These are thoughts from a couple years ago. Recently I’ve had multiple run-ins with the same forces that stirred me to write them down in the first place, so I thought it’d be interesting to post them here, to see, if you will, whether the waters have grown either more soft or rigid. The title of this post should alert you to the fact that these thoughts are by no means popular or compassionate by today’s measuring.
From Kundera’s Immortality:
“The concept of human rights goes back some two hundred years, but it reached it’s greatest glory in the second half of the 1970s. Alexander Solzhenitsyn had just been exiled from his country and his striking figure, adorned with a beard and handcuffs, hypnotized Western intellectuals sick with a longing for the great destiny that had been denied them. It was only thanks to him that they started to believe, after a fifty-year delay, that in communist Russia there were concentration camps; even progressive people were now ready to admit that imprisoning someone for his opinions was not just. And they found an excellent justification for their new attitude: Russian communists violated human rights, in spite of the fact that these human rights had been gloriously proclaimed by the French Revolution itself! And so, thanks to Solzhenitsyn, human rights once again found their place in the vocabulary of our times; I don’t know a single politician who doesn’t mention ten times a day ‘the fight for human rights’ or ‘violations of human rights.’ But because people in the West are not violated by concentration camps and are free to say and write what they want, the more the fight for human rights gains in popularity the more it loses concrete content, becoming a kind of universal stance of everyone towards everything, a kind of energy that turns all human desires into rights. The world has become man’s right and everything in it has become a right: the desire for love the right to love, the desire for rest the right to rest, the desire for friendship the right to friendship, the desire to exceed the speedlimit the right to exceed the speedlimit, the desire for happiness the right to happiness, the desire to publish a book the right to publish a book, the desire to shout in the street in the middle of the night the right to shout in the street….”
I’ll take this a little further. A couple months ago I read in the NY Times of gays and lesbians who have begun to feel the call of the wild: that is, to father and mother children together with their partners, i.e. become parents. Of course, the fact that they are homosexual and thus not all that keen on copulating with the opposite sex may have hindered them a hundred and fifty years ago. But today, as homosexuals are gradually gaining acceptance in popular culture and advances in technology are edging toward fulfilling every human desire, biologically feasible or not, conceiving, birthing, and nurturing a child has become not only possible but increasingly practiced among gays and lesbians. One might argue that our technology finally caught up with our desires, that since before Oscar Wilde homosexuals who lived together as partners have longed for the opportunity to foster their own child. But as homosexual-as-identity is still a new phenomenon, it’s hard for me to believe that anyone struggling for acceptance in the greater community could have been longing for much else but to live and love as they desired. Furthermore, arguing that our technology caught up with our desires may be a little backwards; instead, we might argue that advancing technology enabled an innate desire to be fleshed out in a unexpected way. Humans have always had the need to procreate. Along with procreation goes the nuturing instinct that drives us to love our offspring. But in the past when a man and another man chose to live with and love one another romantically, the consequence was the absence of offspring, unless they managed to live a double life with a spouse. Not only was a child raised between two men unacceptable, it was biologically and scientifically impossible. So the thought may have never entered the couple’s minds. But now as homosexual couples are becoming more accepted and scienctists are advancing technology beyond anything Oscar Wilde could’ve dreamed, the biological setback has become obsolete and the desire to foster a child between homosexuals has been accommodated. Technology has enabled the desire to exist.
One interesting hangup in the current gaylesbitrans reasoning: though yet lacking evidence, many argue that homosexuality, i.e. not only one’s erotic desires but one’s identity, is innate and inborn in those who identify with it. They were born that way, so we should not suggest that they should be otherwise, that it may be the result of some unconcious choice, or that the desire or identification is inherently selfish and/or sinful. Yet what’s interesting is that when it comes to transgendered folk, that line of logic goes completely silent. A man is born male, yet he feels like a woman. How could a man ever know what a woman feels like from within? Yet because his claim is based on the great conviction of feeling, when he decides to become a woman, either via mere dress or surgery, we are expected to affirm it. It no longer matters that he was born male. Now that he feels and desires to be female, and our technology can afford him that new identity, we don’t condemn or even question his actions. We acknowledge his true identity is a woman’s, and instead of helping him to feel like the man he was born to be, we help him to “pass” as a woman. But this is not about identity. It’s about desire. But in our culture desires are only condemned when they blatantly encroach on the welfare and/or desires of others, or, it seems, when it offends our collective sensibility of what’s beautiful or appropriate. Hence, a pedofile’s or drunk driver’s desires are obviously egregious and the desires of the obese are laughable, but the personal desires of the transsexual go unmarked. If I personally believed I were a prince trapped inside a peasant’s body, and went to great lengths to convince everyone around me just how truly I was a prince by donning a princely appearance, purple robes, crown, even having surgery to alter my peasant’s shamble to a prince’s stride, this culture would crucify me as a deranged lunatic incapable of acknowledging the simple reality of my peasantry. Yet the chemical imbalances that institutionalize the would-be princes are at least ignored and at most affirmed via modern technology to adapt the individual to his or her desire.
<—- I first saw this woman on (I think) Maury Pauvich’s show. She has had literally hundreds of plastic surgeries. The face you see in the pic is completely artificial, save perhaps for the eyeballs. And it doesn’t stop at her face. Her entire body has been altered via plastic surgery. She is clinically addicted to the procedure, and was all but forced to sign an agreement to not have another surgery for a year. Not that she doesn’t desire to continue to reconstruct her body from its original form, but I doubt many would argue that she has the right to accommodate her vanity in any way she pleases. Rather, I’m willing to bet most of you think she’s demented and needs psychiatric assistance to help her come to love herself in her natural form. Indeed, she herself acknowledged her need; that’s why she signed the agreement. Still, she can’t help but picture herself as something other than she already is. Higher cheeks, bigger lips, straighter teeth, you name it. Why do we shake our heads at this woman’s delusions yet not lift a syllable against what very well may be a growing sexual delusion among a people (all of us) who are characterisitically unsatisfied with and unwilling to accept our natural-born selves?
ADDENDUM: In related news, this past December Newsweek thought it would be a good juicy joke to publish a work of true satire (an early April Fool’s prank?), in which Lisa Miller argues from a religious (= compassionate) viewpoint for gay marriage. You can read the article here. For a much more reliable religious (= compassionate + well-founded) approach, and a pretty good response to Miller’s article, try this.