Gender v. Sex – To Know or Not to Know

This past week North America has been debating whether a certain Canadian family are doing more harm than good by refusing to reveal the sex/gender of their four month old child. On one side of the debate are folks who think the family is breaking gender norms and societal constructions of gender, giving their child the opportunity to come to their own conclusions about gender once s/he is old enough. On the other side are those who feel they are marginalizing their children, essentially turning them into “freaks” to their peers.

No matter what side you are on, you most likely have an opinion one way or the other. When I first heard about these parents I thought they might be doing something revolutionary with their parenting – but then I read further into how they are actually raising their children and I became much more skeptical.

Let me take a step back. The foundation of this argument might have something to do with a large portion of society’s confusion between the terms “sex” and “gender.” They are usually used interchangeably, when they shouldn’t be. “Sex” refers to genitalia, whereas “gender” is more about how we identify ourselves. Don’t take it from me though – let’s see what Dictionary.com says:

Sex: “either the male or female division of a species, especially as differentiated with reference to the reproductive functions.”

Gender: “the state of being male, female, or neuter; the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex.”

This being the case, I don’t even think these Canadians know the difference. This kid’s genitalia is what it is, regardless of what his/her gender identity may turn out to be. To deny their child a sex, is turning him/her into a social pariah. Sadly, because these same parents do not school their children, s/he may become even more marginalized as a result.

Is it fair for parents to push their own ideals on their children, especially when those ideals could be potentially harmful to those children? What happens when this child starts to become aware that they are extremely different from those around them, needlessly?

To play Devil’s Advocate here, what if this child, however small the chance, turns out to be a transsexual? What if these parents end up raising their children in the best environment for them to find themselves?

Like I said, that would be a slim chance if only due to the fact that they still live in society. Love it or hate it, society is not ready to handle such progressive, if not extreme, ideas. Could they be paving the way? It’s always possible.

This is not the first time that millions of strangers have gotten up in arms over another a stranger’s personal life decisions regarding the sex of a child, though. For years, ever since scientists have figured out a way to distinguish male and female embryos, people around the world have chimed in with an opinion, most often a religiously-based one.

We know that there are medical reasons to want to know and/or choose a child’s sex, a deadly disease found in the genes of an X chromosome and not a Y chromosome, for instance. But what if there are no medical reasons? What if parents decide they want a daughter or a son, specifically, just because? Are they harming anyone with that decision?

Are these parents harming anyone with their decision about how to parent their children? Honestly, only time will tell as these children continue to grow up and into a realization of who they are.

I do think it is great that situations like these bring up discussions and debates on a very interesting subject. As society begins accepting minority sexualities more and more, it is only a matter of time before transgenders and transsexuals are accepted to the same extent. Slowly but surely, state laws and those of businesses are beginning to recognize transgendered individuals. To an extent, society as a whole is beginning to as well – but slowly is an understatement.

Maybe Canada is more progressive than the United States in some aspects. It is only with President Barack Obama that much change has begun in terms of rights and protections for gay and lesbian couples. Ever heard of DOMA?

Fortunately, when DOMA is forever repealed, that won’t only open the door for the expanded rights of homosexuals, but transsexuals, gender queers and gender neutrals as well.

Personally, I think everyone should be allowed to love anyone they want and express themselves any way they want, as long as it does no harm unto anyone else. There are times where there are some grey areas, like in the way a parent rears their child, for example. Nevertheless, the fact that it is a grey area at all may tell us (society, that is) something about ourselves and the way we view the world.

What do you think?

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Filed under Gender, LGBT, Politics, Same-Sex Marriage, Social Justice

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