Friday, November 13, 2015

Caitlyn Jenner: "We can talk about this"

 
Caitlyn Jenner (photo courtesy of Kat Fitzgerald)
   Caitlyn Jenner, former Olympic champion, current reality TV star and symbol of America's shifting sense of gender, spoke Thursday at the Hilton Chicago.
     "What I have learned in the past six months," said Jenner, referring to the time since Diane Sawyer's profile of her on ABC in April and her debut on the cover of Vanity Fair in July, "is how many good people are in this community ... it's really been overwhelming."
     Jenner's appearance was her first since receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs in July. The luncheon was to benefit Chicago House, a residence for transgender people in Edgewater, and the TransLife Center, its program offering social services and job placement.
     Some 700,000 Americans are thought to be transgender, or about 0.2 percent of the U.S. population. Though they face intense discrimination and violence and their unemployment rate is double the national average, public attention in recent months has focused not on their struggles but on debates within school districts about where transgender teens should change for gym and which restrooms they should use — issues Jenner avoided.
     Instead, she insisted she is not a spokesperson for the community. "No. I'm a spokesperson for my story. It's the only thing I can tell. It's the only thing I know." That said, she hopes others will follow her example. "Open up this conversation. We can talk about this. It's part of society. It's part of humanity."
     Jenner has dealt with this since she was a young boy in Tarrytown, New York.
     "I want people to know this story didn't just happen," she said. "For me, it's been a lifetime. When I was a child, 8 or 9 years old, I used to sneak into my mom's closet, cross-dress when they weren't around."
     Sports, to that boy, "was my place to hide."
     After winning the decathlon in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Jenner plunged into a job as a TV announcer, embraced his celebrity lifestyle, all the while keeping "this woman living inside" of him hidden from a public that idolized him as a hero. She said that in the mid-1980s the New York Times was preparing a story about Jenner being a cross-dresser, but that her PR team managed to pressure the newspaper to abandon it.
     She was received with a standing ovation by the audience of 1,000, although some transgender women in attendance grumbled that Jenner, for all her talk of giving back, took an honorarium, which Chicago House confirmed. It would not verify the amount, said on good authority to be $150,000. The event raised $250,000.
     "I have never had one negative comment in six months," she said. "As long as I don't go online. What a mess."
     Indeed, tweeting Jenner's remarks drew a howling chorus either insisting she is still a man (like most transgender women, Jenner has not had gender reassignment surgery) or bringing up a fatal traffic accident she was involved in earlier this year. Although I couldn't help but notice that the most vigorous tweeter, whose Twitter ID is "His Names Bruce" has sent out 27,700 tweets passionately condemning Jenner, including thousands of clonic repetitions of "His name is Bruce and he's a man" and gained just 29 followers for his troubles. That's scary, sad and reassuring in equal measure.
     Listening to Jenner speak, I tried to gauge my own reaction. She did not seem as aware as she should be that she is the beneficiary much more than the instigator of these changes in society. She fought the truth leaking out, tooth and nail, until TMZ dragged her out of the closet. Plus, well, it wasn't so much that Bruce Jenner is now a woman, but a woman with lots of plastic surgery, with that pinched, vulpine, Joan Rivers face. One of the cultural conundrums of this transgender moment is that they're embracing a vision of femininity that could be viewed as outmoded, as a man's view of what being a woman means, one that many other women reject as superficial. Is a small nose and big breasts really necessary to be a woman? Many don't think so, but Jenner obviously does, and given her role in "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" that can't come as a shock.
     Or is that carping? Contempt for the media peppered Jenner's talk, and considering her past experience with paparazzi, who made her life "hell," perhaps she earned that right.
     For those confused by all this — sometimes me, sometimes even Jenner, who, listing her privileges, began a sentence, "I am a white guy ..." then caught herself, adding, "was" then admitting "I can even mess up." — what's happening here should be laid out. The realm of people who get to play on the playground, unharassed, is expanding. Women got onto the playground, then blacks, then gays, and now transgender students can swing on the swings without fear of being beaten up, at least in theory. The rest, as Hillel said, is commentary.
     For anyone still under the illusion that this is still a marginal group, the event was sponsored by BMO-Harris Bank, Walgreens, Pepsico, Aon, the Chicago Community Trust, the Chicago Sun-Times Trust, among other gilt-edged organizations.

72 comments:

  1. Disturbing picture of a 66 year old Grandfather.

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    1. Indeed.

      "One of the cultural conundrums of this transgender moment is that they’re embracing a mode of femininity that could be viewed as outmoded, as a man’s view of what being a woman means, one that many other women reject as superficial. Is a small nose and big breasts really necessary to be a woman?"

      Exactly.

      For as much turmoil as Jenner apparently has gone through, I think Jenner has reduced it all to the same level of phony as the new D-cups.

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    2. His last ex-wife already cut off his balls, he doesn't need gender surgery.

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    3. Halloween is over, Brucey.

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  2. I don't have any hatred or dislike for anyone that's going through this, except for this wretched, rotten person!
    As the stepfather of all the Kraptrashians & the father of two Jenner girls, he married a woman whose first husband helped a double murderer get away with it & then he helped raise a family of totally useless, worthless famewhores, who are not merely famous for being famous, but for a sex tape, a bizarre 72 day marriage, a 16 year old sleeping with a 25 year old man & a car wreck that caused the death of an innocent woman & then the star fucking DA let him off with just a minor traffic violation.
    At least the Gabor sisters were funny when they went on Paar & Carson's shows! Eva was funny on Green Acres!
    Not one of them does anything useful our society, instead, they have demeaned themselves & society into the toilet!
    Teen girls actually see his daughters as role models, which is just sad beyond belief!
    When the one married that talentless, Chicago born lunatic, they had a strange set of double weddings in Paris & Italy.

    Trump may be the short fingered vulgarian, but this rotten to the core family & its hangers on make him look like an angel!

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    1. Hope he runs into some LA gangbangers sometime, without his security detail around him. May the best man win.

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    2. NS-would like to read some of your other thoughts on this that you couldn't put in the paper column.

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    3. To be honest, they're pretty much on the page. I started it as a straight news story, then back-filtered my opinions in, because I didn't want to jump in front of someone who is unarguably an interesting person. That said, I felt no obligation to celebrate her. To me, the key line is that she''s a beneficiary, not a champion of these changes. She'd still be in the closet if TMZ didn't kick her out. That isn't heroism. I don't have the contempt for her that others do because I'm very divorced from pop culture. I didn't know she was married to Kris Kardashian until yesterday, doing research before the speech. I've never seen a second of the Kardashian shows, but I gather that "Downton Abbey" they're not.

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    4. love Downton Abbey

      thanks for your time

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  3. Here here, Clark and well said! HIS neck is as thick as a horse's neck, Sure, no one can tell he's a guy,NOT. I feel more empathy for the working class guy who has this concern and cant afford to do anything about it. There are many others more deserving of a courage award. Read that his show wasn't doing well,guess the newness wore off. If HE's serious he should get the full surgery and remember you can't change your DNA. It's no surprise to read he's hoarding the $ for himself. Why does he think he should be called she if he still has a penis? When I think of people who can't afford medical care for serous ailments and then think what he spends his money on it makes me sick and angry. He probably think he has a tough life. Let him go donate some money to St. Sabina or such.

    Good points, Michael and Tom.

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  4. Clark, you mentioned the Gabor sisters. Did I miss something?

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    1. I was comparing them to the Kraptrashians.
      Both groups are/were famous for being famous.
      But the Gabors had the decency & common sense to never try to be role models.
      They just wanted to have a good time & make money by being over the top on TV. They never killed anyone in a car wreck, although Zsa Zsa manged to slap a cop once & get busted for it. Eva sold cheap wigs on TV.
      We, the public didn't laugh at them, we laughed with them, as we all got the joke. Their "talent", such as it was, was the ability to go on a talk show & banter with the host for 10 minutes or so & make us laugh with their accents & malaprops, most likely scripted for them. Other than the slap, I doubt if they ever hurt anyone, other than in their numerous divorces.
      The Kraptrashians aren't a joke, their celebrity is evidence of a society losing its mind & common sense!

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    2. Oh okay, I thought you were saying they were transgenders.

      Yes, Mr. Jenner got off the hook big time with that accident.

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    3. I'd like him better if he was middle class. Then I'd empathize more.

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  5. Yes, Clark-unfortunately there are many teens that want to buy some Kartrashian shoes or only know about pop culturebut couldn't tell you anything about curren events. Well, not in my house!

    Again I say he is wrong to compare his struggles to the black community especially in the days of the Southern Civil Rights movement. That doesn't mean he should have white guilt though.

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    1. Makes me glad I don't bother with Twitter if Bruce is the big topic of discussion. Note his slip up and he still thinks of himself as a man and he is,until that final chop comes. And that doesn't even change his DNA.

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    2. I don't think Jenner compared her struggles to the black community; I did. This is about accepting people of whom you disapprove. Insisting they deserve that disapproval is the same argument used against blacks. Obviously the condition she struggled all her life with is as inborn as race. I'm not convinced it isn't mental illness but, like mental illness, we want people coping with it to be helped, not afflicted. If Jenner wants to be Caitlyn, if that makes her happy and fulfilled, are you going to insist she's wrong? Toward what end? To punish her? For what? The transgender issue is about people being who they want to be, which sounds very Jeffersonian to me.

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    3. Very Jeffersonian indeed and also very Amanda Palmerish, whose world is quite different from mine, but probably the better for at least some of the differences.

      john

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    4. Don't think that's what Jefferson had in mind.

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    5. I assumed Neil had mind Jefferson's comment, in his Notes on Virginia, about freedom of religion: "It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

      Or maybe it was when he said "different strokes for different folks."

      Tom Evans

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  6. Now, if she can just disappear into the life of womanhood she's always dreamed of and allow the worls to move on to move important things....like the 2016 election frenzy that just keeps getting more and more weird by the day.

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  7. good point about mental illness

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  8. 9:34 anon is not the 9:30 anon

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  9. A lot of negative opinions so far on today's subject, who I agree did have the advantage of going through her changes at the "right" time in our culture. I don't think it's fair to bring up her past personal life, however (I'm referring to her family history mainly). Everyone has baggage from their past, which contributes to the person they become. As far as the cosmetic changes and plastic surgeries, IMO it's the wrong thing to focus on. As someone else mentioned on Neil's Facebook page, had she left her face alone, people would be commenting on how "masculine" she still looked. And the breast enhancement was obviously the "feminine" look she wanted. It comes across as shallow nitpicking when these physical alterations become the main topic of discussion.

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    1. Disagreeing with the PC isn't being negative.

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    2. That's true, Anonymous. But what I wrote ("A lot of negative opinions so far on today's subject") cannot be disputed..

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  10. "This is about accepting people of whom you disapprove." Indeed. I've paid no attention to Jenner or any of his extended family since 1976 and have never given a moment of my time to any of the Kardashians' "projects." This column is the most I've ever read about any of them, depending on how long Neil's last post about Jenner was... Thanks a lot, NS, you sonofabitch. ; )

    "I'm not convinced it isn't mental illness..." Me either. However, the only reason I'm commenting here is that this recalls a post from the good ole days on Zorn's blog. One of his best commenters was Dr. X, a clinical psychologist who would occasionally educate the Commentariat and readership there based on his area of expertise. Anybody who wants a quick primer on gender issues (not that that seems likely from most of the responses so far!) could do worse than just reading Dr. X's comments on the thread I'm linking to below.

    To wit: "...there is a great deal of medical and psychological literature on the science and social dimensions of gender that exposes many commonplace but factually incorrect assumptions about biology and psychology." ... "It's too easy to dismiss someone as having 'mental issues' when they're different for reasons we may not understand. They're still human and a degree (of) humility is called for before we decide what their 'mental problem' is."

    He goes into much, but not TOO much, more detail, but this comment is already too long.

    http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2014/07/whats-up-heterodox.html

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    1. Psychiatry is a less exact science than other fields of medicine.

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    2. And the other fields in which they give you pill after pill until they find one that you can tolerate are "exact"?

      john

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    3. Debate is good exercise for the mind.

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    4. Yes, tate a bit more than with psychotropic medicines.

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    5. Jakash, just finished reading the comments on the article you linked. Very interesting and informative. Also, an admirable level of discourse on a controversial topic.

      I will say I tend to disagree with the author of the Slate article Zorn cited, at least based on the section quoted. When something will be accurate over 99% of the time, I don't think making initial deductions is out of line.

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    6. Yeah, I agree with you about the Slate article. It was an instance where the post itself wasn't very compelling, but the conversation that it provoked was, I thought. Thanks for taking the time to read it and for your replies about yesterday's deleted comment, Coey.

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  11. Thanks, Jakash. I myself would never deign to dive into the mental illness pool (sorry for the bad metaphor), but I've read some of Dr. X's comments and respect his opinions based on his background of expertise. It seems to me that every decision we make, every thought we have in the grey matter of our being, determines the choices we make in life, based on our personal experiences. The chemical structure we were born with has a lot to do with it as well, obviously. So it follows that the feeling of being trapped in the body of a different gender would be classified as largely a "mental" issue, but not necessarily a mental "illness".

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    1. So if we were born with an angry or opinionated, chemical structure that makes it okay then even if it means with disagree with Jenner. Maybe it is some persons chemical structure. Anything goes. Or a structure that doesn't suffer fools gladly.

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    2. Mr. Franklin, you may have a point about propaganda but then you went too far.

      Funny Boy's post got removed but some people here have been personally attacked for not being far left enough in social comments and no columnist came to their defense.

      Both the far left and far right are extreme and dangerous in different ways.

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    3. Franklin are you sure about the splitting open comment? I thought it was just taken off surgically?

      Great conversation and topic today.

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  12. How about outlawing the disgusting surgeries for a start Mr. Steinberg. Any doctor that splits a man's penis and injects a 66 year old grandfather with massive female hormones should have his license pulled immediately.

    This is tolerated and mainstream because of nonstop propoganda by the news media, academia and every form of entertainment. Josepg Goebells could do no better. Consider this-whenever Neil Steinberg or any other hateful propoganda spewing liberal talks about the deeply disturbed Bruce Jenner you'll notice the she and her and herself and she and her and Mrs. and woman and on and on in the print pieces. You can argue he's on the extreme left and an opinion columnist but read any article on Yahoo or even the WSJ and you'll read the same stuff. Propaganda.

    In the end no matter how hard they try to force feed the American public their version of how things should be it blows up in their face. People know when they're being propagandized. It reminds me of the left's assualt on The Passion of the Christ. They threw everything and the kitchen sink at that movie and folks were so outraged 60 million people showed up in defiance.

    Same thing here.

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    1. "The left's assault on The Passion of the Christ" amounted to a few Jewish groups whose job it is to express concern over stuff expressing concern that the sort of anti-Semitic caricatures that were indeed in the movie might be there, inflaming habitual haters like yourself, who of course done the raiment of victimhood to try to justify their biases. I should point out, Michael, that the most protracted contemplation of Jenner's penis in all this was offered by yourself. Might be something you should reflect on, were it, you know, possible.

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    2. While I'm no fan of Gibson and never saw that film, some Jewish groups have to admit that its historically accurate that some rabbis felt threatened by Jesus and his radical for the time sounding ways. It is not just Rome's or Pilates idea to go after him. Now does that mean Jews should be persecuted because of this or that born agains are great? Of course not!

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    3. Too bad they didn't have Reformed or Reconstructionist Judaism sects at that time.

      Some of those orthodox or hassidics can be hateful as well and even to secular or non orthodox Jews.

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    4. One thing I like about Jews is that none of the many I've known ever tried to convert me. Judaism is evidently not a proselyting religion. Of course there are many aspects of Jewish culture I would readily ascribe to. The jokes are nonpareil. And I often salivate over a pastrami sandwich at my favorite deli. On the other hand I wouldn't like to have to listen to a lot of klezmer music, and. although I am agnostic concerning the health and aesthetic aspects of the procedure, am just as glad that no one saw fit to cut off the end of my dick when just a babe.

      But more to the point, I dislike religious fanatics of any stripe. And as a born (not born again) Christian, I would readily concede that Jews have throughout history been ill done to by us than the other way around.

      Tom Evans

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    5. Mr. Evans,

      I'm shocked at the use of the d word. I thought you were classier than that and a gentleman. Certainly you are too old for such language, from what one can gather from past comments.

      But circumcision is healthier and cleaner. Many gentiles get that as babies when they are born in the hospital, as I'm sure you know. I'd rather a doctor do that than a
      rabbi with no anesthetic crème, even if he is a mohel (sp?) with special training.

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    6. Like I said, I'm agnostic concerning the medical pros and cons. And I didn't get the memo about cleaning up your language when you get your Social Security card.

      TE

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    7. Didn't expect such a poet to say that, guess you fell off the pedestal. j/k

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  13. Why is everybody so angry and hateful? Jenner hasn't hurt you. Why can't you just remember what your mother (should have) taught you, which is "if you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all". Or how about "do unto others as you would have them do unto you"? Or "live and let live"! The world has too much negative energy poisoning our hearts and souls and minds. A decent person tries not to add to it..

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    1. Is Michael Franklin now "everybody?" Maybe I missed a few. Sigh. I guess I better go check.

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  14. Big Boy: If you're looking for your comment, I don't tolerate commenters who take off too stridently at individual posters. The only person who can do that is me. Then it's fine.

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    1. Sometimes, Neil, you're just too damned honest. Funny too.

      john

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    2. Blunt is good and can go both ways. NS you may be part paisano/converso/Sephardic and not be aware of it. Cool.

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    3. I do sometimes experience Italian Envy, if only for their ability to read Dante in the original. And the food.

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    4. To me, the problem with deleting comments is that we who don't check in often enough are left wondering what fireworks we missed! : )

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    5. No such worries for the "Notify me" elite. ;)

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    6. Curses! Foiled again. You one-percenter, you! How about a veiled hint about the offending comment for a poor, unregistered loser such as myself, Coey?

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    7. Eh, just Annette posting under one of her aliases in response to a more moderate poster. I've seen her say much worse.

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    8. Although, I should add, only in the off-topic section. Moderating standards may differ here.

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  15. Does anyone consider that this is a "reality show" hoax that is all about money and can be easily reversed when it's gone by dumping the wig and stopping the hormones?

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  16. Big corporations supporting big media that support big corporations that support big media...
    A merry-go-round of strange-ness.
    And a $50,000 speaking fee! That's the real news. Guess Walgreens gets much business in post-op drugs. As for the Sun-Times, their trust fund is probably another slush fund. (I remember when that newspaper tossed thousands of copies on lower Wacker to inflate its circulation numbers.)

    But the NY Post has more ... NS must have missed this part:

    Caitlyn Jenner was the target of a heated protest on Thursday.

    Following a speaking engagement at the Chicago Hilton hotel to benefit Chicago House (a nonprofit that works with those diagnosed with HIV or AIDS and the transgender community), the 66-year-old was bombarded by protesters who called the Olympian “an insult to trans people.”

    Have to read the N. York paps to get the low-down on USA murder capita.

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    1. I wonder how much of that fee he'll donate.

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    2. Mf are you one of those conspiracy theorists?

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    3. Michael, perhaps you should be concerned with Muslim terrorists as per today's mess in France and those sifting into parts of Europe from Syria that aren't all poor refugees. They are also causing a great financial strain. Will they be assimilated or on the government dole? Will they respect rights and customs of non Muslims or start demanding things?

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    4. Yet, some born agains are so overly pro Israel and pro Benjamin.

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  17. "The left's assault on The Passion of the Christ" amounted to a few Jewish groups whose job it is to express concern over stuff expressing concern that the sort of anti-Semitic caricatures that were indeed in the movie might be there, inflaming habitual haters like yourself, who of course done the raiment of victimhood to try to justify their biases.


    Really? Two years before Mel tried to get financing for the film every studio rejected him via pressure from the ADL. Every distributor blackballed him except Lions Gate at the very end. Jeffery Katerzburg and Geffen (the KG in SKG) announced they'd never work with Mel again even though he made them billions over the years. People magazine and all the sleazy tabloids started digging into his personal life and charitable contributions. He was made to feel unwelcome at the Hollywood social clubs. Actors in the film were warned they'd never work again in Hollywood, and some still haven't for participating in the film. All facts I can back up and give you names and dates. Oh I forgot Fat Frank Rich and the boys at the NYT.

    There was a contract hit on Gibson. YOU KNOW IT AND I KNOW IT. You can pretend all you want.

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    1. Wow! Maybe it's past time for Mel to get out of the Jew-hating business.

      john

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    2. All that arrayed against him, yet the movie was a big smash. Maybe the Jewish octopus doesn't have quite the stranglehold on Hollywood that MF believes it does. He reminds me of that Monty Python talk show guest who claims he was killed by something. The host stares steadily at him, until he blusters, "I got better!"

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  18. A lot of interesting commentary, but more bilious than usual, no doubt because unease with transgenderism has here become conflated with dislike of the Kardashians. I know little about the latter beyond the fact that one of the ladies of the tribe saw fit to expose her oversized derriere to all and sundry on the internet. However, I did know, briefly, a very talented man who lost his job when it became known that he was contemplating gender reassignment. It was really his employer's loss, because the sex change didn't make him less competent. How much human capital is lost by prejudices that exclude people from full participation in society for superficial reasons was illustrated by an incident in World War II. A German physician earned a rebuke from Reichsfuhrer Himmler by suggesting that it might be possible to "cure" talented homosexuals who had skills useful to the war effort. Himmler said that such people were a moral threat to the virtue of the volk and must be dealt with harshly, by which he meant a one way ticket to the camps. At the same time Alan Turing, a gay man,was hard at work in Hut 4 of Bletchley Park breaking the German naval code and shortening the war.

    In that connection, the problem with looking at transgenderism as "a mental illness" is that we think of an illness as something that can be cured. It has been fairly well established that attempts to turn gay people straight through medical or psychiatric means were usually futile and often had tragic consequences. One suspects the same would be true of transgenders.

    Tom Evans

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    1. Evans: does your wife agree with that statement?

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    2. My wife's opinions are her own and not for me to share on the internet.

      But I do wonder (a little) why you should care.

      TE

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    3. Just a way to find out if you were married.

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  19. I don't think Jenner is a hero or represents the transgender population. His motive is to gain publicity for his media enterprises, and profit. I don't know that I would call this selfish on his part, but it's pretty close. I do respect his career and long fight (seems he often fought himself) to reach this conclusion. The cosmetic changes don't bother me. More people of all stripes would attempt to look younger and more beautiful if they had the money.

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    1. By the way, I should have used female pronouns in my comment. I meant no offense.

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  20. You think Jenner would still be in the closet if it weren't for Tmz? Maybe. But they really only started their intense coverage after Jenner had undergone a larengel shave. Was he really panning to stay in the closet after that? That seems unlikely. The Kardashians have an extremely cozy relationship with TMZ. Jenner seems to also. But it's always smart to make paps the enemy.

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