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  • Reverend James Squire

Sex and Being Lefthanded

One of the units that I taught in ethics was about sex and human sexuality. I began with a psychological/theological approach to the word eros which is the Greek word for the many dimensions of human sexuality that have many different expressions on a spectrum. Eros is defined as passion. When passion arrives, reason leaves which is why so many extramarital affairs occur. Sex is more than a sex act. It is an identity and it is necessary for procreation of the species. This attribute makes it a significant act with another. It is remembered and is profound. It is primordial meaning existing since the beginning of our species. Hence there is no such thing as casual sex. It involves manifestations such as heterosexual, homosexual, pansexual, bisexual and transgender to name a few.

It should surprise no one that teenagers at times have trouble having the “talk” with their parents. During one class we talked about what movies they could not view with their parents. Their examples of this were hilarious. One guy in a class some years ago may have won the prize. He indicated that he had a coast-to-coast flight with his mother (a psychiatrist) when the movie chosen by the mother for them to view was unknown to her but sounded funny. It was Something About Mary. Mother wasn’t bothered by the sexual content, but her son was dying of embarrassment during the whole flight. “Rev, longest flight of my life!” The class created a list of movies that they never could see with their parents, usually girls with their dads, and boys with their moms.

I knew how to talk with adolescents and adults about the various kinds of expressions of transgender people having studied that aspect of human sexuality. However, I could never find an adequate metaphor to share with them about what it’s like to be a transgender person. I just got the answer, and the metaphor is based in people like me. I am lefthanded.

I found the best metaphor to help people get into why people are transgender. It was stated in a book written by Jodi Picoult and Finney Boylan called Mad Honey which I recently read. I studied with Dr. Art Caplan, then Head of the Penn Center for Bioethics. Later I worked with him as a colleague in vetting the Body World Exhibit when it came to Philly. Art once said that if you want ordinary citizens to understand bioethics, have them read Jodi Picoult whose writings pivot on ethical and bioethical concerns.

Transgender people are like me, lefthanded, not literally but have the same experience. Let me tell you about how discriminated we left handers are. It is a righthanders world. 10 percent of the population is left-handed equally divided among men and women.

When we sit down at a restaurant table, we have to shift the dishes, cups, and utensils to the other side. In religion we always say that we will sit at the right hand of God, never the left hand. Golf clubs, guitars, a simple binder are made for right handers. In certain countries in the Middle East, it is rude to use your left hand for eating as the left hand is seen as unsanitary because of certain bathroom practices. This notion has been handed down for generations and is fixed in the culture.

Some of us lefthanders have defied the odds against us. President Obama, Lebron James, Prince William, and Lady Gaga to name a few.

So, what does being lefthanded have to do with being transgender? Picoult’s co-author, Finney Boylan, is transgender. I am guessing that it is her metaphor included in the book that could help the world know what it is like to be transgender. How are those two attributes alike, dominant hand and transgender?

Fortunately, I wasn’t one of those lefthanded people who were forced to be righthanded because that is the norm. Normally this was done early on in education by a teacher or parent. I didn’t wake up one day and say I think that I will be left-handed. We know now that there is a genetic component to it. As Lady Gaga would sing in one of my favorite songs, “I was born this way.”

All of you righthand folks, try using your left hand as your dominant hand to eat, write, and carry on your daily business. Even a simple binder is for right handers. Try using one with your left hand.

Gentlemen, try shaving with your left hand. Yes, there are variations. I pitch left but kick right. Some can use both hands or either hand. The point is that you would “feel” very different when using your non dominant hand. Dominant is the key word. It just wouldn’t be you. You know what is “naturally” you no matter what the world tells you that you should feel.

There is nothing wrong with you! I know a number of parents of transgender children. I know transgender children and adults as well. But the one situation that moved me greatly was a mother who said to me that her middle school daughter wasn’t very happy throughout her life. She and her husband talked with their daughter about how the daughter felt more like boy in all ways and not a girl. I am not even sure the daughter knew what transgender meant. In that conversation, they supported the child in her request to live as a boy. How did they know that they made the right decision? The mother’s words were, “I can’t get the smile off his face!”

“He was born this way.”

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