“The existence of an enemy upon whom one can foistCarl Jung
off everything evil is an enormous relief to one’s
conscience. You can then at least say, without hesitation,
who the devil is, you are quite certain that the cause of your
misfortune is outside, and not in your own attitude.”
He came to see me because he was in pain. Everywhere. This had been going on since childhood. He had undergone the usual array of tests, with negative results. It surprised me to perceive that he had little or no hope that I would be able to help him. He was in my office only because his doctor, who had done an excellent job with his care, had insisted on this visit.
He was in his early 20’s. Short stature; facial acne; the scruffy beard a few days old that’s so popular among young men these days. I noticed that he was apologetic for being there; almost as if he thought that he was bothering me. An aura of sadness seemed to surround him.
I did not find anything abnormal on exam. I went over his list of medicines. Then it hit me: he was in the process of undergoing a sex change. There were two male hormones on the list. I have no experience with these procedures, but I figured that no other rheumatologist did either. Like I do with most challenges, I welcomed this one.
Are you transitioning?
Has the pain gotten worse since you started androgens?
“No. If anything, it’s better.”
I need to know more about the transitioning process. Please be patient and explain to me what has happened since you started down this road.
He did not jump at the opportunity. I am sure that many people possessed by morbid curiosity had peppered him with inappropriate questions in the past. But he patiently did his best to teach me. As the conversation proceeded the level of trust increased. He was able to give me an emotional insight besides the timeline of his experience.
To be brief: the level of abuse, hostility, and just downright meanness that he went through sent chills down my spine. From childhood he knew that he was different, but with the significant exception of his parents, who were enlightened and loving, he had to endure a lot of cruel and sometimes painful situations. I could understand why the wounds to his soul had finally provoked pain in his body. He had had enough.
I made a few suggestions. I made it clear that I would be available at any time; any way that I could help.
When I got home I thought about hate. How a smart and nice person through no fault of his own had become a target of spite. Not even at a local level, but on the national scene. If you saw this youngster walk into the men’s room anywhere, you would never give it a thought. Yet now in some places it’s illegal for him to go into the men’s room. And if he went into the women’s bathroom, there would be a major scene. The classic no-win situation.
On the other side of the political spectrum, schools are now mandated to allow people with penises into the women’s shower after gym class. Many Americans are not ready to live with this guidance. Probably a majority.
The rhetoric has escalated. The battle lines are drawn. We are going to war over an issue that could have been easily dealt with had there been a minimum of respect and trust for the other side. My patient, all of the people who are in this boat, and the whole country will bear some scars because the idiots who have the power need an enemy to justify their need to keep that authority.
Part of the conflict that transgender issues have provoked is that the science behind gender identification lagged (a lot) behind the social manifestations. For thousands of years society identified individuals as being either male or female. Anyone who did not neatly fit into one of these categories was deemed to be “abnormal.” Once this tag was applied to individuals, it became justifiable to punish and marginalize these people.
The truth is that these people are no more abnormal than those who are left-handed (the Romans thought that left-handed people were sinister. This is the Latin word for left-handedness). Or those who are taller or shorter than average. There is nothing “wrong” with them. They do not represent a majority, that is all. There is solid science that backs me up on this.
We have a struggling middle class. Health care, medications in particular, is unaffordable. Our bridges and roads are badly in need of repair. Children who live within ten miles of each other are receiving either an elite education or are being offered illegal drugs right outside their school building. Our airplanes and public transport systems may be under attack at any time.
Some politicians have seized the bathroom issue to distract us from their utter incompetence to handle the more important things that they are not capable of fixing. They have found an eager cadre of profanity-wielding zealots to help and promote them. We should use our energy and money to find useful ways to promote friendship and general welfare.
We need to start with a clean slate. We must begin the difficult process of learning how to tolerate and respect each other. As hard as this will be for some people, we need to stop asking people what they do in their bedrooms, and how. I find it hard to understand why anybody cares.
If we were being invaded by reptile aliens from outer space, we would find a way to cooperate and work together. We already did this in one movie. Why not now?