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American Narcissism

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
Greek mythology conjured the tale of Narcissus. The son of Cephissus, a river god, and Liriope, a nymph, Narcissus was renowned for his good looks and skills as a hunter. Narcissus was also renowned for his vanity. He stared into a pool of water at his reflection and fell in love with it. Some said, knowing he would never love anything as beautiful as himself, he committed suicide. Others said he drowned. Still others said he stayed so long staring that the gods turned him into a flower that grows by the banks of rivers in Greece, the narcissus.

Bruce Jenner could not have debuted as a woman in the fashion he did without the cultural zeitgeist of our day falling into acute narcissism. A 65-year-old male Olympian does not conclude he is actually a woman named Caitlyn -- the most popular name among 17-year-old girls in America today and also the name of his son's girlfriend -- without suffering a mental illness.

That the media herald him as finding his "authentic self" instead of recommending he find help suggests Jenner is not the only one with mental health issues. Popular culture has lost its mind. Further proof that narcissism is at play here is the most assured fact that Jenner never would have appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair as a woman prior to the age of Photoshop.

If an alcoholic claimed that living authentically means he must drink, no one sane would encourage him to drink more. If a pedophile claimed that sexual attraction to children was his authentic self, no one sane would encourage that. If a person decided to mutilate himself to feel normal, no sane person should encourage that.

So why on earth would any sane person celebrate or encourage anyone to have surgery to change their appearance from one sex to another? A boob job, plastic surgery and hormone therapy do not make an authentic self. Society has confused compassion and celebration. We should all show compassion for Jenner, who is clearly suffering, but we should not celebrate his mental illness. He needs prayer, not a party.


What is worse is that neither Vanity Fair nor ABC News really cares about Jenner. The former wants to sell magazines, and the latter wants ratings. On top of that, activists want further validation as they drive from the town square anyone who points out that this is not normal.

Dr. Paul R. McHugh was, for many years, the psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital. During his tenure, Johns Hopkins studied the effects of sex reassignment surgery and discovered that the surgeries did little to relieve the mental symptoms afflicting people with gender dysphoria. McHugh and his team also studied children who were born male but, because of birth defects, had their male reproductive organs surgically altered to those of a female. In 2004, McHugh wrote about a review of "16 genetic males with cloacal exstrophy seen at Hopkins, of whom 14 underwent neonatal assignment to femaleness socially, legally and surgically." Two had parents who refused the surgery.

Of the 16, the two raised as males stayed males, and eight of the surgically altered grew up and decided they were men. McHugh wrote, "We in the Johns Hopkins psychiatry department eventually concluded that human sexual identity is mostly built into our constitution by the genes we inherit and the embryogenesis we undergo."

After massive outrage from predictable interest groups, Johns Hopkins over time distanced itself from McHugh. Activists claim he has been discredited. But Johns Hopkins has not gotten back into the sex change business.


Children are born either a boy or a girl. To be sure, there are those who feel disconnected from their gender. But that does not mean they can pick their gender. It means they have a mental problem. Only a narcissistic society could declare that one's sexual orientation is immutable, but we can pick and choose our gender at will. This is not healthy, and ultimately it is not compassionate.


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