Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Of Jews and Transsexuals

Well now, that’s an odd title, isn’t it? And you’re likely wondering what they have to do with each other; what they have to say to or about each other. I’ll tell you shortly, but first I’d like to register a complaint with the Internet.

Oh, don’t get me wrong…I love the Internet. For me, it’s the library that never closes. It’s the source of information to refute all the stupidity that I’m regularly bombarded with. And yet…it’s a two-edged sword because it’s also the source of much of the stupidity that I’m bombarded with. The Internet has allowed any idiot with a broadband connection to have as much of a voice as a properly-vetted, well-established, expert on a subject.

Take for example the anti-vaxxers. 20 years ago there may have been pockets of them here and there, but they would’ve been surrounded by many more people who could try to talk a little common sense into them; and they would realize that they were very much alone in their opinions. Today, those formerly-isolated nutcases can easily find others like them, and spread their dangerous misinformation far and wide, wreaking damage that they can’t begin to imagine.

I hate to say it, but it seems to me that there are too many support groups out there on the Internet. I once heard that there was a support website for bulimics…not to help them get over their problem, but to give them tips on how to hide it better. Now that just seems wrong. I was going to joke that there’s probably a support group out there somewhere for people who pick their nose and eat it…until I found out that there actually is one.


Which brings me back to my title.

A while back, I remember hearing a piece on NPR about how children with what is called Gender Identity Disorder being diagnosed earlier and earlier, and how there’s more support for them now; and I was a little concerned about this support. You see, I was wondering if a kid going through what might be a temporary exploratory phase might get enough “support” that they’d feel that they couldn’t change their minds without “letting people down.”

Why do I wonder this?

Because when I was a kid I wanted to be a girl.

Really, I wanted to be a girl. 50 or so years later, I couldn’t tell you why, but I wanted to be one, and pretended I was one every now and then. Now…I knew it wasn’t possible for me to really be a girl, I didn’t learn about Christine Jorgensen until I was in my teens, and by that time I had long since grown out of that phase. So knowing that it wasn’t possible, I figured I’d just play the hand that life dealt me, and be a boy. Besides, all things considered, had I known that it was really possible, would I actually make that choice? I tend to doubt it.

On the other hand, who knows? In today’s climate would my parents feel obligated to get me counseling that might “support” my desire to be a girl, rather than figuring it was just a phase I was going through? And having put my parents and all the people who were supporting me through that, would I feel able to say, “No, wait. I don’t want to do this after all?”

This is where the Jews come in.

I’ve heard it said that not only is Judaism a non-proselytizing religion, but that when a Gentile goes to a rabbi and asks to convert, the rabbi’s supposed to turn him down three times, basically saying, “What are you, crazy? Look at what we go through because we’re born into it, and you want to take it on voluntarily? Get outta here!”

I understand the desire of members of the transgendered community to make life easier for the current generation than they had it, but I also think it would be very good if the first reaction that they had to a potential newbie was similar to that of the Jews. I mean, it’s one thing to have your family and the rest of the general world suggest that you might be making a mistake, but it’s something completely different to have people in the community that you think you’re a part of tell you to go away, and ask yourself if this is just a phase you’re going through.

Now don’t get me wrong…I know my share of transsexuals, all of whom concluded definitively somewhere after the age of seven that they were in the wrong body. I understand enough about biology and brain chemistry to know that these things do happen. And I’m not saying that these people should be trapped forever in the wrong body.

What I am wondering, however, is if our current age of providing “support” for every issue a person might have is creating a few irreversible false positives.

And that’s why I think that a Jewish approach to newbie support from the transgendered community might be a good thing.

OK, let the hate mail begin!

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