Dancing to the tune of alienation

Spiked-Online.com – Josie Appleton

Why is everybody cheering transsexuals all the way to the operating theatre?

‘Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and of any man hearty and clean / Not an inch nor a particle is vile, and none shall be less familiar than the rest’. (Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass.)

Where transsexuals were once spurned as freaks, now they are feted and held up as role models. ‘She’s not a girl, she’s got a dick’, the teenage son of a pre-op transsexual told a young hitchhiker friend in Transamerica. The friend responded enthusiastically, saying that in his mind transgender people have a ‘liberated state of being’.

Transamerica is a road movie of self-discovery that ends up under the surgeon’s knife in LA. The scene going into the operating theatre is shot from above to rousing music, portraying it as a moment of spiritual transcendence. Although Transamerica is a truly terrible film, it received rave reviews – a sure sign that transsexuality has arrived as an ‘issue’.

Meanwhile, Antony of Antony and the Johnsons has bagged the Mercury Prize with his songs crooning about transsexuality. ‘I’m singing about transformation’, he says. ‘It’s psychic, sexual and mortal transformation. The songs are about growing.’ In his view, ‘Transsexuals are among the most highly evolved and beautiful creatures on the planet.’ Few would demur. Some groups have taken to calling transsexuality ‘gender giftedness’, a cut above those who live as their birth sex.

What seems to have been forgotten is that transsexuality begins with self-disgust. At base is a feeling that your body is not your own – indeed, that you really are the opposite of the person you were born. The transsexual starts not with Whitman’s delight in ‘every organ and attribute of me’, a sense at being at home in oneself and in possession of every faculty. Instead, it starts with a feeling that things are ‘not right’. One criteria for transgender surgery is that you must ‘abhor your genitals’. ‘What do you feel about your penis?’, asks a doctor in Transamerica. ‘It disgusts me’, he replies, shuddering.