Canaries of the gender system

Transgendered people are like the canaries of the gender system. Stuck at the seams, this NY Times op-ed tells the story of “gay” marriage when one member of the marriage undergoes a sex change undergoes the how complex a matter gender really is.

The difficulty of establishing any basis for “true” gender extends into areas like gender-testing in sports and how society treats children born intersexed.
Is My Marriage Gay?

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2 Responses
  1. Sarah Supernova says:

    One culture which respects transgender (and hermaphrodite) children is the Navajo culture.

    I know a woman who works on the Navajo reservation as a labor and delivery nurse and when hermaphrodite children are born (and this happens more often than you’d think, because of Uranium mining and radiation pollution on the rez), they are immediately accepted as they are and considered very special, sort of a “3rd” gender. Nobody is forced to choose “girl” or “boy” at the birth.

    And within the culture, people who are transgendered are normal, respected and accepted.

    Something to think about.

  2. zelda says:

    I want to start with this: it seems dead obvious that eventually gender and sex will have to be abandoned completely if marriage and/or civil union is to be retained in the U.S., just as the equally fuzzy category of race has gone by the board. “Two consenting adults” will do the job nicely, thus shifting the inevitable fight to “two” “consenting” and “adult”– but at least the issues regarding those boundaries are already clear since all three terms have been argued over for centuries.

    But I realize this does not address adequately the problem of the state treading on religion’s toes, and vice versa. Perhaps a starting point would be to disambiguate the different stakeholdings that got rolled into “marriage”. For example, to list just the most obvious:

    1. encouraging stable conditions for child-rearing. Neither marriage nor civil union is really needed for this; especially since existing laws and statutes to protect children that are already in place are in any case mostly predicated on parenthood, not marriage. (In some ways, parenthood is becoming more difficult to parse than marriage, but that is another subject.) There would probably need to be some new legal formations around such issues as child care support for working parents and other support for nonworking parents — but this also is not a brand-new issue so much as one that has been unduly neglected in America for decades.

    2. inheritance rights. Neither marriage nor civil union is really needed for this, either. The main change is that what are today considered spouses would no longer be default inheritors, but they could still be specified in a will like everyone else.

    3. beneficiary rights (e.g. health benefits). Neither marriage nor civil union is really needed for this either; there could be a simpler legal ‘declaration of primary beneficiaries’ unrelated to any union.

    4. affirming spiritual union. This is the only category for which it appears to me that a marriage ceremony (such as those aligned with various religions) or other form of ‘spiritual union’ ceremony makes sense — at least, for those accepting the basic premise that such a thing as spiritual union is possible and valuable. There is not even any particular reason for it entrain specific legal obligations; thus, there is not much reason for the state to be involved at all except perhaps in recordkeeping. This being the case, why limit the number of ‘spouses’ to an arbitrary two?

    In other words, I propose that the state get out of the marriage/civil union business altogether, and address the entangled issues individually.