Boys Can Have Vulvas, TooSeptember 17, 2011 No Comments
My niece, who is nearly three, has begun to notice the physical difference between the sexes, principally through observing the physique of her little brother at bath time.
This has become a matter of some interest to her, and with a young child’s typical candour, she is prone to declaring what she, her parents, friends and anyone else she knows has “got,” in terms of groin-area fixtures and fittings.
However, what is quite interesting about her declarations on this topic is that she seems to decide on an individual basis what equipment someone has, and that this need not necessarily correspond to whether she thinks that person is a “boy” or a “girl.” The causality of “A has a penis and therefore is a boy” (more sophisticated genetic definitions aside) does not necessarily hold.
Notwithstanding the incorrectness that sometimes creeps into my niece’s classification method, it struck me that this is quite an open-minded way of looking at things. While I’m not sure what determines her conclusions on what certain people might have in the way of genitals (she certainly doesn’t see most of them naked), I like the idea that people need not be defined by their wedding tackle.
And the Australians clearly agree with her. Australian passports are apparently now to give their holders three gender options – male, female and the indeterminate “X” category – to try and stop discrimination against transgender and intersex citizens on the move.
Thinking about it, with all the technological means available to identify individuals these days, there is less and less justification for people to have to state their sex at all on things like passports. Indeed, as the wealth of individually-identifying information on each of us becomes easier to extract, a definition of sex on a passport becomes an irrelevance. Who cares what gender it says someone is on their passport when we can now identify them from amongst millions, even of their own sex, on the basis of hundreds of other factors? So why not let people choose their own category?
Individuals could be invited to place themselves on a spectrum between the two sexes – wherever they choose on the male-female line. Or a second dimension could be added, and you could place yourself on the male-female / funny-unfunny plane. Adding a third dimension (possibly represented in a hologram on the relevant page of your passport) could mean choosing your point in sex/funny/good temper-bad temper space. That page of your passport could end up like a dating-column advertizement.
Anyway, I suppose my point (if indeed I have one) is that the Australians’ decision to allow a third sex on their passports, far from being a pandering to political correctness, is a victory for self-determination for individuals, and blow against pigeon-holing. It’s nobody’s business what sex we are, or see ourselves as, and having to state it publicly so that we can travel is daft. And I’m sure my niece would agree.
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