Features, Memoir, recent, Sex

Aristophanes’ Orphans: A Disabled Trans Woman Surveys the Grey Zone Between Love and Fetish

Since I first read Plato’s Symposium, I have been fond of Aristophanes’ account of the origin of love. The tale goes something like this. Human beings used to be spherical creatures with four legs, four arms, and two faces divided evenly between each side. We also used to come in three distinct varieties. Men were those composed of two male halves, women were those composed of two female halves, and the androgynous were those composed of both a male and a female half.

Everything was going swell for us, you might say, until the gods meddled, as they were wont to do. Fearing the power of humanity, Zeus sliced every human into two and had Apollo sew up the opening, with our belly buttons serving as a reminder not to test the power of the gods. Everyone found themselves feeling empty and longing for their other half, be it the woman you were attached to or the man you were attached to. Love was born out of the search to be whole.

I’m fond of this narrative for its simple beauty. But it is sadly incomplete. As progressives are quick to note, sexual attraction is more complicated than the pairings of men and women. People come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. And some categories of human are so peculiar that they can confound the very notion of healthy sexual attraction. In such cases, we sometimes use the term “fetish” to suggest that there is something odd, or even unwholesome, at play.

Perhaps a female object of desire is afflicted with obesity, a health problem now affecting hundreds of millions of people all over the world. Suppose as well that her suitor is attracted because he is, as one might say on dating sites, “all about the bass.” To put it simply, he likes big girls. We could explain this situation politely by saying that there is no such thing as objective beauty in the first place, and so everything boils down to subjective desire. But such aesthetic relativism defies our day to day experience. Moreover, if we consider everything to be beautiful and desirable in some sense, we are left with no language to explain the fact that many people truly do feel ugly and undesirable. The concept of beauty, like every other, contains its own opposite. And if we pretend to disavow any understanding of that opposite, we can never give ourselves license to extol that which we truly find beautiful.

In categories of subjective attraction—again, fetish is the reductionist term—we find the possibility of society’s judgement. In extreme cases, the applied clinical term is paraphilia—“a condition characterized by abnormal sexual desires.” Now imagine what it’s like to the object of this kind of desire. Possessing the sort of body that attracts the interest of only those harboring “abnormal sexual desires” is hardly uplifting. It is not something that we often talk about. But for people living outside of the norms of conventional sexual attraction, it is an existential problem we live with every day.

That includes me. I was born with a genetic disorder called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a rare condition that results in progressive muscle wasting similar to what is symptomatic in various forms of Muscular Dystrophy. I was never able to walk, and required the use of a wheelchair from the age of three. Although I had good use of my arms throughout my youth, my left arm began weakening in my teenage years and my right arm began to follow in my 20s. Now, I can’t move my arms or hands (or any other part of my body) independently. My joints and hands suffer from contractures, and in some cases have contorted into aesthetically unpleasing shapes. My lower spine suffers from scoliosis, because a corrective surgery in my youth had to be stopped short of completion when doctors became concerned that I might not survive the operation. I have had trouble maintaining weight, and for most of my adult life, I have appeared at least somewhat emaciated.

I am at a slightly healthier weight now thanks to the recent installation of a G-tube, a device drilled through a hole in my abdomen that allows for the direct delivery of nutrients, but also tends to leak a gross substance because, well, because it is a hole in my abdomen. And now that I am eating by mouth far less frequently, my swallowing muscles have become relaxed, and I drool if I’m not paying special attention to the saliva in my mouth. I’ve given up on sleeping without waking up with my face in a puddle.

Now, tell me: Does this sound like a body you want to wake up next to in the morning? It certainly doesn’t sound appealing to me, and I’m the one living in it. But I’m in luck, if that’s the right word, because there’s a whole community of individuals out there specifically attracted to physical disabilities. We call them “devotees,” and for some members of this crowd, everything I listed above would be a positive turn-on.

Our friends the Victorians, still prevalent in today’s psychiatric community, are quick to label this form of attraction as a sort of mental-health condition—a paraphilia. And despite my knee-jerk impulse to reject anything that smells of prudishness, I can’t help but feel that they are mostly right. I do think there is something peculiar and abnormal about specifically desiring someone’s disability. Nothing about their attraction validates my personhood the way personhood is meant to be validated. Rather, it feels like a perversion of my personhood, a privileging of qualities I actively work to transcend in my day-to-day existence.

Still, it is absolutely soul-killing to know that my disability is the primary reason I am single. I have a reasonably pretty face. And as long as I keep the camera focused on my shoulders and head, I can take a decent selfie for purposes of dating sites. I have no problem attracting male attention—because, as many other women can attest, the average guy will message without reading the profile. Unfortunately, that attention always fades when the reality of my disability is made clear.

Truthfully, I understand their reasoning. Even looking beyond aesthetic factors, dating someone who is disabled comes with significant baggage. Still, it’s hard to feel happy with yourself when the person you thought you had a connection with tells you that they don’t want to pursue a relationship because you have a lower life expectancy. (Yes, this has actually happened to me on a number of occasions.) Ben Shapiro, someone who I largely respect despite a few disagreements, is fond of saying, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.” This is true, but what do we do when feelings can’t possibly reconcile with facts? I remain a mere half of an Aristophanian human torn apart by the will of the gods, and I can’t help but yearn to be whole.

But wait. I haven’t told you the half of it. I actively avoided seeking relationships earlier in life—a period during which my body was in better shape that it is now—because I was dealing with crippling gender dysphoria. (I finally transitioned between 2015-16. And now you know where Ben Shapiro and I part ways.) What does transsexuality add to this conversation? Quite a lot, I believe: Trans women are well acquainted with men who actively desire the female body with the custom additions of a penis and an Adam’s apple. Pejoratively, we often call them “chasers”—though they tend to prefer terms such as “admirer” or “trans-oriented,” which minimize or deny a paraphilic dimension to their attraction. In many cases, methinks the chaser doth protest too much.

The debate over the intentions or such suitors is lively and ongoing within the trans community. Are such men totally gay or only sort-of-gay? Is it actually a form of deflected heterosexuality? Progressive trans activist Riley Dennis drew a lot of criticism last year (both from conservatives and some progressives) when she posted a video arguing that it was actually transphobic to claim a categorical disinterest in trans bodies.

Where you stand on the topic largely depends on what you think a “trans woman” is. If you believe we are men who have simply altered our bodies because of mental illness (as some conservatives think), you are likely to argue that desiring the trans female body is simply a fetishistic form of homosexuality. By contrast, if you believe, as many progressives do, that trans women are female, full stop—and that any hard-and-fast distinction between us and cisgender women is tantamount to transphobia—you will be inclined to chalk this chaser/admirer behavior up as normal-ish heterosexual behavior. But whichever way you approach the issue, the takeaway is that this conversation is centered around sexual orientation. Indeed, this is the very argument that trans-oriented “chasers” or “admirers” make to distinguish themselves from paraphilic “devotees.” In the most ambitious form of this argument, they will describe themselves as embracing an emerging, transitory, sexual orientation that is neither heterosexual or homosexual.

I don’t have a clear answer on whether such a distinct orientation exists. But I can speak to the significant changes I have put my own body through, and which now serve to plainly distinguish me from a typical (cis) man. I sought out these changes not out of choice, but out of necessity—call it mental illness if you must. But however many distinctions I can draw between my “girl cock” and a “boy cock,” that doesn’t change the fact that it is a penis and not a vagina. And for those of us lucky enough to have “the snip,” I’m happy you have taken steps to create a replica that makes you feel better about yourself and address your dysphoria, but it still isn’t the real thing. So when a person is attracted to me, I do believe they are attracted to a body that is conceptually distinct from a male body, and from a female body. Which is to say: I am, at the very least, open to the possibility of an emergent sexual orientation that allows the attraction I receive as a trans woman to be conceptualized outside of paraphilia.

So why then does it still feel so consistently demeaning to have a gentleman caller (if I may lapse into my own Victorian forms of expression) express enthusiastic desire to “suck me off”? In short, I suppose I feel this way because—notwithstanding my intellectualized claims about orientation—on some emotional level, I still see my transsexuality as being conceptually similar to disability. And so the reason I disdain my suitors is because the offer of sexual gratification comes embedded within a confession of abnormality.

To be a transsexual is to be at constant odds with your body. The more you are able to successfully transition to a gendered presentation that matches your inner experience, the more comfortable you can make yourself with your dysphoria. But except for the few of us who are able to slip entirely into the now-out-of-fashion “stealth” (i.e., pseudo-cis) lifestyle, the dysphoria will always be there to some degree. And any moment you have that reaffirms the divide between sex and gender is going to cause feelings of emotional discordance.

I think I’m fortunate enough to pass very well. But I live in a smaller city and most of the people in my social circles knew me long before my transition. When I’m with a number of my good friends, I don’t feel dysphoric at all because I know they just think of me as one of the girls. With other people, however, I can tell they are largely just putting up a polite act. Perhaps it’s their religion or their politics, which are at odds with the very existence of people like me, or perhaps they are just unable to let go of their older conceptions of who I am. Whatever it is, their presence makes me dysphoric. Just as the “chasers” seem too outwardly eager to appreciate my trans identity, these unspoken skeptics seem inwardly eager to reject it.

* * *

When I wrote the original version of this article in 2017, that was as far as I could get. We with atypical bodies need partners who will love them, but that love, tragically, will always make us feel uncomfortable. The best I could come up with last year was the plea, to chasers and devotees, to “try not to be creepy about it.” But I now feel more optimistic about the possibility of non-paraphilic attraction—if only for the fact that I now have more experience being truly appreciated as a woman by friends.

One of those friends recently shared an experience with me that helped me push past my fatalistic outlook. She is a cisgender woman who happens to be overweight, and her size has caused her to grapple with many of the same issues I have herein described. She has had sexual partners who were enthusiastically turned on by her size, and she has had partners who denigrated her on the same basis. She recently got out of a long-term relationship with this latter sort of toxic specimen, and she is seeing someone new. As is always the case with new partners, my friend was very self-conscious about what her new beau would think of her body. But when they finally did the deed, she ultimately felt complete. She wasn’t with someone who hated her body or even fetishized it. She was with someone who was able to see the core of who she was and love the whole. What he ultimately “fetishizes” is not my friend’s body, but her being. Call me a romantic, but what else is this other than love? And why should anyone aspire to anything less?

So maybe Aristophanes left out a few details. Perhaps some people really will find their whole with someone who has an atypical body. It’s not something I can pronounce on with certainty unless, and until, I eventually find my other half. But whether or not I succeed, I continue to believe these are important questions for all humans, of whatever shape and orientation, to think about—because ultimately, there is nothing more distinctly human than the hunger we experience as attraction and the rhapsody we experience as love.

 

Emma McAllister is a philosopher and freelance writer. She tweets at @_emcallister.

106 Comments

  1. Palace says

    You can count me as a spoken skeptic, nevertheless I am so sorry and best of luck.

  2. Evander says

    At the level of empathy, I can understand your struggle. But as someone who regards herself as a philosopher, have you examined the almost-metaphysical axiom that sex makes us whole? Why do you think that?

    You speak of categories of human. But the fundamental category you advance is human-completed-by-sexual-intimacy. The underlying notion is fulfilment of the self, with the stress falling more on self than fulfilment.

    Freud and Kinsey reign as deities in the supposedly atheistic West.

    • Evander says

      Does philosophy make you uncomfortable, Vicki? Only when it touches your sacred assumptions, I suppose.

      Identity should be scrutinised, distressing as that might be to those who organise their ego around sexuality.

  3. Evander says

    Also, to add contextual nuance to Symposium: Aristophanes mercilessly lampooned Socrates in his comedy Clouds. The defamatory, though hilarious takedown, is arguably in part responsible for his popular reputation as dubious sophist, and so contributing to his demise.

    Add that to the fact that Plato hated myths as error-fraught accounts of reality, and I think Aristophanes’ speech on Eros in the text is both a rebuttal of tradition and a pisstake of the comedian who did injury to Socrates’ social standing.

  4. Loved this piece. Tragic and romantic, Emma really is Victorian.

  5. Peter from Oz says

    I’m intrigued by the fact that the trans community can only exist through politics. Not only that, but it is clear that they hate the idea of going out with men who find them attractive for having male sexual organs and a feminine appearance. What do they expect? Do they think that by more activism they can somehow convince straight men that they really want to marry a woman with a penis?
    And that’s the problem. We are letting a lot of confused people try to distort our culture for no good reason. I wish tranny activists would stop trying to be transgressive and mainstream at once. Most people who don’t fit it with the norm are either not going to find partners or will, as Emma points out, find someone who has a “fetish”. Why can’t tranny activists accept that is also going to be the fate of trannies?
    Everybody accepts that there are people who want change their sex. But the tranny activists can’t just accept tolerance. That wouldn’t satisfy the narcissism that Plato was satirising in the Symposium through the character of Aristophanes.

    • Evander says

      Though speaking outside his usual domain of expertise, I heard Douglas Murray once insightfully remark on the topic of trans-people that transition and acceptance will ‘solve’ the challenges that so-called trans-people face. But you still need to pay taxes, wash the dishes and endure sickness. Humans are finite and cannot escape suffering. But progressivism, in its more intoxicated moments, won’t accept this because it’s incompatible with the optimistic faith in change through human agency.

      Also, I bloody hate the term cis-whatever. It’s inelegant, philistine, and an affront to normal human beings.

      • Who are these ‘normal’ people of which you speak? Surely not those who consider Douglas Murray’s particular sphere of expertise is in being a reactionary arsehole?

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Chris Williams

          It seems to me that part of the reason we are all going crazy is that we have forgotten what normalcy is. Even those few of us who still remember what it is consider ourselves obliged to pretend that we don’t know and to remember that what is important is making the abnormal feel accepted. We should indeed do what we can to help the abnormal feel comfortable in their distress, but we should not forget that a sane society is designed around sane, normal people.

          • I’m 70 years old, and I’ve never met a normal person in my life. Everybody’s got a monkey somewhere.

            Also, as a cis-woman (that’s the term now, guys, please try to keep up) who grew up disabled in the 50’s, I resent the implication that I am obligated to be distressed. All of us must make our peace with our own individual lives, and I’m reasonably happy with mine, thank you.

          • Evander says

            @M.A.

            Normality is roughly someone or something that is a member of the statistical majority, sometimes with the thrown-in implication that abnormal is bad. Mass murder is abnormal; bestiality is abnormal; having six toes on one foot is abnormal.

            “as a cis-woman (that’s the term now, guys, please try to keep up)”

            Let’s play the Progressive Linguistic Purity game. You used the word ‘guys’. Can you safely conclude that the readership of Quillette are all men? Why use an exclusive term? Please try to keep up.

          • Stephanie says

            @MA, what’s more likely is that you’ve been surrounded by normal people your whole life, and so you’ve elevated quirky traits and attention-seeking personas to the realm of “not normal.”

            “Normal” is an inescapable statistical reality. Anyone desperate to be perceived as outside the normal is more than likely deeply insecure over how fundamentally boring they are.

        • Evander says

          People who don’t subscribe to trans-sexual ideology. cis- is a prefix which seeks to legitimise the transgender anthropology. I won’t use the word, like most other people, we who constitute normal, because we don’t want to cede discursive and argumentative ground to this movement. Not least at yet.

          Chris, I’ll indulge you. Tell me how Murray, a British liberal (in the old sense), is a reactionary arsehole? Do you even know who he is?

          • Alex Z says

            Actually, “normalcy”, if it exists is quite rare. There are many axes along which humans can differ and so it is unlikely that many humans are close to the mean for numerous axes.

            Consider some dice. Imagine a 10-sided die. A 1 is low. A 10 is high. 2-8 are normal. If you roll a single die, 80% of your rolls will be normal. But if you roll two dice, only 64% of your rolls will be completely normal. If you roll 10 dice, about 10% will be normal. At 20 dice, only a bit above 1% will be normal.

            Humans have MANY traits along which they have the opportunity to vary substantially. (height, ability to taste certain foods, IQ, several personality dimensions, a wide variety of idiosyncratic diseases, their personal histories, etc…) So most likely, “normal” humans, if they exist, are a very small minority.

        • Πέτρος says

          “Who are these ‘normal’ people of which you speak?”

          It’s a math thing.

          “Normal” commonly refers to the part of a bell-curve distribution near the center, in the “hump” rather than toward the ends or “tails,” often considered to be within one standard deviation.

          So normal people would be those who are attracted to the opposite sex; don’t feel they are the opposite sex of their body; don’t believe aliens abducted them and sucked out their mind and replaced it with a computer; don’t do base jumping; have not published books; don’t understand mathematics very well, etc. Possessing or not possessing these traits put them in the normal section of the distribution; but it does not make them normal in the sense of “good” or “inherently righteous.”

          To give a concrete example, you insult an author with whom you happen disagree. That’s quite normal. Most of the population falls into ad-hominem attacks when confronted with ideas that make them uncomfortable. That suggests you also have a normal IQ, between 100 and 115. Few would call ad hominem attack or an average intelligence good or inherently righteous.

    • Brian Villanueva says

      I felt the same way reading this. I sympathize with the author’s plight, but I notice the constant need to categorize men into groups: “chasers” , “devotees”, “paraphilians”, and then systematically denigrate the attractions of each of those groups. I can not imagine such an approach would be effective with men whether you are disabled, trans, or not.

      The author won’t accept the affections of those who actually desire his body. At the same time, he laments that the rest of us won’t accept his body. Why? Leaving aside the physical disabilities, do you really think well-adjusted, straight, heterosexual men are going to line up to go on dates with someone who looks like a woman but has a penis?

      • Nick Ender says

        You literally can not have a category of other without a category of normal. You can’t be odd if there’s no normal. Now how normal is normal? No one knows. But we do know this, you live your life as though normal exists. Your identity depends on its differences. No normal, no difference.

      • Why are you deliberately referring to them in a way that you *know* will upset them (by calling them ‘he’), after they’ve written such a sympathetic piece about something so difficult and painful? Is it really *so* important to you not to “legitimise trans ideology’ or whatever, that you couldn’t just let it slide in this context?

        You lot are basically the same as the “social justice warriors” when it comes down to it. You have a more reasonable and even-keeled way of expressing yourself, because you value stoicism rather than gushing, but beneath it there is still the same inability to put basic niceness* to people over ideology, and desire to “get” the ideologically deviant by hitting them where it hurts.

        *(No, obviously, I am not saying that everyone should always be nice in every context. I’m not being nice here after all. But niceness is *generally* the right policy and the author has done absolutely nothing to warrant this kind of treatment. Also, there’s a difference between criticising people for hurting others and criticising them for aspects of their identity that they can only dubiously help and which, even if they were completely chosen, aren’t hurting anyone.)

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Peter from Oz

      The nice thing about reality is that there is only one of them, so folks who are interested in reality have only occasional disputes as to what reality is. But for those who prefer make-believe, there are an infinite number of things they might imagine. Thus the Imaginers have the same problem as do the admirers of the emperor’s new clothes — they might describe them as any color and the collective of them will have difficulty agreeing. We now find people strongly labeled as to their responses to imaginary claims, so as the author points out, there are several possible labelings of people who might be attracted to the author vis a vis the author’s imagining that the xe is female. The one stance that is strictly prohibited is the stance that reality should be respected in the same way that the one thing you dared not say to the emperor is that he is naked.

    • Evander says

      It’s called criticism, Vicki. And as I’ve noted above criticism in this domain makes you very uncomfortable.

  6. Richard says

    What about unconditional love? It seems twisted today into unconditional sex. Or worse conditional love and conditional sex. Human beings are the most complicated things ever made. Complicated beyond comprehension.

    I think the article would read better without all the language control and terminologies. Take out the “chasers” the “cis” whatever, “admirers”, “Trans” whatever, and just use language we all know off hand about what you are talking about.

    Do the above and in the end we are left with an ending about an overweight woman finding someone who loves her for who she is unconditionally. There is something we can all celebrate and admire.

    • Richard says

      And as for the author, I think most would agree we would want the same…having someone to love you unconditionally for who you really are, just as your ending suggests…

  7. ga gamba says

    I hear ya, sister. You just want to be a regular guy, someone like Ben Schulz, from Lafayette, Colorado, doing regular things such as laying wire, drinking forties, and gaming. The most notable thing that ever happens is people misspell your name. “Not Schultz. Schulz. S – C – H – U – L – Z. Schulz.” Then lightning strikes. You’re still Ben, but Ben disappears. The rest of the world wants you to be Leeroy Jenkins.

    They’re hounding you. “Say it. Say it.” You oblige. The sweet sound of glee. “Say it again! Say it again! Do it. Do iiiiiiiit!”

    With each shot of Jägermeister you accept, a bit more of Ben is sidelined. Still, free waffles and chicken are free chicken and waffles. Yes, Leeroy is the one eating, but it’s Ben’s belly that’s being filled.

    Hollywood beckons. A pilot is shot. You’re gonna be a star. Then another is shot. You’re going to be the star’s friend. No, his butler. Then his neighbour. His neighbour’s wacky dog walker. It ends up being a cameo. On Hollywood Squares.

    There are the voice groupies. You’ve got the stink of fame and success and they smell it. They’re queued at your bedroom door. All looking for some of that heat, that magic.

    Let’s read Leeroy’s diary entry from 9 June 2016.

    I love women. I’ve had 6,023 relationships with beautiful, fascinating women in my life, every day since 12 May 2005, and all of them were special in their own way. Tonight, I remember #4,306, but in my heart, she was #978. #4,306 was so full of life, love, and laughter. Mmm… I can smell her perfume even now. I was totally head over heels for #4,306. Maybe I was feeling a little vulnerable. I was on the rebound from a previous relationship with a girl, #4,305, who was still in the bathroom getting dressed and preparing to leave. “It’s over,” she said, adding nothing else.

    But there was no time for analyzing – I’ve always followed my heart and #4,306 was now climbing into my bed.

    Three “Leeroy Jenkins!” later and we had drifted apart. #4,306 was right – it just wasn’t there anymore. We just couldn’t keep faking it; she said it felt staged. I wasn’t the real Leeroy she knew and loved. And I agreed.

    Inevitably, fame transitions to infamy. “Ben decided to create the most culturally inappropriate character names imaginable for a bunch of white guys playing video games. Out of Ben’s inebriated mouth tumbled ‘Leeroy Jenkins,’ a moniker so amusingly racist that he decided to use it for his characters in assorted games.”

    The netizens of colour are pissed. Vox, Huffpo, and Slate all pile on. “The intonation of his in-game exclamation and later response to other players strongly suggest that he attempts to convey his idea of a ‘black’ persona as well. If we can agree on this much, then it follows that Schultz’s [there it is again] belief that stating ‘at least I have chicken and waffles’ fits a ‘black’ persona is, indeed, racist.” Oberlin College establishes its School of Leeroy Studies. It’s not flattering.

    As Ben was transitioned to Leeroy, now Leeroy is transitioned to Ben, but an altogether different Ben than the one who hadn’t yet logged on to World of Warcraft on 11 May 2005.

  8. Cindy Martha Satwell says

    At least Ben still gets to drink Jägermeister. Who knows–maybe he can be Randall Pies next?

  9. You are a gay man with serious mental issues to work through and you also have the additional burden of having a disability. Although most trans people and there allies would call me transphobic I do empathise with you. I hope you can find peace some day.

  10. If you’re gonna dish it out, you better be able to take it, Vicki.

    • For one brief, shining moment I thought that perhaps a spontaneous conspiracy to ignore Vicki had manifested. Oh well… at least your reply was funny SM.

      • Asenath Waite says

        @The Flyoverland Crank

        Please can people make this happen? A single poster is ruining these threads, and it’s mostly because people seem to have a strange compulsion to reply to every single one of that poster’s incoherently abusive comments.

        • Tome708 says

          Please tell me they did not censor Vicki. That is how it starts. She clearly had issues but I enjoyed many of her posts. You had to siff thru them for the gold nuggets. She has a different perspective, an angry perspective, but she has the right to express it, especially HERE. Does anyone else agree? This does not seem ironic that she was censured from a free speech site.

          • ga gamba says

            Does anyone else agree?

            I certainly do.

            I posted my comment after 8 or so had already been posted, I’m now reading comments after 55 have been, and I didn’t see anything posted by Vicki. This is not to say she didn’t post and I’m inferring from the incongruence of others’ responses she had.

            It’s a bad optics for Quillette to be deleting comments that don’t breach the law; I’m assuming Vicki’s comments were lawful, and I may be wrong. I think Quillette is domiciled in Australia, which has more restrictions on speech, so this may account for some comments being removed, if that is what happened.

          • Evander says

            @ga gamba

            Quillette doesn’t yet have the profile to raise the hackles of the censorious types down under. In any case, I don’t see any grounds for fearing legal peril in permitting Vicki’s posts on this site.

            Vicki 100% posted multiple comments earlier today that have now been removed. The possible reasons include i) glitch ii) fraudulent posting – people have been impersonating Vicki to post maliciously under her name or iii) censorship for the vile language she has been using, since her more on-task comments were innocuous.

            An explanation should be given asap or I suggest we push for one.

          • Stephanie says

            Vicki certainly has the right to post as she pleases, as much of a nuisance as I find it. It’s easy to scroll past, and definitely best not to engage. I see some of her comments here (from Australia), but I do hope she hasn’t been censored.

            I tried to post a comment a couple of times, but both times it appeared to be gone soon after. They weren’t much more controversial than things I’d said before, but maybe it was just a lapse in my internet connection. I certainly don’t want to see this board become moderated.

          • ga gamba says

            @Evander, thanks for the summary.

            Quillette doesn’t yet have the profile to raise the hackles of the censorious types down under.

            I’d be careful mistaking the law with enforcement of it. I think we understand enforcement is uneven. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn there are those who monitor this site looking for legal infractions or simply large missteps that can be used for a hit piece in the likes of Vox, Buzzfeed, etc. If enough complaints are received by the authorities, or they happen to arrive in the inbox of a like-minded official, or there is enough heat generated by the dinosaur media to cause officials to take notice and pledge “to do something about it”, well then Quillette is in a costly legal battle.

            I suppose you heard about the recent troubles Carl Benjamin is having with Patreon. Sadly, Carl gave his enemies an easy win. It’s possible he’ll emerge stronger and more influential in the aftermath, but whether their victory is Pyrrhic remains to be seen. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for him and others. It’s also possible others will ban him too, citing Patreon’s trumped up report.

            When you’re under scrutiny you have to cross your t’s and dot your i’s. It comes with the territory. You need to be precise in your words and don’t snap at the bait your enemies dangle before you. Never, ever, make it easy for them. Better one develops a reputation as unflappable under fire by causing the enemies to make the missteps.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @The Flyoverland Crank

        But isn’t is somewhat hopeful that Vicki is the only pest we have? I believe Claire censors almost no one, yet virtually all contributors have something intelligent to say.

      • Peter from Oz says

        I looked this thread earlier this morning and I’m certain Vicki had posted several times in her inimitable style.. I come back a few hours later and those posts are gone. Sad

        • Since I’m sorta/kinda the one that started this let me state that I never suggested that Vicki should be censored, merely ignored. The logic behind my suggestion was that if people did not react to her(?) rants there would be less of them, AND, perhaps she might choose to occasionally take the high road instead of fucking with everyone just for the sake of fucking with everyone.

          If she’s been censored, Quillette should explain why. If she’s been censored I say rant on Vicki, rant on. Don’t take being censored lying down.

  11. At first I was thinking – why is a woman with such a disability so focused on sex? Then I read on and saw he’s a man, and it all made sense. Is it every 6 seconds they think about sex? I really don’t see how they get anything else done. They meaning men of course.

    • Emma McAllister says

      Well, first, why can’t disabled people think about sex? Are you under the impression that disabled people don’t have sexuality? Second, what makes you think this article is about sex? Doesn’t my framing of this around the origin of love make it clear that what I am most interested in is partnership? Excepting for the few asexual couples in the world, partnership generally includes sexual attraction, so it’s necessary to explore that. Finally, I’m not a man, and I think you should keep an eye out for my next article, but I support your right to be a jerk. 🙂

      • I agree with the other commenter, for most of your article it seems you are super focused on the sex and sexuality aspect of relationships vs. the many other aspects to consider such as shared values, interests, religious beliefs, lifestyles choices (city vs. country) (home vs. condo) careers, ambitions etc. Kids vs. No kids. What kind of friends and family to they have, etc.

        There’s a lot more that goes into a long term relationship beyond sex – a solid foundation to build on. It takes time and it involves a hell of a lot more than sex. Sex is grand for sure, but how much time in life are you going to spend having it really? There are other things to do and focus on too.

        Sex creates and enhance life, but it’s not the end all be all.

        But I give you credit towards the end it seems you did bring in the love aspect based on other things beyond sex and physical attraction.

        I noticed you said your friend found a partner that made her feel complete – then said of her partner- “he loved the “whole.” – dare I suggest that she was already a whole human being. You also are already a whole human being.

        I don’t care if your trans, gay, disabled, or what – but I don’t believe you can’t ever depend on another to complete you.

        You complete you and they complete themselves – and together you are two whole people in a relationship with one another.

        Not everyone is guaranteed to find a partner in life. That’s just how it is. I know some extremely attractive people with every advantage who at 40 still have’t found “the one.” But they have full lives in other ways and are always open to the possibility.

        • Correction – I don’t believe you CAN ever depend on another to complete you.

          • I think you are straw manning my argument just a little bit, Iris, but let me ask: do you have no wish for a romantic relationship? If you do, what inspires it? Would you agree that the majority of people in the world seek romantic relationships? Why? Think through those questions, and you will start to see what I’m getting at. And it should be noted, because it seems a few people are confused, I’m using Aristophanes here for flavour and perspective, and to make the piece a little artful. I’m not saying that people can’t live successful and fulfilling lives on their own (although I would question how many of those can be considered “happy”).

          • Evander says

            @Emma McAllister

            Thanks for joining the tussle btl.

            Above I posed the question of why you seem to subscribe to the ‘unsexed individuals are incomplete’ ideology of the modern age. I suggested that this has its roots in the ideas of Freud and Kinsey. Your thoughts?

      • Stephanie says

        @Emma, lashing out at commentators isn’t a good look.

        • I would argue I have been extraordinarily well behaved in these comments, despite many commenters saying things that are extraordinarily offensive to me. Perhaps it wasn’t wise to use the word “jerk” elsewhere, but I think that’s actually pretty tame. I haven’t been lashing out, I’ve been politely disagreeing where I disagree. Should that not be allowed?

  12. “Perhaps a female object of desire is afflicted with obesity, a health problem now affecting hundreds of millions of people all over the world. Suppose as well that her suitor is attracted because he is, as one might say on dating sites, “all about the bass.” To put it simply, he likes big girls. We could explain this situation politely by saying that there is no such thing as objective beauty in the first place, and so everything boils down to subjective desire. But such aesthetic relativism defies our day to day experience. Moreover, if we consider everything to be beautiful and desirable in some sense, we are left with no language to explain the fact that many people truly do feel ugly and undesirable. The concept of beauty, like every other, contains its own opposite. And if we pretend to disavow any understanding of that opposite, we can never give ourselves license to extol that which we truly find beautiful.”
    This might be one of the most confused, obscure, and prejudiced paragraphs ever written.

  13. Asenath Waite says

    Thanks for the well-written article. I feel terrible about your situation and hope that you can find the kind relationship you are looking for. However, speaking as a straight, able-bodied man who has pretty much given up on finding love, there is something to be said for learning to find fulfillment in life independent of romantic relationships.

  14. BenBen says

    Well, here is exhibit A of comorbidity and transgenderism. There is this perversion of ‘acceptance’ through sexuality that seems to gestate from dysphoria, depression and self-loathing into a self diagnosis of transgenderism. Whether this is rapid onset gender dysphoria instigated through social media and its pervasiveness in the news or a deeply innate desire to change one’s sex, a psychosis still exists. The desire to escape one’s life or body that is causing such deep sorrow and pain may in fact manifest itself in gender dysphoria as a defensive mechanism. This is perhaps the reason why the suicide and depression rates for transgender people are 40 percent higher than the general populous and those rates if anything go up after hormone therapy and sexual reassignment surgery.

    After reading Andrea Chu’s piece “my new vagina won’t make me happy and it shouldn’t have to” the question must be asked: why is the indulgence of the patient’s fantasy the panacea for gender dysphoria? Are schizophrenics allowed to run the asylum? Where is the voice of the transabled; those born with able bodies but believe they should in fact be disabled in some way, whether through blindness, paralysis, or amputation?The cold reality is that if you expand self-identity beyond sex, to even race, it starts to get ridiculous really fast.

    P.S. Amanda Knox if you read this, I love you, let’s get some gelato sometime.

    • Tome708 says

      Here is this suicide stat again. Can anyone clarify. Is this stat about suicide actual suicide or self reporting of suicidal thoughts? Not trying to minimize if actual suicide. But if it is just self reported thoughts then this stat is meaningless. Drama queens (forgive the term) of course would claim the most dramatic things.
      I am seriously asking.

    • Stephanie says

      @BenBen, I was going to make a similar point about comorbitity. It seems it’s not just with other psychological disorders, but physical ones too. It makes sense that people would want to reject the body that is failing them so horribly. I think the gender aspect of it is interesting as well.

      I get the sense for men, they start to identify with the female sex out of the perception that women are weaker, providing justification for the frailty of their bodies and an escape from expectations of manhood. For women, claiming a male identity provides a way to try to strengthen themselves, perhaps covering for a more aggressive disposition than they think is appropriate for women. Being vulnerable and in a lot of pain makes people angry, and thus more aggressive.

      Just my thoughts. It’d be great if we could do more research on this, but sadly that probably won’t start happening until all the kids who’s parents are sterilizing them commit suicide.

      • BenBen says

        @stephanie, I believe there was a famous conjecture that Dr. Jekyll became sexually aroused in his transformation into Mr. Hyde, similar to autogynephilia. The obsession with acceptance and sexuality that so many transgender people grapple with is at the core of the psychosis that was first mislabeled as gender dysphoria. GD is not a means to an end, it is a comorbidity of something deeper that the medical community has allowed blossom into a political postmodernist spectacle. The commonalities between the transabled and the transgendered are simply stunning yet they are never spoken of in the same sentence because the former would completely undermine the latter. The amusing nature of its powerful rise in popularity is that its funders with the exception of jennifer pritzker have larger been rich white men. A cocktail of part social engineering, part accessibility to new oppressed voting blocks, and part power grab by organizations that love acronym expansion such as the LGBTQ.

        Pedophilia is a form of sexual expression. According to a Cambridge study it is perfectly natural, and in a LGBT historical context the pedophiles helped fund the gay rights movement. Wonder why we dont have LGBTQP, of course I jest, we already do, the P is silent.

        • Dan Flehmen says

          I thought that Jennifer Pritzker Is a rich white man.

  15. I’ve noted a few comments criticizing a perceived focus on sex in this article. I find this so odd.

    First, the biological desire for sex is the underlying impetus for an astonishing amount of human behaviours and emotions. This is paramount to understating the human condition.

    Secondly, while men in aggregate have larger sex drives than women, many women have very substantial sex drives. This drive is not unique to heterosexual males. This is the group difference misunderstanding again.

    Telling someone who admits a yearning that they should not care about relationships or sex is almost as tone deaf as a rich person telling a poor person trying to get out of poverty to quit being so materialistic.

    • benben says

      Sex is the totality of existence to many transgender people, both in identity and sexual expression. If you have never met any transgender person, you may be ignorant to this but the depth of their interests are often so shallow, consumed by sexuality and sex.
      This perversive and parochial mindset is not healthy and it further suggests a solipsistic delusion that is self-perpetuating. The need or want to be accepted for who they are may in fact be the precursor to gender dysphoria from the beginning.

  16. Hi @Evander. It won’t let me reply to your comment above, so please forgive the misplacement. I think I would take issue with your use of the phrase “unsexed individuals”. That seems to be something that confused a lot of readers here. I’m not talking about sex here, I’m talking about love (yes, from the sexual vantage point, but it’s an important distinction to note). As for why I think we need love to be complete, my answer would be long and require that I explain the work of 17th century Rationalist Baruch Spinoza. The incredibly simplistic explanation would be that we only understand ourselves through our connections to those around us, and that without love we lack a fundamental perspective into our being.

    • Evander says

      Thanks for your reply, Emma.

      Your answer still betrays the eros-completes-me view so prevalent today, if I can substitute that word for love, stressing as it does the sexual aspect of a relationship. Although eros is an important aspect of human existence generally, to claim it completes us is almost metaphysical. What do you mean by completes us? How does sexual intercourse – yes, within a mutual relationship – make us whole? At the biological level, it releases endorphins. At the emotional and psychological levels, we develop affinity with the other person, or persons at it may be. Is that complete?

      I agree that we understand ourselves through others. But do we somehow lack perspective or elusive fulfilment if we aren’t connected with another sexually? The idea of deliberate sexlessness, i.e. celibacy, or a man or woman incidentally passing through life without a sexual partner is alien to the modern West. That’s why there’s a stigma around the priesthood – I’m not Catholic – or virgins or opponents of sex outside marriage. But I don’t see how a sexless individual passing through life in a supportive network is somehow less ‘complete’ than peers who participate in sexual relationships.

      • Tome708 says

        Evander
        I believe sex is metaphysical in it appropriate use. Appropriate being; within the confines of a committed marriage between a woman and a man. In this appropriate context the powerful sexual union binds the man and woman together physically and spiritually. (With the potential for the creation of life) Most people, in our society, will never experience it in this way, won’t even understand it this way. This includes heterosexual men and women.
        We have so weakened the proper understanding of sexuality that all these things we are confronting are a result of this.

      • You use the word “metaphysical” in what seems to me to be a pejorative sense. Can I ask why? Or do correct me if I’m mistaken.

        I don’t believe that two individuals in love ontologically become one person, but I DO believe that the experience of love is a way for the individual to experience the whole (but this wasn’t really what I was arguing in my article). But let’s move away from abstractions, if those trouble you. Human beings, no matter how intelligent or self-aware, have the tragic capacity for self-delusion (and yes, this is an ample opportunity for all of you transphobes to make a joke at my expense, go ahead I don’t mind). We overcome self-delusion by seeing ourselves through others’ perceptions, and there is no perspective more enlightening than that of a person you share intimate love with. Don’t mistake me, I’m not saying that two people can just have a one night stand and possess intimate love.

        And as for the celibates, we have to look at the reasons for their celibacy. Some people are asexual, so their intimate relationships don’t require a sexual element. Incels and MGTOWs, no matter their protestations, will never be content as celibate because their state is just the result of failed socialization. And the religiously celibate aren’t really celibate at all, they are in a intimate relationship with their god.

        • Evander says

          I was using metaphysical in its technical sense. So much discourse is rational materialist in its assumptions, so positions that seem to have some sort of transcendental basis stick out. For what it’s worth, I’m a critical traditionalist and conservative Anglican. My outlook is metaphysical.

          Is your argument then that maximal self-knowledge is the telos of human beings and intimate love with another the instrument to achieve that? Or is that self-knowledge is a desirable by-product of intimate love which is the goal, or at least most desirable goal, of human life?

          Freud still seems to be your compass.

          • I certainly consider self-knowledge to be intrinsically good, but I’m a philosopher so someone like Nietzsche would accuse me of seeing the good through my own internal biases. But no, I don’t think self-knowledge is ultimately the telos of human beings. I don’t really think in terms of teleology, as I am a causal determinist. If I must, I would say human beings should be what they are. Following from Spinoza, I would say that happiness comes through the realization/fulfilment/actualization of one’s nature, and unhappiness comes when that nature is denied either externally or internally. And for most, I do believe nature wishes us to be pair bonded. As a Christian, I can’t imagine your views would be that far removed from my own. After all, isn’t the sanctimony of marriage one of the primary pathways to divine love?

          • Evander says

            So, in this disenchanted universe, happiness is the most desirable outcome for human beings, and happiness looks like pair-bondedness, which accords with our nature. I’d like to a dig a little further, then, and press you on what you mean by nature. A bundle of needs and desires? Ethically, that leads to the awkward problem of privileging conflicting wishes.

            There’s likely significant overlap in our views, nevertheless. I also stress the primacy of love for human experience. In my view, reality at bottom is not material but personal, grounded in the being of a trinitarian God. Interaction between his persons is guided by an ethic of love, not power, and this love expresses itself in giving. The fundamental ethos for humanity then is what Anglican theologican D. B. Knox called ‘other-person-centredness’.

            This is a metaphysical position which takes biblical revelation as truth for granted. Nonetheless, it’s the basis for my criticism of the sex-completes-me ideology, which instrumentalises human beings, treating them as means not ends. Even if there is consent, at heart the ethic is one of taking not giving. This seems to square with your too-frequent experiences of being fetishised for your exterior, rather than valued for your interior.

            Knowing and being known answers our need; using and being used doesn’t. The latter paradigm has a strong footing in the culture today.

        • Peter from Oz says

          Emma

          ”We overcome self-delusion by seeing ourselves through others’ perceptions, and there is no perspective more enlightening than that of a person you share intimate love with. ”
          I think that in fact the whole idea of love is to increase our self delusions by finding someone with whom to share them. my wife makes me feel like the king of the world. We feed off each other’s self delusions in a mad passion of joy and laughter that has been going on for 30 years now.
          But I think that love is not a single phenomenon. My love may not be yours. Yes, they will have much in common. Your ideal is someone who doesn’t fetish you, but instead loves you for yourself. That is going to be a difficult quest for you because, as you note it is the fetishists who are likey to fancy you sexually. And sexual, or at least physical, intimacy is
          I have known many trannies over the years and I can’t say that the idea of ever actually entering into a relationship with one has ever seemed a reality to me. The same barrier is there as is there with men.
          It would interesting to see if anyone has done reserch into pheromones and whether those exuded by trannies alter with transition and whether straight men can then be attracted to transitioned women. Having had dance lessons from gay and tranny dance teachers I can say that there is always the same inner repulsion that I have to conquer when clasping onto either.
          I’ve always believed that the need for love is more a spectrum than a condition. Further that we each have a need for a combination of loves . This combination may alter over time, with or without conscious inpput on our part. It comes from friends and family as well as those with whom you engage in sexual activity.
          Thus in your case could you not construct a sufficient amount of love for yourself from th elove of your family friends and the chap who fancies you because of your disabilities?

  17. Emma, You inveigh against those who fetishize your ‘atypical’ body, but you yourself have fetishized your body in your obsession with appearing female, and taking steps to effect such a transformation. And now you wish prospective mates would just see you, not as a body, but as a person? To borrow your hackneyed phrase, methinks the tranny doth protest too much.

    Why not remain male and find fulfillment with another male homosexual? You yourself brought on much of your ‘atypicalness’ by refusing to reconcile yourself with your maleness. And now you complain to us that no one seems able to get past your freakish appearance?

    Help me out Emma.

    • Stay tuned for my next article, which I hope will be up on Quillette early in the new year. It will hopefully help with these sort of concerns. But to give you an answer I know you won’t be satisfied with, it’s quite simple. I wasn’t satisfied to be a homosexual man because I’m not a man. I’m a (trans) woman. Before I transitioned, I suffered from crippling gender dysphoria that dominated my life and pushed me towards suicide. After transitioning, I certainly still have my struggles, but gender dysphoria is a vastly smaller concern. As I said in my article, it’s not gone, but it’s at a livable level now.

  18. You are quite right, Emma. Your response is profoundly unsatisfying.

    My theory is that you took steps to BE the female you despaired of ever attracting due to your bodily handicaps.

    You have made yourself into an androgyne. As such you don’t need an other to find fulfillment. You
    have made yourself the other.

    So please don’t whine to us – in your next article – about the dysfunctional nature of people attracted to freaks such as yourself. Instead, explain why you thought that transforming yourself into an androgyne – in a fallen world of male-female polarity – would allow you to bypass the nature of ordinary human love altogether.

    • My future article will do a number of things. First, it will illustrate what gender dysphoria is in a way that will (hopefully) be understandable to people who don’t suffer from it. From there, it will present a case for accepting transgenderism purely on the basis of empathy for the mentally ill if that’s all you can muster for people like me. But I will of course push past this stage, and examine the science behind transgenderism and argue in favour of the innate qualities of masculinity and femininity, and demonstrate that I was ultimately born as a female in a male body. Finally, I will explore how modern feminism is incompatible with this view, and how trans activism has ultimately become dangerous to our community.

      So I hope you will enjoy that article when it comes out and that it will bring you a bit closer to thinking of people like me as something other than freaks.

      • Peter from Oz says

        Emma
        In my post nearer the top of the thread I made it clear that it is transexual activists rather than trannies themselves that I find objectionable.
        I think that most people are quite happy to accept that there are people who have gender dysphoria and want to live as the opposite sex. What we object to is the politicisation of the whole thing and horrible behaviour indulged in by activists who seem to be on the look out on they can be offended.

      • Asenath Waite says

        @Emma McAllister

        In this future article you are proposing, I would very much like to see you provide an objective, non-circular definition of the word “woman” that aligns with transgender ideology. I’ve never found anyone who could do this adequately, but I’m mentally incapable of accepting the idea of a male person being a woman without such a definition. I’d like to accept the idea but it’s not a matter of choosing to accept it, any more than I could choose to accept creationism as true in light of all the evidence to the contrary. My brain doesn’t allow me to do that. Based on the historical, biological definition of “woman”, a male person is simply not a woman. So I would need a new, equally viable definition of the word in order to accept that a male person could be a woman.

        I would also like to see your article address the fact that none of the published neurological research to date indicates that distinct male and female brains exist. There are marked average differences between males and females, but there is also significant overlap between individual male and female people for every neurological and psychological metric examined. For this reason, I don’t see how it’s possible to claim to be able to define someone as a man or woman based on neurological or psychological characteristics. If this were the case, highly effeminate gay men would need to be reclassified as women, and highly masculine lesbian women would need to be reclassified as men, regardless of their own wishes. Otherwise, if the definitions of “men” and “women” are left down to people’s self identifications, then we are back to the problem of there being no objective definitions of these terms, which renders them essentially useless. And in that case, a phrase such as “trans women are women” has no meaning, and therefore it is impossible for anyone to actually accept or reject the underlying concept, any more than anyone could accept or reject the underlying concept of the phrase “trans women are leyorls.”

        I feel empathy for people suffering from gender dysphoria, which I accept must be a real and painful psychological condition wherein a person hates their own body and believes it should be the body of the opposite sex, and I don’t want to make the lives of people suffering from this issue any more difficult, but the point I’m trying to get across is that I am mentally incapable of accepting the transgender ideology when I don’t see any logical basis for doing so. It’s not that I’m choosing not to accept it. I could say that I believe trans women are women for the sake of politeness, which I would do if pressed in polite company, but it would not be the truth. It would be very helpful, and I think it would be a great service to the trans community, if in your article you were able to provide an objective basis for which people such as myself who believe in objective reality could understand and potentially accept the transgender ideology.

        • I hope you will find the article useful, because that’s certainly what I intend it to be. 🙂 I really don’t believe anyone has seriously tried to engage conservatives on the topic in a way that can speak to them. I’m not saying I will be successful, necessarily, but I’m going to give it my best.

      • peanut gallery says

        @Emma It’s the political activists I find more alarming than the thing itself, which is rare and I think most sensible trans folks just want to be left alone and aren’t into making sure everyone in the world knows what’s going on “down there.” I get that they have a problem, and I am empathetic…. to a point. The activists go way over that point in Authoritarian assholery. I hate bullies and people that want to tell other people how to think and act. In the progressive ven diagram, they are frequently those things.

    • Evander says

      @breathnumber

      Grossly uncharitable.

      Emma is an adherent not the embodiment of her worldview; your vitriol is perhaps the result of conflation of person with position. Why call her a freak?

      Also, the author of a piece actually responding to btl comments is a rare phenomenon. Why not treat her with respect so that you can flesh out her position? It’s a win-win tact.

      You’re acting like a inflexible dickhead.

    • Emma is very kind to respond to you. Whatever you think of transgenderism, Emma has been very kind to engage respectfully with people here. Quillette has published transgender authors before. Calling them “freaks” is most discourteous and does nothing to further discussion. You aren’t changing anyone’s mind that way.

  19. Evander, as you yourself admit (para 3) you’re objecting half out of self-love because you’re so flattered a writer of a Quillette article (gasp) would deign to speak to the likes you that you can’t stand it when someone like me is harsh to them when I need to be. Forgive me, then, for half-objecting to your objection.

    Secondly, the writer of this article wrote an extremely personal piece. It was so personal it made me feel like I knew her. So I responded in kind. SHE conflated her person with her position, not me, buddy.

    Look, the words I read of Emma’s caused me to react this way. That’s all I have to go off of. But there were quite a few words.I had a good amount to examine. They were all by Emma and they were all about Emma (and her sorrows).

    Look, I may be wrong in my judgement, I may be right. I’m just asking you and Emma (and whoever) to take whatever I have to say and think about it maybe a little bit and spit back something intelligent in return, if you can.

    We’ll have to wait, it appears, until Emma’s new article to see her very ambitious-sounding program in action. As it is, all we have here is self-obsessed fluff – published by Quillette because Quillette now publishes fluffy human interest stories by people with politically relevant experiences.

    • Evander says

      @breathnumber

      Why do you need to be harsh and employ words like freak? Did you mean it in the technical sense of ‘radically different’? It came across in any case as a slur, and I just don’t see the point in that.

      I like constructive dialogue. Conversing with the author of a piece is a neat opportunity I’d like to see become more common on this platform. Why snear at that? Being against civility isn’t cool.

      “As it is, all we have here is self-obsessed fluff – published by Quillette because Quillette now publishes fluffy human interest stories by people with politically relevant experiences.”

      A reductionistic summary. You’ve got some decent points to make, but you come across as a self-regarding pugilist, talking about words causing you to ‘react’ and inviting me to ‘spit’ something back. You’re not above Quillette and no it’s not going off.

      Is tough guy reactionary an off the shelf product?

      • A large part of Quillette’s culture-wars strategy seems to be to publish as many trannies against transactivism, women against feminism, and blacks against anti-racism that it can find, so long as they condemn the radical orthodoxy and include, as in this case, much voyeuristic gossip. Emma’s entire piece was about how she wished her disability/transexuality would not be fetishized. And what is the subtitle of the piece (probably devised by the editor)? “A Disabled Trans Woman Surveys the Grey Zone Between Love and Fetish.” It’s a tad ironic, no? Again, I say, the tranny doth protest too much.

        • Finally, Evander, I will just say that I see your extreme politeness as a weakness. As long as someone has something intelligent to say, we must excuse the manner in which they chose to say it.

          We are dealing here, in Emma (in her transeuxal aspect at least), with another miserable victim of the decadence and nihilism of our age. You can offer hugs and philosophical pair-bonding, if you wish, but I don’t think that’s really helping anyone but yourself.

          I think we should take people to task and be firm about it, and remember ourselves and what we stand for, and not immediately gush into a torrent of hot tears whenever another representative of the latest victim group comes knocking on our door asking for sympathy and attention.

          In any case, all of this is a big topic and worth discussing. I have my own suspicions about gender dysphoria. I’m reminded of a quote by the lead singer of Against Me (who is now a tranny) regarding his experience of this condition:

          “The cliché is that you’re a woman trapped in a man’s body, but it’s not that simple. It’s a feeling of detachment from your body and from yourself. And it’s shitty, man. It’s really fucking shitty.”

          So he describes ‘gender dysphoria’ as a general feeling of detachment from your body and yourself. That’s very interesting.

    • Breathnumber, I support you here. Quillette is all about free speech, and the use of the word freak hardly qualifies as abuse. Evander is acting as if this is an AA meeting and we’re supposed to simply thank writers for “sharing”. The trans agenda is controversial. Let it all be said. Which is why we need Vicki!

      • Evander says

        I value civility in discourse; you think it’s non-essential. We disagree. So continue with your labelling of people who identify as trans; call them freaks, miserable victims, narcissists. See how far that gets you.

        One of the points that Plato makes in his dialogues is that control of the emotions is a vital part of philosophy. Intemperate expression and fallacy tend to go together. I noticed you strawmanned my point as irrational sentimentalism and Emma’s piece as attention-seeking fluff.

        @benita

        People who identify as trans have usually experienced distress. The issue is personal. Examine the ideas rigorously but calling someone a freak is too much.

        Looks like you’ve fallen for the strawman, too. I value the exchange and clash of opinions, not invective.

        I checked your twitter page and saw that you’ve called the NYT ‘cucks’. You’re not a reactionary channer are you? Maybe just linguistically.

        Compassion and politeness aren’t tantamount to weakness, fellas. It helps demarcate civil society from barbarous tribalism.

        • You’re completely correct, Evander. There’s no point in having a discussion if people aren’t civil, and calling someone a “freak” is not civil. Additionally, it’s not persuasive. There appear to be many people here who just want to hear themselves talk. They clearly don’t want to persuade Emma to consider their opinion.

        • Can we bring this discussion to a close, Evander? You can always find me and scold me in other threads. As it is I doubt anyone is particular interested anymore in our exchange, not least myself.

          Here is my answer to your latest post. First, the values of ‘politeness and compassion’ you appeal to have in our time become tyrannical, a truth which I thought would be obvious to someone of your intelligence.

          In fact, they are actually bringing us closer to the ‘barbarous tribalism’ you so ominously warn us against. Compassion, taken to an extreme, leads to suicide. Thanks to compassion, we have ecological extremists who advocate the extinction of the human race because it would alleviate the Earth’s suffering. These people are the instruments of just that intoxication of compassion in which you (ultimately) advocate we lose ourselves.

          But I reserve my right to stand up to a tranny’s ‘artsy’ sob story and react with a little rudeness! Maybe that’s just what the whole damn situation required, in fact – ecologically speaking.

          As for politeness, it is a crowd-control technique employed by the social engineers who manage our super-organized, super-concentrated modern ‘population centers’. When citizens are granted the right not to be ‘offended’, and everyone is compelled to deny the existence of objective truth to save the feelings of the least of these, you should realize at once that government has penetrated very deeply into private life.

          Ironically, the doctrine of ‘politeness’ has resulted in quite a lot of incivility. Taken to its extreme (and it has been taken that far in our time) the ‘politeness’ you are ultimately calling for in your own careless activism here leads to just that barbarous tribalism you warn us about so ominously. If people are outlawed from offending each other, they stop trying to convince each other. They tribe up, and they do so often upon the very lines whereupon the maximum of politeness and compassion was demanded of them.

          Miss McAllister chose her freakishness — and is now exploiting it. It was, then, from some angle, a smart choice; it allowed her to be published here (with no other qualifications besides her politically relevant experience), when otherwise she wouldn’t have been.

          Finally, I will just add that it is in no small part due to the politeness police (‘polite’ and ‘police’ are related etymologically, by the way) operating to such bigoted extremes in the public sphere that the internet has become such a violent place. Such violence, I am saying, is in part a compensation for the repression via politeness that occurs outside.

          Lastly, I’ll just ask: why can’t you leave me alone, Evander? Why do you feel the need to censor me?

          You seem to think that if a discussion on an internet message board gets over-heated or too personal or impolite or uncivil, we are going to wake up in a state of total anarchy tomorrow, like some scene out of ‘The Purge’. You don’t seem to have much faith in civilization.

          Accuse me of strawmanning you, but understand I don’t have much to go on. Your writing leaves much for interpretation. Even so, I would say you misunderstand me. I am not so much interested in you as an individual as I am in attacking conventional, common opinions and beliefs. And insofar as you parrot those or invoke them without seeming to think them through, I’ll attack you. But I’m not really attacking YOU, you understand.

          • Andrew says

            @breathnumber

            Appropriate username! Your reply is so long-winded. You are what you attack: You come across as a professional victim.

            I don’t agree with everything in this article – but it was certainly food for thought and in my opinion no less nuanced than other articles published by Quillette.

            Gosh: “We KNOW where she stands (or sits, rather)” – from your comment below. Unnecessarily vicious.

        • You must excuse my long-windedness and lack of focus on the exact issue which divide us, Evander.

          Regarding that I issue I just want to apply this clarification. I am not interested in convincing Miss Emma of anything. We KNOW where she stands (or sits, rather). YOU may try to convince her all you want of whatever you want. I’d rather convince others, who are after all more liable to be convinced. And my dropping of the ‘f’ bomb was part of a strategy aimed not at convincing her, but others.

          • Evander says

            breathnumber, I ain’t mad at ya.

            Politeness and compassion at the interpersonal level are good. When translated into progressive codas for society, they can be dangerous, as you spelled out.

            Censorship is retarded. Rather, I’ve attempted to argue you out of name calling, because Q shouldn’t countenance Breitbart-style discourse.

            Genuinely looking forward to dialogue in the future.

        • curiositas says

          You’re a voice of sanity, Evander. And I’d take your supposedly ‘weak’ productive dialog over pointless provocation any day of the week.

          If we’re going to talk about determining whether someone has “something intelligent to say” — well, in my experience, a person speaking from a firm intellectual foundation, with logic on their side, rarely feels the need to puff up their argument with aggressiveness and sophistry. Rather, excessive and/or unnecessary combativeness tends to be one of the surest signs that a given comment can be safely dismissed as not being worth the time it would take to finish reading.

          The merit of one’s position is not meaningfully indicated by how forcefully one expresses it.

  20. Stephanie says

    I feel terribly for the author’s physical and mental anguish, and I’m happy they’ve found whatever mental peace they have.

    I do find it curious that so many MTF trans people choose not to at least remove their penis. Wouldn’t that be the source of most of the gender dysphoria? Women can be flat-chested, have short hair, hairy legs, dress like men, ect. If it were a matter of feeling like a woman, all that should be required is the removal of the penis. And yet that’s the one step few trans people are interested in, instead opting for impersonating an almost farsical stereotype of what it means to be a woman.

    It seems to imply that predominantly the interest is in liking what they see when they look in the mirror. Ironically, this visual aspect that’s so strong in men is lost on the author. Even normal, conventionally-attractive women experience the “fetishization” the author takes so personally. Men’s brains naturally see women (or men, if they’re gay) as objects. My exboyfriend was a creep who liked them young, and he fetishized my small breasts. My husband is the masculine alpha type, and he fetishizes my big round butt. This is something every person who dates males experiences. It doesn’t mean that that’s all they see you as, but during sex if you don’t feel a little objectified, he’s not that into you. A guy who finds you attractive looks at you the way a starving man looks at a steak. If the concept is unpalatable to the author, they might be better off dating women.

    • In my case the reason I still have a penis is related to my other health issues. My jaw has atrophied and I have a very narrow mouth opening, so I can’t be intubated without performing a tracheostomy. Since I have already had three of those because of respiratory illness, I can’t risk doing it again in case it has to stay in. In addition, the muscle relaxants used in general anaesthesia are incredibly dangerous for people with my condition. So, I have to choose between a livable amount of gender dysphoria and the risk of permanent ventilation or death. If these issues were not present, I would have already had the surgery. I did however have a bilateral orchiectomy, because that procedure could be performed under local anaesthesia.

      Now, I can’t speak for every trans woman, but there are some common reasons women don’t pursue the surgery. Money tends to be the biggest. The surgery is incredibly expensive, and if you live somewhere where it isn’t covered (which is most places) it can be cost prohibitive for a lot of us. As a group, statistically we aren’t the most affluent bunch of people.

      That said, you are conflating two separate, but interrelated issues – gender and body dysphoria. Simply put, some women’s gender dysphoria is not triggered to the same degree by their genitalia as others. And even for those of us who are, it really only becomes an issue when we seek intimacy. When I go out, strangers don’t ask to see my genitals before they decide how to gender me, so I would argue that simply undergoing the surgery would certainly not be enough to resolve most cases of gender dysphoria.

      And yes, cis women can come in any variety, but most maintain some semblance of femininity because it’s the authentic expression of who they are. And it’s the same for me. I maintain certain stereotypical grooming behaviours, styles of dress, etc., not out of any attempt to imitate, but just to be myself. And yes, it helps me pass. And yes, passing lessens my gender dysphoria.

      I do think you make a fair point, however. Many of us do come across as inauthentic imitations, but I would try to be charitable to those people and say that they are still figuring things out. Transitioning isn’t an easy process, and it’s wrapped up with a lot of mental baggage. All of us that pursue it, we just want the dysphoria to end. And as we seek to pass, we often overcompensate into the feminine in a way that isn’t genuine to who we really are. I know that when I was transitioning, I initially started to downplay my enthusiasm for the sport of hockey. Sports are a male dominated interest, and my dysphoric brain reasoned that if I was as enthusiastic about my fandom as I was before I transitioned, people would doubt my gender identity. But ultimately, and thankfully, I realized that my transition was about being genuine, above all else. So, Go Leafs Go.

  21. Reading some of the comments, I get the impression that some people have been so conditioned by the aggressive narcissistic trans type that they can no longer appreciate someone speaking about the trans experience in an honest, reasonable, and reflective manner. And, obviously, biology can be brutal and unforgiving. But it is useful to be reminded.

  22. “Cis” is a derogatory term invented by gay activists with the intent of forcing heterosexuals and some others into submission to a political project of denying that anyone truly aware could possibly identify as “cis.” It is not neutral. It is also deemed not optional. It is ironic that people who put so much energy into policing others for failing to accept their own self-definitions with appropriate enthusiasm and reverence would simultaneously claim the exclusive right to assign hostile labels to other people’s sexuality. But this is nothing if not an exercise in wielding inappropriate political power.

    In other words, you may call yourself a goldfish if you wish, M.A., but do not call me a “cis.”

    • Cis simply means “a person that doesn’t suffer from gender dysphoria”. I use it for linguistic efficiency, even though it’s not my favourite term. But I would advise you to consider the usefulness of the word from your own perspective. By very clearly identifying myself as a trans woman while referring to natally born women as cis, I am reinforcing the conceptual distinction between what I am and what you are. And if I’m going to call myself a woman, which I am, wouldn’t you prefer there be a hard conceptual distinction between us?

      • DontTakeMeSeriously says

        I think the argument will be: Why isn’t the prefix “trans-” sufficient to delineate a conceptual distinction? If the majority of people are those that do not experience dysphoria, why the need to add a suffix to the established terms of male and female gendered.?

        Personally, I don’t care. Language is negotiated and modified over time… I might not use “cis” for now, but who knows.

        I enjoyed reading the article, and look forward to the next one

  23. Jezza says

    Emma

    You’re weirdly focused on yourself. Have you ever considered seeking someone else to love?

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