Your Identity, Your Sex, and Your Pelvis

By Cyberquill 07/10/2017Leave a Comment

Except in the extraordinarily rare case of true hermaphroditism, there comes a moment immediately following a person’s birth when the obstetrician—or the midwife, or the midwife-turned-cabdriver, or whoever happens to be on hand assisting in the delivery—announces either “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl.”

There comes another moment, a few centuries or millennia later, when an anthropologist digs up that person’s bones and seconds the original verdict, the pelvis being “the best sex-related skeletal indicator.”

In between those two events, i.e., during his or her lifetime, that person may vehemently contest said verdict and, with utmost sincerity, identify as the other sex, assume any or all of the trappings and behaviors commonly associated with the other, and even go so far as to undergo a range of medical procedures so as to approximate the other as best as possible.

As touched on in the previous post, why the transition from male to female in particular—i.e., the adoption of elements of a traditionally marginalized segment of society (women) by members of the traditionally dominant segment of society (men)—is to be applauded as a form of personal liberation rather than to be condemned as a form of cultural appropriation puzzles the mind.

But be that as it may.

While I grant everyone the freedom to identify as whatever they choose—or can’t help—to identify as, I respectfully reserve my freedom to call others as I see them, which may or may not square with how they see themselves.

If I’m the bouncer, your identifying as a grown-up won’t help you get into the club if it is a teenage body that houses your adult self. And no matter how sincerely you may profess to identify as an eight-year-old spirit lodged in a 50-year-old body, and no matter how authentically you may dress the part and suck on your lollipop, even if you’ve had your breasts surgically flattened or your facial hair permanently laser-removed, if you show up at my ticket booth, I’ll charge you full admission, not half price for minors.

(No grown-up would ever run around identifying as a minor, you might interject, since, in doing so, he or she would self-exclude from adult-only events and environs, like bars or R-rated movies unaccompanied by a person that identifies as an adult; as well as renounce his or her right to vote and operate a motor vehicle. Keep in mind, though, that just as transgender laws don’t say that transgender women, for example, are barred from using the men’s room and are therefore restricted to using the ladies’ room, but that they must be allowed to choose, it stands to reason that trans-age laws, too, would accord trans-age people the right to choose in given situations whether to be treated as minors, as in getting half-price admission, or as adults, as in being admitted into a topless joint and allowed to liquor up.)

Likewise, regarding a person’s sex or gender—terms I use interchangeably, with a slight preference for gender so as to preclude confusion with the act—I’ll invariably throw in with the judgment of the delivery person and the future anthropologist in assigning the appropriate locker room and selecting the set of pronouns I shall attach to that person.

So you may identify as a she, but if I am, or as soon as I become, reasonably convinced you entered this world accompanied by the words “it’s a boy”—recall the “maybe those dames ain’t dames” epiphany by one of Spats’s underlings when he spotted Josephine and Daphne scaling down that hotel wall—then in my book you’re a he, and that’s what I’ll refer to you as (and, of course, vice versa, if you were born a she that deems herself a he).

Save, perhaps, aloud in situations where I might elect to cave in to political correctness in order to avert confrontation, termination, or incarceration—Canada, for one, has just passed a law that makes it, yes, a hate crime to knowingly use gender pronouns that fail to accord with the gender identities of their referents—in which cases I’ll nonetheless continue to refer to you by your birth pronoun in the privacy of my own mind. (You can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking, as Dean Martin once crooned.)

Your sex at birth is literally the only criterion I use to determine your gender. To me, the two are synonymous. Because if they weren’t, I would categorize myself as a woman—a lesbian happily trapped in a male body, to be precise—and demand access to the ladies’ locker room, and no one could come up with a valid and irrefutable argument to deny it to me, as expanded upon in more detail here.

Now, here’s the problem with calling me a bigot:

I don’t identify as a bigot.

In fact, I very much identify as the polar opposite of a bigot (whatever the term for the opposite of a bigot may be). Delusional as this may sound to you based on everything I’ve said up to this point, I do perceive myself as quite inseparable from my subjective identity.

Ergo, if your definition of bigotry includes the reluctance or outright refusal to go along with someone else’s characterization of themselves, then, by your own definition, you’re a bigot for calling me a bigot.

In response, you may field the assertion, arbitrary though it is, that the modern societal mandate to honor people’s self-assessment doesn’t apply across the board but in certain select areas only.

Case in point, as stated above, among modern progressive circles it seems de rigueur to hold that for a member of a traditionally dominant segment of society to identify as a member of a traditionally oppressed or marginalized segment of society is to be unconditionally respected when it comes to gender, as when a natural-born male identifies as a woman, but is to be taken fervent exception to when it comes to race, as when a white person identifies as black.

The Internet abounds with hamfisted attempts to explain why the case of Caitlyn Jenner, the Olympic champion formerly named Bruce who now identifies as a woman, is fundamentally unlike the case of Rachel Dolezal, the white lady who identifies as black—the latter constituting a form of illegitimate appropriation, which the former, somehow or other, does not.

The question is this:

What panel of self-appointed and infallible sages, unencumbered by political agendas of one stripe or another, gets to sit there on their high horses and decide that to feel one was dealt a body that fails to match one’s “true” gender is not only more but in a fundamentally different way uncomfortable, frustrating, painful, depressing, or intolerable than it is to live in a body that doesn’t match one’s “true” race, age, height, capital hair density, or [insert your favorite trait not listed]?

Should identifying as a true American suffice to confer eligibility to vote in a U.S. federal election?

One headline, and minor variations thereof, that keeps cropping up of late reads along the lines of Straight Men Who Sleep With Other Men. The articles in its wake discuss the phenomenon of heterosexual males in heterosexual relationships who enjoy hooking up with guys on the side.

Which, naturally, makes one wonder as to the raison d’etre for the B in LGBT—if we have the word bisexual, why substitute a clunky phrase like “straight men who sleep with other men”?

Once again, it’s identity, stupid!

As goes for gender, but not for race or state of bigotry, sexual orientation appears to belong in the basket of qualities defined by self-labeling alone. If you identify as bisexual, you are bisexual. If you identify as straight, you are straight, irrespective of how many of the known sexes you bed or fantasize of bedding.

Having never come across the headline Vegetarians Who Eat Meat leads me to conclude that diet, like race, but unlike gender and sexual orientation, is subject to definition by others rather than oneself. The determination that “if your diet includes animal flesh, you’re not a vegetarian” seems acceptable in a way that “if you’re physically attracted to both sexes, you’re not straight” is not.

And to what extent are people to be taken at their own word regarding their religious identities? Is it enough to identify as a Christian or a Muslim in order to be a Christian or a Muslim?

It seems that the extent to which we are prepared to go along with the religious identities of others rides on our attitude toward a particular religion. The more distasteful we find a religion, and the more distasteful we find a person’s behavior, the more readily we’ll honor that person’s claim to be of that religion.

The dearer to our own heart a given religion, the more discriminating we’ll be in deciding who’s truly a member and who isn’t.

And so, you may well conclude that, on the one hand, every Allahu-akbar-screaming terrorist is a Muslim by definition, solely because he appears to identify as such, but that, on the other hand, no Hail-Mary-shouting and Bible-clutching terrorist could possibly be a Christian as evidenced by the nature of the atrocity he committed, for “a true Christian would never do such a thing,” wherefore he (or she) is not a Christian, regardless of self-identification.

Clearly, gender is only one of a raft of personal attributes that subject and observer may diverge upon. Official guidelines as to when it is morally imperative for us to accept another’s characterization of themselves, and when it is morally defensible to substitute our own, lack the kind of coherence necessary to distinguish them from subjective make-’em-up-as-we-go-along type of determinations like my own (which is why I might just as well go with my own personal judgments regarding who’s what).

So the headline just came out that Britain’s first pregnant man gives birth to girl.

Congratulations, but how do they know it’s a girl?

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