Minors in transition and other dysphoria

Around ten years ago I was out drinking with friends in downtown Fargo, when I started chatting with an individual who told me they were transitioning from male to female and had recently undergone “bottom surgery.” It was a fascinating conversation, but when I asked them why they were doing it their answer blew my sheltered little mind.

“Because I hate my penis,” was their answer. Never mind the fact that this person by all accounts was still presenting as male in their manner and fashion, they had already taken that giant leap across the Rubicon of the gender transition process. There was no going back for them, but they knew what they wanted enough to take a radical commitment to it.

I didn’t press this person further but looking back on it I wish I had attempted to get more out of that conversation on the patio at Fort Knox. While I was able to rationalize a grown adult making their own decisions no matter how bizarre I might have found them, the nation and our state are presently at loggerheads over whether such a treatment is a rational and lifesaving medical procedure for children. A different proposition altogether, depending on who you ask.

With aspects of the “Slate of Hate” now codified into North Dakota law, the lamentations and think pieces have been flying in from all over the country and from within the discourse of punditry in North Dakota media. I’ve skirted around the issue in this column before, but given some of the emotional blackmail flying around I feel compelled to be more direct.

A child being guided toward irreversibly altering their organs and body chemistry is not making that decision on their own. Much like a turtle found resting on a fencepost or a cat dying slowly on a vegan diet, somebody else had to have put them there or made that lifestyle choice for them even if they meowed along the whole way.

Permitting children an allowance of self-expression is one thing, but to what degree should their peers or the public be compelled to affirm them as they do so? It is quite strange to me how many voices in this state are crying out in anger over the resistance to these ideas in the benighted communities who haven’t seen the light, but ultimately advocates have only proved how drunk they have become on self-righteousness.

These laws have been called “dangerous and despicable” by transgender activists and “cruel and stupid” by the “moderate” gadflies of the GOP. Even a former professor of mine, Jim Shaw, is getting in on it, frothing at the mouth that Rep. Brandon Prichard of Bismarck would dare to refer to “gender-affirming care” as “child mutilations.”

In defense of Prichard and his ilk, the framing of the skepticism held by some citizens towards these issues as an unfounded hysteria or as bigotry doesn’t leave much room for debate on the issue, relegating the entire conversation to a binary of wholesale acceptance or outright repudiation.

To say that this is all trumped up culture war slop is to deny the other states or communities that have had problems with runaway affirmational madness. Situations where things veered too far in the opposite direction, allowing perverse overreach into the lives of American families and in some instances causing genuine harm to befall children and teens all in the name of curing their ills. Voters in North Dakota, at least those apparently positioned in the shadow of their elevated neighbors in the Red River Valley, did take notice of these things and voted accordingly.

The law that supposedly restricts the use of pronouns, upon closer inspection instead explicitly prevents the implementation of rules compelling or prohibiting the use of pronouns in a school. Opponents have also taken issue with the features regulating bathroom use on the basis of biology, a concept that had been generally unproblematic to hold until recently.

In a world rooted in relativistic thinking, it can be easy for some to accept or rationalize things that are objectively wrong. But maybe people should be free to have their bad ideas, if others can still be free of them if they choose.

I generally ascribe to libertarian beliefs, and abhor unnecessary use of state power, so in a sense I welcome Fargo Superintendent Rupak Gandhi’s posturing in a recent school board meeting that Fargo Public Schools will flat out ignore the new law pertaining to pronoun and bathroom use.

In all seriousness, why hasn’t anyone else ever thought of that? Why do we even follow these pesky laws in the first place? Has the answer always been this simple? Functionally, it’s the same principle that so called “Sanctuary Cities” operate under, but given current events at our southern border, maybe that should be taken as a lesson not an instruction manual.

The Dem-NPL commitment to the identitarian stack has alienated half of the state’s legislative districts to such an extent they can’t even field a candidate in them, effectively ceding the two chambers of the state house to the GOP. With the state leadership reaffirming their party’s full-throated support for the dogma of the national counterpart, it’s unlikely they will cultivate voters amongst a population that find causes like these to be odious at worst and misguided at best.

Gandhi and the Fargo School Board may feel righteous in their action, as it probably is popular with their constituency, but it opens them up for further reprisal from the legislature, with one lawmaker pushing to strip funding from the district.

Now before you reach for those pearls, how unreasonable is it for the state to deprive a district of funding if it is brazenly ignoring properly legislated and signed laws? What has also occurred to me, as this is the region of North Dakota that clung to COVID rules until it was embarrassing, is that the Fargo School Board and those who are cheering them on are inadvertently making the case for the most limited of “limited governments,” a minarchist or Night-watchman State.

Minarchism generally accepts that some sort of state must exist, but that it should be gimped from doing much more than maintaining a justice system and police services. It’s pie in the sky and utopian, but it would allow local authorities and constituencies or individuals to essentially govern themselves rather than suffer under the grind of representative democracy. But for some reason I doubt this cohort is radical voluntarist anarchists fighting to unshackle themselves from the tyranny of state power.

Just because communities like Fargo are comfortable with their children being guinea pigs for the medical industry as they refine their methods of transmogrifying the sexual organs of minors, that doesn’t mean anyone else must be compelled to tolerate or participate in the practice. No matter how perfect a world we are able to build, invariably, it will be hell for somebody. So why leap headfirst into the flames?


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