Don’t know much biology
Updated: August 19, 2010 at 5:04 pm
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I always liked Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World.” The lyrics, “don’t know much about history, don’t know much biology,” really get to me. When I went to college, I was headed for a pre-med curriculum. That didn’t last as I found myself, ultimately, studying philosophy and history of religions. My scientific acumen is mostly that of a layperson, even though I do have a bit of a pre-med background. That being said, I sometimes find myself doubting efforts to find a biological or genetic foundation for gender diversity. This uncertainty manifests in several ways.
First is the issue of choice. Many of us have said that being gender diverse is not a choice, that it’s the way we are constituted. Such reasoning dismisses the possibility that a person might choose any way of being in the world. We choose religion, profession and a myriad of other so-called lifestyles. We say that gender diversity, however, is not a lifestyle, but an essential part of who we are, and not a choice. There is grey area here — is it not possible that someone, for any number of reasons, might believe they are gender diverse? What happens if, given we ascertain a genetic or biological component, a person who does not have said genetic component still maintains their gender diversity? Such a requirement (the genetic marker) becomes a gauntlet a person must run to “qualify” officially, or medically, as gender diverse. Failure to do so would mean failure to obtain treatment.
It’s bad enough that trans persons must already pass muster with the psychiatric community in its capacity as gatekeeper. Imagine the situation if you add geneticists and medical doctors to that gatekeeper cadre. If we weren’t already marginalized and disenfranchised enough, and if we didn’t already have to face the demon of internal factionalism, creating more complex hurdles we must jump can do nothing but exacerbate a situation which is already problematic.
It should be obvious that imposing new standards contributes to the second issue, namely the escalation of elitism and hierarchy building. I have been following a heated debate in one of my news groups which makes this point perfectly. The individual with the adversarial position is a self-avowed conservative and Republican, and describes herself as transsexual. Her position is that only bona fide transsexuals, who will eventually be able to document a genetic anomaly, will be afforded equal protection under the law. Others, whom she describes as “transvestites,” are not so lucky. She avers that transsexual persons will have science on their side; so-called “transvestites” will only be able to avail themselves of “pseudo-science” and some illusive phenomenon she calls ‘freedom of choice.” Well, so much for the ideals upon which this country was founded.
This distorted perspective is both ignorant and destructive given the basis of her argument. It’s separatist, elitist and not so arcane as to be believed by a mere few. If you were to excise this mindset out of the trans community and transpose it into the aforementioned legion of gatekeepers, you find yourself face-to-face with the last and perhaps most serious issue: the control of the selection process and permission granting residing with psychiatric and medical overseers.
Preacher Albert Mohler has already endorsed pre-natal treatment to turn homosexual fetuses into heterosexual should a genetic marker become available. Such an approach brings us to the brink of eugenics and un-natural selection. J. Michael Bailey, an alleged trans clinician, has endorsed this position as well. (Let it be said that Bailey has been the subject of controversial methodology and has been excoriated by many in the trans community for his trans bigotry and his support for reparative therapy.)
This following quote comes from a 2001 paper, Parental Selection of Children’s Sexual Orientation, by Aaron S. Greenberg, JD and J. Michael Bailey, PhD. “It appears to be the case, then, that if allowing parents to select for heterosexuality is to be evaluated based on motive and consequence, one would be hardpressed to find it to be morally wrong. First, there are several plausible parental motives that range from morally acceptable to morally praiseworthy. Furthermore, parental freedom to select children’s important characteristics is a highly valuable, and highly valued, liberty. Finally, selection for heterosexuality (even when done out of the worst motives) can benefit parents and children and seems unlikely to cause harm sufficient to outweigh those benefits and the value of parental liberty.”
Liberty for one (the parent) means forced choice for another (the child).
One is left to question if this same logic would apply to selection for gender diversity. (I think we can guess the answer to that question). Interventionist medical protocols are not necessarily the best thing for any given individual, but the medical community has systematically availed itself of this course of action and too often decisions of this nature are made based on a practitioner’s ethos — which does not always jibe with that of the individual being treated. Until recently, this mindset has been standard operating procedure for children with intersex conditions. The Bailey/Mohler paradigm crosses a threshold which is fraught with danger as some look for biology to substantiate the validity of gender diversity.
I am generally a favorable ally in the pursuit of scientific knowledge, whatever it is. And, I really believe that there may be medical and genetic foundations for gender diversity, which makes efforts toward curtailing elitism and the regulation of some genetic discoveries critical considering how many bigots would love to use said science to make gender diversity (and being gay) extinct. : :
— Comments and corrections can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact Robbi Cohn, email email@example.com.
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