By MIKE VINSON
It's been quite some time since I visited the Lower 40. However, as of this column, I am indeed "southbound," heading into a territory that dominates media headlines and often leaves you shaking your head.
Born and raised in the Bible-Belt South, making the transition from childhood to adolescence to early adulthood for me went something like this: Around the age of 8, I was sneaking "love notes" during class to girls on whom I had a crush. At age 16, having acquired my driver's license, I'd pick up a girl at her house and we would go out on a traditional date. After age 18, having entered college, I'd "pick up" a girl at a nightclub and . . . well . . . you can take it from there.
In my world back then, males pretty much were classified as follows: (1) Average-normal: average in size; average in athletic ability; average in appearance; normal in desire; normal in overall achievement. (2) Masculine-exceptional: taller, heavier, stronger and more athletic; handsome; more popular with the girls; and many times superior achievers overall due to a greater self esteem. (3) Feminine-soft: usually small, thin guys who didn't play sports; often did well in academics; hung out more with girls than guys; and, unfortunately, were referred to as "sissies" and also were the victims of bullying.
Back in the late '60s - early '70s, if an exceptional male athlete, married with children, had announced to his family he desired to become a woman this probably is how it would've played out: An "emergency" call would've been made to the family physician. The athlete would've been transported, via ambulance, to the old Central State Hospital for the Insane (now Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute) in Nashville, and admitted either willingly or unwillingly. The family would've become more aloof and when asked about the athlete a response might have been: "Oh . . . ah, he's visiting some relatives out of state, good talkin' to you...gotta run!"
The first time I recall hearing about a man wanting to turn into a woman (now termed "sex reassignment surgery") was the landmark case of Dr. Renee Richards, a 6-foot, 2-inch world-class tennis player who once had been married and fathered a son. Richards made the transsexual transition in 1975 at age 41. The reason I say "landmark case" is "she" was denied entry into the 1976 U.S. Open by the United States Tennis Association citing an unprecedented "women-born-women policy." She disputed the ban and the New York Supreme Court ruled in her favor in 1977. She went on to compete as a woman.
Needless to say, with her being a professional athlete of national standing, the Dr. Renee Richards' sex-change case dominated media headlines making it a "first" I suppose, for the general American public.
Recently, I read on the front page of a tabloid Bruce Jenner was in the process of having a sex change. "Hogwash" I thought. "So what if he has a ponytail, a lot of men do!"
Not giving it any more thought, I later saw Jenner on the cover page of "People" magazine, ponytail and all, and, sure enough, there was an article that addressed Jenner being in the process of sex reassignment. Still, I've heard about Jenner undergoing a sex change on too many TV news outlets to name; the anchors airing dirty laundry by attempting to mix Jenner undergoing a sex change with him having been involved in a horrible traffic accident that killed one person on Feb. 7, 2015.
At the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada, a tall, muscular Bruce Jenner, at age 26, won the grueling decathlon, which consists of 10 track & field events. As a rule the man who wins the Olympic decathlon is declared "the greatest athlete in the world."
At age 65, a father of 5, Bruce Jenner is making the transition from former greatest male athlete in the world to womanhood. Jenner just might end up being the number one "gender bender" of all time. It's enough to make you shake your head.