Monday, October 22, 2018

It Isn’t Binary

I find this disturbing in a lot of ways.  From the New York Times:

The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law.

A series of decisions by the Obama administration loosened the legal concept of gender in federal programs, including in education and health care, recognizing gender largely as an individual’s choice and not determined by the sex assigned at birth. The policy prompted fights over bathrooms, dormitories, single-sex programs and other arenas where gender was once seen as a simple concept. Conservatives, especially evangelical Christians, were incensed.

Now the Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times.

The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.

“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department proposed in the memo, which was drafted and has been circulating since last spring. “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

The new definition would essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves — surgically or otherwise — as a gender other than the one they were born into.

“This takes a position that what the medical community understands about their patients — what people understand about themselves — is irrelevant because the government disagrees,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, who led the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights in the Obama administration and helped write transgender guidance that is being undone.

The move would be the most significant of a series of maneuvers, large and small, to exclude the population from civil rights protections and roll back the Obama administration’s more fluid recognition of gender identity. The Trump administration has sought to bar transgender people from serving in the military and has legally challenged civil rights protections for the group embedded in the nation’s health care law.

I will be the first to admit that I do not have the scientific, medical, or psychological background to speak about this in any way other than what I know based on my own life, but just in that experience I know that gender is defined in far more many ways than what equipment I was born with.  I also know that even within the area of defining male versus female there is such a range as to make it fluid — filling the vessel it is carried in — that a mere biological definition doesn’t begin to define one or the other.

But the biggest and most important part of all of this is: what business is it of the government to define it?  I thought we were all supposed to be treated equally regardless, and the laws should be blind to such factors as race or gender.  Or, to put it more succinctly, it shouldn’t matter.  Period.

Obviously, though, it has and it does to a certain group.  What Trump and his collection of ignorant tight-asses are worried about is the undoing of prejudice and fear so that we are not focusing on some kind of binary definition of gender so that they can be comfortable knowing who’s in the next stall when they go to pee.  And frankly, if my Grade 10 psychology text book was right, people who worry inordinately about how they perceive other people are having a great deal of difficulty accepting how they perceive themselves.

If they’re going to persist in demanding that people be defined by the kind of genitalia they are born with, then I suggest we also add that we define people by the color of hair they are born with and it cannot be changed “unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

4 barks and woofs on “It Isn’t Binary

  1. Aside from trans people there are also intersex people born with ambiguous genitalia. How they present physically and how they identify can be different.

  2. This is a direct appeal to the folks in places like Lebanon, PA who suddenly turned from Obama voters to Trumpists because they “like his style” and anyway, what did Obama do for me? These are people who would think trans anything is icky and should be banished. But Lebanon almost single-handedly and by the numbers gave the election to Trump. He may be intellectually deficient but he isn’t dumb.

    • He is wily and has an uncanny sense about what is going to play to his base. Additionally, he has surrounded himself with a team that uses sophisticated tools to help him target and shore up this demographic. This includes the Russians who are experts on finding the hot buttons most likely to exacerbate and accelerate the division in our country.

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