me that they had a penis in the first five minutes. But, yeah, it probably ought to be noted in the first couple of paragraphs of their eHarmony profile.

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  58. Barry says:

    @wr: “A narcissist posing as a thinker, he has for reasons I have never been able to fathom, convinced people for years that he’s some kind of deep thinker, when all he’s really got is a small ability to string words together in a way that sounds moderately appealing — he’s basically George Will with better hair.”

    IMHO, it’s because he was the editor of The New Republic for a while, under Martin Peretz. For a whole cohort of writers, he was their sugar daddy, the Signer of Checks.

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  59. Barry says:

    @SenyorDave: “The other terrible thing he did was regarding the Clinton Health Care plan and his publishing of a hit peace written by a Republican operative named Betsy McCaughey who prepared her articles in cooperation with Phillip Morris (the Clinton plan was to be largely funded by increases in tobacco taxes).”

    You forgot The Bell Curve cover story.

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  60. MarkedMan says:

    Re: “emotional fraud”. That phrase doesn’t sound quite right to me, but I understand what you are saying. Similarly, the way “transphobic” was used above sounds off, but I get what the poster was driving at.

    What it boils down to is where “attraction” falls in relation to prejudice. If you are not attracted to someone, does that make you prejudiced? Most people would immediately respond “no”, but many would then go on to say, “it depends on why you are not attracted to them.” That may sound logical, but is it? FWIW, I think that it has some truth to it, but I think the pendulum has swung too far ought police mode and our society needs a nudge back to being more concerned about externalities (how we treat and interact with each other) than whether someone is internally “correct”.

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  61. Andy says:

    @Monala:

    My apologies, I should have paid closer attention. You were perfectly clear and I missed it.

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  62. SKI says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Re: “emotional fraud”. That phrase doesn’t sound quite right to me, but I understand what you are saying. Similarly, the way “transphobic” was used above sounds off, but I get what the poster was driving at.

    That is because it isn’t right.

    Dating is about exploration of the other person’s identity. Not immediately disclosing that they are trans is no different from not immediately disclosing a religious faith or a political philosophy or a medical condition that prevents fertility. All should be disclosed organically when they are relevant- and they are only potentially relevant in the context of a long-term/permanent relationship. Your date doesn’t have a right to instantly know everything about you.

    @James Joyner:

    On eHarmony? Yes, it’s fraudulent not to reveal immediately.

    Back to the trans issue, if I were chatting someone up at a bar, I wouldn’t expect them to tell me that they had a penis in the first five minutes. But, yeah, it probably ought to be noted in the first couple of paragraphs of their eHarmony profile.

    Same as above: would you also insist on immediate disclosure of religious faith, political affiliations and fertility status? All impact the possibility of proceeding to a marriage.

    If not, what do you think makes this different?

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  63. Andy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I think that is perfectly logical.

    @SKI:

    When is it appropriate for someone to disclose they are straight to gay/lesbian person or visa versa? If I’m straight and I realize a gay man is romantically interested in me, how is it ethical for me to lead that person on, knowing it will never work out?

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  64. SKI says:

    @Andy:

    When is it appropriate for someone to disclose they are straight to gay/lesbian person or visa versa? If I’m straight and I realize a gay man is romantically interested in me, how is it ethical for me to lead that person on, knowing it will never work out?

    Of course it isn’t ethical because you don’t feel attracted to them and are therefore “leading them on”.

    Are you seriously suggesting that it is impossible for someone to want to be in relationship with a trans person so that their not disclosing their status is “leading someone on”? Because that is what it sounds like you are saying and that is incredibly bigoted.

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  65. MarkedMan says:

    @SKI:

    would you also insist on immediate disclosure of religious faith, political affiliations and fertility status?

    I’m not familiar with eHarmony but from context I assume it is a matchmaking site for those looking for long term relationships. If that is the case, then I think the answer to the above is a qualified “yes”. If religion is very important to you, then it would be the ethical thing to disclose that. Mentioning that you are a committed Christian looking for same, or you are looking for a long term relationship with a Jewish man seems to me to be the right thing to do. People are on the site looking for long term relationships and if you have criteria that rules them out then you should put that out there.

    Similarly for fertility status. It’s relatively safe to assume someone in their mid 40’s or older probably isn’t looking to start a family, and if that’s incorrect it’s ethical to make it clear. The opposite is true, too. If you are in your early thirties and have ruled out having kids, that is information that should be out front.

    Political affiliation is trickier. For the most part I would say no, but if you are are fanatic Trumper you might not want to waste your time with someone who doesn’t share your view. On the other side perhaps it can be done indirectly in your description. “Looking for a kind, sharing person with empathy for all” might alert the those more tuned into a harsher view of society that you are not on their wavelength.

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  66. MarkedMan says:

    @SKI: I’m curious. I am a man and absolutely not attracted to penises, to the point that it would be a complete non-starter for me, regardless of whether a person presented as a female in other ways. By your standards am I incredibly bigoted?

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  67. SKI says:

    @MarkedMan: I can’t speak to what you are sexually attracted to but most of us fall in love with a person. If my wife lost her breasts to cancer, I wouldn’t stop loving her or being attracted to her.

    Perhaps if people stopped fixating on trans women as being “penises”, that might help.

    Regardless, I wouldn’t claim you were “incredibly bigoted” but i also wouldn’t claim that no prejudice existed.

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  68. Andy says:

    @SKI:

    Are you seriously suggesting that it is impossible for someone to want to be in relationship with a trans person so that their not disclosing their status is “leading someone on”? Because that is what it sounds like you are saying and that is incredibly bigoted.

    No, but, rather clearly, the biological sex organs a person possesses is not a trivial concern for the vast majority of those looking for a romantic relationship – for reasons that should be obvious.

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  69. SKI says:

    @Andy: My point is that there are a lot of things that are not “trivial concern[s]” for people looking for romantic relationships and they should be shared and disclosed organically as they come up.

    Remember that the types of up front disclosures you seem to be insisting on raise real threats of physical violence in today’s world. American Medical Association Responds To ‘Epidemic’ Of Violence Against Transgender Community

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  70. MarkedMan says:

    @SKI: I’m definitely prejudiced, in the clinical definition of the term. I have pre-judged all men, gay or straight, because I am virtually certain I won’t be sexually attracted to them. Sure, anything is possible, but I’m closing in on 60 so the odds of me being wrong about this is vanishingly small (and moot anyway, as I am happily married).

    And I have pre-judged women with penises and decided that I’m not going to be sexually attracted to them. As a person? Sure! As a friend? Sure! But sexual attraction is not about personality, or at least not exclusively so. I’ve found absolutely horrible women to be sexually attractive, much to my horror. People are animals, and we have animal components to our natures. Sexual attraction is one of those components. If this makes me a bigot by your definition, then so be it. It doesn’t make me a bigot by mine, just prejudiced.

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  71. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    Same as above: would you also insist on immediate disclosure of religious faith, political affiliations and fertility status? All impact the possibility of proceeding to a marriage.

    In a bar setting, no. In an eHarmony profile? Yes. (One wouldn’t have to declare themselves infertile, of course, but there are questions about openness to having kids, etc.)

    If not, what do you think makes this different?

    I do think having/not having a penis is more fundamental than, say, whether one is Episcopalean or Jewish.

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  72. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    I do think having/not having a penis is more fundamental than, say, whether one is Episcopalean or Jewish.

    Mormon? Scientologist? Aryan Nation? Haredi?

    One thing matters to you but other things matter to others. A question is whether this is something that needs to be disclosed up front – particularly in light of the fact that doing so raises the real risk of violence and death.

    Would you require an amputee to disclose that fact up front?

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  73. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan:

    What it boils down to is where “attraction” falls in relation to prejudice. If you are not attracted to someone, does that make you prejudiced? Most people would immediately respond “no”, but many would then go on to say, “it depends on why you are not attracted to them.” That may sound logical, but is it? FWIW, I think that it has some truth to it, but I think the pendulum has swung too far ought police mode and our society needs a nudge back to being more concerned about externalities (how we treat and interact with each other) than whether someone is internally “correct”.

    I think this is partly where Sullivan is going with the constant rants about “critical gender theory.” Is it technically bigoted for me to rule out the possibility of romantic or sexual attraction to someone with a penis? Sure. But it’s silly to treat that the same as, say, unwilling to vote for a black or gay man for President.

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  74. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    One thing matters to you but other things matter to others.

    I think the percentage of the population who are ambivalent as to whether someone has a penis vs a vagina is vanishingly small. I can’t off the top of my head think of a characteristic that would be more likely to be a deal-breaker in a romantic context.

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  75. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think the percentage of the population who are ambivalent as to whether someone has a penis vs a vagina is vanishingly small. I can’t off the top of my head think of a characteristic that would be more likely to be a deal-breaker in a romantic context.

    I know many who would be for more repulsed and rejectful of bigots than someone who is trans. Of course, I actually know people who are trans – many of whom have romantic relationships. That you are apparently having trouble conceiving that they aren’t freaks but humans who live full lives goes back to my “shelter” comment.

    Put another way and perhaps less harshly, have you thought about it from the perspective of someone who is trans?

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  76. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    That you are apparently having trouble conceiving that they aren’t freaks but humans who live full lives goes back to my “shelter” comment.

    This is just a bizarre formulation. I’m a heterosexual man. I think other heterosexual men are humans (some may be freaks, but that would be based on something other than their gender and sexual orientation). There’s zero chance that I’ll date another heterosexual man. It’s simply not my wiring.

    Likewise, I accept that women born with penises are complex human beings. I’m just unlikely to date them. The likelihood hits zero if she’s still in possession of said penis.

    Put another way and perhaps less harshly, have you thought about it from the perspective of someone who is trans?

    I’m not trans, so I haven’t. But I would imagine that, were I trans, I would wish to be in romantic relationships with people who are accepting of that fact and any associated disparities in my anatomy.

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  77. MarkedMan says:

    @SKI:

    That you are apparently having trouble conceiving that they aren’t freaks but humans

    This is over the top. “Not being sexually attracted to someone” does not equal “Thinking that someone is a freak”.

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  78. Are people actually suggesting that not being sexually or romantically attracted to someone who is transgender is the same as trying to deny them their rights?

    If so, that’s utterly ridiculous. It is the same as saying that a heterosexual woman is bigoted for not being attracted to other women, or that heterosexual men are bigoted because they aren’t attracted to other men.

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  79. Andy says:

    @SKI:

    Remember that the types of up front disclosures you seem to be insisting on raise real threats of physical violence in today’s world. American Medical Association Responds To ‘Epidemic’ Of Violence Against Transgender Community

    I haven’t insisted on up-front disclosures. My views align pretty well with Marked Man’s comments.

    One thing matters to you but other things matter to others.

    Yes, and I don’t think it’s appropriate for others to pass judgments about who any individual finds attractive or wants to be romantically involved with. Everyone is as entitled to the fulfillment of their sexual and gender desires as anyone else.

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Are people actually suggesting that not being sexually or romantically attracted to someone who is transgender is the same as trying to deny them their rights?

    Yes, it’s a common view that gay men who aren’t attracted to trans men and hetero men who aren’t attracted to trans women (to name two examples of several combinations) are inherently transphobic.

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  80. wr says:

    @SKI: Wow, I wish we could talk about the notion of equal rights for trans people without having to debate who does or does not want to fuck them.

    No one is demanding you be sexually attracted to a trans person. No one is demanding you date them. I’m pretty sure that very few of the very small number of trans people out there care whether you care if they have a penis or not.

    This is not about sex. It’s about whether our society is willing to tolerate people who don’t conform to a certain set of expectations. Somehow we were able to get through the civil rights movement without it all depending on whether or not we wanted to have sex with Angela Davis.

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  81. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Are people actually suggesting that not being sexually or romantically attracted to someone who is transgender is the same as trying to deny them their rights?

    Well, I’m quite sure that someone is suggesting this. I don’t think anyone in this discussion is suggesting this. Nobody I know better than a minute’s worth of conversation is suggesting this. But there’s a lot of people out there, and that means there’s a lot of opinions, and there’s probably someone who thinks of sexual choice as oppression.

    Here’s a piece that covers some of the ground. Most people end up at “there’s no such thing as a right to be desired”, but some have been challenging that idea.

    No, I don’t endorse it. I’m a short guy, and when I was younger, I would get ignored by women my height. I mean, to the point where we couldn’t even have a conversation. I don’t have any right to their attention, so I just had to move on, but it doesn’t really seem like there’s anything fair about it.

    And so it is for, say, a trans woman who is interested in woman, which means lesbians, who, by and large, are not interested in trans women because they aren’t “really” women. I think we can agree that’s not a fun position to be in.

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  82. Tyrell says:

    @Monala: There are some areas where pronouns and other gender terms (Ladies and Gentlemen) are being regulated. These areas are universities, government agencies, and some corporations. A person could be written up, or even fired for using an “inappropriate” title. One professor warned people not to refer to her as Mrs. or Mam.
    What we have is a lot of confusion, contradictions, and simply irrational actions.
    The NYC Subway system will no longer use “Ladies and Gentlemen” in their announcements. In some areas it is illegal for doctors to tell parents the sex of their baby.
    We can expect more legalities and even arrests unless some people speak up and demand some common sense.
    As far as restrooms go, the biggest complaint is from women about men not raising the seat! And that one has been around since time immemorial.

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  83. SKI says:

    @MarkedMan:

    This is over the top. “Not being sexually attracted to someone” does not equal “Thinking that someone is a freak”.

    Indeed. But insisting that these people self-identify this particular trait more than any other trait that may make them attractive or not to someone else does.

    @Doug Mataconis: That is not what I’m saying. I’m objecting to James’ insistence that all trans people out themselves on their profile to avoid the possibility that he might have to go out on a date with them before finding out they aren’t compatible. Something he isn’t asking for for many other traits.

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  84. SKI says:

    @wr:

    Wow, I wish we could talk about the notion of equal rights for trans people without having to debate who does or does not want to fuck them.

    No one is demanding you be sexually attracted to a trans person. No one is demanding you date them. I’m pretty sure that very few of the very small number of trans people out there care whether you care if they have a penis or not.

    This is not about sex. It’s about whether our society is willing to tolerate people who don’t conform to a certain set of expectations. Somehow we were able to get through the civil rights movement without it all depending on whether or not we wanted to have sex with Angela Davis.

    I’m not talking about sex. James and MarkedMan are. I’m talking about their insisting that these people are different from everyone else and must behave differently in public forums so as to tell everyone who they are so they can be avoided.

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  85. Modulo Myself says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    What they’re saying is that being trans might physically play no differently on desire than having blue eyes or freckles or being Catholic or Jewish. That’s obviously not the case now, but having fears that it will be the case seems to be what Sullivan and everybody here who is 100% deeply confident they will never be turned on by dick, regardless of how they have come to discover it, is telling us.

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  86. Modulo Myself says:

    @SKI:

    It’s clear to me that trans women should be very afraid of turning a certain type of guy on and then having the discover that they’re trans. People who loudly insist that they’re all man all the time are going to freak out a lot of marginalized people at the other end of these assertions. The fact that some people are deeply committed to not being attracted to trans people, especially guys like Sullivan with their weak-ass masculinity is not reassuring to those who have faced violence.

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  87. SKI says:

    @Modulo Myself: Yes! This!

    The theme consistently running through this worldview is that “they” are different and implicitly less.

    Hell, the formulation of the “I support their rights but don’t want to marry one” is EXACTLY what I heard in the 70’s and 80’s about blacks.

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  88. SKI says:

    @Modulo Myself: Indeed. But they also have to be wary of the violent idiots who would lure them out to attack them. I’ve been told it is very scary and difficult. The reality is that most wouldn’t think of putting up an e-harmony profile because of the risks regardless of their choice with respect to their profile.

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  89. @SKI:

    I think James has a point, especially when it comes to a site like eharmony, which at least originally had something of a religious angle to it and even now is based on the idea of matching people interested in long-term relationships rather than short-term hookups.

    That being said, if I was in a relationship with someone and didn’t find out until months later that they are transgender I would consider that as much a betrayal as finding out that they were married. If you’re serious about having a long-term relationship and don’t disclose something as significant as being transgendered then I’d suggest your moral compass is off.

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  90. Alex Hamilton says:

    I’m confused, are we talking about Trans rights (i.e. human rights) or the imposition of post-modern gender theory? I’m all for the former, the latter is non sense.

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  91. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I don’t think anyone is advocating for hiding it for months, I’m certainly not.

    The point of dispute was the thought by James that it needed to be up-front in their profile so that someone could choose not to go out on a date with them based on that characteristic. That is what I objected to.

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  92. @SKI:

    Does that apply to everything about a person. For example, eharmony is the type of site where someone might be seeking a person who shares their religious faith. Does that mean that someone who is, say, Catholic should feel free not to disclose that because it is somehow objectionable to decide that you want a relationship who shares the same religious values as you do?

    I don’t see how being transgendered is any different.

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  93. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Does that apply to everything about a person. For example, eharmony is the type of site where someone might be seeking a person who shares their religious faith. Does that mean that someone who is, say, Catholic should feel free not to disclose that because it is somehow objectionable to decide that you want a relationship who shares the same religious values as you do?

    I don’t see how being transgendered is any different.

    I absolutely agree that being trans isn’t any different from any other trait but in re-reading what you wrote, I’m not exactly following your point in the first paragraph.

    James wanted, as I understood it, mandatory disclosure of being trans – something which is not mandatory for most other aspects/traits. From my perspective, he wanted to treat being trans different from all other aspects and that is what I objected to. I didn’t understand anyone to be arguing that people should be prohibited from disclosing anything about themselves they wanted to.

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  94. Jay L Gischer says:

    It is commonly accepted among trans people that you are going to have to disclose your situation before getting intimate with someone. But that doesn’t mean it has to be the first thing you say to anyone. It probably isn’t a good idea to have a surprise when someone unzips you.

    Humans being what they are, not everyone does this, I’m sure. And there’s a lot of discussion around just when it should be disclosed.

    At the same time, I don’t think that “I’m trans” has to be the first thing out of someone’s mouth. If you think that trans people don’t think about this or consider the implications, you’re being more than a little naive.

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  95. I am not suggesting it needs to be disclosed up-front, although I think James is right that it should be disclosed in a profile on a site like eharmony. However, it should be disclosed as soon as it becomes clear that the relationship is likely to become more than casual and most certainly before it becomes intimate.

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  96. grumpy realist says:

    @Doug Mataconis: There’s also the difference between a transgender who has transitioned completely and someone who has only transitioned half-way. Getting into bed with someone where you think you are going to get complementary genitals and you get same-sex genitals (or vice-versa) is going to be very disconcerting.

    Luckily, I’m old enough and removed enough from all of this to not worry any more. Ah, the joys of menopause….

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  97. Gustopher says:

    @Alex Hamilton:

    I’m confused, are we talking about Trans rights (i.e. human rights) or the imposition of post-modern gender theory? I’m all for the former, the latter is non sense.

    Well, how do you define “the imposition of post-modern gender theory”?

    If you think that referring to people by their preferred pronouns (including singular “they”, as ugly as it is), acknowledging that gender is more complicated than binary, and not getting your panties in a bunch over which bathroom people use is an imposition… then yes, we are discussing the imposition of post-modern gender theory.

    If you mean that you will be berated if you fail to understand 17 different genders which are inherently fluid, and which are independent from 112 different sexes which are also inherently fluid, but not exactly as fluid, and gender roles, and that women (who may be trans women) may be shaving their legs to look better but they Rut trying to look better for you… than mostly no.

    I honestly have no idea what you mean by “imposing post-modern gender theory” — it’s a phrase that would mean different things to different people.

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  98. @grumpy realist:

    I would argue that there is a duty to disclose even in the case of a transgender person who has completely transitioned.

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  99. Gustopher says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Luckily, I’m old enough and removed enough from all of this to not worry any more. Ah, the joys of menopause….

    Do the genitals just vanish during menopause?

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  100. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    Likewise, I accept that women born with penises are complex human beings. I’m just unlikely to date them. The likelihood hits zero if she’s still in possession of said penis.

    What if she keeps it in a jar?

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  101. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    James wanted, as I understood it, mandatory disclosure of being trans – something which is not mandatory for most other aspects/traits. From my perspective, he wanted to treat being trans different from all other aspects and that is what I objected to.

    Of course being trans is different than just about any other aspect/trait.

    I’m off the market. But during periods when I’ve been dating, there are all manner of things that I was looking for in a prospective partner. But the single biggest threshold factor, outweighing all the others by orders of magnitude, is “must be biologically/anatomically female.” It’s not a sufficient condition but it’s a necessary one.

    Given that I’m an anti-theist, I’m probably not a good long-term fit for a very religious woman. But I’ve dated religious women who were otherwise high on a list of other traits I liked.

    Given the degree to which politics is a part of my daily existence, I’m probably not a good fit for someone radically different than me ideologically. Yet I’ve dated women who were substantially to my left because they were otherwise high on a list of other traits I liked.

    Given that I’m exclusively heterosexual, a partner with a penis is not a good fit for me. Unlike religion or politics, it’s simply a non-starter. There’s just no getting past it. It’s Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200.

    I don’t think that’s any more bigoted than my lack of interest in cisgender men. It’s just a fundamental part of my wiring. (And, again, this is Sullivan’s point: as a gay man, he absolutely needs his partner to have a penis. It’s core to his identify.)

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  102. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @grumpy realist:

    50%. That’s a hell of a failure rate, especially in light of the present crappiness of our technology for changing sex.

    That’s the issue. There are some people with gender dysphoria that will need help to settle for their birth gender. Others will need to transition. But both will need help and protection of the society. It’s a matter of decency. We are talking about “post-modern gender theory” while something like half of transgender will think or try killing themselves.

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  103. Jay L Gischer says:

    @James Joyner: The point that gay men like Sullivan have been making for years is that nobody has a lot of choice about whom and what kind of person they are attracted to sexually.

    And I endorse this. There are maybe a few people who think this is unfair, but does “post-modern queer theory” protest? I’m not so sure that there is a unified “post-modern queer theory” voice that is authoritative. There is a pretty solid consensus around 1. Use people’s pronoun of choice and 2. Use “they” for a person of unknown gender – as a neuter pronoun.

    Now, it’s true that there are a lot of queer people who kind of wish that people would stop freaking out about the prospect of having sex with them. Honestly, I find that easy to relate to.

    Finally, I used to be uncomfortable around trans people – in the ordinary way, not a sexual way – and I’m not now. I could imagine that happening sexually, I guess. I’m not on the market, though.

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  104. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    @wr:

    Wow, I wish we could talk about the notion of equal rights for trans people without having to debate who does or does not want to fuck them.

    You see, this is one of the reasons you are a successful writer: the ability to cut through to the core issue. Well done!

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  105. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tyrell:

    As far as restrooms go, the biggest complaint is from women about men not raising the seat! And that one has been around since time immemorial.

    Probably not. The invention of the toilet seat is relatively late in the whole evolutionary cycle.

    But I do marvel at your ability to further obfuscate a topic where the discussion already has as high a smoke:light/heat ratio as this one.

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  106. James Joyner says:

    @wr: @The abyss that is the soul of cracker: I’m fully on board with this. I think Andrew Sullivan is, too, honestly.

    His beef seems to be with the argument that we’re transphobic if we don’t accept that a trans person in a man’s body but who sees herself as a woman is therefore a woman in every sense of the word. And that we’re therefore transphobic if we can’t look past their penis and declare them equally fuckable.

    My sense is that this is a fringe argument, not what most trans people are asking for.

    His article, as quoted in the OP, notes,

    All of this is a disservice to transgender people, most of whom are very invested in the sexual and gender binary, not in hock to postmodern jargon, and who could simply make the argument that their brains appear to be of one gender and the rest of their bodies the other — and that they’d like to be treated with dignity and respect. Instead of demanding a redefining of everyone’s sex and gender following critical queer theory, what if activists simply asked for equal treatment for transgender people? I think that’s a persuasive argument, I passionately support it, and it would win if accompanied by the voices of trans people who are not on the extreme left and who can tell their stories and bring others along in a slow but durable and human way. That’s how we won marriage — by telling our stories, talking about what we all have in common, and insisting that including gay people in civil marriage would not affect straight marriage in any way.

    That would have been an extremely radical idea two years ago. Now, I think it’s conventional wisdom among educated people. But I agree with Sullivan that we risk that if it’s a binary choice between acceptance of the extreme position or bigotry.

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  107. Monala says:

    @Gustopher: I can’t let this go without a comment:

    (including singular “they”, as ugly as it is)

    Several years ago, there was a move to create a new set of genderless pronouns, zhe and zir. Creating two entirely new words in the English language, one that would make people think of the last letter of the alphabet, and the other which sounds enough like “sir” to make the genderless goal moot – well, it was an effort that was doomed to failure. (At least it seems so at this time, since I no longer hear people trying to use those terms).

    On the other hand, singular “they” has a long history of usage in the English language when you don’t know the gender of the person in question or the gender doesn’t matter. (e.g. “Parents, make sure your child gets a good night’s rest before tomorrow’s standardized test. They should also eat a good breakfast.”). It’s so much easier to adapt to than zhe and zir.

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  108. Gustopher says:

    @Monala: Singular they is still ugly.

    In 19th-20th century English, it was used when you don’t know a person’s gender because you don’t know who the person is. Singular they feels incredibly impersonal.

    And it’s deliberately imprecise, when he and she are precise. Are you referring to them as they because you don’t know their gender, or because their gender doesn’t matter in this context, or because they aren’t definitively male or female?

    “Zhe/Zir” was terrible.

    On the other hand, we have non-binary folks who went from referring themselves “non-binary’, to “NB”, to “enby”, and “enby” is an adorable word. It fits nicely in established compound words (boyfriend, girlfriend, enbyfriend) and is just charming.

    I can live with singular they, but I just think we can do better. We haven’t found the right word.

    And whoever came up with zhe/zir was probably committing a hate crime. Ok, obviously not, but it’s just not good.

    I eagerly await an enby pop star to make up their own better pronouns, insist on being referred to be those pronouns, and have them catch on.

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  109. Gustopher says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    We are talking about “post-modern gender theory” while something like half of transgender will think or try killing themselves.

    For a big chunk of the population, the “post-modern gender theory” that they object to is referring to trans folks as their transitioned gender rather than their birth gender. It’s the “I’m not going to pretend that Bob there is now Bobbi just because he got his junk cut off. I guess my dog Max is Maxine now, hurr, hurr.”

    Rejecting “post-modern gender theory” is often just an excuse to treat people like shit.

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  110. Monala says:

    @Gustopher: You’re right, enby is cute. And some better pronouns would be good. As long as it’s verbal (recalling Prince’s short-lived enby symbol).

    In defense of “they,” I read recently about a couple of rightwingers who attended some educational conference and were offended that attendees could, if they chose, circle their preferred pronoun(s) on their name tags. They ranted about people using “they” instead of he and she, and in their rant, they inadvertently referred to someone whose gender they didn’t know as “they”!

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  111. MarkedMan says:

    @SKI:

    James wanted, as I understood it, mandatory disclosure of being trans – something which is not mandatory for most other aspects/traits.

    Now you’re just putting words in James mouth. Quite frankly, to me you look like you have set out to be offended.

    I didn’t see where James said anything at all about mandatory. He said I think they “should”. (And if you want to argue the difference between should (desirable but not mandatory) and must (mandatory) I will be happy to introduce you to hundreds of regulators that will set you straight.

    If I were on a random dating web site then I’d be pretty open about what people should disclose. I suppose it would be basically put out anything that is a non-starter for the poster, so neither of us wastes our time. But James specifically contrasted this with a site like eHarmony where people are specifically looking for long term relationships. There are all kinds of things that I think people should reveal. If they have kids. If they want kids. If they don’t want kids. If they are a man seeking a man, man seeking a woman, or anything else that is likely to be a non starter for a significant percentage of those looking. I suppose it would be equally valid to say something like “I’m looking for someone open minded and fun loving who isn’t hung up on traditional gender roles” or something to that effect. Sure, you are not obligated to post any of that. But why waste someone’s time? It’s not just about the trans person’s wants or desires. There are other people involved here, people who are lonely enough to reach out through such a site, get dressed up, get their hopes up. Why put them through all of this simply because you hope that someone who has only dated penis-less women for their whole lives will suddenly change their mind after a couple of dinner dates? It hardly seems realistic.

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  112. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    People lie about basically everything on dating sites, but the only thing that people usually don’t lie is about being transgender.

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  113. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Monala: I stumbled across a singular “they” a long time ago in a Shakespeare play and again in Tristram Shandy later, but I didn’t bother to take note other than to observe that such appearances would mean that the usage predated grammar rules.

    On the whole issue of “Parents, make sure your child gets a good night’s rest before tomorrow’s standardized test. They should also eat a good breakfast.” It’s so much easier to adapt to than zhe and zir. I agree. Even easier would be to have learned to say and write “Parents make sure your children sleep well before tomorrow’s test. They should also eat good breakfasts.” It would also be clearer; alas, none of us learned to say this and as a consequence, we don’t. Don’t know why and don’t know how to fix it, either.

    On “enby:” a story circulating in my past has me recollecting that a co-worker of mine who served in Vietnam told me that the origin of the term “gook” was that it stood for “gentleman of other kind” and had been created by the military because they didn’t want soldiers to be calling the indigenous population, and particularly the enemy, “yellows” and “Chinks.” I fear that even though “enby” sounds cuter, it will suffer the same fate as “gook” (which I will admit is not cute at all) because people who want to use language to hate will unite and figure out how to use whatever they have available to do so. I wish I could be more optimistic, but it’s just not in me and I would be glad to be wrong this time but won’t hold my breath on it.

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  114. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: Back in the days when the Portland, OR tabloid Willamette Week had personals (which was before it had been bought by the publisher of the Village Voice. ironically) the clarifying codes that were used included MSM, MSW, WSM, WSW, BSM, BSW, MSB, WSB, BSB. I’ll leave it at that, but it worked well–and this was mostly for hookups mostly, not e-Harmony type stuff.

    But life was simpler then, too.

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  115. DrDaveT says:

    @Monala:

    They ranted about people using “they” instead of he and she, and in their rant, they inadvertently referred to someone whose gender they didn’t know as “they”!

    As the cracker notes, using ‘they’ as a singular pronoun in cases where the gender of the individual is unknown goes back for centuries, and was used by all of the usual Great Author suspects. The novel usage is to use ‘they’ for a known specific individual who has a nonbinary gender identity.

    According to Dr. Anne Curzan, current usage preference seems to be to use singular conjugations (as for ‘he’ or ‘she’) when using ‘they’ to refer to a known nonbinary individual.

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  116. Kylopod says:

    I’d add that it’s extraordinarily difficult to introduce a new pronoun into a language. The last pronoun to enter English was, appropriately enough, they/their/them, which came from Old Norse over a thousand years ago. So trying to come up with neologisms like zhe is almost certainly doomed to failure. Imagine people trying to talk like that with a straight face.

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  117. Tyrell says:

    @DrDaveT: I will call anyone by any name they want. I have no problem with that. But I will not participate in these new pronouns. I will stick to the grammar that I learned, mostly under a seventh grade grammar teacher named Mrs. Lucas who was ramrod strict about using the proper English. We conjugated every verb known and then some. We split infinitives and split them again. So I will stick what she taught, my college Harcourt Brace writing handbook, and my Websters Collegiate Dictionary.
    Ask an adult to conjugate the verb “lay” and watch their reaction.

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  118. grumpy realist says:

    @Gustopher: The genitals don’t vanish during menopause but in my case I’ve stopped having any inclination in using them…..got other things to worry about and to work on achieving.

    I’m also still recovering from the unexpected death of a very close friend and all the hassle of dealing with his estate over the last two years–then the consecutive deaths of the two heirs, which meant needing to find the next person in the legacy pipeline.

    (Make a will, people. PLEASE!!!!)

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  119. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @DrDaveT: The observation from Dr. Curzan is interesting. So far, I haven’t experienced “they is” in the oral language in my little corner of the nation, nor have I seen it in the popular press, but I’ll be looking out for that. I wouldn’t imagine it taking hold, but it might. If it does, a social linguistics Ph. C. will have a dissertation topic from tracing it.

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  120. Geoff says:

    Transgenderism is philosophically absurd and most people intuitively know it.

    What does “woman” or “man” mean if it has no correspondence to biology? It means nothing, which means someone identifying as a “woman” or “man” means nothing.

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  121. wr says:

    @Geoff: “Transgenderism is philosophically absurd and most people intuitively know it.”

    Hmm, I seem to think that one of our better-known playwrights once tackled exactly this kind of thinking. What was that again? Oh, yes:

    “There are more things in heaven or earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

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  122. SKI says:

    @Geoff: “Most people” also used to “know” that the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth.

    Science informs and changes “intuitive” beliefs. For example: Transgender brains are more like their desired gender from an early age

    In terms of philosophy, we “intuitively” knew that slavery was the natural order at one point.

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