Archive for September, 2015

GENDER ON A BENDER

I’m confused.  Not about my own orientation — starting with an unrequited crush on Jimmy Mannion in St. Mary Magdalene elementary school — a bigger crush on my ten-year-older, handsome first cousin, Jim Beatty, after my dad died — romances with Dick Cunningham, then Paul Glynn, in college — and casual dating for too many years before finally finding my husband. I’m baffled by the rapid redefinition of sexual identity.  Archie and Edith Bunker of “All in the Family” — admittedly, not the most enlightened people on the planet — would be in shock.  In their good old days, “girls were girls and men were men.”.

Laws vary in different states, but in 2014 the New York City Council passed an ordinance permitting transgender people to keep what used to be called their private parts, yet change the sex on their birth certificates. Corey Johnson, who introduced the bill, said: “Gender won’t be about your physicality.”  Mind boggling! And it’s not bigotry — it’s about anatomy. Removing external body parts doesn’t change what’s inside. And hormones may be harmful.

God created all men and women equal, deserving  the same dignity and protection of their human rights. Crimes against those perceived to be homosexual or otherwise sexually different should never be tolerated in any civilized society.  But we don’t live in an ideal world — some will always reject and react against what seems abnormal or immoral. It was a revelation to hear Pope Francis say:  “Who am I to judge?”  I believe God is more loving and tolerant than most religions portray Him to be.

I’ve come a long way from my clueless 20’s when I naively asked a friend:  “What do they do?” She laughed and enlightened me — to my amazement. But the media’s current increasing  focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual and especially transgender issues seems out of proportion.  This is an organized campaign now that the battle for same-sex marriage has been won, sanctioned by The Supreme Court.

On July 9th The Times printed an editorial:  “The Struggle for Fairness for Transgender Workers.”  Elaine Mendus, a 6-foot-3 transgender woman in the early stages of transitioning, has had a hard time finding a job in New York.  (In all fairness, her attached picture wouldn’t help her cause.) Though hiring by looks is prejudicial, it’s a fact that employers do consider appearance, especially if the employee deals with the public.

On Sunday, August 30th The New York Times featured a story on page one, with a large picture of a  statuesque “woman” in judicial robes: “Once a Pariah, Now a Transgender Judge.”  Front page news?  (As Seinfeld said: “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”) The article continued for two full pages. Phyllis, formerly Phil, Frye married his college girlfriend, they had a son, he was forced to resign from the army for transvestism, and his wife divorced him when she discovered him cross-dressing. Phil fell in love again and is still married to his second wife — who agreed to accept his wearing women’s clothes as long as he didn’t have gender reassignment surgery.

The publicity and praise for the courage of transgender people like former Olympic athlete Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner and Laverne Cox of the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black,” has captured public attention. These celebrities lead so-called glamorous lives, while many trans people are poor, homeless and harassed.

On September 4th, The Times put “Who Gets to Play the Transgender Part?” on page one of the Arts section — part of an aggressive push against filmmakers who star non-trans actors in transgender roles. There’s been criticism of casting Elle Fanning in the coming film, “About Ray,” and Eddie Redmayne in the new movie “The Danish Girl.”  The studios are meekly apologetic, but explain they need well-known actors for the films to be profitable. But LBGT activists have hailed the Amazon series “Transparent,” starring straight actor Jeffrey Tambor as a retired professor transitioning to female.

On September 5th, The Times ran an op-ed piece:  “Why Is Science So Straight?” The author advocates sexual diversity in the workplace, and wants more LGBT people hired in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics since they’re presently “underrepresented” in these fields. (Quotas by sexuality?)

On September 7th, The Times published an op-ed piece by Charles M. Blow, who identifies as bisexual: “Sexual Attraction and Fluidity,” recommending we rid ourselves of “superannuated notions of attraction” and freely enjoy both same and opposite sex relations.  He noted that more young men and women are “liberating themselves” from the “outmoded ideas” of older generations.  Rather than just expressing their honest selves, as Blow says, this sounds more like hedonism overdone.

Adolescence and early adulthood are confusing enough. Teenagers and young adults are being encouraged to experiment with their still maturing minds and bodies.  One of my daughter-in-law’s bridesmaids, a close friend since kindergarten, broke up with yet another boyfriend and began a relationship with a young lesbian, her guest at my son and his wife’s wedding — wearing pants, shirt and tie. She left her for another lesbian. Bethany’s friend is dating men again.

I was reminded of the 2001 movie, “Kissing Jessica Stein,” about a young woman, tired of dating losers, who answers a lesbian’s ad to meet, tries out the lifestyle, but finds true love with a man in the end.  A 2005 film, “Brokeback Mountain,” tells the story of an apparently heterosexual married cowboy initiated into a homosexual relationship by another cowboy — and mourning him the rest of his life when he’s killed hustling. In the 2010 film “The Kids Are All Right,” a “lesbian” character has a fling with the man who donated his sperm for her own and her partner’s child.  After some anguish all is forgiven, and the partners and teenage son and daughter are happily reunited.

The American Psychiatric Association no longer lists homosexuality in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, though many psychiatrists and psychologists protested this decision. But it seems a consensus has been reached by most in the mental health profession that sexual orientation is inborn and immutable, as advocated by LGBT activists. But no reliable studies to date have shown homosexuality to be biologically determined. The nature versus nurture conflict continues. Some homosexuals do seem to be “Born This Way,” as Lady Gaga sings. But some may have learned to like what tickles their “fancy.” (Forgive me.)

Mothers are often blamed for feminizing their sons, smothering rather than mothering, becoming too attached, preventing attraction to other women.  But indifferent or hostile fathers may be more at fault for rejecting them.  A dad should hug, play, even roughhouse with his sons from infancy.  No baby or toddler is gay.  And daughters need to bond with their moms.

My unscientific theory:  A little boy’s first love is his mother, and he wants to become a strong man like his dad. A little girl’s first love is her father, and she wants to grow up to be like her nurturing mom. When he was about three, my son paid me a sweet compliment: “Mommy, I’m going to marry you when I grow up,” he announced. But by thirteen he hardly wanted to be seen with me. It only hurt for a little while — and I knew this was healthy, normal behavior.

As I’ve written, I have a beloved gay nephew, and if he met a man he wanted to marry, I’d dance at their wedding, A civil union would cover their human and civil rights, but the LGBT community wanted the name of marriage, too. However, a homosexual partnership will never be the same as the union of a man and a woman. It/s always about anatomy. Taking the name of something else doesn’t change anything’s essential nature. Even the enigmatic lesbian writer, Gertrude Stein, wrote:  “A rose is a rose is a rose.”

By the way, Jimmy Mannion grew up and married Mary Deegan, another classmate —  who in first grade filched an unusual pencil box I brought to school the day after my Aunt Florence gave it to me —  in the shape of  a very large pencil that actually wrote — with space inside for other regular size pencils. The next morning it wasn’t in my desk, and Mary was showing it off, claiming her aunt had given her one just like mine. I was too dumbstruck to tell Sister, and when I complained to my mom, she said  “Let it go. The Deegans are having a hard time.”   She must have reformed later in life. I heard one of her sons became a priest.

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