Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Elinor Burkett, a Wronged Woman, Says Transgender Individuals Not Born in the Wrong Body

Image by Julie Doucet

In "What Makes a Woman?" (NYT, June 6, 2015), Ms. Elinor Burkett lets Bruce - I mean Caitlyn - Jenner have a piece of her mind when Ms. Jenner claims that her own "brain is much more female than it is male" even though Jenner was born with a male body. Ms. Burkett responds:
I have fought for many of my 68 years against efforts to put women - our brains, our hearts, our bodies, even our moods - into tidy boxes, to reduce us to hoary stereotypes. Suddenly, I find that many of the people I think of as being on my side - people who proudly call themselves progressive and fervently support the human need for self-determination - are buying into the notion that minor differences in male and female brains lead to major forks in the road and that some sort of gendered destiny is encoded in us.

That's the kind of nonsense that was used to repress women for centuries. But the desire to support people like Ms. Jenner and their journey toward their truest selves has strangely and unwittingly brought it back.

People who haven't lived their whole lives as women, whether Ms. Jenner or . . . [others], shouldn't get to define us. That's something men have been doing for much too long. And as much as I recognize and endorse the right of men to throw off the mantle of maleness, they cannot stake their claim to dignity as transgender people by trampling on mine as a woman . . .

The "I was born in the wrong body" rhetoric favored by . . . trans people doesn't work . . . and is . . . offensive, reducing us to our collective breasts and vaginas . . .

Bruce Jenner [said] . . . that what he looked forward to most in his transition was the chance to wear nail polish, not for a furtive, fugitive instant, but until it chips off. I want that for Bruce, now Caitlyn, too. But I also want her to remember: Nail polish does not a woman make.
I think Ms. Burkett meant to say that "Nail polish does not make a woman." Get that syntax right, Burkett! Aren't women supposed to be better at language than men? Oops, that was sexist of me. But I reckon my slip means Ms. Burkett is right after all - there are no male or female brains since a woman can mangle syntax (though her "hoary stereotype" wordplay shows off her semantic talent).

Anyway, you can't be born in the wrong body, says Ms. Burkett, no matter what you trans folks think or feel about it. Speaking of thinking and feeling, trans people are writing fiction about their experience of being in the wrong body, or so I infer from reading Alexandra Alter's article "Transgender Children's Books Fill a Void and Break a Taboo" (NYT, June 6, 2015).

Oh, just in case of misunderstanding, my remark about Ms. Burkett's syntax was a joke . . . though I do wonder why she felt the need to wax 'poetic' and invert the sentence structure. And yes, I know she wasn't making a 'hoary' pun, either.

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