Wednesday, November 08, 2006

An Affirmative Fiction Program

Yesterday the New York Times reported that the New York City Board of Health will likely soon rule that “people born in the city would be able to change the documented sex on their birth certificates by providing affidavits from a doctor and a mental health professional laying out why their patients should be considered members of the opposite sex, and asserting that their proposed change would be permanent.”

As Diogenes at "Off the Record" puts it:
If I get a note from my shrink, explaining that I have the psychological outlook of a tall man, can I change my driver's license to show that I'm 6'5"?
The proposal, the Times is pleased to announce, “reflects how the transgender movement has become politically potent beyond its small numbers, having roots in the muscular politics of the city’s gay rights movement.”
The change would lead to many intriguing questions: For example, would a man who becomes a woman be able to marry another man? (Probably.) Would an adoption agency be able to uncover the original sex of a proposed parent? (Not without a court order.) Would a woman who becomes a man be able to fight in combat, or play in the National Football League? (These areas have yet to be explored.)
The ruling’s most immediate effect would be to make the whole issue of same-sex “marriage” a moot point, for two men could “marry” as long as one of them (but only one!) decided to be a woman. Presto, same-sex “marriage” disappears as a matter in need of more public scrutiny.

As for the affidavit “asserting” that the gender designation is “permanent” – permanence becoming a criteria only on the occasion of its renunciation – the requirement would be laughable were it not for the damage rulings like this will cause, especially among the already sexually traumatized young.

The chief symptom of what René Girard has called the contemporary world’s mimetic crisis is the “crisis of undifferentiation” or the “crisis of distinctions.” If the “disintegration of all differences that mimesis brings about” was of concern to Girard as he was writing Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, and if in that book he was apprehensive about “the increasingly aggravated state of undifferentiation that marks our present situation,” how much more aggravated has the “disintegration of all differences” become today? Popular culture, stealing, as always, just enough of the Gospel to be both morally convincing and socially reckless, insists that our attention remain riveted on those able to assert – the “muscular politics of the city’s gay rights movement” notwithstanding – a plausible claim to victimary status, but the deeper crisis today is the “disintegration of all differences.”

The crisis of distinctions finally reaches the point at which all distinctions, be they ever so irreducible, must give way to desire. Desire trumps everything; nothing must stand in its way, not moral standards, not common sense, not anatomical science, not laws, not decency, not the sanity of the next generation, nothing.

Euripides had another name for the crisis of distinctions: Dionysus. Here is Euripides' Dionysus gloating over his handiwork:
Dionysus, to your work. ...
Be revenged on this man.
But, first, unhinge his mind,
make it float into madness.
Sane, he never will accept to wear a woman’s dress.
But once his wits have broken loose, he will.
I want the whole of Thebes to laugh
as I parade him through the streets ...
Except today it isn't only those suffering from same-sex attraction that are being seduced into a world of make-believe. Lest the fiction be recognized for what it is, the citizens of Thebes must be made to go along with it. Once again, the purported cure is but a more advanced stage of the disease.

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