This month, the drama “Butterfly” will air in the United Kingdom on ITV, about a boy deciding that he needs to live as a girl. Interviewed for YOU Magazine about her role in the show, actress Anna Friel said, “Imagine how confusing it must be to get to the age of four and realise you’re a boy but you like girls’ dresses; being told that you’re not to do this or that, but you have this desperate need. And imagine how many people must have gone through that before transgender was something we talked about openly.”
As if being a girl is liking dresses. Girls don’t always like dresses, and some of us strongly dislike them. If liking dresses is enough to make a boy “really” a girl, is disliking them enough to make a girl “really” a boy? At what age should such an interest be counted as life-determining?
Friel later says, “My first instinct with medication is that you want to give children as little as possible. I wanted to know what such powerful hormones did and what the side effects were.’ But she says when she came to realize “how miserable a life” such a child will have, she started to think, “Well, thank God for this medication.”
A lot depends on the question of how important it is whether a child likes dresses, such as public approval of giving minors “powerful hormones” with uncertain side effects. Instead, organizations like the U.K.’s All About Trans would prefer for you to stop thinking about this topic immediately and repeat after them that boys must be girls if they simply want it very badly.
Lots of Completely Normal Men Have Eschewed Trousers
Yet why is it considered a particularly miserable life for a boy to like dresses? Why is this treated as such a bizarre interest for a boy to have?
Is it the attraction to the sorts of finer textiles that have appealed to many of the wealthiest people of both sexes throughout history? Was it an unheard gender identity message that caused Joseph-Marie Jacquard to be so fascinated with producing elaborately patterned fabrics that he invented what later came to be hailed as a critical computer history milestone, the Jacquard loom?
Is it the interest in wearing a garment that’s shaped like a single tube below the waist, instead of a separate tube for each leg, connected at the hip? Consider this painting of Henry VIII, and think about why we shouldn’t describe him as a trans-feminine person in a fetching, gray silk minidress ensemble with leggings. It makes exactly as much sense as thinking that a little boy who likes trying on dresses at home probably needs chemical castration, using drugs prescribed to convicted sex offenders to manage their urges.
Have people who wonder if being comfortable in a “dress” means someone is a girl ever seen a depiction of Jesus Christ wearing robes in any painting from the last several hundred years? Have they seen depictions of the Egyptian pharaohs in the many paintings and statues that survive from that ancient monarchy?
Is the male use of the Javanese sarong a gender identity message? The Scottish kilt? The Roman toga? The Japanese kimono? The Saudi thaub? That’s mostly Wikipedia links, sure, but this question is not that deep nor are counterexamples hard to find. Human beings of both sexes have worn skirt or dress-like garments for a long time, all over the world.
All These Men Didn’t Need Genital Amputation, Either
Were the many millions of boys and men who liked and were comfortable in these garments for so many centuries simply missing out, having been born before the day we could have their puberty stopped and their gonads amputated under anesthesia, with an antibiotic chaser? Devastating to 14th-century European men, if so.
That seems harsh to my colleagues and I. Given that we’re alleged to be notorious man-haters (although we deny this), that should really be saying something.
Trousers were developed and used mainly for horse riding, or adapting to cold climates. They’re warmer, and more convenient for certain activities. They’re a product of culture, not genetics or hormone levels. It’s impossible that liking them or not represents a physically innate need. Children making these claims do seem distressed about something, but it probably isn’t the mere fact of their sexed bodies.
Beyond this illogical nonsense, where are we going wrong when it seems good for adults to send children the message that the most important thing about them is their taste in clothes? This is a message rejected by feminism, by the Bible, and typically by progressive counterculture, as well.
Consider the following quotes from a huge variety of sources.
“When [beauty pornography is] aimed at men, its effect is to keep them from finding peace in sexual love. The fleeting chimera of the airbrushed centerfold, always receding before him, keeps the man destabilized in pursuit, unable to focus on the beauty of the woman–known, marked, lined, familiar—-who hands him the paper every morning,” wrote Naomi Wolf in “The Beauty Myth.”
“Who can find a woman of worth? Far beyond jewels is her value. … She is clothed with strength and dignity, and laughs at the days to come. She opens her mouth in wisdom; kindly instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. … Acclaim her for the work of her hands, and let her deeds praise her at the city gates,” says the Bible’s Proverbs chapter 31.
“You are not your f-cking khakis,” says Chuck Palahniuk in “Fight Club.”
Clothes Play Is Not a Medical Issue
Why are we celebrating telling children that their clothing preferences are a medical issue? Why would it be the kinder thing to think that these preferences are so fixed and important that they can make a person’s entire life “miserable” if not constantly indulged, rather than that the person would be better served by developing his or her character and accomplishments? Why do feelings about modern fashion seem so important that they might override the common sense fears of a parent about the possible side effects of giving “powerful hormones” to children?
Eriel’s is quite a common belief, often promoted by transgender advocates and clinicians. How is clothing this important to anyone? How are people not embarrassed to treat it as a matter of life or death when most of us, even in wealthy countries, are not that many generations from people who were grateful to have one or two new suits of clothes a year?
We don’t understand, but, as clothing preferences are being used to market cosmetic mastectomies and castrations for healthy children to the public, the question deserves more scrutiny. Certainly, it deserves more deliberation than the constant drumbeat of glib celebrities turning a serious medical question into a matter of accepting fashion choices.
Thank goodness society didn’t react to girls campaigning to wear pants to school with the assertion that, if they did, they should plan to get mastectomies and be sterilized before they were old enough to vote. That would once have been considered barbaric.