February 19, 2005

Selection criteria  

My friend Pamela has started a new blog called Dare I Speak? and she's already got some deliciously wrongheaded posts up. The first reads media obsession over Kinsey's sexual habits as a way of advancing the homosexual agenda (!) rather than as simple voyeurism or even scholarship (since, after all, Kinsey was writing about sex). The latest is about the phenomenon -- which, by the way, I'm having a hard time documenting with a link -- of newborns with ambiguous gender who aren't assigned a gender by their parents or doctors at birth and instead get to "choose" their gender around preschool age as they begin to identify with one gender or the other:

This whole idea of having a child pick its gender is preposterous. How could something so critical as deciding which sex a child will have to grow into become its own decision at such a young age?
I'm not sure if the idea that the child would pick a gender is preposterous or not, but it's certainly no less preposterous than letting the parents pick when the child is still newborn, given the enormity of the decision and the complete lack of available information at that time. While I can sympathize with the desire to protect a small child from such a weighty decision, it might be a misconstrual to call it a decision in the first place. In fact, the hope in waiting should be that the child will reveal some preference, not by achieving a precocious sense of self and sexuality at age 5, but through social behavior and interaction. Maybe this is dubious, but surely it's at least as good an indicator of the child's lifetime gender identification as anything available to the parents at the moment of birth.

Pamela goes on to say that in cases where the parents choose the wrong gender (she calls this the worst case scenario, even though there's no reason to believe it won't happen in a large percentage of cases), individuals can choose to have a sex change operation later in life. This suggests that 1) some individuals may prefer one gender over the other, even if it's ambiguous at birth; and 2) individuals gain more information about their gender identification with time. If both these things are true, isn't waiting at least a reasonable course to consider?

Research might shed some light on this, but unless/until there's someway to quantify the traumas associated with growing up with the wrong gender and having a sex-change operation on the one hand and going a few years without an identified gender on the other, it's going to be difficult to weigh a decision. In the meantime, experts and those actually facing the decision have made their best guess, and until better research comes along I'm comfortable with that -- more comfortable, at least, than I am with broad, ideological pronouncements!

UPDATE: Pamela has provided this link, which apparently prompted her post.

Pamela  {February 19, 2005}

Read this Paul: http://www.cnn.com/2005/HEALTH/parenting/02/18/babies.unclear.gender.ap/index.html

Pamela  {February 19, 2005}

Additionally, my dear friend, the First Amendment gives me the full right to post all the "deliciously wrongheaded posts" I wish to.

paul  {February 19, 2005}

the First Amendment gives me the full right to post all the "deliciously wrongheaded posts" I wish to.

And I certainly hope you'll keep posting them -- they're provocative and fun to disagree with!

Pamela  {February 19, 2005}

I will definitely keep posting, if only to give you something to disagree with :) You know I would HATE to disappoint you!

Mithras  {February 19, 2005}

Paul - is she parodying conservatives? I hope it's a joke.

By the way, for some reason, your feed renders the permalink for this post as this, which is 404.

paul  {February 20, 2005}

No, Mithras, I'm pretty sure she's serious.

Thanks for letting me know about the feed problem. I really need to do some modernizing in general around here -- maybe this week I'll get to that minor redesign I've been planning on for a while here.

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