Jenner, Republicans, and the Rest of Us

The Washington Post observes:

In the four days since Bruce Jenner came out as a woman named Caitlyn, many Americans have celebrated her transformation as a courageous and even heroic act. But among the social conservatives who are a powerful force within the Republican Party, there is a far darker view. To them, the widespread acceptance of Jenner’s evolution from an Olympic gold medalist whose masculinity was enshrined on a Wheaties box to a shapely woman posing suggestively on the cover of Vanity Fair was a reminder that they are losing the culture wars.

As indeed they are. And it matters not that Jenner herself has said she’s a Republican and, on many issues, a conservative.

Here’s the rub:

Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to Obama, argued that the electorate has evolved so quickly on gay rights in particular that Republicans risk sounding out of touch whenever they talk about these issues.

“Republican reticence and at times intolerance on LGBT issues is a problem for them because they have become a litmus test for young people,” Pfeiffer said. “Even if they’re conservative on other issues, if you break with them on gay or transgender rights, you look like a candidate of the past.”

But Republicans are in a bind: seem backward and intolerant to most younger (and a growing number of older) Americans, or alienate the religious right that votes heavily in GOP primaries, particularly in the South, and dominates the Iowa caucuses. They’re caught in a vice of their own making.

On the subject of Jenner’s transition, noted economist Deirdre McCloskey, herself a transwoman, makes an important point countering the lazy if perhaps politically expedient view that LGB and T are some sort of continuum (they’re not), writing:

How to stay calm? Stop thinking of gender change as being about sex, sex, sex. Stop believing the locker-room theory that gender changers are gay, and gays want to be women. Whom you love is not same thing as who you are. …

Believe me, I would much rather have realized at age 53 that I was gay…than to go through a dozen operations and a lot of funny and terrifying embarrassments.

Bisexuality is on the Kinsey scale from straight to gay/lesbian, but gender identity is distinct from sexual orientation, and we shouldn’t confuse matters further than they already are by the simplistic idea of an LGBT identity.

Santorum and Jenner

Rick Santorum seems to be getting in touch with his inner Christian.

If he says he’s a woman, then he’s a woman. . . My responsibility as a human being is to love and accept everybody. Not to criticize people for who they are.

That is a generous and loving statement.

But as is regrettably usual with Santorum, he then goes on…

I can criticize, and I do, for what people do, for their behavior. But as far as for who they are, you have to respect everybody, and these are obviously complex issues for businesses, for society, and I think we have to look at it in a way that is compassionate and respectful of everybody.

So here is a hard question for him.  Who, if anyone, should Jenner be allowed to marry, based on his (one has to assume sexual) “behavior?”  And why?  If he is a woman, must he marry a man?  Jenner says he is only attracted to women.  But if he’s a woman, Santorum’s religious beliefs, as expressed repeatedly about those of us who are homosexual, take that off the table, right?

So what is Santorum’s “compassionate and respectful” answer?

And again, why?

Reaction: Lessons from North Carolina and Georgia

North Carolina’s legislature voted, with GOP unanimity, to void all local LGBT anti-discrimination measures within the state. As reports:

One word dominated the debate over the bill and the Charlotte ordinance before it: “bathroom.” Charlotte already protected residents from discrimination based on race, age, religion and gender. On Feb. 22, the city council voted to expand those protections to apply to sexual orientation and gender identity, too.

The most controversial element of Charlotte’s expanded ordinance was the fact that it would allow trans people to use the bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

One-party state supporters will point to this, and a less onerous religious-liberty exemption bill for faith-based groups in Georgia, as indicating why LGBT voters and their allies should only support Republicans. I disagree, as noted in my last post. If there had been at least one, or preferably a few, LGBT-supportive Republicans in the GOP caucus, the outcome might have been different. At least the Republicans couldn’t have so easily painted the issue as a purely partisan one.

The GOP is going to have power—nationally, statewide and locally—from time to time, so the view that it should simply be opposed and not reformed doesn’t move me. And reform means supporting those Republicans who are with us.

One the broader issue, again we see the effective use of fear over transgender people and bathrooms. The left has never understood why the apparent threat to unisex bathrooms, locker rooms and showers has such power, and that’s why we keep losing. The battles for lesbian and gay rights took a few decades of education and engagement; this has not happened around transgender issues, and I include in this failure the farce of sensationalism around Caitlan Jenner. And so transgender rights become the battering ram to obliterate gay rights.

Finally, I think the North Carolina and Georgia bills are radically different. I support faith-based exemptions for religious groups (I’d even go further and support a right of religious dissent for private businesses that don’t want to provide expressive services for same-sex weddings). If LGBT activists weren’t going to the mat to oppose religious exemptions, such a compromise might be able to deter a nuclear option such as the one unleashed in North Carolina.

More. Gov. Nathan Deal vetos the Georgia law, which focused exclusively on religious freedom and was very different from what North Carolina passed, but was treated by the liberal media and LGBT activists as if it were the exact same thing.

I have no issues with the Georgia law per se, although the governor was also correct in noting that the bill’s supporters failed to provide examples in Georgia of the kind of discrimination against faith-based organizations and “certain providers of services” that the bill seeks to protect against (which, unstated, is due to the fact that Georgia lacks an LGBT anti-discrimination law).

Furthermore. As the Washington Post reports, it’s big business lobbying against religious conservatives on these measures. Progressives typically condemn business lobbying as the root of all evil but welcome it in this particular case.

Pre-Op Trans Olympians, What Could Go Wrong?

The International Olympic Committee has received new recommendations for guidelines it’s expected to adopt, opening the door for more trans athletes to compete internationally, reports The recommendations address allowing competition by transgender athletes who have had gender reassignment surgery, as well as those who have not yet had surgery, or have chosen not to do so although their gender identity is at odds with their genitalia.

This may not pose much of an issue for competitions in which transmen compete against cisgender men, but it is likely to raise issues for transwomen whose bodies have been developmentally male. Nevertheless, the recommendations state:

To require surgical anatomical changes as a pre-condition to participation is not necessary to preserve fair competition and may be inconsistent with developing legislation and notions of human rights. …

Those who transition from male to female are eligible to compete in the female category under the following conditions:

• The athlete has declared that her gender identity is female. The declaration cannot be changed, for sporting purposes, for a minimum of four years.

• The athlete must demonstrate that her total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to her first competition (with the requirement for any longer period to be based on a confidential case-by-case evaluation, considering whether or not 12 months is a sufficient length of time to minimize any advantage in women’s competition).

• The athlete’s total testosterone level in serum must remain below 10 nmol/L throughout the period of desired eligibility to compete in the female category.

Regardless of testosterone levels, the first time a pre-op transwoman takes a medal competing against cisgender women—think about a younger Caitlyn Jenner in a women’s track and field event—it’s going to get ugly.


The Rachel Dolezal cisracial/transracial meme isn’t doing the fight for transgender acceptance and equality any favors. While some social conservatives are warning of a slippery slope and suggesting that transracialism will allow self-identification with other races in a way that opens an entitlement floodgate, some progressives seem to be, gingerly, starting to question whether the appropriate social justice warrior position might be to defend transracial identity:

MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry entertained the notion on her show today with kind of a huge question. “Is it possible that she might actually be black?”

While not wanting to make the transgender comparison, Harris-Perry questioned whether one can be “cisblack and transblack,” and whether there’s a way to describe “the achievement of blackness despite one’s parentage.”

Alyson Hobbs, who literally wrote the book on “racial passing,” said there’s “certainly a chance that she identifies as a black woman and there could be authenticity to that.”

Here’s a wrap-up of others willing to entertain the idea that racial self-identification can be more “authentic” than one’s birth race.

Feminists vs. Transwomen

In the New York Times, feminist Elinor Burkett writes What Makes a Woman?:

For me and many women, feminist and otherwise, one of the difficult parts of witnessing and wanting to rally behind the movement for transgender rights is the language that a growing number of trans individuals insist on, the notions of femininity that they’re articulating….

Many transwomen and transmen embrace psychological distinctions between men and women that some feminist claim are purely cultural and represent patriarchal oppression. I believe there are, speaking generally, innate psychological tendencies between (most) men and (most) women that these feminist reject, although there are also exceptions, which may be more likely (although not exclusively) to be seen among gay men and lesbians (and even here, to be sure, not all gay men are more feminine than straight men, and some are hypermasculine leathermen; likewise, there are “lipstick” and “butch” lesbians), so it gets messy.

More. Like Caitlyn Jenner, women are far more likely than men to prefer frilly underwear. That’s not meant to be flippant; the fact that Jenner appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair in sexy lingerie was one of the transgressions, so to speak, that provoked Burkett’s column. To claim that women don’t generally prefer stereotypically feminine underwear, or if they do to claim it’s because of cultural norms imposed by the patriarchy, is, I think, silly.

That said, despite the general trend, some women don’t prefer frilly underwear and some men do.

Out with the Old Intolerance, In with the New

Some want equality before the law and social inclusion. Others, who feign wanting the same, actually have darker aims and see an opportunity to pursue these by confusing their authoritarian agenda with the cresting fight for liberty.

As Mark Lee writes in the Washington Blade:

The news on the gay civil rights and marriage equality fronts has been nothing short of stupendous of late. Except for the attitudes and behavior of some LGBT people, including many community activists.

Inclination toward ideological hegemony and political retribution of the sort that would make Chairman Mao proud is substitute for an appropriate sense of communal celebration and circumspect congeniality. It seems we’ve become so accustomed to anxiety and alienation that gays don’t know how to be happy. …

Two instances in the past week are clear illustrations.

When generation-spanning Olympian and reality show star Bruce Jenner indicated he’s a conservative Republican, when discussing being transgender in a national television interview, the denunciations and condemnations were swift. Taunts that he’s “self-loathing” or a “traitor” and “despicable” for his political beliefs were emblematic of a lack of tolerance for divergence of thought.

The news that two prominent gay hoteliers, owners of multiple businesses and most of the gay venues on Fire Island, had invited Ted Cruz to a small meet-and-greet to primarily discuss non-gay issues sparked rapid-fire pillory. Lost in the outcry was the fundraising event they had recently hosted for 900 contributors to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Calls for a boycott of their enterprises ensued and they were reduced to issuing an “apology” to avoid continued harassment….

Why do we remain tolerant of an abhorrent petty mob mentality demanding “groupthink” and pouncing on nonconformists? For all the chatter about a need for “safe spaces” it’s time we create such for one another.

[Added: Subsequently, Reisner revealed:

“In the interest of transparency, I gave Senator Cruz a $2,700 cheque to show my support for his work on behalf of Israel,” Reisner said in a statement [to the New York Times]. “When I realized his donation could be misconstrued as supporting his anti-gay marriage agenda, I asked for the money back. Senator Cruz’s office gave the money back, and I have no intention of giving any money to any politicians who aren’t in support of LGBT issues.”]

More. Via Reason, this cartoon nicely captures the Jenner controversy.

Perhaps a better example to make the point, the Supreme Court arguments, as noted in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, came just four days afer:

in Oregon, an administrative-law judge proposed a $135,000 fine against Aaron and Melissa Klein, proprietors of the Sweet Cakes bakery in Gresham, for the “emotional distress” suffered by a lesbian couple for whom the Kleins, citing their Christian belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, had declined to bake a wedding cake in 2013.

Some have come to think anything that purports to advance “LGBT rights” and that brands itself as “progressive” is by necessity of the light and is thus to be supported without question—especially when the target is religious conservatives and/or Republicans, who themselves can’t possibly have rights worth defending.

Liberal tolerance. Drive them out of business, subject them to penurious fines, and then block their attempts to raise money for their legal defense.

And while you’re at it, attack an unrelated bakery with the same-sounding name:

Though the Smiths are across the country from Sweet Cakes by Melissa, run by husband-and-wife team Melissa and Aaron Klein, their bakery’s strong presence on Twitter has caused it to be the target of “really awful, hateful tweets,” Emily Smith said Thursday.

“People are calling us bigots and say we should rot in hell and are tweeting Bible quotes to us [on Twitter],” said Emily Smith.