Trans Talks (Episode 1): Who You Are Not Who You Love

Deirdre McCloskey,

Release Date
November 12, 2015


Civil Liberties

What does it mean to be transgender, and why is it so important for individuals in a free society to be able to express themselves as they are? Professor Deirdre McCloskey joins us to discuss the role trans people can play in turning hearts and minds toward freedom.

This is the first episode of our three-part series of interviews with Professor McCloskey. Click here to watch Episode 2, and stay tuned for Episode 3 (to be released Thursday, 11/26/2015). 

“What else can we learn from Prof. Deirdre McCloskey? New videos from Learn Liberty” (blog): Students For Liberty highlights Learn Liberty’s Trans Talks series.
“The Condition of Transgender Women: Libertarian Perspectives” (column): Libertarian perspectives on discrimination against and oppression of trans women.
“How Can Libertarians Help Trans People?” (podcast): Young Voices podcast on ways libertarians can support trans people and issues.
“Know Your Rights” (website): Legal guide for trans people from Lambda Legal.
Trans Lifeline (Website): Crisis and suicide hotline for transgender individuals staffed by transgender individuals.
Trans Housing Network (website): A temporary housing network intended to connect trans people in need with safe and supportive places to stay.

So I was going through my undergrad times in college, and one of my advisors came to me and said there’s this genius scholar, this genius lady that went through the same thing you went through, and she’s transgender. So she gave me her memoir, and she said it’s called Crossing.

And I read it and I thought oh my gosh, this lady is transgender, she cares about the same things I care about. And, honestly, her story has sort of made me believe that I could keep doing what I love to do, and that there’s a future for me being a trans-woman, and I guess today I’m meeting her.

So we get right into it. For people who might not be aware, or might not understand, how would you define transgender?
>> Well, wanting to be in the other gender. It’s a lot more common than you think, people going from female to male, and male to female, are about equal.

And it’s about identity, who you are, not who you love. So it’s not about sex.
>> Sure. I think there’s a big misconception with a lot of people that somehow they think sexual orientation has something to do with gender identity.
>> Yeah, there are straight people and then there’s those queers, and they’re all the same.

>> Yeah.
>> And that’s, that’s just not true.
>> I think that I’m lucky that I have family that’s pretty open to everything I’ve gone through, you know? In a lot of ways I’ve had friends that weren’t as lucky as I was. You know that had parents that did not approve of their transition.

>> Absolutely. You know I’ve, I feel I should help the community back and so I’ve helped kids who, I mean kids and teenagers, who are thrown out of their households at age fourteen, sixteen, thrown on the street by their-
>> I’ve met kids back in Atlanta. They were homeless by fourteen, fifteen and it’s terrible.

>> This is horrible. Because the only way they can earn their living is by prostitution. And then they say, oh well you see that’s it, that’s all you do. You only change your gender in order to do prostitution.
>> Yeah.
>> Which is nuts. I mean I’m not a prostitute.

>> Back when, I know when you transitioned, it wasn’t always easy to have that perception.
>> Yeah.
>> There was a lot less trans people visible in the media.
>> Yeah.
>> There wasn’t as big of understanding as there is now. Even for when I transitioned I’m sure it was a lot easier for me than it was when-

>> Well, it was easier for you than it was for me, but it was easier for me than it was for Christine Jorgensen or Jane Morris or any of those true pioneers. I would go to sleep when I was eleven or twelve, praying that the following morning I wouldn’t stutter and I would be a girl.

Miraculously, both miraculously. And the following morning, I’m still stuttering and still a boy. But then eventually I got half. At age 53, I got half of my prayer wish. For an Episcopalian, this isn’t too bad.
>> I know the feeling. I remember when I was younger, I was always talking to my mom about how I wanted to be a girl.

>> You did?
>> I did. We had a lot of conversations about that, and I would walk around the house in her high heels and stuff.
>> You mean when you were very small?
>> When I was very small, yeah, when I was a small kid.
>> Gender identity is surprisingly early decided on in children.

>> It is, yeah.
>> By the time they’re two years old, they’re very clear.
>> Why do you think it’s so important for what you say, a free society to allow people to explore their gender identity, and to be able to transition, and be who they are openly?

>> Well, it’s educational, even for the straight people.
>> Sure.
>> It’s an education in freedom, that they see queers, unusual people, people with green hair. And instead of what we used to do 50 years ago, which is to punish them, or segregate them, or do bad things to them, now we’ve learned, oh, maybe we can be okay with that.

And this applies to blacks, Hispanics, women, poor people, handicap people, all the people who were liberated after the 1960s. So, it’s not just about the trans-people themselves. It’s about their relatives, their friends who are broadened, made more human, by this experience. And so we bring what we want to be inside closer to who we are.

And it’s just so much healthier, cuz when they’re very far apart, you’re kind of disengaged from your soul. I describe myself as a post modern, quantitative, literary, English professor, economist from Boston, who lives in Chicago, who is once a man. Contradictions, I don’t care.