Culture

Identity crisis

Culture | College administrators encourage some students to rebel against their &quotassigned" gender roles

Issue: "Spain waves white flag," March 27, 2004

MIANNE BAGGER IS A DANISH MAN WHO SIX years ago underwent a sex-change operation. He is also a golfer. Since his operation, he has been tearing up women's golf tournaments. After winning the South Australian women's amateur tournament three times, he decided to go pro. He was allowed to compete in the Australian Women's Open, but he failed to make the cut. He is now trying to get European and American tours to allow him to compete as a woman.

With today's gender-bending values, it's hard for many people to figure out why he shouldn't. The International Olympic Committee is stumped by the issue of whether to allow transsexual men to compete as women, at a recent meeting being unable to decide on what to do.

Most Americans do not have their minds around homosexuality, but already we are crossing into a new frontier: the realm of &quottransgender."

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This category includes not just &quottranssexuals," men and women who have had sex-change operations, but those who-without benefit of what is termed &quotgender correction" surgery-simply reject the gender of their birth and choose to dress and act like the opposite sex. Men pass themselves off as women. Women cut their hair, put on men's clothes, and take a male name. Other transgenders reject both genders. They refuse to identify themselves as either male or female, cultivating an androgynous look and calling themselves &quotgender queer."

Transgender rights is the issue of the day on many college campuses. The bathroom is the battlefield: Students are demanding that, in addition to men's rooms and women's rooms, the administration set aside facilities for transgenders. Otherwise, you have men going into women's bathrooms and vice versa-and gender queers refusing to go into either of them-to the consternation of everyone.

Campuses are also being pressured to change their dormitory roommate policies. A man who wants to be a woman feels entitled to room with another woman. Women who want to pass for men are insisting on the right to live in the guy's dorms.

No college has gone further than Wesleyan in this new dimension of political correctness. Fred Bernstein in The New York Times reports that students no longer have to check &quotM" or &quotF" on their health forms. Instead, they are asked to &quotdescribe your gender identity history." Besides the dorm and bathroom accommodations, Wesleyan also eliminated the term &quotwomen's" from their women's rugby team. They have several girls who, for their gender identity, have chosen to be males. So, said one of them, &quotWe don't want people yelling, 'Go, girls!'"

The most ironic manifestations of transgender activism come in America's elite women's colleges. These have become havens of feminism, lesbianism, and political correctness. Most trangender students are women posing as men. So the women's colleges probably have more students like this than the typical school.

So if these females who choose to be males are considered not to be women anymore, how come they still get to go to a women's college? Today, women's colleges have students who do not consider themselves women, and the college, going along, does not treat them as women. So why are they there?

Remember when politically correct language meant eliminating male-only nouns and pronouns in favor of more inclusive language? &quotHe" was replaced by &quothe or she." But now &quotshe" is seen as insufficiently inclusive. At Smith, a prominent women-only college, the students voted to eliminate female pronouns from the student constitution, since &quotshe" and &quother" were deemed to be insensitive to transgender students.

Since the language only has two genders, some activists are calling for new pronouns. The most politically correct are using &quotze" instead of &quothe" or &quotshe" and &quothir" instead of &quothim" or &quother."

Behind all of this is the postmodernist assumption that gender is a &quotconstruction." Whether a person can bear a child is held to be irrelevant for all practical purposes and should not be used to determine the person's life. &quotGender" is seen as a cultural construction, relating to social roles, expectations, and power relationships. The way cultures treat the different genders is arbitrary and oppressive.

But constructions can be deconstructed, once the power relationships are uncovered. An individual can construct his or her or hir own gender identity. This is seen as liberating, a way to take control of one's own identity, rather than accepting the one that has been culturally &quotassigned."

In this new way of thinking, gender need have nothing to do with sex. Individuals are trying to become free of both culture and nature. They are trying to create themselves. But it can't be done. They have already been created.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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