The politics of gender choice

The politics of gender choice Featured

JUNE is Pride Month — a celebration of the LGBTQ community. This is never as passionately celebrated as in America, where this community has gained equal rights, political power and overall equality in the land of opportunities. In the Philippines, we too have our Pride Month, as always being spellbound by American culture, aping whatever America does, being her brown brothers or sisters, or whatever politically appropriate gender appellation lodged between the traditional biological male (M) and biological female (F). In America, it is offensive to address people as simply biologically born M or F. What was once simply known as the third sex, lesbian and gay (LG), now has more permutations: binary (B), transgender (T) and queer (Q). This article will attempt to dissect, dichotomize and demystify the arcana surrounding the concepts of gender, hopefully making it understandable to the Filipinos who "gaya-gaya" now are undergoing the same issues as America is today.

Time was simpler when gender issues as topics of debate simply ranged from gender roles, identity, sexual choices and inequality, and discussions revolved around social and cultural expectations that are associated with being male, female, or gay (lesbian). No longer! Gender roles have become more fluid than just the gender identification assigned to individuals at birth. An invented term, — cisgender, which did away with the old concept of straight," now describes people whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth. Someone assigned female at birth (AFAB) and identifies as a woman — is a cisgender woman — vice versa with that of the (AMAB) as a cisgender man. On the other hand, an AFAB or AMAB person who identifies with the opposite is a transgender woman or transgender man.

Gender identity now refers to an individual's internal sense of being male, female, or somewhere in between. Translated in layman's language, gender identity is a deeply personal experience, with individuals being able to express themselves in a way that feels authentic to them. In short, transgenderism (trans) is related to a person's gender identity — the way they identify sexually, regardless of biological definitions of sex. This is usually a rejection of the gender assigned to them at birth.

Transgender and intersex

Another perspective, intersex," was introduced in the book "Galileo's Middle Finger" (Alice Dreger, Penguin Press). The author uses biology and anatomy as points of departure. There are "intersex individuals" born with anatomy corresponding neither to the standard biological definitions of male or female — a set of ovaries and a pair of testes. These people straddle the gender divide and over the millennia have been stigmatized by society; and condemned to cruel alterations or normalization toward a sex the doctor assigns them at birth. Accordingly, "...people deemed to be more male than female might have their clitoris removed, for instance, and those deemed to be more female might be injected with hormones.

"In a way, the difficulties faced by people who are transgendered are the opposite of those faced by people who are intersex. Many want to undergo sex-change surgery and take hormones, but access to these resources is often very hard to secure."

Gender assignments at birth

In another interesting book by an anthropologist, "She/He/They/Me" (Robyn Ryle, Sourcebooks, 2022), the "common sense" gender distinction between males who "normally have a penis" and females who "normally have a vagina" may no longer be valid. She advances the idea of societies with only one gender, i.e., the ancient Greeks, where women were seen as inferior versions of men; the Mohave people of North America, with a variant gender category called "alyha," all classified as boys at birth and later could be assigned as girls at age 11, depending on their observed proclivities. Her thesis is that "gender doesn't exist in a vacuum; instead, it intersects with other dimensions of society, such as class and race ... and ... the actual meaning of 'masculine/feminine' and their related terms can drastically change between different cultures, eras, and groups of people within a particular society, such as races and socioeconomic classes."

The birth doctors almost have an autocratic, arbitrary pronouncement on the child's gender following a heterosexual bias toward boys with penis and girls with vagina, declaring them as such. And overall, "The medical establishment remains heteronormative. It continues to control what gender a person does or doesn't get to be. And this presents challenges for both transgendered people as well as intersex people." (Ryle)

With an intersex condition, the family and the birth doctors resort to the "concealment-centered model," where hormones, surgery or other medical interventions are used to "treat" the child's actually harmless condition. Some of these interventions are irreversible. An alternative is the "patient-centered model," where parents and doctors provisionally assign a gender at birth, allowing the child to choose a gender when older. The latter is much preferred, especially if the gender assignment is not at odds with the gender identity the grown-up personally prefers later in life.

Preferred pronouns and backlash

With the emergence and new activism of this community (LGBTQ++), even the English language has been drastically altered, with the community insisting on preferred pronouns for themselves. Proponents of preferred pronouns, mostly to avoid conflicts with the community, kowtowed to these demands — addressing "she" when in truth the addressee is a "he" — simply to be polite and not to cause offense. It reached ludicrous heights when the binary and transgender people were to be addressed as "they/them."

In a relatively young nation populated by waves of migration from all corners of the world, the diversity of cultures forged in the cauldron of its collective history has always been celebrated. An outwardly tolerant society has emerged but has been disturbed of late by demands from these diverse minorities and sub-cultures.

The following quote is slightly redacted from Megyn Kelly's show on YouTube. She was a former adherent.

"Trans madness is sweeping the nation: female inmates raped by male sex offenders declaring themselves trans female right before heading to prison.

"In 2016, the community demanded access for transgender women to ladies' rooms/bathrooms. In 2018, school kids were introduced officially to the concept of trans-kids, encouraging them to own to who they are.

"New York City schools pushing the idea to children that "gender is just a social construct" and malleable, asking if they were still boys and uncomfortable with their bodies; and immediately affirmed as 'trans,' knowing that these kids will normally grow out of their feelings if allowed to upon reaching puberty.

"In Connecticut women's sports, teenage girls were losing in the track and field to competing runners who raced as boys a year before, then simply declared themselves female, dominating the women's races.

"Hospitals bragging about oodles of cash brought on by cross-gender procedures, including on teenagers."

And an ensuing backlash!

Bud Light, America's top-selling beer suffers great losses after being boycotted in the wake of its partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

Target stores lost $10 billion in market value in 10 days amid a boycott on Pride-themed clothing for children as young as 2 years old. It has since downsized its in-store displays.

Where will America and the LGBTQ++ go from here?

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