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News & Analysis > All
News & analysis from Proletarian Internationalist Notes—news, reviews and analysis from a global perspective
Caitlyn Jenner and being an asexual female in the West: Is religion the problem, or Freudian and Christian culture?
May 14, 2015
Something that may be forgotten in the current media discussion of famous retired decathlete Caitlyn Jenner and a rumor of detransitioning to avoid lesbianism(1) is that Caitlyn said she was “asexual” in the interview with Diane Sawyer in April 2015.(2) In the second season of “I Am Cait,” the possibility was raised of Caitlyn’s dating males, but not females, in the future, which by itself doesn’t prove much about sex despite Caitlyn’s seemingly being put on the spot about it. One could have romantic feelings, but not be interested in sex, and one could have sex for various reasons but still be asexual. Though some thought Jenner’s responses in the “20/20” interview were clumsy, Jenner in that interview gave nuanced answers that distinguished between attraction to females, and asexuality (Jenner suggested they belonged under different headings and that she had both), and between being a female and being attracted to males, and Jenner rejected the “lesbian” label. Though Jenner had evidently given issues of identity, attraction and behavior some thought, this confused people who didn’t understand that one could have attraction with little or no interest in having sex with other people, and didn’t understand that for most people sexual orientation categories involved assumptions about sexual activity. There are various contexts, including migrants and Muslims, in which Western sexual attitudes are involved in misunderstanding or chauvinism.
Internationally, transgender Americans are privileged like other people in the united $tates, in the global systems of imperialism and patriarchy. They aren’t particularly privileged, but they are exploiters and oppressors of Third World nations like other Amerikans are. They are enemies of wimmin, a social group concentrated in the Third World including transgender people. Like straight and gay cissexual people in the united states, transgender Amerikans are oppressors of transgender people in the Third World. However, a variety of people—including U.S. neo-conservatives, Kennedy liberals and Third World-oriented alleged leftists who consider the transgender experience in the First World context to be a distraction from struggles in the Third World—cling to normative Western sexual culture, which is why they simultaneously support gay-bashing, transgender-bashing, hetero-liberalism, and sex-related propaganda against Muslim countries. The united states has a strongly Freudian culture though Freud’s thought and psychoanalysis more generally are today largely rejected by doctors, psychologists and therapists there. In talking about the sexuality of people in or from countries that are more family-oriented, Westerners draw from psychoanalysis selectively. Westerners consider their own sexuality to be normal or universal and judge others’ culture as abnormal/aberrant relative to that. In the West, the modern idea of being a “man” or a “woman” continues to involve heterosexuality in particular or at least involves a high level of sexual desire, a potential for promiscuity, and sexual orientation (including heterosexuality) as something easily demarcated and rigid, and this is reflected even in what Western Christian churches say (constantly) about abstinence and restraint as if being chaste required extraordinary effort, perhaps even humynly impossible effort. The idea that even a male priest tempted to have sex with nuns and female churchgoers is just being “a man” can be found among Western Christians, whereas prohibitions and modesty in other countries may involve other concerns to a greater extent. Non-Western sexuality-related concerns about licentiousness in general, sexual attention, pride, polytheism, disease, or infertility, don’t necessarily involve Western-like ideas about typical males (with whom females are thought by Westerners to be catching up in sexuality). Lack of recognition of the fact that Westerners’ high sexual desire and tendencies are just specific to the West, or specific to certain situations, can cause problems even for transgender people in the united states.
Because it contests societal norms of what being a female or male means, the transgender state of being has a potential to disrupt the link between identity and high sexual desire, and in fact there are transgender people who are asexual or have realized they don’t have to demonstrate their identity through sex with a series of females, males, or both. Society’s attitudes toward asexuality and ideas about normal sexuality can cause a struggle, however. In countries where being a female or male isn’t connected to an idea of sex for its own sake, female-attracted trans females may have less reason to avoid an appearance of lesbianism, because the people there generally may not be marrying either for romantic and sexual enjoyment primarily or because of attraction to a particular individual.
Heterosexual cis males in Muslim countries are regarded as sexually repressed by Freudian Western culture in which compulsive sex with many partners is now considered healthy due to ignoring what psychoanalysis has said about Don Juan. Thus, many in the West would say Iran is no paradise for anyone, including heterosexual males assigned a male identity at birth. Yet, in that Islamic republic, there is no bathroom law requiring pre-operative transsexual people to use bathrooms that don’t fit them. (North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act requires use of sex-specific bathrooms to be based on the sex established by one’s birth certificate.) And, many in Iran would consider the idea of denying transgender people sex reassignment surgery to be objectionable. The religious leaders there support sex reassignment therapy with money available for surgery and other therapy (including psychotherapy) for each individual diagnosed with “gender identity disorder” (a diagnosis many in the West need to get reassignment surgery). Questions and policies related to transgender individuals are addressed within an Islamic framework.
Seeing how some have perceived Amerikan-Iranian differences, Democrats, Republicans and Iranian traitors have united in trying to discredit transsexualism policy in Iran, in the global media. As John Kerry was finalizing the nuclear agreement with Iran last year, Kerry’s State Department was spreading anti-Iran propaganda to conservative news outlets on “forced sex changes” as if the more frequent occurrence of reassignment therapy in that country could only represent coercion and not reflect a different experience of identity, attraction, desire, and behavior. Notwithstanding the propaganda, even some Amerikans have acknowledged the difference between Iran and the united states and found something to say about Amerika and Iran in which Amerika isn’t superior. Why is it that Christians in the united states have so much trouble with supporting sex reassignment therapy and accepting transsexual people as females and males at least in principle, but in other areas even hardcore Christians in the united states seem more permissive or laid-back than Iranian Muslims, some of whom may be uncomfortable with known transgender people but at least uphold what Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini said three decades ago. Why do these Christians have these ridiculous bathroom bills but not support sex reassignment therapy so those transgender people who want to permanently transition can at least use the bathrooms they want to use, in conformity with the law. If these Christians were supportive of sex reassignment therapy, there would be a different discussion.
Some answers involve Christians conniving with atheists in the West attacking Islam while supporting Western sexual culture as a whole.
Caitlyn Jenner as a Christian Republican female
The idea that religion is incompatible with transgenderism is found also among gay rights supporters suggesting that being a Christian trans female is less possible or understandable than being a Christian female. Nosy people are suggesting that Caitlyn Jenner may be struggling with her transition because of a continuing desire to have a sexual relationship with females and a religious disagreement with open sexual behavior with another persyn of the same sex. Since Caitlyn is a female, having a sexual relationship with a female would be a same-sex relationship regardless of anyone’s sexual orientation. Whether the claim about regret is true or not (it is normal for ABGLTQ people to experience some temporary regret or discomfort after coming out because of new problems fitting in), Jenner’s Christianity is well-known, and ey said more than a year ago now that sex (female/male identity) and sexual orientation were different matters. Jenner has been criticized for, among other things, being a Republican and supporting outspoken Christian Ted Cruz in the AmeriKKKan presidential race.
Democrats and Republicans have both attacked Muslim countries over alleged treatment of gay and transgender people in Muslim countries. For other reasons, it is not that one party is better than the other, but Jenner’s being a Republican is actually helpful in the sense that it clarifies Jenner is primarily a female in sex identity, not a transgender persyn. The idea that transgender people have to be Democrats in the united $tates is offensive in implying trans females are to be treated differently than other females. There are many cis-female Republicans; why should Jenner’s affiliation be that remarkable. Jenner doesn’t identify as a third sex, and most transgender people don’t introduce themselves as trans females or trans males, but as females or males, or they don’t raise the subject at all. So, although Jenner came out only a year ago and has been involved in activism and most U$ females (like the males) regardless of party are enemies of the oppressed, discussion of trans females in society as if they were different from other females is backward after a point.
The treatment of transgenderism as a political subcategory of liberalism doesn’t help with opposing war and chauvinism toward Third World and Muslim countries. There is no progress through the Democratic or Republican Party. Acceptance of Republican trans females, and religious trans females, as females in society is necessary to move away from treating trans females and trans males as different from other females and males, having a clear recognition of the reactionary character of Amerikans (including Democrats) as a group, opposing war on the basis that Iran is some kind of liberal or deviant Islamic country that Christians should consider threatening, and opposing war on the basis there is something to hate or fear about Islamic approaches to transgenderism in general.
Gender and sexual identity, on the one hand, and sex for its own sake
Returning to sexual orientation and sexuality, a few things are relevant. One is that many heterosexual male Amerikans in the Democratic Party frequently have sex with a new persyn, but wouldn’t knowingly have sex with a transgender individual. So, despite claiming to support transgender rights, they feel a need to be aware of trans females and think they are different. Needing to be constantly aware of other people’s orientation and identity arises when one is competing with others to sleep with multiple coworkers etc. If somebody claims to be asexual, many people if they aren’t bewildered will be uncomfortable with that because they need to know. They aren’t convinced when asexuals express uninterest. Some transgender people’s confusion about sexual orientation or dwelling on sexual orientation identity is related to this. The majority of Western culture both Freudian and Christian isn’t supportive of asexual people. Frequent intercourse is regarded as necessary for health and/or “cleaving unto” one’s spouse. Asexuality is pathologized, regarded with contempt, considered aberrant, or ignored (by friends, journalists, and others) as if it were nonexistent.
Iran doesn’t have the emphasis on sexual pleasure for its own sake that the united states does. The Western idea of people being gay or straight is genuinely strange to the religious there for the most part contrary to Western incredulity. Westerners have a hard time understanding that. Many in the West accept that gay people exist, only to exclude them. In the context of U.S. culture, the idea that people who have sex frequently and exclusively with the same sex were just born that way could have been progressive when and where few supported gay rights in the united states. People in the united states were surrounded by a culture that was generally permissive, even the 1950s, but when they came out to themselves and to others, and tried to create a gay version of heterosexual Western culture, they faced problems. These problems were alleviated by explaining behavior in terms of genetic or divine origin—though transgenderism or homosexuality being present or developing in early childhood actually could be evidence that identity and attraction don’t have to lead to high sexual desire and Western sexual practices. In cultures that expect people to follow certain patterns regardless of attraction or enjoyment and restrict heterosexual people’s behavior, not just gay people’s, the idea that people are just born “gay” has less progressive potential. An idea that various behaviors are a “choice” and that, implicitly, everyone has some attraction to the same sex actually could be useful in the future. In the West, tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality are often accompanied by denials that one is gay/lesbian oneself.
In other words, without claiming to know anything about em that hasn’t been reported, Caitlyn Jenner might have been better off in a culture that supported asexuality or didn’t confuse attraction with high sexual desire or pursuing sexual enjoyment as a central feature of a relationship. Some would say Jenner should be a lesbian and dump eir religious beliefs as if atheism were generally better than supposed monotheism in the West. Actually, it is Christian-Freudian culture that is the problem, not just a Western Christianity that is just as idolatrous as Western atheism. The counterargument is that the Catholics have celibacy for nuns and priests, but many Christian churches in the united states—and indeed there are many of them, each claiming to be true—elevate the religiously like-minded married female-male couple to a degree that is almost idolatrous. As other have pointed out, there are ways in which Christianity with an emphasis on the nuclear family or the married couple is actually anti-family in comparison with cultures that place more value on biological brothers and sisters, children, parents, cousins, etc. In those cultures, a divorce merely because of incompatibility would be unthinkable or not an event that might be repeated several times. And the attitude isn’t “I will marry this person and f*ck everyone else (figuratively and literally)—an attitude found among both Christians and Freudians in the West. In many Muslim and Third World cultures, seeking happiness in the form of a sexually enjoyable relationship with another persyn regardless of others’ needs isn’t a high priority. Problems arise when cultures move away from traditional practices but develop an emphasis on sex for its own sake to the exclusion of asexuality. ◊
1. “Caitlyn Jenner’s rep slams report she’s detransitioning back to Bruce, regrets sex change,” 2016 May 12. http://www.ibtimes.com/caitlyn-jenners-rep-slams-report-shes-detransitioning-back-bruce-regrets-sex-change-2368067
2. “Bruce Jenner interview: ‘I am a woman’,” 2015 April 24. http://www.businessinsider.com/bruce-jenner-interview-says-hes-a-woman-2015-4