The goal of tattooing was never beauty. The goal was change. From the scarified Nubian priests of 2000 B.C. to the tattooed acolytes of the Cybele cult of ancient Rome, to the moko scars of the modern Maori, humans have tattooed themselves as a way of offering up their bodies in partial sacrifice, enduring the physical pain of embellishment and emerging changed beings.Now, it is arguable that Dan Brown's assessment of "transgendering" has some accuracy, but that is not my focus today. Instead, I want to look at what Browning has to say about the topic, and what it shows about how truly clueless Mr. Browning is about the topic of transsexualism.
Despite the ominous admonitions of Leviticus 19:28, which forbade the marking of one's flesh, tattoos had become a rite of passage shared by millions of people in the modern age - everyone from clean-cut teenagers to hard-core drug users to suburban housewives.
The act of tattooing one's skin was a transformative declaration of power, an announcement to the world: I am in control of my own flesh. The intoxicating feeling of control derived from physical transformation had addicted millions to flesh-altering practices... cosmetic surgery, body piercing, bodybuilding, and steroids... even bulimia and transgendering. The human spirit craves mastery over it's carnal shell.
In an attempt to make the case that perhaps, because society is now more tolerant of body modifications like tatooing and piercing of various body parts, they might also be more tolerant of "transgender" he makes the following statement:
Leaving aside the obvious simplification that arises from reducing gender reassignment surgery to tattoos and piercings (after all, how many people have committed suicide because they couldn't get their nipple pierced?) or the fact that some transgender folks never have surgery, the line of reasoning is quite compelling.And here we see his basic cluelessness, and perhaps even more so, the basic cluelessness of those who push the belief that transsexuals are also "transgender." Yes, many have committed suicide because they could not get sex affirmation surgery (no Mr. Browning, surgery does not reassign gender), and yes, transgender folk do not have surgery. And there lies the difference Browning refuses to see.
True transsexuals, classic transsexuals, people with HBS, have a very real need to correct their bodies so they can live normal and happy lives. Transgender people may choose to pursue surgery for other reasons, but regardless of whether they seek surgery, or not, they are not seeking to be normal, and if denied surgery, they are not at all likely to commit suicide (except, perhaps by accident when an attempt to force a doctor's decision goes awry).
There really is a difference. But even when it is right in front of Browning's nose, he chooses to ignore it, and blather on as though he actually has a clue.