September 28th, 2021


To be a man, for all that

Wesley Pruden

By Wesley Pruden

Published May 8, 2015

 To be a man, for all that

The "progressives," who were "liberals" before they stunk up the word so bad that even they couldn't take it any longer, invented identity politics, which encourages everyone to find a grievance and build his/her/its identity around it. We're almost there.

Identity politics often requires a lot of double-think and suspension of what used to be called common sense. Lady soldiers, to indulge contradiction in terms, are soon to be put up close and personal to battlefield bang-bang, though the advocates of sending women to combat are not the women of the Army and Navy, but feminists, cowed politicians, generals and admirals who don't intend to go anywhere close enough to hear the sound of the guns. The mess hall will be close enough. (Everybody's gotta eat.)

The anvil chorus of the media encourages all to think — indeed, we may soon be required to think — that two men or two women who can't keep their hands off each other and can afford the price of a marriage license, will be duly married and entitled to the rewards of the marital chamber.

The latest fad in the cultural marketplace is the celebration of transgenderism, which once required lots of chemicals and knifework but now can be done in the mind, where it's a lot cheaper. If a man thinks he's a woman, or a woman wants to be a man, that's about all it takes. We're all G0D's children, the argument goes, and everyone is entitled to his/her/its dignity, with or without a truss or skirt. Ours may be the most dignified culture since Adam and Eve put on clothes. (Just look at all that dignity around you.)

A man far ahead of his time posed what he thought was a clever riddle to Abraham Lincoln. "If you call his tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?" That was easy. "Four," old Abe replied. "You can call a tail a leg, but it's still a tail." You can call them husbands and wives, but they still look like husbands-in-law.

For all the noise they make, gays, lesbians and the transgendered are actually rare to the vanishing point everywhere but in television, the movies, magazine and big-city newspapers. According to government surveys, homosexuals make up 1.6 percent of the population and the transgendered comprise .03 percent. That's three-tenths of one percent. Not very many, though the Pentagon insists that 1.6 percent of the men and women on the ramparts to defend the nation are transgendered.

But that three-tenths of one percent is enough for the media to make further organized sexual confusion look like the wave of the future. Just as Bill Clinton brought discussions of oral sex into the respectable parlor, a new generation is having to learn the nomenclature of passion, if not necessarily the terms of true love. No squirming allowed.

Smith College, a seat of learning once reserved exclusively for well-brought up young ladies in the bucolic precincts of Massachusetts, is leading the way in wrestling with new nomenclature. Smith, which is determined to remain a college only for those well-brought up young ladies, nevertheless wants to do the right thing, or more important, to be seen doing the right thing. Beginning this year, "applicants [for admission] who were assigned male at birth but identify as women are eligible for admission."

The right thing trumps science and serious observation. A man with all his gifts of birth — his chromosomes, his DNA, his Adam's apple and his bulging biceps — but who says he's a woman, is in fact a woman. "Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine/A man's a man for a' that." Bobby Burns said so, and so does Smith. It's a triumph for transgenderism.

But not quite: "Smith does not accept applications from men. Those assigned female at birth but who now identify as male are not eligible for admission." Alas, it's back to the bad old days of "No Jews/Irish/Colored Need Apply." Somewhere a lawyer is salivating.

Smith is determined to hew to its charter, to educate only women. Or, as Jonathan Last observes in the Weekly Standard, Smith doesn't want to see "trans men" — women on their way to manhood — "as really being male at all. Smith thinks it's all just make believe and are happy to let these women play 'dress-up' on campus."

However, and there's always a however, there might be a way to sneak a man into the Smith student body. A young woman who wants to be a man could enroll as the woman she is and afterward say she's the man she says she wants to be. Once in, there's no exit. "Once admitted," Smith says, "every student has the full support of the college and this includes transmen."

Voila! Another standard smashed.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.