By: Rachel Mesch  | 

Letter to the Editor: Rachel Mesch

To the Editor,

I am dismayed by the discussion of transgender issues in response to Ben Shapiro’s talk on the YC campus, and in particular by the language being used. With the term “transgenderism” Shapiro takes up the vocabulary of those who wish to cast doubt on the real, difficult choices faced by those assigned a gender at birth that does not match their own innate sense of who they are. “Transgenderism” is not an ideology, like feminism or socialism, and it is misleading to align oneself on one side or the other of “believing” in it. Using this term rather than talking about transgender people is precisely what makes it easier to cast aspersion on a whole group, by attributing to them some kind of nefarious, values-eroding ideology that does not actually exist.

As far as I can tell, the so-called “debate around transgenderism” taking place here has yet to touch on any facts or lived experiences. As students continue to address this important topic, I hope that they will take the time to understand for themselves what trans identity really means, and what the recent progress around trans issues in this country has meant for those whose lives are at stake. Find out for yourselves what it means to be transgender by reading one of the many memoirs about it, one of the most stunning of which was written by a faculty member in our own institution. (I recommend starting with Jacqueline Rose’s recent overview of trans writings in the London Review of Books.) If the question of classification as illness is really of concern to you, find out what the medical community has to say. Before you make any further comments about the trans experience, talk to someone who is trans, or perhaps watch “I Am Cait,” and find out why a world-famous, gold-medal winning champion runner would feel that she did not really exist until she accepted her female gender expression.

Rachel Mesch
Associate Professor of French and English, Yeshiva College