Wednesday 13 July 2022

Dave Chappelle, Ricky Gervais, J. K. Rowling, and the Third Gender

3,125 words, 10-minute read

Over the past few years, especially during this era of t****, I have watched dismayed at the rise of opinion. One person's opinion is equal to another person's knowledge. Faith triumphs over facts. Belief is the same as reality. To paraphrase Winston Churchill:

Never have so many, knowing so little, said so much.

I remember a U.S. senator was being interviewed about global warming, and a journalist asked how he was going to vote on an up-coming bill. He said, "I don't believe in climate change. But I'm not a scientist." I don't believe it but I'm stupid? I don't believe it, but I refuse to spend any time correcting my ignorance? Our worldview is the sum total of our life experiences but what if our lack of life experiences leads to a faulty worldview? This is a U.S. senator voting on a critical piece of legislation which impacts our future, and he admits in front of the world he doesn't know what he's talking about.

Ignorance is not just for the uneducated.
  • J. K. Rowling
    She pens a four-thousand-word essay where she takes the stance that biology dictates we are all born male or female; any other variation is invalid. She declares herself a TERF, a trans-exclusionary radical feminist and voices concern about transgender women being allowed into women's restrooms afraid they may molest other women. Needless to say, she got a lot of flak.
  • Dave Chappelle
    In his 2021 comedy special The Closer, he makes a number of jokes about the transgender community. The reaction was mixed with some LGBTQ groups boycotting the film. Like Rowlings, he sees the issue as a question about biology; we are born either male or female. He also declared himself a TERF.
  • Ricky Gervais
    In his latest comedy special he bemoans the current state of affairs, missing the good ol' days when women had wombs instead of cocks.
  • Jordan Peterson
    His stance like the others seems to be about biology. I note he got himself in hot water on Twitter for criticizing the physician who performed the sex reassignment surgery on Elliot Page.
What does anyone do when they are confronted with something they've never seen before, with something they know nothing about? They do a double take. They doubt it's very existence. And if they're a comedian, they make fun of it, mocking it as not being real.

It is apparent that not one of the above people have heard of The Third Gender, a concept which has existed for thousands of years and has been accepted in other cultures, but which is, according to Wikipedia (referencing Anthropological Theory: An Introductory History (2007) by Richard Warms, Richard L. Warms, R. Jon McGee), still somewhat new to mainstream western culture and conceptual thought. I return to our initial reaction: We don't believe it exists and ridicule the idea.

How did my views about this develop? Let me recount a number of events in my life from the past fifty years.

I, like the rest of the world, was amazed and enthralled in 1968 by the release of the album Switched-On Bach by Walter Carlos, proof once again of the genius of Bach but proof that this modern electronic instrument was more than just an experimental fad.

Fast forward to 1979. I walk by a display rack of magazines and see the latest copy of Playboy, announcing an interview with Wendy Carlos. I always thought Playboy was a good magazine and would have bought it without the pictorials of naked women. I paged through the mag to read the opening of the interview where they always gave a short bio of the person being interviewed. Holy cow! Wendy is Walter or was Walter. I bought the Playboy and read the entire interview. Had I ever heard of a man transitioning to a woman? I don't remember but because of my love for the original album, I certainly paid attention to this person's story of their life journey.

I was vaguely aware of Christine Jorgensen (1926-1989), an American trans woman who was the first person to become widely known in the United States for having sex reassignment surgery.

Throughout the 1980s and the 1990s, I followed the rise of gay culture and the horrors of HIV. There was a world out there I personally knew nothing about but just because I had no personal experience with it, didn't mean this world didn't exist. It was very much real.

I saw the 1992 thriller The Crying Game and was surprised by the reveal of the lead woman being a man. This was completely foreign to me. I had no personal experience with such a situation, and it was surprising to discover such a thing was even possible and existed in the world.

In 1997, I got a call from the wife of a high school buddy I had not seen in twenty years. Would I come visit him? He was dying from AIDS. Bobby completed university, got a career, got married, and had two children, a normal, typical life. But he confessed to me that he had had unprotected sex in a bathhouse with a man, a total stranger. Now, he was paying the ultimate price, and six months later, he was dead. Was he secretly gay? I suddenly remembered that while the rest of us dated in high school, he never did. Was there something I was unaware of all those years? In looking back on high school, there was homophobia. It was part of the culture. Did Bobby keep his true self hidden from the rest of us?

I was fascinated by the 1999 movie The Matrix. The Wachowshis brothers had produced an entertaining and profound film experience. Hats off to them.

Today, it's the Wachowskis sisters. Larry transitioned to Lana in 2008, and Andy transitioned to Lily in 2016.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, RuPaul rose the fame, presenting quite a different lifestyle and personage from the mainstream. There was more to life than the traditional man, woman, husband, and wife, white picket fence in the suburbs with 2.5 children.

In researching for my blog, I ran across the story of Casa Susanna. In the early 1960s, cross-dressing men and transgender women would gather at this weekend destination and spend time together, all as women. In 2005, a book of photographs was published which led to a stage play. It's curious to look at these mostly black and white photos showing dozens of men dressed as women sitting around, eating, playing cards, reading, behaving as normal human beings, their only exception is that these were men dressed as women.

I also discovered that the American Psychiatric Association (APA), in their book the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), classified homosexuality as a mental disorder until 1973. (Wikipedia: Homosexuality in the DSM) Even then, the manual listed in one form or another various terms to describe distress over homosexuality, and it was not until 2013 that any reference to homosexuality was removed. It would seem our views on human sexuality, whether anecdotal or institutional, are deeply ingrained.

From my blog What the @#$%^* do I know about sex?, Sep 27/2011:

Back in the early 90's, I'm watching one of the talk shows, not quite as elevated as Oprah but not as low as Jerry Springer. A couple is being interviewed but we're given to understand they have a secret. Commercial break. We return to see two women. I look closer. Woman number two is the husband; he's dressed up in drag. The wife explains that her husband has always had a fetish for women's clothes and once a month he dresses up and the 2 of them go out for a drink together as 2 female friends. She goes on to say that her husband is a wonderful man, a great husband, a good lover and an excellent father; he just seems to have this one special quirk and it is the only oddity out of an otherwise exemplary human being.

Now just mull that one over for a minute. We have a gentleman who has a fetish for woman's clothes. How in heaven's name did this couple arrive at a point where the man could bring this up with his wife? Who knows, maybe he told her about his fetish before they were married, and she married him anyways. The point is that their relationship was open and honest enough that they could discuss this. But look at the alternative. What if she had reacted to this discovery with, "Eew. Get away from me your goddamn weird-oh pervert!" Well, there's one relationship which would have come to a screeching halt and there's one guy who would say to himself that he would never, ever again speak frankly with anybody about "his secret".

At some point she must have weighed the pros and cons and felt the balance sheet showed more benefits than liabilities. But picture what would have happened if the man felt so ashamed of his feelings that he never talked about them with his wife; he kept them hidden. Do I see a potential headline? "Respected family and businessman Fred Schwartz, seen here dressed up in drag in a photograph taken in the local bar Tom's Eatery, was arrested this past Saturday."

In 2017, on a social media platform, I run into a person identified by a female avatar, Alice. We chat, the usual small talk. But then, things turn serious, and Alice decides to tell me her story. Alice is actually Frank, a 55-year-old man transitioning to a woman. Frank was born male. He grew up male. He went to school, graduated, and found himself a career as a male. He got married and had two children. At the age of fifty, he decides to come out. His wife is accepting but she said she couldn't live as a lesbian, so they get a divorce, remaining good friends and still co-parenting. Frank sends me a real-life photo of himself. I see a man, wearing makeup and a wig in a dress. He looks nothing like a woman; he looks like a man in drag. He looks very much the men dressed as women in the photos of Casa Susanna.

Our conversation came to an end, and we went our separate ways never to see one another again. However, I've thought about this story on many occasions. What trials and tribulations was Frank going to face? What ridicule? Obviously, this was important to him, or he wouldn't risk it all, but I still found it incredible that he gets through fifty years of his life as a man but now feels it is of the utmost importance he finds the real him in a woman.

Moving into the 2010s, the question of transgender became more visible in the media. I was aware of Laverne Cox (b 1972), an actress and transgender advocate who rose to prominence in the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. I noted Wikipedia's list of transgender people, bringing attention to the extent of the phenomenon.

What does all this mean?

In light of the above, with the controversaries about transgender over the past few years and not delving into the differences between transgender, transvestite, gay, etc., I did some research and ran across The Third Gender. I like to say that if something happens once or twice, it could be nothing more than a fluke. But when it happens repeatedly, there has to be a phenomenon, something real which I'm unaware of. For years, I knew about the shemale niche in porn, males who appeared as women but with male genitalia. It was all titillating but my curiosity about the topic had led me some time ago to the conclusion there was more to this than meets the eye. I had heard of the ladyboys of Thailand (Kathoey), some, because of discrimination, are forced to work in the sex trade. I could ask why men would be attracted to a ladyboy, but I could also ask why a man would want to become a ladyboy.

I return to an earlier statement: [The Third Gender is] still somewhat new to mainstream western culture and conceptual thought. The Wikipedia article, with references in the footnotes, describes this concept as dating back thousands of years. Human sexuality can be more than just the traditional binary of male and female with various shades of gray, feminine males, masculine females, androgynous, hermaphrodite, etc.

All of us are faced with something we've never seen before; with something we know nothing about. It's disconcerting. It upsets the balance of our world. But is this thing really new, or is it merely new to us? Is the problem that we're confronting something unseen or is the problem that we're confronting our ignorance? I'll be the first to recognise that it's a big world out there, and there's a lot going on I know nothing about. My problem is not falling into the trap of dismissing something if I, personally, know nothing about it. My ignorance doesn't make something invalid.

J. K. Rowling
I just finished reading once again the entirety of the June 10, 2020 essay which supposedly got Ms. Rowling into trouble. It's heartfelt and brings up important points about the transgender issue. Nevertheless, her belief in the innateness of gender doesn't explain all of the previous examples I've mentioned. She admits to being "triggered" by her own bad experiences, and I question how much this has clouded her judgement. She says she's worried about men being granted access to women's washrooms, forgetting when referencing the leader of the free world’s long history of sexual assault accusations and his proud boast of ‘grabbing them by the pussy’, that any man can walk into the women's washroom right now without having to pretend to be a woman.

I can't help feeling that like water, this issue will find its own level. The pendulum has been on the side of denying transgender, keep it in the closet, ignore it, and it will go away. Activists have pushed the pendulum to the other side and now, everything is about transgender. (I see a parallel with homosexuality in our society.) I'm sure there's a middle ground. There is a third gender.

Dave Chapelle
I've watched a number of clips about Chappelle's transgender jokes taken from the comedy special The Closer. (YouTube: here, here) In my piece The S Word, I talk about how the N word can only be used by blacks and go on to conclude that the S word (slut) can really only be used by women. Chapelle is a comedian. He's trying to make jokes. However, Chapelle is not transgender, and his jokes come across as homophobic and cruel. Yes, homophobic. In one piece, he talks about Caitlyn Jenner possibly posing nude in Sports Illustrated. After making comedic faces of surprise and disgust, he states that he's going to say it for everybody, "Yuck!" Every joke has a premise, and the premise here is that somehow Caitlyn's female genitalia are not just inferior but disgusting. Why? The only conclusion is that Chappelle is still thinking of Caitlyn Jenner being Bruce Jenner, and being a heterosexual man, Chappelle is saying yuck to a man. In another piece, he says, "I'm not saying trans women are not women. I'm just saying those pussies they got... You know what I mean?" I'm sorry, that's not funny. It's cruel. I'm sure a transgender woman as a comedian could impart humor in some of these ideas but hearing a man, Dave Chappelle say them, it comes across as mean. So, for me, the real controversy is not Chappelle stating his opinion about transgender issues, it's that he's a professional comedian who's failed at his job. He's not funny. And I find his opinion to be uninformed. It's obvious he has no idea of what The Third Gender is.

Ricky Gervais
In his Netflix special, Supernature, Gervais speaks longingly of the old-fashioned woman, the ones with wombs but says he enjoys the new women, the ones with beards and cocks. (YouTube: here) He's trying to be funny, but his joke is based on the premise that this issue is something new. It's like he tells a joke about machines in the air that fly like birds. Well, hello! Did somebody just wake up from a hundred-year coma? Gervais is a professional comedian. It's his job to be funny. I'm not going to discuss possible transphobia, woke culture trying to cancel him, etc. I'm merely going to say these jokes aren't funny. He's failed at his job. The reference to the old-fashioned confirms what was said above: This is new to western culture. There is a third gender.

Jordan Peterson
I don't really know Mr. Peterson. However, I have run into his public pronouncements through media and have found that for whatever reason, he has not clearly thought through the implications of what he's said. (Peterson talks about Canada's response to the pandemic, and I wonder, if he had been in charge, how many Canadians he would have killed.) He criticizes Elliot Page and his transition from Ellen to Elliot. Twitter suspends Peterson's account. (here) I have no idea what Peterson thinks he's going to achieve with his adamantly opinionated stance, but I repeat what I said above. There is a Third Gender.

Final Word
Something is going on. There's a phenomenon happening. I've never had doubts about my gender. I'm a male. I've always been one; I will always be one. However, I've seen enough to realize I'm not looking at a few isolated incidences, flukes as it were, but something significant in the human race as a whole. I can no longer look at the world purely from my own life but must conclude there are things going on outside my realm of experience.

I can't help thinking the above mentioned four public figures will sooner or later revise their opinions. It's obvious to me none of them know anything about The Third Gender. I repeat they are each giving their opinion as opposed to saying what they know. Belief trumps knowledge. In my piece Cancel Culture, Supposedly, I talk about those who complain about woke people trying to cancel them. I then go see why they've incurred the wrath of the crowd and have found on far too many occasions the individual in question deserves their wrath by being sexist, racist, xenophobic, ill-informed, misinformed, or just plain stupid. If what anybody believes ostracizes another group of people, I'd say they desperately need to reassess their beliefs. They complain about being cancelled, not realizing how they themselves are cancelling other people.


Wikipedia: TERF
TERF is an acronym for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. First recorded in 2008, the term originally applied to the minority of feminists espousing sentiments that other feminists considered transphobic, such as the rejection of the assertion that trans women are women, the exclusion of trans women from women's spaces, and opposition to transgender rights legislation. The meaning has since expanded to refer more broadly to people with trans-exclusionary views who may have no involvement with radical feminism.

Those referred to with the word TERF typically reject the term or consider it a slur; some identify themselves as gender critical.[5] Critics of the word TERF say that it has been used in an overly-broad fashion and in an insulting manner, alongside violent rhetoric. In academic discourse, there is no consensus on whether or not TERF constitutes a slur.

Wikipedia: Casa Susanna
Casa Susanna was a popular weekend destination in Jewett, NY for cross-dressing men and transgender women in the early 1960s. The bungalow camp was run by Susanna Valenti and her wife Marie, who also ran a wig store in town.

A Safe House for the Girl Within By Penelope Green, NY Times, Sept. 7, 2006
There was a pilot and a businessman, an accountant, a librarian and a pharmacologist. There was a newspaper publisher, and a court translator. By day, they were the men in the gray flannel suits, but on the weekends, they were Felicity, Cynthia, Gail, Sandy, Fiona, Virginia and Susanna. It was the dawn of the 1960’s, yet they wore their late 50’s fashions with awkward pride: the white gloves, the demure dresses and low heels, the stiff wigs. Many were married with children, or soon would be. In those pre-Judith Butler, pre-Phil Donahue days, when gender was more tightly tethered to biology, these men’s “gender migrations,” or “gender dysphoria,” as the sociologists began to call cross-dressing, might cost them their marriages, their jobs, their freedom.


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