Monday, 14 January 2008

He Said, She Said

From a new thread at California Catholic Daily:
In response to the article’s insistence on using male pronouns when referring to the “transsexual” Charlene Hastings, one commentator wrote the following:
“Regardless of your religious beliefs, Ms. Hastings deserves the simple courtesy of referring to her as the woman she is, legally, emotionally and psychologically, not as ‘he’ and ‘him.’ I am appalled at such blatant disrespect by this supposedly Christian publication.”
I fully understand why the commentator might be offended by what she deems our discourtesy. I fail to understand, however, why she would think it discourtesy – at least, why she would think that we intended any discourtesy by referring to the putative female Hastings as a he. It would certainly be discourteous if we thought that Hastings had a claim to a female identity and refused to grant it to him. But the fact is, we don’t think Hastings can justly make that claim. What’s more, we think calling Hastings a she would be tantamount to a lie; and no one should expect someone to speak what he thinks is a lie.

The author is no bigot. Bigots aren't nearly so polite when they do hurtful things. He's not insensitive either, he just feels persecuted, and is fighting back. The more the evidence is against him, the more persecuted he feels, and the more he has to invoke higher laws than mere medical and scientific data.

I'll quote him, after he had the nous to read my site :
Forgive me, but I find this too ludicrous to take seriously. No number of scientist experts will convince me to accept something so beyond the pale of common sense. Some of us in this insane world still cling that wonderful, old democratic thing -- common sense. You would have us replace this with the conclusions of "experts" -- who will, most likely, be contradicted by other experts in the near future. I'm sorry, sir, but I will have none of it. Call me behind the times, intransigent, whatever else you want; but I'll have none of it. I prefer to maintain my sanity.
I forgive him, of course. Even for calling me "sir". The situation is bizarre, unbelievable. He's honest, forthright, and if forced by his beliefs to be discourteous, it obviously goes against the grain. I will call him Old-Fashioned, but that's because he believes in things like Courage, and Integrity, and not following the latest fad. The Old-Fashioned virtues I believe in too. It's just that Reality gave me a whack in the mazzard with a wet fish.

Today, I had a nice chat with the mother of one of my little boy's best friends, and one of her relatives. She'd got the story third-hand from her son, via my son, but was reticent to ask about it, just in case things had gotten garbled, as they are wont to do when talking with 6 year olds. We discussed mutual life histories, what I was studying at Uni, how I worked with true geniuses but was able sometimes to substitute intuition for intellect and see things they couldn't...and one then remarked that maybe my son inherited the same unusual neurology. I then looked up at the sky, and said "OH I HOPE NOT!!!". That made evasions and attempts to talk around the elephant in the room impossible. After all, our family consisted of two women and one small boy, not quite the usual arrangement. That was a Dead Giveaway.

They didn't find the change difficult to believe, though when I showed them the pics of what I looked like before, that caused some double-takes. I'm too ordinary, just another Mum with a rambuctious first-grader to have been anything else.

No, the thing that totally boggled their minds was the absolute rubbish we have to put up with from the bigots, the "concerned citizens", government departments, the works. They knew how Blacks were treated in 50's Alabama. They knew how Jews were treated in Germany before the Holocaust got underway. But to think that in the society they lived in, a normal, sane, reasonable society, such persecution happened with no-one else aware of it was just incredible to them. They were shocked when I showed them the "Document of Identity" I was initially given. The document that allowed exit from the country, but in the fine print said "It does not constitute authority to re-enter Australia".

Some, when encountering the unbelievable, retreat into intellectual fortresses of denial for safety. Others reach out with hugs and attempts at understanding. Yet both types can be good people. I was lucky to have the second type around me, and both gave and received hugs. I confess that sometimes I need them.


Lloyd Flack said...

The sticking point in our disagreements with the people at California Catholic Daily is the role of authority and the place of uncertainty. They believe that authority is a source of knowlege and the basis of morality. They do not want to live with doubt.

I think like me you base morality on our moral intuitions and then work out the logical consequences and balance them against ech other. The result is we are often uncertain and sometimes will have no good choices. I see the other side as wanting certainty too much.

The thing is most people will eventually use their intuitions and say "This is cruel. God could not have intended this." and they will place their consciece above authority. This way lies uncertainty. I belive we must accept uncertainty.

Anonymous said...

There is the question of accuracy though.

Now just imagine this dispute involved a person who wanted to change his race rather than his sex. Say for some reason a black man did not inwardly identified with Africa or African-American, but thought he'd be ahead by identifying with Aryans. So he wants to change his skin color, hair color and texture, facial features and name, and then present himself in public as Olof Johansson, Swede.

And he further identified with blind people, so he wants doctors to remove his (healthy, functioning) eyes.

Wouldn't we have some legitimate questions about WHY he rejects his bodily racial features? Some concern that he has internalized racial self-hatred, and that what we ought to attack is the self-hared, and not the African color and features?

Is it unethicalfor a doctor to refuse a remove healthy, function organs like the eyes?

And is there no legitimate value in accuracy? If he calls himself an Aryan, do we all have to collude in and enable this racial self-deception?

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous: I've made an argument against your point before, but as a reply to someone saying "if somebody feels like Napoleon you're not going to surgically change them into Napoleon, are you?". Since it sounds better in it's original form, here it is verbatim:

"If somebody from their earliest age has the undeniable feeling they're Napoleon, if they become suicidal and depressed because of that, in a way don't even want to be a 'person-change' but go to bed every night hoping they wake up as Napoleon, at puberty hoped their right hand would get stuck in their blouse, fought their entire life with them being Napoleon, is constantly afraid of acting too much like Napoleon, cannot form a durable relationship because they only fancy Josephines and even then only as Napoleon, hate their body, and speak surprisingly good French, I'd probably consider it. Certainly if they're not the only one to feel that way."

Zoe Brain said...

Anonymous, feel free to retain your anonymity, but it would be useful to adopt a monicker, to differentiate you from the other anon's. Please just add a name to the end of your post - Demosthenes, or Anne O'Namus, or Norm. D. Plume, whatever takes your fancy.

Anonymous said...

o.k. Zoe... I have to admit you are witty and funny, you've made me laugh! And for that I have to tip my hat and say "huzzah"!
May God Bless, J.W.

Calamity Jane said...

Here's a hug ... just because

Anonymous said...

Feel free to sand the rough edges off this and post it to Calif Cath Daily:

No number of scientist experts will convince me to accept something so beyond the pale of common sense. Some of us in this insane world still cling that wonderful, old democratic thing -- common sense.
I completely understand being suspicious of "scientist experts". I'm a conservative Christian myself, and I'd like to see more common sense in the world. The problem is that Our Lord doesn't seem as interested in that as we might like, while the atheist claims that common sense "proves" that there are no miracles. Stop and think about what a person with common sense would really say to...:
"You've got five rolls and a couple of anchovies--go pass it out to those five thousand people--oh, and you'll have leftovers, so better have a few spare baskets handy."
"By grace are you saved through faith--not by works."
"That dot of light in the sky, Jupiter, is really a lot bigger than our whole world and is five hundred million miles away."
"You need wine? Fill these jugs with water. Okay, it's wine now--take it to your boss."
"Be ye perfect, as my Father in heaven is perfect."
"This little blob of cells called a fetus is smaller than my hand and can't yet live on its own, but it really is a person distinct from the mother."

Anonymous said...

"The author is no bigot. Bigots aren't nearly so polite when they do hurtful things."

I would actually disagree with you there Zoe. The worst bigots are the ones that hide it the most. The ones that stab you as soon as your back is turned.
The pair of bigots on that site, John L and Christopher Zehnder I have argued with over the course of several months. Not once have they ever conceded a point nor compromised their position. This would also make them zealots. Even, to use one of CZ's favourite words, sectarians.....

The major problem is not the Zehnder's of the world. The major problem is those that unknowingly support them, those that do not challenge them
and call them out.

Thank you for challenging them. It does make a difference to people like myself.

Lloyd Flack said...

they seemed willing to consider that they might be wrong on the matter of fact of transsexuals having a female brain organization. Unfortunately they they took the position that suffering is good for the soul and how dare you thwart God's plans for you no matter what the cost to you.
I would like to be able to base morality on a natural law argument. However every one I have seen has question begging and non sequiters in it, especially at the beginning. I suspect that we won't be able to formulate a satisfactory natural law based ethical system until we know the nature of consciousness and vollition. Until then, I believe that we have to treat our moral intuitions as axioms and work out their consequences.

Anonymous said...

Tradition is important and I wantto conserve it, but you have to keep in mind the purpose and source of the tradition or you wander away from the foundation. Jesus said to the Pharisees "You have made the Word of God powerless for the sake of your traditons", and that appears to apply to the Catholic Church (not just them). Granted, sin has consequences and one consequence is likely to be suffering, but that doesnt mean that all suffering is a result of sin. And I don't recal Jesus ever saying "Sorry, thou are stuck with it, verily it sucketh to be you."