Take Mike Penner. When the veteran Los Angeles Times sportswriter “came out” as a transsexual in a 2007 column, his bosses encouraged him to write about his transition under the byline “Christine Daniels.” As Christine, he was feted by gay activists and adopted as a role model and mentor by other transgenders.
Then in October 2008, he returned to his old male byline.
Then in November 2009, he killed himself.
Some insist that the stress of undergoing such a drastic change of identity in the public eye drove Penner to suicide. Not everyone agrees, pointing to factors that were more personal and psychological than political. Besides, other transsexuals who aren’t public figures also experience regret.
Walt Heyer’s book Paper Genders chronicles his journey “from male to female to back again.” At first it reads like a textbook “woman trapped in a man’s body” saga: He goes from “dressing in a purple chiffon evening dress” at age five to undergoing gender-reassignment surgery in adulthood. Today, Heyer is a soft-spoken, articulate advocate for what he says are the increasing number of transsexuals like himself who regret going under the knife. Unlike Penner, he doesn’t win many “courage” awards or get a forum in one of the nation’s biggest papers.
Studies in America and Holland report one in 20 post-operative transsexuals changes his or her mind after surgery, and one in ten never adjusts and often becomes deeply depressed. The Transgender Task Force reports 41% attempt suicide. In the Transgender Task Force transgenders survey, they admit they selectively eliminated from the survey all regretters who reverted back to their birth gender. The people whose suicide was a success or the transgenders who go back to their birth gender do not have a voice.
Shouldn’t such rates of depression and attempted suicide be concerning? Yet such mental-health “epidemics” never seem to be the subject of TV newsmagazine reports, Tony-winning Broadway plays, or elementary-school curricula. Oddly enough!
Which brings me back to Lady Gaga.
What will future generations, flipping through the 22nd century’s version of Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, make of their ancestors’ bizarre fad for sexual mutilation? Why, wasn’t it obvious that the practice was barbaric quackery? Why did “experts” ignore all the anecdotal and statistical evidence that encouraging these sick individuals in their delusions was cruel and often fatal?
Why didn’t we listen to the likes of Charles?
My desire to become a woman had developed following a nervous breakdown….
When I was in the psychiatric hospital there was a man on one side of me who thought he was King George and another guy on the other side who thought he was Jesus Christ. I decided I was [a woman named] Sam.
We’re eager to blame today’s imaginary suicide epidemic on nonexistent “homophobia.” Our descendants—who’ll fancy themselves to be as enlightened as we think we are—may likely mock our deification of an untalented, gender-bending performer whose own mother says she “has a screw loose.”
If and when society smartens up, it will be too late for all the Mike Penners who were prescribed the 21st-century equivalent of leeching (except leeching was at least supposed to cure you, not keep you sick).
The nationwide pro-gay campaign aimed at America’s youth assures them: “It gets better.”
A more accurate slogan might be: “You get deader.”
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