What Makes a Man


I prefer bathroom humor over bathroom politics, but with the steady stream of news reports concerning transgender folk, bathroom laws, and protests – the concept of what “transgender” actually means became a question I asked myself.

Having spent a large portion of life after college living in New York City, gay and lesbian people were simply part of the landscape; bisexuals – we would joke – could get the best of both worlds. The concept of transgender did not really exist.

The transgender concept grew to prominence later – while I was busy changing diapers, helping with homework, play dates, yard work, and keeping the house from falling apart with a lot of duct tape; I had my own worries – still do.

But with constant news reports on LGBT rights, the question of what the “T” for transgender actually began to beg an answer …..So I googled it….

“Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female or something else; gender expression refers to the way a person communicates gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice or body characteristics.”

It is not about sex.

“Sex is assigned at birth, refers to one’s biological status as either male or female, and is associated primarily with physical attributes such as chromosomes, hormone prevalence, and external and internal anatomy. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for boys and men or girls and women.”

Okay, I get the definition – but it’s just a bunch of words, and doesn’t help me understand what people are talking about with transgender

Actually, reading these definitions brought back faded memories of Phil Donahue, Sally Jesse Raphael, and other dramarama talk shows featuring a man trapped in a woman’s body, or a woman trapped in a woman’s body trapped in a man’s body….it didn’t communicate an understanding to me then, and still didn’t now.

You can accept someone for who they are, but that does not necessarily equate into understanding them. I was looking to understand….and then I had a satori moment.

The satori started with a recollection from Camus’ The First Man where the author recounts a story of the father he never knew, the father who died at twenty years of age on the battle field. A compatriot and family friend recounts the discovery of a dead sentinel with his throat sliced, and his genitals cut off and shoved into his mouth.

At dawn, when they had gone back up to the camp, Cormery said their enemies were not men. Levesque, who was thinking about it, answered that for them that was how men should act, that we were in their country, that they fought by any and all means.

Cormery’s face was dead set. ‘Maybe. But they’re wrong. A man doesn’t do that.……No, a man doesn’t let himself do that kind of thing! That’s what makes a man…”

I also have used the phrase, “A man doesn’t do that.” And when we, as civilized people, speak of being a man – isn’t that what we really mean?  Aren’t we really speaking of values, behavior, morality?

In my own life, there have been those moments when I have used the phrase, “A man doesn’t do that.” And there are many people walking around with a penis between their legs, and they are not “men” according to my definition of a man– and I don’t want to share a bathroom with them. Much less sharing a bathroom with them, I’d like to take a flamethrower to these imposters calling themselves men.

So what has my satori on transgender folk taught me? I guess they are just like most of us, trying to work out their own identity, discover their own truths, their own morality, their own happiness.

“But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads?” – Camus


Submitted by Charlie McCormick

Additional Links

Secondhand Lions – Uncle Hub’s Speech

Scent of a Woman Speech