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Men and women – and vice versa

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A writer friend recently asked if my column had made anyone angry lately. That’s not quite how he put it, but that was the gist — as if my worth as a columnist could be rated by how controversial I was.
Well, I had to admit I had made only one person really angry lately, but I figured I could fix that by writing about women becoming men and men becoming women. Anything I said about trans people would be too much for some and not enough for others. My column would suffer the recent fate of Bud Light.

This is a subject that interests me, and at the same time makes me uncomfortable. Meeting real trans people has made things less awkward.

In my years in Silver City, I have known three trans people. But through family connections in Seattle, I know a single household with three trans young people. A rare small-town situation is more common in big cities. No problem. We live in America, land of the free. As adults, we can do anything we want. Gender change is just one of many choices available to us. On the other hand, making a choice doesn’t free us from the consequences.

Some trans people I know seem happy and well adjusted. Others, not so much. Partly this seems to be related to the difficulties of changing gender. Not only are you likely to encounter social rejection, but the medical technology of gender change is incomplete — although amazing as far it goes. Still, hormone therapy or surgery is not a choice to be made lightly.

Being comfortable with love, romance, marriage, sex and raising children is hard enough with your birth gender. Fewer and fewer Americans get through a lifetime marriage or experience an ideal family. It’s hard to be normal when the world isn’t normal. But not being in a position to judge others doesn’t mean we won’t.

Years ago, I read a science fiction novel about a society 200 years in the future where anybody could get a gender change that was real and complete. Through the wonders of fiction, anybody could put their money down for surgery that allowed them to retain their previous self, but have a new gender, physically and emotionally.

Well, we aren’t living in that novel.

From what I know of sex change today, nobody would make the choice on a whim. People who go through the ordeal do it because they have to. They believe that the difficulties will be less painful than living in the wrong body. Sometimes it works out OK. But even when it doesn’t, few regret the choice.
Silver City was recently a test case for trans acceptance. The winner of the women’s top division in the Tour of the Gila was Austin Killips — a trans woman. This didn’t get a lot of press locally, but it was very controversial in the world of cycling. The International Cycling Union — UCI — has a policy that allows trans women to compete if they test with low levels of testosterone, which Killips did. But not everyone agreed with those standards.

One outspoken activist was former tennis great Martina Navritilova who said “women’s sports is not the place for trans identified male athletes.” One woman competitor publicly quit cycling because she felt she didn’t have a chance against trans women. Some claim that people who go through puberty as males always have an unfair advantage against biological women regardless of hormone treatment.
The UCI rules were clear for the Tour of the Gila, and Killips followed them. She and her teammates — cycling is a team sport — were thrilled with the win. But the UCI is under pressure to reconsider. We’ll see who races the Gila Monster next year. There doesn’t seem to be similar controversy in men’s sports. A trans man would seem to have a natural disadvantage against biological men, and more power to anyone who could overcome it.

So is it a blessing or a curse to live with controversies that wouldn’t have occurred to anyone in previous generations?

I have always thought it would be fun to take a “vacation” to the other side for maybe two weeks. It would be interesting to be a woman for a while. I want this to happen (and unhappen) by miracle, not by surgery. I think I might understand women better if I’d experienced being one. But there are no such miracles. We have to use our brains and intuition to understand each other the best we can — regardless of our original or chosen gender.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Southwest Word Fiesta™ or its steering committee.

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Bruce McKinney

Bruce McKinney is a Silver City business owner, close observer of local government and occasional troublemaker. In his column, which appears every other Wednesday, he tries to address big questions from a local perspective. Send comments and ideas to
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