On Sunday, the Chicago Sun-Times reprinted an offensive, transphobic rant calling transgender actress Laverne Cox a "man" and an "effigy of a woman" by National Review correspondent Kevin D. Williamson. After a massive backlash, the paper has retracted the piece and issued an apology.
I don't suggest you read the actual piece if you want to maintain your emotional stability and healthy blood pressure level. It's pretty bad, and Williamson, of course, misgenders Cox throughout the piece. Let's just hit some of the highlights:
Regardless of the question of whether he has had his genitals amputated, Cox is not a woman, but an effigy of a woman. Sex is a biological reality, and it is not subordinate to subjective impressions, no matter how intense those impressions are, how sincerely they are held, or how painful they make facing the biological facts of life. No hormone injection or surgical mutilation is sufficient to change that.
First off, dude, you don't "amputate" the genitalia during sex reassignment surgery. It is far more accurate to say you "reconfigure" genitalia. It's still there. Not everything, but sometimes additional skin grafts are needed (although if one is, er, "well endowed" this isn't typically an issue). The whole reason why the "new" genitalia generally functions as it should is because the surgeons are working with the same material nearly everyone has (and not everyone does, of course, there are incredibly rare exceptions). This is why "cut off your dick" comments don't even make any damn sense! It doesn't work that way!
Second, did you really just use "effigy?" Despite the description of "voodoo" doll you use in your "article," the definition of effigy specifically includes destruction. An effigy is "a roughly made model of a particular person, made in order to be damaged or destroyed as a protest or expression of anger." Is that really the word you are looking to use, given the high rates of violence against transgender folks, especially trans women of color such as Laverne Cox? Because you just suggested her only purpose in existence is to be destroyed in protest or anger. Horrific. And probably well in line with the views of the men who have murdered trans women.
There are many possible therapeutic responses to that condition, but the offer to amputate healthy organs in the service of a delusional tendency is the moral equivalent of meeting a man who believes he is Jesus and inquiring as to whether his insurance plan covers crucifixion.
Sigh. Although Williamson wrote, "Genital amputation and mutilation is the extreme expression of the phenomenon, but it is hardly outside the mainstream of contemporary medical practice," he is seriously downplaying the view that the mental and medical healthcare professions currently hold about transgender people. It's not just "hardly outside the mainstream of contemporary medical practice," the profession in question would object strenuously to the characterisation of sex reassignment surgery as "genital amputation and mutilation," as the Chicago Sun-Times pointed out in their retraction and apology.
We try to present a range of views on an issue, not only those views we may agree with, but also those we don't agree with. A recent op-ed piece we ran online that was produced by another publication initially struck as provocative. Upon further consideration, we concluded the essay did not include some key facts and its overall tone was not consistent with what we seek to publish. The column failed to acknowledge that the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have deemed transgender-related care medically necessary for transgender people. It failed as well to acknowledge the real and undeniable pain and discrimination felt by transgender people, who suffer from notably higher rates of depression and suicide. We have taken the post down and we apologize for the oversight.
"Did not include some key facts and its overall tone was not consistent with what we seek to publish," wrote the Sun-Times. Gee, you don't say?
Amongst those criticising the piece, and specifically the Sun-Times for republishing the piece, was GLAAD's CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.
These harmful messages about the validity of transgender identity have no place in a credible mainstream publication. This ugly and insulting propaganda is dangerous to readers' understanding of who transgender people are.
And that's what this is about, really. Who transgender people are. Actually, truly, really are. We still don't have a good handle on how gender forms. We know when it forms. We know that for most people it becomes set in stone between the ages of three and six years old. Those of us with a feminist slant tend to weigh in on the "gender as a social construct, but still one which is real with real consequences" side of the discourse, but there is plenty of potential evidence showing genetic or other biological aspects of gender identity. What we do know is being transgender isn't a mental illness. Transgender people are not delusional. Just because we don't know why gender identity operates the way it does, doesn't mean we don't know the difference between delusion and reality. Gender identity is a recognisable, empirically observable reality.
Laverne Cox is a woman. And Kevin D. Williamson is an uninformed, transphobic man.
Image via Getty.