In the past week, we reviewed the Annual Student Medical Form provided by a New York City private school to parents on behalf of their children prior to the commencement of the academic school year. We neither have access nor would we disclose student’s personal information; and have decided not to disclose the name of the school because the majority of students are minors. Along with the standard space for name, address, phone numbers, etc., part of the form contained the following options:
• Sex Assigned At Birth: Male / Female / Intersex
• Gender Identity: Girl / Boy / Trans Boy / Trans Girl / Non-Binary / Genderfluid / Other
• Students Affirming Pronouns: SheHer / HeHim / TheirThem / Other
Meanwhile at Columbia University, incoming students are encouraged to input their personal information into Columbia Health’s portal. In addition to ensuring that students have been inoculated (no sure thing given the misinformation spread by misinformed antivaxxers), reported their appropriate personal/family medical history and so forth, Columbia provides students space where they can “identify and edit their gender identity.” The options are as follows:
• Female (cisgender)
• Female (transgender/female identified/MTF)
• Gender fluid
• Gender nonconforming
• Male (cisgender)
• Male (transgender/male identified/FTM)
• I identify as follows
Columbia prefaces this section of the form with the following statement: “Should these terms be unfamiliar, please note that the ‘female cisgender’ means female is the gender you were assigned at birth and you are female identified; ‘male cisgender’ means male is the gender you were assigned at birth and you are male identified.”
We appreciate the clarity, but it came woefully short for this author, who graduated university barely twenty years ago. Before reading this form, the author had never even heard of Agender, Bigender, Nonbinary, or Pangender. Apparently, neither had Microsoft Word, the most commonly used word processing program in the world. When first typed out, many of these terms were underlined in red, and had to be manually added to Word’s dictionary.
Does the fact that an elite private school offers parents a choice of the affirming pronoun in addition to “she/her” and “he/him,” a “their/them” option and that Columbia University, an Ivy League institution that attracts some of the brightest minds from all over the world, had to put a disclaimer in its own health form regarding how to explain the gender choices they provided, indicate that the inclusivity pendulum has swung a bit too far left?
Regarding Sex Assigned at Birth, we found the choices Male, Female & Intersex to be unremarkable. While the overwhelming majority of people are born male or female, various studies have borne out that depending on the criteria used, between .005% and 1.7% of people are indeed borne intersex. In the United States, ~3.75 million babies are born each year. Even using the conservative .005% data point would still translate into approximately 18,750 intersex babies born each year. The aforementioned private school was correct to include Intersex as a choice.
In the past, babies born intersex would be assigned one gender at birth, and sometimes undergo “corrective” surgery. Hence, many intersex children grew up identifying with the opposite gender of what their parents and plastic surgeon decided they should be. Today, parents of intersex babies are becoming more knowledgeable and many are deciding to wait and let their children make this vital decision for themselves at an appropriate time.
Our initial thought was that it is too young for pre-teens and young teens to consider themselves “Trans” (someone born as one gender but that identifies as another gender and is going through transition to become the gender they identify with) and were uncomfortable with it being a choice on the private school’s Annual Student Medical Form. However, after completing our due diligence for this post, we were surprised to learn that despite what many ill-informed people might think, this author previously being one, the overwhelming majority of people who identify with a gender different from what is printed on their birth certificate often come to understand and appreciate this when they are very, very young, before even puberty, sexual attractions, and so forth. Having stand corrected and armed with this knowledge, we also think both the private school (and Columbia University) are correct to list “Trans” as a choice.
Line in the Sand
Pertaining to the unnamed private school and Columbia, we have trouble getting our arms around the following terms: Agender, Bigender, Nonbinary, Genderfluid, Gender nonconforming, Pangender & I Identify as Follows. We were able to infer what some of these terms mean. Other terms left us scratching our heads and seemed as though they were fabricated and of questionable scientific underpinnings.
“I Identify as Follows,” Other Terms & Retorts
Supposedly, Agender means without a gender, an idea that one does not have any gender identity. While somebody’s gender might not be a matter of significant self-reflective thought, our current stance is that everybody does indeed have a gender. Bigender means having two genders, sometimes at the same time and sometimes bouncing back and forth between genders. Our issue with this term is while we acknowledge that transgender is real (The life of a transgender person is often difficult, confusing and traumatic. Very few transgender people would voluntarily choose to be so.), we have a difficult time understanding the idea of somebody identifying as a man today and a woman tomorrow, etc., and continuing this exercise in perpetuity. Despite what we’ve read on this term and our malleability, we cannot, at least for the time being, reconcile with this notion. We came to understand that Genderfluid is essentially a sub-genre of Non-binary, which means one does not identify as either male or female. A person that is Genderfluid apparently shifts between more than one gender. Genderfluid appears similar to Bigender. Pangender is somebody who considers themselves part of all genders.
Gender nonconforming is when ones’ appearance or conduct isn’t commensurate with social norms. Gender nonconforming can also be construed as hypocritical. Progressives often complain that traditionalists don’t embrace differences between people and are too rigid in conforming to social norms. Yet coining a term such as Gender nonconforming does little but exacerbate the gender centric stereotypes many progressives are determined to disprove. Human capital would be better allocated educating people that just because a man, a woman, or a transsexual, does not conform to expectations bestowed upon them by society, does not make them any more or less a man, woman or transsexual.
“I Identify as Follows” is a microcosm of our main concern pertaining to the gender identity movement. What began as a good faith effort to right some of the many wrongs of the past by creating a more inclusive and egalitarian society has morphed into a free for all of terms, declarations and explanations, underpinned by an abundance of qualitative verbiage and little if any good science and data.
“Teacher, May I Please Be Excused to Use the Gender-Neutral Bathroom?”
A generation ago in school, at sports stadiums, or department stores etc., there was a boy/men’s restroom, a girl/women’s restroom and in some locations a handicapped restroom that was intended for men and women. We think there should also be a gender-neutral bathroom. We applaud the administration of schools, facilities mangers of stadiums, and other public places that have made this reasonable accommodation for transgender and other people struggling with their identity.
In our view, people that identify as a man even though they are biologically a woman or identify as a woman even though they are biologically a man, should be privy to both a gender-neutral bathroom or a bathroom of their assigned biological sex. We do not think that somebody should be able to use a men’s room, or women’s room, if they are not biologically male or female, but merely identify as such. There is a difference between making a reasonable accommodation for those who faced discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation or any such hybrid – which we are in favor of - and potentially disenfranchising the vast majority Americans who happen to conform to social norms, which we reject.
To people who argue, “if somebody is biologically a man but identifies as a woman, they should be able to use the ladies room.” How would you feel if you had an 11-year-old daughter and she was relieving herself in a public ladies room and a grown man that identified as woman walked into the woman’s room to use the facilities? Ask yourself, would you be comfortable? Would you be at ease if your innocent 11-year-old kid was in that rest room alone, in an extremely vulnerable position, and came face to face with a grown man, regardless of how that man identified himself? We would be disconcerted and simply do not support that.
Let us be clear, we are not discounting the fact that people can and do identify with a sex other than the one on their birth certificate; however, we do not think that qualification should allow those individuals the right to use a bathroom other than the one commensurate with their biological sex. If that option does not suffice, a gender neutral bathroom is a reasonable accommodation that is most fair to all people.
Setting the Record Straight
It is important to be mindful that in the past (and even today) transsexuals and those who struggled with conforming to the mores dictated by society were treated terribly. They often suffered discrimination on familial, societal and professional levels and bore a disproportionate amount of targeted verbal abuse and physical violence; which translated into higher rates of depression and suicide vs the general population. All that is reprehensible.
As we have stated in previous posts, we think gay, bi, trans and other members of our society who once were, and sometimes still are, oppressed should have the same rights, protections, and enjoy the same benefits as everybody else. The fact that these issues are front and center and being corrected, albeit in fits and starts, is a much-needed positive development.
We agree with those progressives on the left who argue that there was not enough accommodation made for certain marginalized people, like transsexuals. We disagree with staunch conservatives who argue that you are either a man or a woman and that’s it; because God makes people men or women. That is categorically incorrect. God (or science) makes the vast majority of people men or women, but makes some people intersex and transsexual. We side with centrists who argue that while in the past there was not enough done to accommodate many of the aforementioned people in this post, we must also not create a never-ending list of terms to label anyone and everyone who is or who identifies as different.
Gender identity is an extremely complex topic filled with exceptions, nuances and granularity. We remain open to constructive dialogue and stand ready to change our minds. We never learned much from people who agree with us on every point. Let us know what you think.