Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Transgender Double Bind Works to Trump's Advantage


First, three disclaimers:


  • I do not consider any gender identification to be an illness (physical or mental) or disability (unless it is intentionally made so by e.g. discrimination).
  • I do not consider sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity to be a legitimate criterion for discrimination by government as such, including when it comes to standards for serving in the armed forces; either the prospective recruit can do the job, or not, and that's all that should matter. But on the other hand ...
  • I don't have a lot of sympathy for a desire to join the armed forces. Like Smedley Butler said, war is a racket. The armed forces of the world's various states are the sharp pointy ends of the global sticks wielded by violent criminal gangs.

So, all that said, what we have here is a variant of the "double bind":

A double bind is an emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, and one message negates the other. This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa), so that the person will automatically be wrong regardless of response.

The "individual (or group)" caught in the "dilemma" here is the transgender community, and the double bind is a result not of receiving, but of sending, two conflicting messages. The result is not so much that they are "wrong," but rather that any response to the conflicting messages can plausibly be treated as the right response.

Message one: Gender identity is a social convention and there's no inherent problem with any gender identity. That is (for example -- there are lots of possible permutations), a person who was born with the biological/anatomical characteristics of a "male," but who identifies and presents publicly as a "female," is not defective, broken, sick, etc. The person just happens to be outside the middle, "normal" range of the bell curve representing gender identity. No biggie unless you're some kind of bigot.

Message two: "Gender dysphoria" -- a self-perceived disconnect between biological/anatomical characteristics and gender identity --  is a medical condition for which treatment (including but not limited to psychological counseling, hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery) is appropriate.

Message two gives Donald Trump, as well as military leaders who, for whatever reason, don't want transgender people in the ranks of the armed forces, an out. If it is a medical condition, it is a PRE-EXISTING medical condition. And the armed forces have always rejected people with pre-existing medical conditions that might represent either a handicap for the recruit in accomplishing the mission or an extra expense or problem for the military in addressing. You're not going to get into the military with cancer or hepatitis or paraplegia.

If trans people want to join the armed forces (as noted in the disclaimer above, I hope they don't, because I hope nobody does), they're going to need to give up the claim that gender identity implies illness, and the demand that the military let them in while they're ill and then spend money on treating their illness.

Of course, there's a reason for claims of "gender dysphoria as a medical condition" in the first place and that reason is, as you might guess, the state. One cannot legally self-prescribe hormones or procure sex reassignment surgery without going through the state's insanely expensive medical monopolies on doctoring, dispensing drugs, etc. You can only get those things -- and get them covered by "insurance" -- if they're treatment for something. Otherwise, dealing with a "gender dysphoria" problem would likely be no more expensive than maintaining a cigarette habit and/or getting an expensive tattoo (things that people do all the time both before and after joining the armed forces).

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