Shaidle Unchained

Affliction Du Jour

April 25, 2017

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Affliction Du Jour

There Affectation, with a sickly mien,
Shows in her cheek the roses of eighteen,
Practis’d to lisp, and hang the head aside,
Faints into airs, and languishes with pride,
On the rich quilt sinks with becoming woe,
Wrapp’d in a gown, for sickness, and for show.
The fair ones feel such maladies as these,
When each new night-dress gives a new disease.
The Rape of the Lock: Canto 4 by Alexander Pope (1715)


So he traded one imaginary diagnosis for another, I thought, after reading the Telegraph story a friend emailed me with the subject line “shocked not shocked.”

I call transsexuals (or whatever we’ve been ordered to call them this week) “future suicides” for what I assume are obvious reasons—to Taki’s readers at least, if not, apparently, to one particular British coroner.

Commenting on the suicide of 27-year-old Oxford University chemist Erin Shepherd, who “took her own life despite being apparently pleased with her transition from man to woman,” Darren Salter called it a “tragic case” and “a great shock,” adding:

Those closest to her did not foresee this. Things seemed to be going in the right direction. Very sadly, something caused her to decide to take her own life.

Note to self: Somehow murder everyone you hate within the jurisdiction of this Salter fellow…

Because truly, nothing says “going in the right direction” quite like “pretending you don’t have a penis when you do, then wearing dresses and making everyone call you by a woman’s name.”

But this is 2017, and everyone—this coroner, Shepherd’s doctor, apparently, all those connected with Corpus Christi (ferchrissakes!) College, and, finally, The Telegraph—is socially and legally obligated to participate in yet another literally deadly charade, with all its “despite”s and “something”s and other tragicomical linguistic trappings.

“If the history of medicine is any indication, this wacky ‘gender bingo’ fad too shall pass.”

Add to that list of performers Detective Sergeant Kevin Parsons, who was forced to mouth the following two contradictory sentences in immediate succession:

She had struggled with her gender identity for most of her life. She was doing well and showing no signs of unhappiness.

But it was the rest of his statement to the inquest that prompted my thought at the start of this piece:

Parsons testified that “Miss Shepherd was unable to attend school as a teenager after being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome…”

Ah, yes. Remember chronic fatigue syndrome? (Many hands go up.) Remember when it was called “yuppie flu”? (Fewer hands.)

Now: How about spinal irritation? Bilious fever? Catalepsy?

Nobody? Well, the 21st century isn’t the first era to witness the rise and fall of fashionable (and now forgotten) illnesses, syndromes, and disorders. Many of these mass delusions were also doctor-approved.

I was fortunate to come down with lupus in the early 1990s, after a blood test had been developed to confirm diagnoses. Until then, many women presenting its telltale symptoms had been dismissed as hypochondriacs and malingerers. I suspect novelist Flannery O’Connor was only spared this “diagnosis” in 1952 because, freakishly, her father had already died of the same disease. (Lupus in men is uncommon, but even so, he was likely taken more seriously by physicians than his daughter might have been had she contracted SLE before he did.)

Stories of other women being told their suffering was a sham got my (aching) back up, until I read Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor, and the shamefully lesser-known, and quite magisterial, From Paralysis to Fatigue: A History of Psychosomatic Illness in the Modern Era, by Edward Shorter (1992).

Through Sontag, I learned about the tuberculosis fad that sprang up in the late 18th and early 19th centuries:

Wan, hollow-chested young women and pallid, rachitic young men vied with each other as candidates for this mostly (at the time) incurable, disabling, really awful disease….

Surely everyone in the nineteenth century knew about, for example, the stench in the breath of the consumptive person…. Yet all the evidence indicates that the cult of TB was not simply an invention of romantic poets and opera librettists but a wide-spread attitude.


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