Comment of the Day: “Confused Ethics Observations On Caitlyn Jenner, Up and Down the Cognitive Dissonance Scale”

"Yikes! Doc says I have to go back to the Seventies and make sure Caitlyn Jenner wins the Ladies Decathlon!"

“Yikes! Doc says I have to go back to 1976 and make sure Jenner wins the Ladies Decathlon!”

It is testimony to the passion, breadth and erudition of the readership here that when I miss an ethics angle to a story, it almost always is raised, and well, by someone else. Here is a wonderful example, johnburger’s ethical objection to the instant, inaccurate and unethical recasting of Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner as female, because Jenner has adopted another gender identity more than 30 years later. I’ll have a brief note in the end,

Here is johnburger’s Comment of the Day on the post, Confused Ethics Observations On Caitlyn Jenner, Up and Down the Cognitive Dissonance Scale:

My comment may be apropos of nothing with respect to gender identity and this post, but but I find the historical revisionism currently underway with respect to Jenner’s Olympic performances. records and medals count fascinating and disturbing. Jenner’s Wikipedia page has already been changed – all pronouns refer to the feminine, with explanation that the medals and records were set prior to gender transition. GLAAD has issued a statement requiring/instructing/suggesting that male pronouns should be avoided in favor of the female/feminine. GLAAD stated, “DO avoid male pronouns and Caitlyn’s prior name, even when referring to events in her past. For example, ‘Prior to her transition, Caitlyn Jenner won the gold medal in the men’s decathlon at the Summer Olympics held in Montreal in 1976.’” Therein lies the conundrum – what does society do with Jenner’s past?

Yet, rewriting history for the sake of someone’s sensibilities seems morally and ethically wrong. Moreover, the Left’s fascination with identity politics collapses under the weight of its own inconsistencies: If Jenner was always a woman but did not have the self-awareness to know it or act upon it, then shouldn’t the records Jenner set be rewritten as well? For instance, shouldn’t Jenner’s Olympic records now be moved to the women’s slots? Shouldn’t Jenner be the 1976 Women’s Decathlon Gold Medalist and those times now set the standards for all future (as of 1976) women decathletes? What about the records set or held by heteronormative ciswomen? Should those be rewritten, too, and if those times are not better than Jenner’s times, should their records be scrubbed? If the Left’s theology/ideology were to control, i.e., that gender is irrelevant and there is no difference between men and women (because any recognition of gender differences is symptomatic of white male privilege), all are equal, then, yes, they should. Jenner’s records should now be the standards for women, as well as men. After all, the records were set when Jenner competed as a man. Yet, demanding that society acceptance of Jenner was always as woman, Jenner’s records should also be the standards for women, as well.

Ethically, the Golden Rule would apply to how society treats Jenner, and anyone else for that matter. I would agree. There is no reason or justification for humiliating Jenner. That is cruel. However, the opposite side of the Golden Rule does not necessarily apply: The demand that, not only must society accept Jenner’s transition out of charity or compassion, but that society must adopt it as its own. Society, too, must accept that Jenner is and always has been, in truth, a woman. Ian Tuttle writes an interesting piece posted on National Review Online: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/419223/who-won-bruce-jenners-oiympic-medals-ian-tuttle.

* * *

Terrific post. There is no reason for anyone to accept GLAAD’s edict on this matter: they have an agenda and are welcome to it, but the correct agenda should be accuracy. This isn’t rocket science. President Ronald Reagan didn’t star in a movie called “Bedtime for Bonzo;” that would have been undignified. Ronald Reagan did—the actor. Ultra-liberal wacko David Brock didn’t attack Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation battles—why would he do that? No, ultra conservative wacko David Brock did, before he magically morphed into the other guy. One of these that is near and dear to my heart: W.S. Gilbert, of Gilbert and Sullivan, wasn’t a Knight while the pair was creating the greatest musical comedies in the English language. Sullivan had been knighted by Queen Victoria in 1883, before “The Mikado,” by objective standards their finest work. The Queen was offended by Gilbert’s satire, however, so he had to wait until Edward was on the throne, and the collaboration with Sullivan long over, for his “Sir.” Does Wikipedia say that “The Mikado” was written by “Sir William S. Gilbert”? Of course not, because he wasn’t a knight then. Of course, Wikipedia, for no good reason, also omits Sullivan’s title, which makes no sense at all. I have given up on attempts to correct Wikipedia. Here’s how it should look:

Mikado score

And here is how we should remember Olympic medal-winner Bruce Jenner:

Bruce Jenner Pentathalon Wins Gold Medal August 9, 1976 X 20679 credit:  Walter Iooss Jr. - staff

It’s a boy.

71 thoughts on “Comment of the Day: “Confused Ethics Observations On Caitlyn Jenner, Up and Down the Cognitive Dissonance Scale”

  1. Thanks, Jack. I am honored.

    I am also horrified that I edited out a word and the first sentence has two unforgivable errors. In the first sentence, it should read, ” . . . but I find the historical revisionism currently underway with respect to Jenner’s Olympic performances. records and medals count fascinating and disturbing.” Sister Mary Williams from Mr. Gavlinsky from Walsh Jesuit High School in Stow, OH would hang his pens in shame.

  2. I am reading all this with interest, trying to figure out just who the strawman is that you’re jousting at.

    Wikipedia? I looked at the entry, and it’s almost ridiculous how much the entry tries to avoid any pronoun at all, using simply the name “Jenner.”

    GLAAD? I am left with whiplash at how quickly you move from a grammatical suggestion to an inferred ontological rewriting of history.

    I have not heard anyone – ANYONE! – make the inane suggestion that Jenner’s awards be re-labeled as “women’s” vs. “men’s.” Just where did you get that idea?

    Let’s try a grammatical test: go look up the Wikipedia entries for Christine Jorgensen and Renee Richards. You’ll find they use exactly the syntax suggested by GLAAD, and for perfectly good reason: because NOBODY is going to remember the “before” and “after” dates of somebody’s trans event. (All the entrees make perfectly clear the gender change, early on in the article; there’s really no confusion).

    Yet that seems to be what you’re suggesting – that someone writing a bio of Jenner should use the pronoun “he” before May 2015, and “she” thereafter? How do you think that will read in, say, 2025?

    From the vantage point of the present, you need some form of consistency in referring to people; it seems far less confusing to use one pronoun, and it makes sense to use the most-present pronoun. Simple commonsense writing will use the given name as much as possible, and where necessary, pick a common pronoun – almost certainly, the one most present.

    The rest of this, I suggest, is just overly sensitive cultural politics, triggered by an often-equally-silly infatuation with PC labels on the left. But two stupids don’t make a smart.

    I have no doubt that all journalists will, in pretty short order, start using “she” to refer to the human being “Jenner” who has existed throughout his/her 60-odd years of life, just because it’s grammatically confusing to do anything else.

    If anyone actually DID propose rewriting Olympic record books, I’d be right there with you to decry it. But I don’t see it happening anywhere but in a fevered imagination just now.

    • Wait—you are seriously arguing that Bruce Jenner’s achievements as a man should be described as the actions of a she? That makes no sense at all, and is simply wrong. How will it look? I don’t know–it depends how much political correctness demands Orwellian thought. It’s not “grammatically confusing to do anything else.” It’s factually untrue. Mid-life gender change IS confusing.

      • Please.

        I am NOT suggesting that “Bruce Jenner’s achievements as a man should be described as the actions of a she.” You made that up.

        What I AM suggesting is that, like has already happened with everyone else transgendered, that when you refer to their past – from the vantage point of the present – that grammatically you should use a single pronoun – one based on the PRESENT, not the past. I’m talking about writing conventionfro a point in time, not about rewriting actual history.

        Do you really want to countenance writing like this a few months from now:

        “Caitlin Jenner is a female reality TV star, who won the decathlon in his 20s. She is 6’2″, and he used to weigh 210 pounds (now she weighs a demure 190). He is the former spouse of Kris Kardashian, and she presently lives in Malibu.”

        Are you kidding? Far easier to say:

        “Caitlin Jenner underwent trans surgery in 2015. In her earlier life, she won the men’s decathlon event. At that time, she weighed 210 pounds, though she’s much lighter now. She was married to Kris Kardashian, and divorced in 20-whatever it was.”

        Again – you’re imputing some kind of evil world scheme to rewrite reality: it is nothing more than a grammatical convention.

        • No I didn’t, Charles: GLAAD did. This—

          “DO avoid male pronouns and Caitlyn’s prior name, even when referring to events in her past. For example, ‘Prior to her transition, Caitlyn Jenner won the gold medal in the men’s decathlon at the Summer Olympics held in Montreal in 1976.’”

          —is garbage. Caitlyn Jenner DIDN’T win the gold medal “prior to her transition,’ because Caitlyn Jenner didn’t exist then. Any narrative that suggests that the winner wasn’t a male athlete named Bruce Jenner is wrong.

          • “Any narrative that suggests that the winner wasn’t a male athlete named Bruce Jenner is wrong.”

            The narrative GLAAD suggests specifically references her transition, and the fact that she won it in a men’s event. How is that suggesting the winner wasn’t a male athlete? It’s simply describing the person-presently-known-as-Caitlin-Jenner as having won the men’s decathlon. Who is it you fear is going to be misled?

            • ‘Prior to her transition, Caitlyn Jenner won the gold medal in the men’s decathlon at the Summer Olympics held in Montreal in 1976.’”

              Again, this is IMPOSSIBLE. Caitlin Jenner won nothing in 1976. She didn’t exist. Whose name is on the medals? Whose name is in the record books? Is that wrong?

              • The logical implication of what you are suggesting is that any pronoun used in any biographical reference of a trans person should be based on the date of their transition.

                Do you realize havoc that would wreak on comprehensible writing?

                Go look up the biography of Renee Richards and try “translating” it into the bifurcated pronoun-history that you’re suggesting; the result will be gobbledy-gook.

                • “Do you realize havoc that would wreak on comprehensible writing?”

                  My caring level is low. Sometimes doing the right thing and doing the easy thing are two different things. Go figure. What’s important is what is right. A woman did not win the men’s decathlon, a woman did not have a role on CHIPS, this is historical revisionism and an attempt at thought control. History doesn’t change to make someone feel more comfortable.

                  • I think that is both clear, obvious and indisputable, and I can’t imagine why Charlie wants to dispute it. Maybe because you were just clearer in about 150 words than I was in 1000.

                  • NOBODY is claiming that “a woman won the men’s decathlon,” or that a woman appeared on CHIPS. NOBODY is saying that; WHO do you think is so stupid to believe such a thing?

                    What is being said is that “the-human-being-whose-last-name-is-Jenner” did all those things, as well as undergoing transition at a later point in life. NOBODY is confused on the issue. Jenner-as-man did those things; when we talk about Jenner-as-woman, in the present tense, it’s only natural to use the vantage point of the present. (An exception: if you’re going to write paragraphs about Jenner’s Olympic performance, or paragraphs about Cassius Clay’s first Liston fight, you might very well use the name appropriate to that time. But if it’s just a line or two, grammar suggestws we speak from the present.

                    And that’s obvious to anyone. There is literally no one who is suffering from a desire to rewrite history here; we’re just talking about grammatical rules for how you refer to A PERSON from the present time’s vantage point about things that PERSON did in their past, when the use of pronouns is complicated by a transition.

                    Here’s another proof of why this “problem” exists only in your head. In French, Spanish and Italian, there are “formal” and “informal” forms of the pronoun ‘you.’ We do not have that distinction in English. Hence we do not have a whole variety of social etiquette issues and humorous issues that arise from the distinction. The issues and the jokes just don’t arise in English, because the words are different. NO. ISSUE.

                    Now imagine that English didn’t have masculine and feminine pronouns, that we only had gender-neutral pronouns.

                    If that were the case, NONE OF THIS DISCUSSION WOULD BE HAPPENING.

                    What you think is some liberal left-wing PC crusade gone awry is nothing of the kind; it’s a grammatical discussion about how to use masculine and feminine pronouns when someone has been different-gendered at different times in their lives.

                    Think “the artist formerly known as Prince” if you want another example.

                    That’s ALL it is.

                    • Oh don’t be dense. This isn’t being put forward by Oxford, it’s being put forth by GLAAD. If we didn’t have masculine and feminine pronouns none of this would be an issue, granted. But we do so it is.

                      That list of DOs and DON’Ts isn’t worried about grammar, they’re worried about feelings. For example:

                      “-AVOID the phrase “born a man” when referring to Jenner.”

                      Is the assertion that Jenner was not born a man, that she doesn’t want to be reminded, or that she was always a woman and all her wins in male categories were fraudulent? And where’s the grammatical error in that statement?

                      1) NOBODY is claiming that “a woman won the men’s decathlon,”

                      2) Since Caitlyn Jenner was known to the public by her prior name, it may be necessary initially to say “Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner…” However, once the public has learned Jenner’s new name, do not continually refer to it in stories.

                      3) -DO avoid male pronouns and Caitlyn’s prior name, even when referring to events in her past.

                      Please reconcile those three statements for me.

                    • 1. They can’t be reconciled.
                      2. When someone orders “DO” this, it is not a recommendation.
                      3. If I here one more argument that we should be more like foreign countries, I’m running out into the street naked with a machete.

                    • HT, you wrote “Please reconcile those three statements for me.”

                      I don’t personally see anything that needs reconciling – what’s a mystery to me is why you see a contradiction?

                      But let me make a wild guess: it has to do with your using a purely existential meaning of the verb “to be.” ExCeph made a similar point.

                      “I am hungry” is not the same statement as “I am an American.” The one is a temporary state, the other is a permanent attribute. (Jack may not like it, but this is another hazard of the English language – Romance languages have two distinct verbs to describe what we force-fit into one).

                      What ExCeph is pointing out – and the whole Jenner thing is forcing us to recognize – is that “I am a man” is not as existential as we once thought; it’s a lot more like an adjective, and it’s subject to shifting definitions over time.

                      Once you ‘get’ that “male” and “female” are not absolute terms, but rather ones subject to further definition (preference, gender, orientation), then it becomes silly to be bound by a single, binary pronoun (he, she) in describing past, existential events.

                      Who won the men’s decathlon? Why, Caitlin Jenner, the human being formerly known as Bruce Jenner, won it – who’d you think, Arnold Schwarzenegger?

                      Further, she won it when ‘she’ was a ‘he,’ using quote marks to point out the limited meaning we can attribute to binary pronouns when attempting to describe multiple realities.

                    • So now, it’s not about simplifying grammar, or feelings… It’s about whether male and female actually describe states of being, or are fluid? I’m trying to keep up with the sophistry.

                      This is one of my pet peeves. It depends what the definition of the word ‘is’ is, right? The reason we have labels is because they’re useful, if we hollow out the meaning of words we start to lose distinctions. But that is irrelevant.

                      Bruce Jenner was a man when he won the Olympics, and Caitlyn Jenner looked awesome when she appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair. It is pure historical revisionism and speech control to edit and require that previous mentions of things that have happened have their pronouns replaced.

                      At least be intellectually honest enough to admit that this has nothing to do with grammar or usage in language. People who were something and then changed to something else…. The Pope, Ghengis Khan, Knights, converts to Islam and nom de plumes were the examples here, but also married people who have changed their names, divorcees, and people with designations like doctor might like very much for people to address them with their new monikers, and in a polite society we would make that transition with little fuss…. But that doesn’t mean we scour their wiki pages, achievement histories and high school year books. Things happened the way they happened, with the people involved, as they were at the time.

                    • “Things happened the way they happened, with the people involved, as they were at the time.”

                      We are in complete agreement about that. Where’s the issue?

                      (And actually, with regard to married name changes, we DO in fact scour their wiki pages and achievement histories, just as we change their drivers’ licenses, because those are documents that are meant to be read in the present time. We DON’T scour high school year books, because they’re historical artifacts, and mean to be).

                      And no one seems to be confused by this – except a few folks on this blog, for reasons I’m still trying to unpack.

                      We are just talking about the convention for using pronouns in reference to past events – no one’s trying to rewrite history.

              • “Caitlin Jenner won nothing in 1976. She didn’t exist. Whose name is on the medals? Whose name is in the record books? Is that wrong?”

                Mark Twain had written nothing in 1862. He didn’t exist. Whose name was on his newspaper reporting? Why, Samuel Clemens!

                And yet presumably you see no harm in a Wikipedia entry that consistently says “Twain.” Why should the reader have to remember the date 1863, when he chose his pen name?

                Mark Twain existed in Samuel Clemens every bit as much as Caitlin Jenner existed in Bruce Jenner; we just by convention refer to one name, not both.

                • Mark Twain/Clemens went by two names most of his professional life. They describe the same person in every way. Ditto John Wayne and Marion Morrison. It is more correct to say that Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston, just as one shouldn’t call the author of the Mikado “sir.” It’s not misleading, just inaccurate to say Mohammed Ali won the title.

                  It is misleading to suggest a won the decathalon. The political intent of GLAAD’s edict is to suggest that Jenner was always a woman. Fine. Then disqualify her.

                  The fact that gender accuracy is awkward and confusing isn’t allowed as an excuse to keep using he as the generic pronoun. The gender police have ordered me to call actresses “actors” because the traditional term is somehow diminishing. Of course, if the “actor” is named “Marion”, I don’t have the information I need. Screw that. And screw GLAAD telling me that I can’t say “Bruce Jenner won the Olympic gold medal” when “Bruce Jenner won the Olympic gold medal.”

                  • For instance, shouldn’t Jenner’s Olympic records now be moved to the women’s slots?

                    …to suggest that Jenner was always a woman. Fine. Then disqualify her.

                    Is there a bar to women competing at the male level even if they were to qualify?

                    • “Is it sensible, when recounting a boyhood episode in the life of Pope Francis, to write, “The Pope scored a winning goal for his team”? Was he the Pope then? Was Bruce Caitlyn when he won his medal?”

                      Let’s ask Wikipedia.

                      “Pope Francis said that the most powerful message of Jesus Christ is mercy…HIS motto, Miserando atque eligendo, is about Jesus’ mercy towards sinners…The motto is a reference to the moment when HE found his vocation to the priesthood, at the age of 17. HE started a day of student celebrations by going to confession. As cardinal HE thought Christian morality is not a titanic effort of the will, but a response to the mercy of God.”

                      That’s a whole string of sentences starting with his Papal name, and thereafter using the pronoun HE to clearly refer to “Francis.” All this while referring to earlier times in his life when his name was Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

                      Was he the Pope then? Of course not, and nobody would ever think so, because the article makes it totally clear when he became Pope and changed his name. And somehow we effortlessly know that, even though the article uses a present name when discussing that same person at an earlier stage in his life.

                      I can’t imagine anyone reading that and thinking the author was trying to airbrush history; it’s just the cleanest way to describe past events in a person’s life.

                      This is just linguistic convention – there are no ideologies afoot here.

                    • Did the Vatican send out a demand that only the Papal name should be used? And why are you using Wikipedia, when it’s handling of Jenner’s name was the genesis of the debate? Wikipedia isn’t good writing, or good journalism, or professional journalism. Its editing is eccentric, or non-existent.

                      I will pretend that you didn’t suggest that GLAAD’s word policing demands are not entirely agenda driven. It is a good organization (my theater was nominated for a regional award once!) but it is entirely motivated by activism. English and journalistic precision and objectivity are not on its radar.

                  • “It is more correct to say that Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston.”

                    –Not according to http://www.Muhammadali.com, his own website. He uses his current name when referring to all past events.

                    –Not according to Wikipedia, which says, “Nicknamed “The Greatest”, Ali was involved in several historic boxing matches.[10] Notable among these were the first Liston fight, three with rival Joe Frazier, and one with George Foreman.”

                    –Not according to Biography.com, which says, “Boxer, philanthropist and social activist Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. Ali became a Golden Gloves champion in 1959, and became an Olympic gold medalist the following year.” [Note: he didn’t convert to Islam until 1965].

                    I suggest it’s commonplace, accepted journalistic practice to use a single name when referring back to an individual’s personal history. It’s the person being referred to, not the “name of the person,” or the “gendered-person” that we refer to when we talk about one’s biography – the person themself (selves?).

                    • It’s still wrong and misleading. If I were reading a legal transcript of a Cassius Clay deposition, it would stay, and would be, Cassius Clay. Because that’s accurate. Your argument is essentially an “everybody does it” one. Yes, there’s a lot of sloppy reporting. In fact, knowing when and why Clay converted to Islam is crucial. Calling him by his Muslim name to describe events, words and actions when he wasn’t a Muslim is misleading in the extreme.

                      I may offer a prize for the best example. Is it sensible, when recounting a boyhood episode in the life of Pope Francis, to write, “The Pope scored a winning goal for his team”? Was he the Pope then? Was Bruce Caitlyn when he won his medal?

                    • When was Muhammed Ali born?

                      Jack, using your logic, he wasn’t. He didn’t exist at the time of Cassius Clay’s birth.

                      I don’t know if there’s a good solution for this. I personally have almost no issue with being referred to by my previous name when dealing with events prior to transition in 2005. And while various universities have offered to correct – or “correct” depending on your viewpoint – my testamurs (BSc, MInfoTech(Dist), various grad certs), I haven’t taken them up on that. The later ones are in a more appropriate name, of course.

                      It depends. If the use of misgendered pronouns is weaponised – as it is nearly all of the time in MSM – then an almost equally unreasonable backlash might be a lesser evil.. At least the backlash is not malicious, even if just as coercive.

                      Regarding the Wiki policy – an arguable over-reaction to the really vile nastiness over the Chelsea Manning entry.

                      Darn it, if everyone, or even a plurality, were decent, reasonable people on this issue, all this rubbish wouldn’t arise.

                      The safe thing to do, the courteous thing, is to follow the GLAAD guidelines. Just because I don’t feel hurt, even by weaponised, malicious misgendering, doesn’t mean others feel the same.

                    • I agree. He didn’t exist. Just as nobody called young Sam Clemens “Mark.” Or young Susan Weaver “Sigourney.” But Cassius Clay is especially easy: the latter name represented a religious conversion. Cassius was a Baptist.

                    • Reasonable people can disagree.
                      I’m not even saying you’re wrong here, how could I? Your view is consistent, and logical.
                      I don’t share it, is all.

                      Yes, I think you’re fighting a losing battle here, but since when should that matter when you’re doing what you think is right? A matter of ethics.

                      Things will all settle out in the end, and an arguably less logical but also arguably more humane custom than the one you espouse will likely become “accepted wisdom”, and no-one but a few will ever realise that there was ever a controversy about it.

                    • As a reaction to an organised effort involving tens of thousands to strip Ms Jenner of her medals… one apparently increasing in strength…

                      https://celebrity.yahoo.com/blogs/celeb-news/us-olympic-committee-willing-to-change-caitlyn-jenner-name-in-hall-of-fame-152308568.html

                      On Thursday, the International Olympic Committee responded to an online petition requesting that the organization revoke the gold medal Caitlyn won as Bruce during the 1976 Montreal Olympics. A spokesperson told Yahoo that Jenner won the medal and “there is no issue for the IOC.”

                      “We admire Caitlyn Jenner’s courage and wish her all the best,” United States Olympic Committee spokesperson Patrick Sandusky tells Yahoo. “We would happily consider any athlete’s request to have his or her personal information updated in our records.

                      Widespread, Systematic, Malicious, Malignant Transphobic Assholery answered with a vigorous slapdown at an early stage in its metastasis.. And no-one cares about “historical accuracy” or what is the ethical thing to do.

                      This.Should, Not. Be. Necessary.

                      This.Is Not.A.Good.Thing.

                      Necessary? I think it is, very much so. Essential even.

                    • Zoe, re Widespread, Systematic, Malicious, Malignant Transphobic Assholery.

                      You are quite right of course, though it’s worth noting the online “movement” to strip Jenner of her medal is not exactly a “movement” – it’s pretty clearly a right wing snark attempt to stir up excitement among people who feel threatened by the whole issue. The claim is much more about befuddlement with language (“if you say this then why don’t you say that nyah nyah nyah”) than it is about a sincere desire to strip Jenner of any medals.

                      At least, that’s how this glass-half-full guy sees it. Anyone out there – anyone sane, I mean – who SERIOUSLY thinks the IOC should strip Jenner of his/her medal? Puh-leeze.

                    • People often say philosophy is just a bunch of silly arguments about nothing, but that’s only when it’s done wrong. Done right, it gives one the power to recognize silly arguments about nothing. Once we manage to define the situation properly, there is no other problem left to solve.

                      Case in point: We are debating how to use a changing label (in computer science, we might say a variable name, or perhaps a pointer) to describe a changing person. What we are overlooking is that people change all the time, yet we insist on using the same label for them across the years. Based on my experiences with several friends, gender transitioning has negligible inherent impact on a person’s character or personality (though they may feel more comfortable expressing themselves), whereas an adult may be a very different person in both character and personality from the child they developed from. Even though the person I am now didn’t exist in the world of ten years ago, we use my name to refer to all persons who share my continuous and linear identity narrative. The real question here is whether or not we call past me by my name because that was past me’s name at the time, or because it is my name now. I posit it is the latter.

                      Sometimes people request to change their label, for various reasons. Sometimes it is merely because they didn’t like the old label. The new label refers to the same person that the previous label did, and so it seems to me that it ought to officially serve all the purposes of the previous label, including referring to the person’s past. It seems like Jenner falls under this category; she’s basically the same person she always was, accounting for standard personal growth. She feels the new label fits her better because she wants to change her hormones, physical form, and the “gender”-related cultural baggage associated with her, and the new label and pronouns are thematically associated with all of those factors more than the old ones were. However, regardless of what physical or cultural “gender” she has more emotional affinity for, she still qualified physically for the male category of the Olympics, so any attempt to remove her records is nonsensical. Athletic records are not defined based on people’s feelings, but based on their physical states and abilities. It should be noted that this type of name change isn’t intended to apply a retcon (“retroactive continuity”; rewrite of history) to anything the person actually did, or change the fact that they used to be called something different. Those are concrete facts. It is supposed to change how we in the present refer to them (and their past), and nothing more. Any time the person’s gender creates confusion with their past accomplishments, we clarify what happened, and move on.

                      Some people may insist on distancing themselves from their past identity (often because of a dramatic change in character or personality) by using the old label for the past and the new label for the present. They feel that the person who existed in the past wasn’t “them.” For all I know about their change of character, they may be right. That’s their business, and that of their friends. Off the top of my head, though, I can’t think of any official policy (outside of fiction) for allowing people to divest themselves of portions of their own personal history, nor am I sure there should be one.

                      On a side note, “born physically male” would be unassailably correct in my opinion. “Born a man” is incorrect, I assume, because “man” implies not merely “physically male,” but also a great deal of cultural baggage that Jenner and many others feel alienated from at the visceral level. Don’t believe me? Why else would the word “manliness” or the phrase “be a man” refer to things people could aspire to? Only with modern technology can people aspire to be physically male, so manliness must refer to character traits that are for some reason associated with maleness. Again, I reject the idea that a person’s physical form should dictate the ideals they should aspire to.

                      It’s not that the world is complicated. It’s just that humans started using a single word for multiple statistically correlated but conceptually unrelated traits, and then insist that they’re intrinsically related despite all the counterexamples, because they don’t have separate words to help them describe them independently in their heads. This addiction to oversimplification happens often. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis lives!

                    • Well said. And, to your point, a good example of philosophical thinking done right, reducing putatively substantive issues to ones of simple and established categories.

                    • I like the essay. I’m not sure much of it applies to Bruce Jenner’s situation.

                      “Born a man” is always wrong, since no male is a man when born. Similarly, no baby is “manly.” If the issue is names, there are no clear rules. If the late Elizabeth Taylor had, during her last marriage, declared that she was officially Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky and always was so, because she finally felt that after all of her marriages she was finally the person she was always meant to be, and the feminist advocacy group The Association For the Serially Wed sends out a Do’s and Don’t list including, DON’T refer to Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky by her former name because she is who she always was and just didn’t tell us because she didn’t know, I, and any other sane person, am not going to refer to the child star of “National Velvet” as Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky because it would be stupid, confusing and wrong. The was Elizabeth Taylor then, and must forever be called Elizabeth Taylor when we are referring to her then, and the edicts of a self-interested advocacy group has no say in the matter.

                      Calling the winner of the Olympic gold medal in 1976 Caitlyn Jenner is exactly as stupid, confusing and wrong, but because an organization whose business is, in part, to make political correctness rules says otherwsie and people turn to aspic in the presence of political correctness, some people, ahem, are unwilling to admit, see, or say so.

                      You may note that this paragraph—Sometimes people request to change their label, for various reasons. Sometimes it is merely because they didn’t like the old label. The new label refers to the same person that the previous label did, and so it seems to me that it ought to officially serve all the purposes of the previous label, including referring to the person’s past. It seems like Jenner falls under this category; she’s basically the same person she always was, accounting for standard personal growth-–applies EXACTLY to the hypothetical I just laid out, if you just change the name Jenner to Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky. EXACTLY. Except that the demand is even more absurd in Jenner’s case because the differences between the past Jenner and the present one are greater.

                    • Jack,

                      I feel like you didn’t directly address two very trenchant points made by ExtraD, namely:

                      “…this type of name change isn’t intended to apply a retcon (“retroactive continuity”; rewrite of history) to anything the person actually did, or change the fact that they used to be called something different. Those are concrete facts. It is supposed to change how we in the present refer to them (and their past), and nothing more. Any time the person’s gender creates confusion with their past accomplishments, we clarify what happened, and move on.”

                      and

                      “It’s not that the world is complicated. It’s just that humans started using a single word for multiple statistically correlated but conceptually unrelated traits, and then insist that they’re intrinsically related despite all the counterexamples, because they don’t have separate words to help them describe them independently in their heads. This addiction to oversimplification happens often. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis lives!”

                      Comment?

                    • Yes: It doesn’t apply, as I said at the very beginning of my reply.

                      “…this type of name change isn’t intended to apply a retcon (“retroactive continuity”; rewrite of history) to anything the person actually did, or change the fact that they used to be called something different. Those are concrete facts. It is supposed to change how we in the present refer to them (and their past), and nothing more. Any time the person’s gender creates confusion with their past accomplishments, we clarify what happened, and move on.”

                      The last paragraph just doesn’t apply. Of course the world is complicated, and if Bruce Jenner’s gender issues aren’t a perfect example, I don’t know what is.

                      This doesn’t apply, because it isn’t just a name. When you use a female name and a female pronoun to describe a past event, that states, in common understanding of the language, that the individual WAS female during the event, and Bruce Jenner, despite the current effort to “apply a retcon” (boy do I hate THAT term to pieces), was not. He would not have said he was at the time, he would have denied any suggestion that he was, there was no evidence that he was. He cannot say NOW that he was female then with any credibility at all—it’s hard enough to accept what he says now about his gender now, given that he has unambiguously male chromosomes, DNA and genitalia.

                      “Any time the person’s gender creates confusion with their past accomplishments, we clarify what happened, and move on.” Right: we do that by not misrepresenting the past in the first place.
                      Bruce Jenner, male, man, future husband (twice), self-represented as male, future father of six, won the Olympic gold, and there is no confusion about it unless Jenner’s gender confusion is intentionally projected on a record that is unambiguous.

    • For the record, I am not holding Wikipedia out as primary or binding source, just an example or reference point. Wikipedia is a fun resource to get basic information about a topic but should be read with suspicion. Wikipedia does not have an advisory board or editorial board ferreting out inaccuracies or out right errors. My reference to Wikipedia’s entries was simply an example of scrubbing or editing history. BRUCE Jenner won those awards and set those records; CAITLYN did not. Yet, by GLAAD’s decree, or recommendations,

      Secondly, I was taking issue with the conundrum created by redesignating everything Jenner did prior to gender reassignment. You are correct: language is important and cohesive written is necessary to convey accurate and true information (witness my heart-wrenching first sentence). However, the logical fallacy in GLAAD’s recommendations is that “Bruce” was “Caitlyn” the whole time, it’s just that nobody knew it. This is not some form of linguistic or grammatical consistency, nor is it some issue of nomenclature (“nom-de-plume”), journalistic clarity, or common sense writing, as suggested. Language is vital to conveying information. The Left attempts to control the language used in this debate. GLAAD and the Left are driving the confusion, especially considetrng GLAAD’s tip sheet, which as you pointed out, states the following:

      -DO refer to her as Caitlyn Jenner. DON’T refer to her by her former name. She has changed it, and should be accorded the same respect received by anyone who has changed their name. Since Caitlyn Jenner was known to the public by her prior name, it may be necessary initially to say “Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner…” However, once the public has learned Jenner’s new name, do not continually refer to it in stories.
      -DO use female pronouns (she, her, hers) when referring to Caitlyn Jenner.

      * * *

      -DO refer to Caitlyn Jenner’s female identity as her gender identity, not her sexual orientation. Gender identity is one’s own internal, deeply held sense of being male or female. Sexual orientation is who one is attracted to. They are not the same thing and should not be conflated or confused.
      -AVOID the phrase “born a man” when referring to Jenner. If it is necessary to describe for your audience what it means to be transgender, consider: “While Caitlyn Jenner was designated male on her birth certificate, as a young child she knew that she was a girl.”

      According to GLAAD’s pronouncement “Bruce” was always “Caitlyn”. To suggest otherwise is inconsistent with the idea that Jenner’s gender identity was a choice. If Jenner always knew “she was a girl”, and assignment at birth was simply a designation on a birth certificate, then Jenner was always a girl, regardless of what Jenner did prior to transition or reassignment.

      As Jack points out below, “It is misleading to suggest a won the decathalon. The political intent of GLAAD’s edict is to suggest that Jenner was always a woman. Fine. Then disqualify her.”

      jvb

      PS: I would have responded sooner but I can’t for the life of me remember my WordPress.com password and I fear changing it because God only knows what havoc that would wreak on less-than tenuous grasp on reality. I didn’t want to start a fire storm and not stand behind my post.

      PPS: I am sorry about the logical whiplash I may have caused you. Believe me, I had no intention of inflicting epistemological pain. Happily, I am fully insured so you may seek compensation against my insurance carrier.

      jvb

      • jvb, apology accepted re the epistemological pain; I will gratefully seek metaphysical recompense from your ethics insurance carrier. 🙂

  3. Jack — quote the entry in its entirety, not selectively. The entire thing is part of an offering to news media on how to refer to the linguistically challenging issues raised by trans surgery.

    Here’s the whole context:

    ———-
    GLAAD TIP SHEET: Transgender Terminology and Tips for Covering Caitlyn Jenner

    Here’s what you need to know:
    -DO describe people who transition as transgender, and use transgender as an adjective. Caitlyn Jenner is a transgender woman.
    -DON’T use transgender as a noun. For example, don’t say: “Caitlyn Jenner is a transgender.”
    -DON’T use “transgendered.” Transgender never needs an extraneous “-ed” at the end.
    -DON’T use “transsexual” or “transvestite.”
    -DO refer to her as Caitlyn Jenner. DON’T refer to her by her former name. She has changed it, and should be accorded the same respect received by anyone who has changed their name. Since Caitlyn Jenner was known to the public by her prior name, it may be necessary initially to say “Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner…” However, once the public has learned Jenner’s new name, do not continually refer to it in stories.
    -DO use female pronouns (she, her, hers) when referring to Caitlyn Jenner.
    -DO avoid male pronouns and Caitlyn’s prior name, even when referring to events in her past. For example, “Prior to her transition, Caitlyn Jenner won the gold medal in the men’s decathlon at the Summer Olympics held in Montreal in 1976.”
    -DO refer to Caitlyn Jenner’s female identity as her gender identity, not her sexual orientation. Gender identity is one’s own internal, deeply held sense of being male or female. Sexual orientation is who one is attracted to. They are not the same thing and should not be conflated or confused.
    -AVOID the phrase “born a man” when referring to Jenner. If it is necessary to describe for your audience what it means to be transgender, consider: “While Caitlyn Jenner was designated male on her birth certificate, as a young child she knew that she was a girl.”
    -DON’T speculate about medical procedures transgender people may or may not choose to undertake as part of their transition. This is private medical information, and a transgender identity is not dependent on medical procedures. Overemphasizing the medical aspects of a person’s transition objectifies transgender people, and prevents the public from seeing the transgender person as a whole person.
    -DON’T imply that someone who comes out as transgender (regardless of their age) was lying or being deceptive because he or she chose to keep that information private. Transgender people face extremely high rates of family rejection, employment and housing discrimination, and physical violence. Every transgender person has to prepare to face the possible consequences of coming out and living as their authentic selves. That caution does not mean that they were deceptive or lying. It simply means they felt it necessary to keep their authentic self private until they were safely able to disclose it to others.
    -DON’T indulge in superficial critiques of a transgender person’s femininity or masculinity. Commenting on how well a transgender person conforms to conventional standards of femininity or masculinity is reductive and insulting.
    For a more extensive Reference Guide on transgender issues, please visit glaad.org/reference/transgender or glaad.org/transgender.

    • “-DO refer to her as Caitlyn Jenner. DON’T refer to her by her former name. She has changed it, and should be accorded the same respect received by anyone who has changed their name. Since Caitlyn Jenner was known to the public by her prior name, it may be necessary initially to say “Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner…” However, once the public has learned Jenner’s new name, do not continually refer to it in stories” is what I referred to, and it is not out of context.

      It’s a different identity, not just a name. JENNER calls it a new identity. And incidentally, GLAAD has no business ordering anyone how to write, communicate, or designate pronouns, Talk about political correctness fascism. Jenner still has a penis. Can I call her a “shemale” ? I think that’s my choice, thanks. Why are you endorsing the speech police?

      • I endorse Strunk & White, not the PC speech police. This is an issue of journalistic clarity, except for those who unnecessarily politicize it. Which I suggest is what is happening here.

        Should we refer to “Mark Twain, formerly known as Samuel Clemens,” every time we discuss Huck Finn? Should author George Eliot be referred to by one pronoun before she was ‘outed,’ and another afterwards? Should Babe Ruth be always known as Babe “George Herman” Ruth every time we discuss the Sultan of Swat? Should we rewrite every Wikipedia entry of every transgendered person to scrupulously make pronouns adhere to a timeline of a single event in their life?

        No. It’s as ridiculous for you to insist on pronouns reflecting “historical accuracy” in writing as it would be for someone (I’m waiting to actually see such a unicorn) suggest that the Olympics go back and change Jenner’s award to a female event.

        Any time you want to write about someone, it just makes grammatical commonsense to use a single pronoun.

        Every newspaper and magazine in the country is going through this, and you’d be wrong to ascribe any nefarious political motives to it beyond how to write clearly. As to GLAAD offering some guidelines, who the heck else should you turn to? They don’t have the final say in any newsroom, but they surely have an informed perspective.

        I just don’t see this particular issue as “fascism.” Call her what you like, it’s a free world, just don’t confuse grammar with politics unnecessarily.

        • “I endorse Strunk & White, not the PC speech police. This is an issue of journalistic clarity.”

          Interesting. We want to make things “clearer” so we’re going to whitewash the past, change details and omit others. Out! Pesky facts! Out!

      • The vibe I’m getting is that they’re not trying to tell you what is and is not permitted, but rather how to be respectful. To be respectful, we describe a person at any time t0 with their name at time t0, even when describing events in their past at time t0 – t, because it is implied that all contextually relevant information associated with t0 – t, possibly including their name at time t0 – t, will be disclosed.

        If I were writing a biography, I’d probably be upfront with the name change issue at the beginning, note where the name changed when we got to that part, but use the current name throughout, with little reminders where the past name was… plot-relevant, if you will. It’s the same person throughout, though; a rose by any other name and all that. It’s less confusing and more respectful to refer to a person by how they’re known now and only bring it up a) for completeness’s sake and b) where it makes a difference. “X, then going by Y, did this.”

        Titles are different from names, and pseudonyms are different still. Titles are roles recognized by society, and are therefore “true” or not. I am factually not a knight because I was never knighted. Pseudonyms are not “true” because the person only claims that handle for a certain context; they are tools to deceive or distract (but are not necessarily bad). A name is a pointer to a person and must be claimed for all contexts, and by my definition cannot be “false” because I let people determine for themselves what they want to be called.

        Regarding the pronoun issue, it seems as though we’re defining pronoun use based on two different criteria. For me, there is no “factually incorrect” use of a pronoun because the pronoun I use is the one the subject prefers, and to use other pronouns is merely disrespectful. For others here, it seems “factual incorrectness” implies that pronouns are empirical. I recognize that pronouns are defined based on important features of what they describe, such as consciousness (“it” versus all others), number (singular versus plural), involvement (first, second, and third person), and… apparently gender, since gender was really important to primitive human society and humans have yet to rise above that. I just don’t value the comparatively useless or redundant information provided by pronouns as much as I value showing respect to a person.

        I, for one, am not in the habit of turning “is”s into “ought”s, so I am free to let a person request the way they “ought” to be treated regardless of the way they “are.” I don’t think calling people by the name and pronoun they choose is any impediment to historical accuracy, because I don’t believe that names and pronouns are facts to begin with. For example, “I am ExCeph,” is not a fact. “I use the name ExCeph,” is a fact. “The entity referred to as ExCeph uses another name,” is a fact. For short, we could say “ExCeph uses another name.” Let’s not fall into the True Scotsman fallacy when talking about names.

        On a different note, I’m still not convinced that it’s possible to have a “deeply held sense of being male or female” because I don’t think that maleness or femaleness are “deep” concepts. Body dysphoria, the sensation that one’s body is somehow “wrong,” definitely exists, but where does a person get any idea of what their body “should” look like instead, other than by observing other bodies? Our brains don’t know what the physical archetypes of “male” or “female” look like, or that they even exist, until society tells us. Therefore, one could theoretically have a “deeply held sense” of being literally anything, depending on where one grows up. Transgenderness reminds me of culture-bound syndromes such as Wendigo psychosis, a mental illness that pops up only where people know what a Wendigo is in the first place. I think that if society didn’t have so many gender norms, transgenderness would not manifest as much because there would be fewer potential sources of dysphoria.

        However, as we’ve seen, it’s possible to profess “deeply held beliefs” regarding objective reality that are empirically wrong, which I think just cheapens the word “deep.” I think the people who wrote this recommendation may be invoking the word “deep” to shut up people who aren’t willing to challenge their own “deep” beliefs regarding LGBT issues but who might by the same token pay more respect to “deep” feelings than to regular, everyday feelings. It’s worth a shot, since “deep feelings” might be all those people understand at the moment.

        • Great post. I would make it a COTD, except that this whole debate is bit trivial, and one COTD on it is sufficient.

          I have a scholarly biography of Genghis Khan. It refers to him as Temüjin, his birth name, all the way through his youth and well into his rule until he is re-named Ghengis Khan. Then it’s Ghengis throughout.

          I don’t find that confusing. I find it accurate. And the gender factor doesn’t alter the principle involved. I have other biographies that do the same, like with Ulysses H. Grant, who was called Hiram until he made his middle name his first.

          • Oh, and Charles? Wikipedia handles Gengis the same way. “In 1186, Temüjin was elected khan of the Mongols. However, Jamukha, threatened by Temüjin’s rapid ascent, quickly moved to stop Temüjin’s ambitions. In 1187, he launched an attack against his former friend with an army of thirty thousand troops. Temüjin hastily gathered together his followers to defend against the attack, but he was decisively beaten in the Battle of Dalan Balzhut…”

            • Of course. As I said elsewhere, the longer the passage about one’s past, the more likely good writing will dictate you use the preferred-name-at-the-time, whether it’s Genghis Khan, Cassius Clay, or Jenner. And the shorter the reference, the more likely good writing dictates you use a singular, current pronoun. That’s just sensible writing.

              As Extradimensional Cephalopod elegantly put it, “use the current name throughout, with little reminders where the past name was… plot-relevant, if you will. It’s the same person throughout, though; a rose by any other name and all that.”

              Again – this is simply about writing, not about cultural politics.

              • “Again – this is simply about writing, not about cultural politics.”

                Bull. Shit.

                GLAAD isn’t worried about writing. When’s the last time political organizations discussed the oxford comma? For fucks sake. Get a grip.

                • “GLAAD isn’t worried about writing. When’s the last time political organizations discussed the oxford comma? For fucks sake. Get a grip.”

                  GLAAD published a “Tip Sheet” for use by journalists in talking about transgender issues. Here’s a Tip Sheet on how to write Tip Sheets for journalists, in case you don’t think tip sheets are a “thing:”
                  http://www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog/?p=836

                  You could look at journalism’s Collection of Tip Sheets at
                  http://dartcenter.org/tag/tip-sheet

                  It’s a thing. So is GLAAD’s tip sheet for how to write about transgender. It’s not a manifesto, it’s a grammatical guide.

                  OK, in the sense that any Tip Sheet is a suggested guide to terminology and culture, yes it is ‘political,’ just as are tip sheets on Business Etiquette Around the World:
                  https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/tip-sheet-business-etiquette-around-the-world/

                  GLAAD is totally worried about writing, because good writing reflects clear thinking; bad writing reflects muddled thinking. Thinking that insists on “a man is a man and a woman is a woman and everybody’s one or another and it never changes” is muddled thinking.

                  • “GLAAD is totally worried about writing, because good writing reflects clear thinking; bad writing reflects muddled thinking.”

                    I disagree. Completely. GLAAD is an advocacy group. It’s mission: “GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBT acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love.” See, http://www.glaad.org/about.

                    GLAAD couldn’t care less about clear thinking unless it promotes its agenda, or as they state, “rewrite the script for LGBT acceptance”. Oppose same-sex marriage and you are destroyed as homophobic. Refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding and you are subjected to civil rights charges facing fines of $135,000.00. Preach at a fundamentalist Southern Baptist church that homosexuality is a sin and you get banished from a show on A & E. Challenge a city ordinance allowing trans-people to use whatever facility they desire and you are compelled to produce your sermons and parishioner rolls. That is not clear thinking. That is advocacy, using the media to destroy your enemies.

                    jvb

                  • “GLAAD is totally worried about writing, because good writing reflects clear thinking; bad writing reflects muddled thinking.”

                    Doubleplus goodthink CG

                    “Thinking that insists on “a man is a man and a woman is a woman and everybody’s one or another and it never changes” ”

                    Strawman. I explicitly think that both physical sex and gender can change, but that those changes have a fixed transition point.

        • This discussion makes me think of Douglas Adams, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”:

          “Now it is such a bizarrely improbably coincidence that anything so mindbogglingly useful [as the Babel fish] could have evolved by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.

          “The argument goes something like this: ‘I refuse to prove that I exist,’ says God, ‘for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.’
          “‘But,’ says Man, ‘the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED’
          “‘Oh dear,’ says God, ‘I hadn’t thought of that,’ and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.”

          Douglas Adams, The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (book one of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series).

          As Charles stated, synthesizing ExCeph’s point, “What ExCeph is pointing out – and the whole Jenner thing is forcing us to recognize – is that ‘I am a man’ is not as existential as we once thought; it’s a lot more like an adjective, and it’s subject to shifting definitions over time. Once you ‘get’ that ‘male’ and ‘female’ are not absolute terms, but rather ones subject to further definition (preference, gender, orientation), then it becomes silly to be bound by a single, binary pronoun (he, she) in describing past, existential events.” The mind boggles at the implications.

          jvb

          • Cool! I hadn’t been aware of that passage from Hitch Hiker’s Guide. It amounts to a brilliant critique of Anselm’s Ontological Proof of the existence of god (also disproven by David Hume and by Bertrand Russell, among others). The punch line: existence is not an attribute, and an argument based on assuming that “saying it is makes it so” is a flawed argument.

            Similarly, an argument based on assuming that “HE” or “SHE” is a permanently existing attribute is also flawed.

            I don’t know about boggling the mind, but it does for sure make us re-think things. (See also, Copernicus, as in, should we describe the world as being flat before his time?)

            • Or, in the immortal words of Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo?):

              Christopher Columbus: “Pasta e fagiole. She’s a-round. She’s a-firm. She’s a-firm impact-a. The world, she’s a’ round, like-a my head!!”
              King of Spain: Whacking Columbus on the head with a hammer, “She’s a-flat, like your head. ”

              jvb

    • “-AVOID the phrase “born a man” when referring to Jenner. If it is necessary to describe for your audience what it means to be transgender, consider: “While Caitlyn Jenner was designated male on her birth certificate, as a young child she knew that she was a girl.””

      THAT is interesting. If from birth Jenner identified as female, is entering the men’s decathlon fraud?

          • Why WOULD it be fraud? By all objective standards of the time, the-person-now-formerly-known-as-Bruce-Jenner was a practicing, anatomically correct, fully functioning male. That’s an historical fact. Who do you think is trying to claim otherwise?

            • Because if we’re supposed to “-AVOID the phrase “born a man” when referring to Jenner.” and “If it is necessary to describe for your audience what it means to be transgender,” we should “consider: “While Caitlyn Jenner was designated male on her birth certificate, as a young child she knew that she was a girl.”” Then the logical conclusion is that Caitlyn was always a girl, and committed a fraud. Was Jenner male or female? If he was male, history should record that, if she was female, history should record that, and scour her records because she was in the wrong division. You were talking about the meaning of language earlier.

              You’re saying that no one is trying to rewrite history, but that’s exactly what they’re doing. If they weren’t scrubbing Bruce from history by pushing ‘rules’ like this, I don’t think we would be having this conversation. There is dissonance between what you think should happen here, and what actually is.

                • Oh please, that’s awful argumentation.

                  You’re both making two flawed assumptions:
                  a. that “boy” and “girl” mean one thing and one thing only
                  b. that “boy” and “girl” are terms that can never meaningfully change.

                  Both of those assumptions are wrong.

                  “Boy” can mean (a) gender, in the anatomical sense.
                  “Boy” can mean (b) sexual preference, as in “likes girls.”
                  “Boy” can mean (c) gender identity, as in “thinks of self as male.”
                  This is basic stuff.

                  So, if YOU’D like to use the phrase, “Born a man,” it’s incumbent on you to state just which meaning of the three you intend. (As GLAAD notes, it’s a great opportunity for confusion).

                  In Jenner’s case, (s)he has clearly stated (s)he was (a) anatomically a boy, (b) clearly liked girls – and yet, since early age, (c) had a gender identity as female.

                  You seem to INSIST on refusing to acknowledge these different aspects of reality – and then are indignant that language doesn’t somehow parallel your monocular view of reality; that somehow if you’re (a) and (b), you must also be (c).

                  But your saying so doesn’t make it true.

                  You are arguing that if Jenner is going to change (a) in order to be in accord with (c), that somehow Jenner was lying all along about (a). But that is not true either – that is just you refusing to admit this nuanced view of reality.

                  The truth is: Jenner was (a) 100% anatomically male until his 30s, when he started tweaking the dial, and mostly male until a month ago, when he flipped the dial pretty close to 180 degrees.

                  Jenner has said that all along (c) (s)he felt like a woman.

                  And for most of Jenner’s life (s)he (b) has liked women; I have no idea whether that will change (not sure Jenner knows either), but there’s no necessary reason for it to change (though then of course you’ll get hung up about whether he’s a “lesbian” – another opportunity for label confusion).

                  You ask, “Was Jenner male or female?”

                  Yes.

                  And stop trying to force reality into yes/no on/off black/white boxes.

                  • I love it. I think you actually believe this crap.

                    ““Boy” can mean (a) gender, in the anatomical sense.
                    “Boy” can mean (b) sexual preference, as in “likes girls.”
                    “Boy” can mean (c) gender identity, as in “thinks of self as male.”
                    This is basic stuff. ”

                    B is especially stupid, because if “boy” in that usage directly correlates to a sexual preference, logically gay men would be “girls” and lesbians would be “boys”. Make that argument. Please.

                    C is…. Odd. It’s definitely not common vernacular. Even the trans community doesn’t think about it that way. That’s why they use “transgender” male and “transgender” female. There’s an acceptance that while they’re in the process of transitioning they don’t quite fit the gender binary. And once they make the transition they are a man or a woman.

                    “You seem to INSIST on refusing to acknowledge these different aspects of reality – and then are indignant that language doesn’t somehow parallel your monocular view of reality; that somehow if you’re (a) and (b), you must also be (c).”

                    I don’t actually think that. I do think that the idea that if someone is physically male but identifies as female they are somehow both is sophistry and artificial. The fact of the matter is that things are. These aren’t Schrodinger’s penises. Labels are only useful so long as they are meaningful, and the vast majority of people view male and female as physical states of being. There are blurred lines once someone has taken steps to transition, but once the process is done, they are in another state of being. It sounds like the point you are trying to make is that what someone thinks of themselves should change other people’s perception of them…. And I’d love for you to explain why you think that way.

                    You are arguing that if Jenner is going to change (a) in order to be in accord with (c), that somehow Jenner was lying all along about (a).

                    No, I’m saying that if you want to make the point that if Jenner was always female, which is exactly what you’re doing, then he should not have qualified to compete as male. Because he did qualify to compete as male, he obviously wasn’t female at that time.

                    Our disagreement is in states of being. You seem to believe that male and female aren’t mutually exclusive. I’d argue that except in a few very narrow circumstances that they are, and someone’s self identification, while very important to them, is irrelevant to society at large, and definitely irrelevant to history.

                    “And stop trying to force reality into yes/no on/off black/white boxes.”

                    No. Sophist.

                  • This has to be the silliest thing I’ve ever read from a sane and serious source. You can’t redefine history retroactively just because it makes someone’s inconsistencies, evolution and personal decisions seem more consistent. I know that it is politically and socially beneficial for mind-bending activists to muddle the concept of gender beyond all recognition, but you don’t have to fall for it. I’m directing a production of “12 Angry Men, ” you know. It’s about men, not women. That has meaning—the play is about gender as much anything else. None of thgese guys is going to come back to be in 20 years and say, “You know, I transitioned in 2025,” so you broke theatrical ground by casting a woman in that show!” To which I retort to her: “You’re an idiot.”

                    As matter of compassion and respect, if a person with male genitalia feels that he, okay, she, wants to and has to identify as a woman, I’ll roll with that…but in point of fact, a name and an attitude does not a woman make. This is still a man. An individual who looks like a man, acts like a man, has XY chomosomes, competes as a man, dresses as a man, is named a man’s name, is attracted and has male-female sex with women, and is treated and regarded as a man by everyone he knows IS a man, and male. Jenner is an easy case. Some aren’t as Zoe has told us many times, but Jenner—piece of cake. Nothing that happens 30 years later changes that, or how we should describe that part of his life, and to make this kind of Captain Kirk argument—you know, like when he was trying to make computers self destruct—is just sophistry crossed with political correctness treated with psychobabble painted with surrealism undermined by fantasy undergirded by magical thinking printed on a Mobius strip.

                    Bruce Jenner was a man and a male when he won the Olympics, a he in every way. All of your spinning is cancelled out by Occam’s Razor.

                    • If you think I’m silly, you’d better not listen to Alice Dreger, professor of Clinical Medical Humanities and Bioethics at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern.
                      Then again, if you think XY chromosome alone describes “male,” maybe you’d better listen. Mother Nature never heard of Occam’s Razor.

                      If you don’t like GLAAD’s definitions, try those from the Human Rights Campaign’s Top Eight things reporters covering transgender people should know:
                      http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/reporting-about-transgender-people-read-this

                      But hey at the end of the day, I can’t stop your thinking that male/female is binary and that all grammar is political – so let me suggest this – we revisit this point a year from now, and see what language the general press evolves to use.

                      My $10 bet: it’ll be commonplace (e.g. in Time, NYTimes, WaPo, etc.) to find historical sentences using Jenner’s female name and the female pronoun to describe Jenner’s past in general, including events from her past when she was male.
                      AND, at the same time, we will have seen NO attempt to rewrite Olympic history to disqualify her from the Olympics, or from the men’s category.

                      Bet?

                    • No bet. Political correctness is rampant, and “everybody does it” doesn’t make it sensible, clear or honest. What if Bruce flips again, Charles, like that ABC exec? Then Bruce didn’t know he was Caitlyn when he was winning the gold? How many times can the past and the record be changed this way?

                      As you know, I’m sure, an appeal to authority, and activist, interested authority at that, doesn’t carry any weight. I didn’t appeal to the fact that billions of normal people, who tend to define societal definitions, would say that Bruce Jenner was a man, and wonder how anyone would argue anything else.

                      I didn’t say that gender is binary. I’m saying that the past and the present are binary. The present can’t change the past.

                    • This just in. Don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, but of course the field of journalism is out in front of all of us on this.

                      Here’s how the New York Times is grappling with the right use of pronouns, and of speaking about the past. The issue has now been discussed in the editors’ rooms and by the NYT’s Public Editor, Margaret O’ Sullivan.

                      http://flavorwire.com/504889/the-new-york-times-is-learning-publicly-how-to-report-on-transgender-identities

                      http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/11/the-times-and-transgender-issues-part-one-of-two-on-pronouns/

                      And here from the Columbia Journalism Review (guess who they cite):
                      “It is up to reporters covering a murder of a transgender person to educate themselves, at the minimum by reading GLAAD’s media reference guide, the NLGJA Stylebook, or by putting in a quick call to the National Center for Transgender Equality.”

                      But, I hear you saying, all those ignorant people saying so don’t mean it’s right. To hell with the French, the democrats, the radical libs at GLAAD, the NYTimes, and Columbia Journalism School, right? Buncha ignorant folks.

                      OK then, how about the Bible for the news profession: the Style Guide for the Associated Press.

                      Here it is:

                      “Transgender: Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.”

                      Funny thing about language: you don’t get to declare what’s “right” any more than the French do. Definitions are anthropological, not logical. The order in which definitions appear in a dictionary is pretty much the order of common usage. And the arbiter of common usage in the journalism business is saying (and has been since 2013 and the Manning case) that they’ll go with the present pronoun, thank you very much, and what the party prefers is also relevant.

                      And to be clear: Generalissimo Franco is still dead, and still nobody is claiming that we should rewrite Olympic history. We’re just talking grammar here, folks, nothing to see, move along…

                    • What if Bruce flips again, Charles, like that ABC exec?

                      Interesting you should mention her… there were some really interesting medical issues there regarding hormone production, and switchbacks. PMT-Menopause on a weekly cycle.

                      Anyway, things stabilised after a while. Male didn’t work. Physiologically, that might have been closer, but psychologically, not.

                      This morning I awoke in my own bed in my own place in (a city), and went to work at (a publication). It was a good, but busy day.

                      One year ago today, I woke up in the psych ward at Bellevue. I had tried to kill myself, over the mounting losses of my marriage, my good name and reputation. and now my livelihood was at risk. My career was about to end just when my family needed me to earn those big bucks the most. Summer was just ahead, and my wife had one more payday that would have to last them until September. With no job, my wife told me: I was worth more to her dead than alive.

                      I realized: she wasn’t being dramatic. She meant it.

                      But I came to realize I had three reasons to live: my 3 kids.

                      I was evaluated and eventually released, only to find out that while I was in the hospital, my bosses at ABC let me go.

                      I “resigned.”

                      And of course the tabloids had one more field day at my expense, reporting ABC gave me a pink slip to go with my pink slip. Ha.

                      I recount all this because I have decided to spin today not as the anniversary of the end of my TV News career, but rather as the day ABC made it possible for me to become the freelance media correspondent for (a publication), ultimately to become the News Editor here.

                      I share this so that everyone who thinks, when bad stuff happens, “it’s the end of the world. I can’t go on!” I know how you feel… but you can.

                      Yes, you can. You must.

                      I had given up, but God and my friends and my children wouldn’t let go of me. They kept me from making the worst mistake of my life.

                      I saved a voicemail from that time that I listen to almost every day… It’s from a dear friend who died a few weeks later, and it serves as a reminder of his love for me and my own desire to keep living, for him, for me, and for my kids.

                      If you or someone you know are an LGBT young person (ages 24 and younger) struggling with thoughts of suicide, you can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. Transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals needing support can contact the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 can also be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.

                      I’m so glad to be here, and life isn’t perfect, but it sure as hell beats the alternative.

  4. Political entities, and social ones as well, reveal what they fear when they try to control how they are perceived. What they almost always fear is truth.

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