Last week was an interesting one for gender politics with Donald Trump declaring that transgender people wouldn’t be allowed to serve in the US Army (presumably he can only tell what sex the soldiers are by grabbing them) and also Justine Greening, the Equalities Minister, proposed that adults be able to alter their legal gender without a medical diagnosis or two-year transition period. Furthermore, those “non-binary” people who regard themselves as neither male nor female could identify as “X”.
Basically, Greening has proposed to split any relationship between sex (i.e. physical biology) and gender. You could see the most masculine looking or the most feminine looking person possible conforming to every biological stereotype, but as long as they say that they are a different gender, that is how the Law will treat them.
This throws up a number of interesting discussion points. Jenny McCartney in The Sunday Times mentioned a very interesting one:
If identity is a moveable feast that exists purely in self-perception, why is society receptive to those who wish to travel between genders, but not races? Take the case of Rachel Dolezal, who was born white to white parents, but — after changing her appearance — passed herself off as a black activist. When this was discovered she was widely pilloried. Undaunted, she now calls herself Nkechi Amare Diallo and has recently been on a tour of South Africa describing herself as “trans-black”. Her argument has not gained traction among liberals.
There is also, of course, the fact that biology isn’t irrelevant to certain things, such as sport. Cis-men are generally naturally stronger than cis-women which would give them an advantage in many forms of sporting competition.
My thought goes off on a bit more of a tangent. If the Law is to add so much weight to thoughts and intentions over physicality, is this setting a dangerous precedent? At the moment, in England and Wales at least, there is no criminal offence in thinking about committing a crime (unless you communicate it to someone and collude with them to carry it out, in which case it’s a conspiracy). I can think of punching someone but, unless I do it, all’s good.
If we were follow the same logic as the gender proposal, is it too far of a stretch for someone to say that they didn’t think they were committing a crime as a defence for it? We already have diminished responsibility as a defence, which is quite close. With Greening’s proposal of no test, the sole arbiter of your strength of feeling is yourself with no-one to question it.
I’m pushing the argument there, I know. But the point is that there are other subjects that receive a lot of publicity because of the fundamental difference between express comment and implication through thought. The argument for express confirmation is that it avoids ambiguity and abuse. Why is that seen as a virtue in some circumstances, but not in others?
Not because of who I am
But because of what you’ve done
Not because of what I’ve done
But because of who you are
Who Am I? by Casting Crowns