Two into two

“Transgender” people are obnoxiously binary. Or so it seems to me. The males become females after hormones and surgery; the females become males. Except, rather than being what they were born with, beginning with sex parts (but continuing through every cell in their bodies), they become a likeness of the other sex, often a not-very-likeness. But they do not have the option of becoming even a likeness of some third sex, for there is no such thing to serve as a model in nature. What they claim they have had to make up.

Every advanced adult who is Anglophonic, even on weekends, was probably exposed to Dame Edna. This, and a variety of comic and sub-comic acts have been with us for generations. When I lived in England (or was it Australia? I forget which), I was amazed by two phenomena that I would not count as sexual perversions; first, men dressing as women, to be entertaining down at the pub; and second, men desperately attracted to women who were absurdly fat, also at the pub. I found it possible not to form a moral judgement, in cases like this, though I had a French girlfriend at the time, who made much cruel mockery of English masculinity (later, on the way home).

But men dressed as women were, after all, a feature of the Elizabethan and Jacobean stage, where actresses were not hired. The use of masks made this more practical in the Noh drama of ancient Japan. With time, however, from both these ends of the world, and many others east and west of them, women were able to break into the quaint traditions of dramaturgy that excluded them, and did a fine job of playing themselves.

Moreover, there is seldom a first time for anything. Women made the cast in mediaeval entertainments, and sometimes wrote them, too, in defiance of later feminist theory. However, they had been banned in classical Greece and Rome. The idea that an actress must be a Hetaira took Christianity to overcome. It is a surprisingly universal pre-Christian notion.

We could go into this, at length, but it would lead us away from transgender issues. Unless that is their purpose, to delete women’s rights. I would not discount the aesthetic accomplishments of cross-dressing, however. It is, in some degree, in the nature of art, that makes no place for pedestrian plausibility.

But I have yet to be convinced that transgender performances are high art; and I would judge the efforts at low art to be failures. Some higher purpose must be conceived, to make a performance “ring.” When it is omitted, even in Drag Queen Story Hour, we are left unsatisfied, and our children are not entertained.