Thursday, October 23, 2014


Still preoccupied with the classics, I am reviewing my knowledge of Aristotle, generally a tough old bird. One of his most interesting claims, however, is the Doctrine of the Mean as expounded in book 2 of the Nicomachean Ethics. In the giving and taking of money, for example, generosity is the mean between profligacy and stinginess. With regard to one's emotional life, proper passion is the mean between anger and indifference. And so forth. As the philosopher allows, there are some circumstances where this principle does not prevail, but it is useful to be reminded that it frequently does. Moderation may be boring, but more often than not it is the best course.

This insight of Aristotle may be generalized into a broader concept of intermediacy. In this context I thought of the ideas of Magnus Hirschfeld a hundred years ago, who assigned male homosexuality, lesbianism, cross dressing, and other "variant" behaviors to a series of Zwischenstufen, or intermediate states. This fusion of Aristotle and Hirschfeld, if you will, seems to underly some current encomia of trans people, who (in this view) are seeking a happy intermediacy that we should all admire, even though we may not pursue it as our personal goal.

That being said, many trans people decline to endorse the intermediacy concept, seeking to reaffirm polarity by leaving the gender that society has assigned them to achieve the opposite one. Thus there seems to be a disconnect between the trans status as imagined by outsiders, and that status as envisaged by those who embrace it.


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6:54 AM  

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