Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Messing with Mother Nature

The Anchoress has a link to this article in the New York Times: "New York Plans to Make Gender Personal Choice".

The idea: Under the rule being considered by the city’s Board of Health, which is likely to be adopted soon, people born in the city would be able to change the documented sex on their birth certificates by providing affidavits from a doctor and a mental health professional laying out why their patients should be considered members of the opposite sex, and asserting that their proposed change would be permanent.

But if they did that, how would the Transgendered make the plea that x% of the population is transgendered and they should be a protected minority? Wouldn't they just become part of the general population then?

But for me, this was the "money" quote:

Joann Prinzivalli, 52, a lawyer for the New York Transgender Rights Organization, a man who has lived as a woman since 2000, without surgery, said the changes amount to progress, a move away from American culture’s misguided fixation on genitals as the basis for one’s gender identity.

“It’s based on an arbitrary distinction that says there are two and only two sexes,” she said. “In reality the diversity of nature is such that there are more than just two, and people who seem to belong to one of the designated sexes may really belong to the other.”

(emphasis added--mh)

Okay, I only majored in Cell Biology at The University, but I seem to remember there are only two chromosomes that determine the gender of the human primate, X and Y. Now, if a human has a Y chromosome, that person is male, no matter how many X's may also be present. There are a whole host of physical problems associated with those who have more than two of the gender chromosomes or with those who have fewer. But, as far as I know, they still are either male or female, not some third type of creature.

There are, in fact, fish and amphibians (and possibly reptiles, though I can't think of any specifically) who can, in fact, change their genitalia in response to environmental or chemical cues. I don't know of any mammals or birds that can do the same--but, as I said, my field of study was not zoology.

However, I'm willing to wager that it was not Ms. Prinzivalli's major, either.

The only place where I've read that three (or more) sexes are needed for reproduction is in science fiction. Although male dolphins need a second male to help support the female during mating. But I think that might have more to do with the fact they are in water and don't have an efficient gripping limb.

I feel sorry for those who are uncomfortable within their own skin, who don't identify with the gender they are born with. But is the answer really to let them change their birth certificates? What if they decide they aren't transgendered at a later date? Can they change their birth certificates back?

New York City is thinking about doing this for a population that admits it's a minority. And only those born in NYC would be able to alter their birth records; merely living in NYC doesn't count. This also changes public health records and Census records.

And it avoids the whole messy issue of why these people are transgendered in the first place. Is the study of human anomalies no longer viable? Is everything "normal"? In this morally relative culture, it certainly seems that is the case. But I'm not convinced that Nature is quite so accommodating.