There is no way to write comprehensively about a subject this big in one post, and I won’t try here. I want to just highlight a few points that have struck me forcefully this week, as the spectacle of media fawning over Jenner – whom I will call XY Jenner – unfolds before us.
The first and most basic point is that we have a body of empirical knowledge that tells us XY Jenner is a human male, and that he cannot be made female. If one day we will have the ability to manipulate DNA in such a way that that is possible, we don’t have it today.
The concepts of “gender,” and nature-vs.-nurture, are meaningful ones. But the evidence of our eyes, and the sum total of our shared knowledge, tell us that male (XY) and female (XX) correlate powerfully with “man” and “woman,” to such a pervasive extent that there is no value for our lives in tossing that assumption aside.
Our wisest course, if we want a foundation of confidence on which to know ourselves and engage with each other, is to accept the assumption as valid. We need not revisit it because an extremely small number of people find themselves questioning it, and think they can’t reach a satisfactory conclusion without exploring drastic measures that virtually everyone else either views with some horror, or declines to think about at all.
Yet the Western mind has reached a point at which that is exactly what it proposes. Moreover, it has reached a point at which it refuses to see the difference between (a) accepting that there’s a standard of normality, and (b) harboring “hatred,” or at least cruel indifference, toward those who feel that they don’t fit within it.
Logically, the two are not the same thing. And the point of compassion, in the traditional Western mind, has been to mediate the normality gap for the outliers – not to deny the obviousness of normality.