A major function of liberal society is inventing new forms of bigotry.  You take an obvious idea—something believed always, everywhere, and by all—and show that in fact it is not just false, but a vicious form of hatred and discrimination.  As a current case in point, I offer transphobia, which is defined as holding antagonistic feelings toward transsexuality and transsexual people.

To understand how the concept works in practice, look at the case of Josh Alcorn.  From his early years, this Ohio youth was clearly effeminate, and increasingly wished to act as a girl.  His parents were evangelical Christians (which in media reports of the case should properly be read as “Klan Nazi child molesters”), who sought out therapists to treat his depression.  When, at age 17, he requested gender-reassignment surgery, they protested that this would have to wait until he was a legal adult, at 18.  They even objected that they could not afford the treatments in question.  Josh then killed himself by walking in front of a truck.  In a manifestation of gross bigotry, the death notice supplied by the bereaved parents not only named their child as a son, but actually called him Josh, rather than Leelah.

Reacting against such prejudice, countless other parents have written to express their deep commitment to totally fluid concepts of “gender,” which children recognize at ever-younger ages.  One writer in Salon describes the epiphany that struck her when she saw her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter looking at boys’ underwear in a clothing catalog.  Sadly—wrestling with those vestiges of transphobia—she began to “mourn the daughter I thought I had, and learn about the son I did.”  She joined a support group and began to plan on giving her/him/it reassignment surgery in later life.

To understand these matters, it is helpful to consult a list of “Gender Identity Myths and Facts” put out under the auspices of the “Division of Diversity and Community Engagement” of the University of Texas.  The first “myth” is that “Transgender women are not ‘real’ women and transgender men are not ‘real’ men.”  Countering this hateful nonsense, we find that

People’s “true” gender is not defined by the sex they were assigned at birth.  Our true gender is based on our gender identity.  When a person who is transgender expresses an identity different from the one they [sic] were assigned at birth, the gender they [sic] are expressing is their [sic] “real” gender.

Postmodernism is based on the concept that everything is socially constructed, and that certainly includes concepts of identity, race, and sexuality.  That insight, however, does not apply to Gender Identity, an absolute, universal, and metaphysical reality that must be rather like, oh, natural law.

Fortunately, the process of adapting to one’s authentic Gender Identity is very simple, a matter of finding the appropriate switch on the torso and shifting it from pink to blue, or the opposite if required.  The process might, incidentally, require years of extremely extensive and painful surgery and drug treatment, which is moreover outrageously expensive, but that is a small price to pay.  In coming years, anyway, insurance companies will be required to take on this minor extra burden as demanded.

It is a little surprising that transsexual rhetoric has acquired the influence it has in so short a time.  For some decades, various kinds of sexual-rights activists have presented “gender” as a matter of free choice, scarcely related to biology.  For a couple of decades, though, that view fell utterly out of favor because of the embarrassing case of David Reimer.  I mention that story now because, in a couple of years, it might be illegal even to cite it.

Born in 1965, David Reimer suffered a medical disaster as an infant when a botched circumcision ruined his genitalia.  The doctors treating his case responded by giving him gender-reassignment surgery, after which he was raised entirely as a girl, taking the name Brenda.  Well into the 1980’s, the medical literature widely cited the case as a triumph, which moreover proved that gender was wholly flexible: Just look at sweet young Brenda!

Only later did David himself tell his story, which was a catastrophe.  From early years, he was very clearly a boy with all boyish urges and behaviors, except that he was forced to wear female clothes.  Despite all the intense efforts of psychologists, the boy remained a boy who never once identified as a girl.  The resulting conflicts ruined David’s life, which ended when he put a shotgun in his mouth in 2004.

Anyway, let that pass.  Let’s look forward instead to all those happy cases of children who will soon be given their real, actual, and authentic gender identity, unrelated to the genitalia they were born with.  Above all, let’s not be transphobic.