‘Nothing astonishes man so much as common sense and plain dealing’

“Nothing astonishes man so much as common-sense and plain dealing.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The Case of the Barrister’s Photo” has had a remarkable effect on me. As you know for several weeks I mused about this lady, and the comment—“stunning photo”—made by a fellow barrister, that she found both offensive and demeaning. I was worried because words that I’d used all my life suddenly seemed to have taken on new and, to me, hidden meanings and I certainly don’t want to give offence inadvertently.

Fortunately, since then, the world has thrown up several bits of news even more bizarre, and I have realised that the reason I feel confused is because, far from losing my marbles, I have actually retained my common sense; an increasingly uncommon sense, it seems to me.

First there’s “The Case of the Father/Mother.” A week ago I came across a blog by Caroline Farrow on Anglican Mainstream. It was her banner headline that caught my eye:
“Let’s get this straight. A man cannot give birth.”

The first sentence was both fascinating and frightening. “Did you know that describing the state of pregnancy as being solely applicable to women is considered offensive?” There’s that word ‘offensive’ again! Well, of course, I had to read on; what on earth could be offensive about the words ‘pregnancy’ and ‘women’? What other words are you going to use? Well, ‘pregnant people’ and ‘birthing individuals’, that’s what.

Ms Farrow’s blog left me needing more detail if I were to understand what was really going on here. I went searching for the Father/Mother in question, an individual called Trevor MacDonald, who is a great advocate for LGBTTQIA. (I had to look it up. The Q stands for queer, which I thought was definitely an offensive word but what would a confused misfit know.)

Trevor MacDonald, who never actually admits he was born a woman, has had two children, a boy and a girl, and in the Huffington Post you can read all about it. He began transitioning at the age of 23, including having his breasts removed, but he didn’t have “bottom surgery” so he still had the ability to produce children. Years later he got married to Ian and became a pregnant person. (I presume Ian’s was the penis that impregnated Trevor.) During pregnancy Trevor obviously had to stop taking testosterone etc. The baby grew in Trevor’s retained womb and the birth was perfectly normal, the baby emerging along the usual route. This isn’t actually stated as a fact, but it is noted that it was an “obstetrically normal” birth. Breast-feeding was a bit of a challenge, apparently, but then it often is, even with breasts. The HuffPo, as it is lovingly called, recommends that MacDonald’s video interview is definitely worth a look. “Not only did he speak eloquently about his experience but he also breastfed his brand new baby throughout the conversation.”

If you are tempted to think I made that up, or it was typical HuffPo nonsense read on.

This piece of news from the Daily Telegraph I have labelled “The Case of the Mother/Father”.

“Fay Purdham froze her sperm before spending £60,000 transitioning into a woman.” Now, apparently, she has launched an appeal for £100,000 for a surrogate so that she can fulfil her dream of becoming a mother. Well, no, Ms Purdham. Actually, since you don’t have the physical wherewithal you will be the baby’s biological father. You still need a woman’s womb and a woman’s egg, with your sperm.

Can you understand why I feel utter despair that common sense has flown out of the window? Nature abhors a vacuum and I fear the sort of things that are beginning to fill the void are going to have a disastrous effect.

Someone like Fay Purdham can say: “I am a woman but since I had the foresight to freeze my sperm before I became a woman I have the right to fulfil my dream of being both mother and father to a child”. Without common sense what is there to stop her overweeningly selfish, self-absorbed fantasy? It’s legal, and no medical staff involved dare mention moral, ethical or psychological concerns unless they want to lose their jobs.

Someone like Trevor MacDonald can say: “I am a man and I want a baby and, since I had the foresight to keep my necessary woman’s bits, I have the right to a baby; moreover, since I am a man I have the right not to be offended by the word woman.” And the intimidated Midwives Alliance of North America solemnly rewrote their guidelines deleting almost all mention of women.

There are plenty of other examples. A Dr Church lost his job of 30 years in a Boston US hospital, not for any medical reason but because of his treatment of gay men. He told them the truth about the effect some of their behaviours could have on their health. He also refused to go on Gay Pride marches.

An Irish baker refused to decorate a cake with a Same Sex Marriage slogan because of his religious principles. There were other bakers in town but the couple concerned exercised their right to take him to court. The Court found him guilty, although this smacks to me of religious persecution.

Before it’s too late can we all set out to astonish men and women with our own sound Common Sense and Plain Dealing?

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