Last week, Time released the cover for its most recent issue, featuring actress Laverne Cox. I wrote some words on Thursday about how powerful this is — that a mainstream publication is offering an enlightening take on the transgender experience, and that the most public face of the trans rights movement is a woman of color, are both incredible milestones. And, of course, the response has not been completely positive, although I’ve personally been lucky to avoid any of that online. Until today.
The Chicago Sun-Times published, on Friday evening (good timing!), a screed from National Review correspondent Kevin D. Williamson, who makes his point perfectly clear in the article’s headline: “Laverne Cox Is Not a Woman.” You can read it if you want to — go ahead, treat yourself! I will admit that I didn’t get very far before giving up, and I’m perfectly happy to tell you that. It’s 2014, and if there’s anything I don’t need to read it’s an op-ed from a man telling me who and who cannot be called a woman.
But I’ll give you an idea of where it goes, with some sort of pseudo-scientific analysis:
Regardless of the question of whether he has had his genitals amputated, Cox is not a woman, but an effigy of a woman. Sex is a biological reality, and it is not subordinate to subjective impressions, no matter how intense those impressions are, how sincerely they are held, or how painful they make facing the biological facts of life. No hormone injection or surgical mutilation is sufficient to change that.
As far as I’m concerned, the fact that Laverne Cox identifies as a woman is quite enough evidence to say, “Yes, Laverne Cox is a woman.” Because that’s how gender identity works. It’s pretty much the end of the discussion.
Of course, I find it fascinating that Laverne Cox’s identity — or the identity of any trans person — is soooooo frustrating for so many cisgender folks to comprehend and accept. Is Laverne Cox’s existence in the world as a woman somehow threatening everything that Kevin D. Williamson has come to know and believe in his life? Apparently, which is quite a bummer for Kevin D. Williamson, I guess. It’s a shame for him that this woman’s life upset him enough to inspire a bullshit op-ed weighing in on the authenticity of her gender identity. And it’s even more of a shame that someone at the Chicago Sun-Times read this piece of writing, which was originally published at the National Review (which seems to be a better home for it, frankly), and said, “You know what would be a good idea? Putting this in the Chicago Sun-Times!” Because it is pointless, reductive, and intolerable for a mainstream newspaper to generate attention by providing a public platform for a woman’s identity to be diminished and degraded by someone who has absolutely no right to make judgments about the gender of anyone besides himself.
But I’m not surprised that this outburst comes from Kevin D. Williamson, who I last wrote about a little over a year ago when he proved, quite publicly, that he is an asshole by grabbing a fellow theatre patron’s cell phone in the middle of a performance of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, getting himself kicked out of the show after his temper tantrum likely ruined the experience for the rest of the audience. Let me repeat all of this for you: a man who rudely tries to explain to others the concept of public etiquette is now publicly, in print, arguing that a trans woman is not a woman because of science as he knows it. If there’s anyone we shouldn’t listen to, it’s this doofus. End of story.