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Dangerous Thoughts About Men and Women

Just about everything we are supposed in our time to say about men and women is not sane

Recently, in Washington state, a big brawny man wearing a skirt went to a Star Wars memorabilia store to intimidate the elderly owner, a Vietnam veteran. The owner had put a sign in his window, saying that if you have a something that rhymes with chick, “you’re not a chick.” The man looks as much like a woman as Harvey Korman did, when he did his hilarious shtick in drag as the enormous ample-bosomed yenta on the old Carol Burnett Show. A bad imitation, to be sure.

The old man didn’t back down. Yet even the “conservative” New York Post called his sign “transphobic” in its video report, which is strange, since the person displaying the jitters was not the old man, but the fellow in the skirt. That prompts a question. What can possibly be going on in the minds of people engaging in so obvious a pretense?

Suppose, by accident, or to be mischievous, or in a pique, you prick somebody with an ordinary pin.

“How dare you do that?” he shrieks, or she, as the case may be. “Violence! Evil! Hatred! You want to cancel my existence! You want to murder me!”

There are three possibilities. The victim of the pinprick is a liar. He knows very well that you do not want to kill him. In fact, he has been hoping you would do what you did, or something like it. He has been needling you, after all, and just before you did so, he thrust his posterior in your line of sight. Your “violence” has made his day, because he has been spoiling for an occasion to hurt you in public.

Or the victim may be a lunatic. He does believe that the pinprick may kill him. As he cries out against you, he curls up in a fetal position, whimpering obscenities. The tigers of his imagination are on the prowl.

But he may be speaking the truth, or a part of it. Imagine that he suffers from an illness that makes hemophilia look like phlebitis. That one little prick of the pin can spill all the life out of him. He is a rare and delicate hothouse lily, ready to wilt. The least opposition to his fancy is fatal.

These are the three ways I have of understanding the sexually mad among us, in their various forms. Take, for example, men who pretend to be women, or women who pretend to be men. It is strictly impossible for a person to change his sex. That cleft is not a birth canal. That prosthesis is but a cheap and sad and silly imitation of the real thing. That man has no eggs. That woman has no seed. That man looks like a rather ugly caricature of a woman; all he can do is mimic a few salient and superficial characteristics, keeping the bony face, the big hands, the Adam’s apple, and the thousands of features obvious and not obvious that distinguish man from woman. That woman looks like a stunted and diseased sort of boy, with hair.

When you have no case, the lawyers say, you shout. When your whole approach to sex is based on falsehood, you shout—and that includes calling upon the juggernauts of the state, big business, and the bureaucratic personnel managers at your place of work to crush or silence anybody who would dare to speak the truth. It’s Hans Christian Andersen’s story with a twist. The boy speaks up and points at the emperor, and then one of the palace guard shoots the boy.

Unreality must be backed up by power, and the more insane your demands are, the more power it will take to get people to play along. Every school, every library, every film and television show, every municipality, every landlord, every business, every church must agree. Even silence is a threat. The purveyors of the unreal must fear that behind the mild and sad look in my eyes, though I say not one word, gleams the truth: You are a man, not a woman. You are a woman, not a man.

The situation may be worse still. In the story of the emperor, people signaled their virtue by pretending to see what was not there to be seen. Accounting themselves wise, they became fools. But a better strategy is not to depend upon vanity and pride. It is to infect everyone else with a kindred madness. And just about everything that we are supposed in our time to say about men and women is not sane.

I am to pretend that women as a group can be soldiers as well as men can. That is not sane. The fact that women need to be segregated from men in the Olympics testifies to it. The records, in track, for high school boys in the United States are better than the records for women in the world, and track penalizes the heavier body of the male. In most other land sports, the gap grows as wide as the Grand Canyon. There must be a couple hundred boys’ basketball teams in the United States that would pulverize the WNBA champs. Football? Forget it.

I am to pretend that a man can marry another man, or that a woman can marry another woman, when I know that they cannot even engage in sexual intercourse. All they can do is mimic it. “Fella,” says the Thomist farmer, “that don’t go there.” I am to pretend that a little child who does not know where puppies come from can be certain that he is a girl. I am to pretend that children growing up without both a mother and a father will be perfectly fine, so long as the perpetual adolescents who should be taking care of them get their jollies.

I am to be content with commonplace obscenity, and porn as my nation’s biggest export. I am to shrug when people do the child-making thing without being in the slightest degree prepared to care for a child. I am to pretend that the child they make is a parasite, or a wart. I am to pretend, I guess, that human blood is just red food coloring.

So we go on pretending our rather sullen and dismal way to perdition.

And that makes me think I have missed one possibility, which is that in some measure, we—and not just the crazy-clown vanguard—are liars, lunatics, and lilies all at once. We know that most of what we say about men and women is not real. Yet we insist on it, or we yield to it, hoping it will not be too destructive after all, though we are never more than a heartbeat away from shrieking, spat-out filth, and hysteria.

Confidence and calm go together. The healthy lion ignores the world and sleeps in the afternoon. The sick beast snarls and snaps at its own healer. We are like that sick beast. A touch is a bruise to the death.

Deep in our hearts, we know how frail our web of nonsense is. One good cold puff of the truth would cause it to shrivel and die. May God in his grace bring that truth to our souls, before an unforgiving Nature brings it down upon our heads. Either way, the truth will win.

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