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Hi Amy,

Here is my long-winded question: A close friend of mine associates with someone at her college (which happens to be a very liberal all-girls school), is biologically female. She insists that people refer to her as "he," and apparently has gone to great efforts in her life to convince others that she is a male "on the inside," and that she "feels like she was born a male."

Now, I won't pretend to understand what would make someone feel this way about themselves, nor do I think anyone like this should be *stopped* from saying whatever they want, but since I look at this person's situation as a simple denial of reality, my question is this: How justified am I in feeling emotions as strong as anger towards this person, for trying to claim she is something she is not?

I tried explaining my point of view to my friend, who acknowledges this person's wishes to be referred to as "him,". I even gave the extreme example of, "Fine then, I declare that I am a tree, and henceforth I want everyone to refer to me as a tree, not a human,". To me it is identical to the situation I'm addressing: What right does someone have to expect those around them to subscribe to the same confusion that they do? And why does it seem like this particular situation is more socially acceptable than if someone were to make other untrue claims about themselves? Any light you could shed on this subject would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks,

Geoff the tree

 

Dear Geoff,

As I have toured this country the past two years -- mostly lecturing at colleges -- I have been in many conversations similar to the one that you are having. The problem with how this system is set up is that it's classist to assume that you have to have an operation in order to prove that you really believe that you are another gender -- because who can afford this is very limited. However, to not have the operation means that you can change your mind. Interestingly, those who have the operation actually believe that they are another gender and forget they were ever another gender -- whereas people who don't have the operation, for the most part, consider themselves transgender. I get your argument -- and I have ones of my own -- which is mostly that when people talk about being liberated from their gender roles, why can't you be the same gender, which is really only biology, and have different mannerisms, etc.. that are individual and gender free. Why replace one set of stereotypes with another? That said, I think we also have to respect those who have felt trapped by their gender and are trying to liberate themselves and for them the way to do so is to claim that they are another gender. Does that all make sense?

Good Luck,

- Amy

 

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