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Congratulations, Sir, on Being Chosen as Miss Nevada

This column’s headline is not meant to be a mean-spirited or even tasteless swipe at Kataluna Enriquez, who was born a male but has recently been crowned Miss Nevada. Rather, it’s to make a point intentionally starkly so as to draw much attention to it, because far too many people are sweeping this concept, known as gender dysphoria, under the rug, opting to avoid becoming entangled in its complexity.

Gender dysphoria is technical term for the phenomenon that resulted in man named Bruce Jenner, who won the 1976 Olympic Decathlon and was unquestionably one of the greatest athletes in the world, having become a woman named Caitlyn Jenner, who is now running for governor of California.

I’ll try to remember to use the pronoun “she” when referring to Jenner, although nowadays, the Cancel Culture has declared pronouns to be taboo, and so it seems to be a no-win situation for those of us still clinging to objective reality.

To Jenner’s credit, she has stood firmly against transgender females (who were born male) competing in women’s athletic events, correctly pointing out that with rare exception, men possess considerably greater physical prowess. In fact, I wish Jenner would break her own rule and enter some athletic competition against women just to make a point, because I think even now, at age 71, she’d trounce them!

In Enriquez’ case, the situation is a bit different. A biologically-born man, far from having an advantage in winning a women’s beauty contest, is more likely, one would think, to be at a distinct disadvantage. Keeping that in mind, then, Enriquez should be congratulated for defying the odds. Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Enriquez appears to possess the type of physical features one would associate with beauty queens; it’s hard to make the case that she wasn’t “pretty” enough to win.

Nonetheless, at what point do we draw the line?

The next question – another that some may view with scorn, thinking it’s meant to poke fun at a serious situation – is: what about a cat winning first place at a dog show? What are the standards that legally distinguish a dog from a cat, or a man from a woman?

I raise this point not because it makes any difference to me who wins a beauty contest. I remember watching those as a kid, when we were limited to six or seven channels on TV. Nowadays, there are far more choices, and I’m sure it’s been well over 20 years since I’ve watched one. For all I care, the judges could have chosen an aardvark as Miss Nevada.

I am concerned, though, because the American Psychiatric Association (APA) classifies gender dysphoria as a disorder. Comparatively, it doesn’t do that with homosexuality. I’m the last person to take the word of anyone but God Himself as gospel, but I do place some value in the APA’s professional opinion. Accordingly, that’s why I have no objection to same-sex marriage, gay parenting, and gays in the military. If the APA says being gay is every bit as normal as being straight, that’s good enough for me.

Classifying gender based on state of mind, though, or refusing to acknowledge gender as a biological fact, is a different story. Should we as a society and as a nation of laws acquiesce to one’s preferential identification instead of adhering to an objective standard? Where’s the “follow the science” clamor now?

Consider some examples, to illustrate: what if a 16-year-old identified as a 30-year-old? Should that teenager be allowed to order a cocktail in a bar? And what if a 30-year-old identified as a senior citizen? Would s/he be eligible for Social Security and Medicare benefits? What if patriotic Americans who never spent a day in the military self-identify as veterans – shall they be entitled to preferential hiring as a result?

Heck, I think I’d have a pretty good chance of winning some big prize money in a national spelling bee…for Second Graders. What next, convicted male felons self-identifying as women enjoying their own harems in all-female prisons?

I grew up in Washington Heights (upper Manhattan, for those not in the know). Most of my friends weren’t Greek, they were black and Hispanic. I wanted an afro, and I even went through a brief phase of calling myself ‘Manuel’ (a Hispanic derivation of my middle name, Emmanuel). I’m not quite sure that would qualify me as a self-identifying person of color, considering I never shied away from my Greek-American heritage. But what if I had? Would that have entitled me to a scholarship reserved exclusively for blacks and Latinos (oops, Latinx), or preferential affirmative action admissions policy to prestigious universities?

Unfortunately, even though most Americans feel the same way, they’re afraid to say it out loud, lest the Politically Overcorrect Police banish them into exile.

I watched Caitlyn Jenner tell her story. I don’t think she’s a scammer, and I don’t think she’s nuts. I don’t know much about Enriquez, but to listen to her story, she, like Jenner, had a lot of emotional struggles living in society as a male. I certainly feel no animosity toward either of them, and I have no interest in teasing them, either. In fact, I’d take Jenner over Gavin Newsom as California governor any day of the week.

Nonetheless, I don’t think we’ve really delved into what constitutes gender from a legal perspective: must a physical operation be part of it, or can it all be based on perception? The 1964 Supreme Court case Jacobellis v. Ohio was about obscenity. When the question of “hard-core pornography” arose, Justice Potter Stewart famously opined: “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description … but I know it when I see it.”

Similarly, while I’m not quite sure how to intellectualize the problem of a male transforming into a female and winning a women’s beauty contest, I do know a problem exists, because I know it when I see it.

Constantinos E. Scaros' latest book, How to Talk Politics without Arguing, is available on amazon.com. For a complete list of his books, visit www.listentodino.com.

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