Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sex versus Gender

Exposing medical violence and dishonesty
by Curtis E. Hinkle
March 29, 2008

Medical specialists complicate and erase intersex experience and visibility by insisting that sex is a biological fact and gender a social construct.

The first harm done to many intersexed infants is what is called "assigning a gender". In other words, the intersexed child is actually being assigned a "gender identity" (not a sex because the sex is considered to be "ambiguous"). However, the same specialists write that there is no clear understanding of how a child develops a "gender identity". Then after having assigned a "gender identity" to the intersexed child, the specialists choose the sex corresponding to the "gender identity" assigned and that is what they put as the sex on the birth certificate and other documents. If the medical specialists were logical in their use of the terms "sex" and "gender" (but this is illogical and that is why I do not accept that sex and gender are two distinct categories in a linguistic sense), they would refuse to put a "gender identity" on a birth certificate as the sex of the infant but that is precisely what they do. Therefore, the birth certificate of an intersexed child does not state the sex of the child; it is the child's "gender identity" as determined by the experts, not the children themselves.

Then all during their lives, people are concerned about the "gender identity" of the individual. It can become exasperating because each little difference detected can become enormously important and exaggerated as a sign of non-conformity to the gender identity imposed by the experts.

Then when one consults a physician, "gender identity" issues can become the focus rather than the real health problems that need to be attended to because we are perceived within a bi-gendered lens and if one does not agree with the "gender identity" discourse, then one is made to feel the problem is in our mind, not the mind of the physicians.

How many hours have been lost discussing gender issues with doctors instead of getting actual health care? How many times have we had to explain we are not in the doctor's office to talk about our identity but because our feet hurt, for example?

Navigating all this dishonest discourse throughout one's life saps one's energy and has done little if anything to improve the lives of intersexed children and adults.

If one asks the specialists what a "gender identity" is, one is often given a definition such as this:

Gender identity is a person's own sense of identification as male or female.

If gender identity is a person's own sense of identification, how can these same specialists justify assigning a "gender identity" to an intersexed child? How can these specialists predict the future and know the "person's own sense of identification"? One reads in their own protocols that they cannot predict someone's personal sense of identification as male or female. This is not scientific. This is dishonest. It is a hoax.

We are told that gender is social and that sex is biological. Then we are told that our sex (that is our legal sex classification) is really our "gender identity" which many of these same specialists state is not biological. Therefore, if "gender identity" is not a biological fact, why use this concept in place of the sex of the child on their birth certificate? This is because birth certificates which state the sex of an individual are using that term in a way which has redefined sex as a "gender identity", which proves that competence within biology is not what is being applied. This is a social exercise, a social construct. It is not about biology.

If other sciences used terms in this contradictory and dishonest manner, they would be exposed as not being scientific at all.

To state that gender is a social construct but that sex is a biological fact can at first appear logical but the actual use of these terms proves that this semantic distinction is not valid because the semantic field of the word "gender" overlaps and intersects the same semantic field as the word "sex" in English and it does this in medical discourse about the topic and in legal discourse also.

It is impossible to categorize all people into two distinct biological sexes. We are not even aware at this time of the degree to which sexual orientation and sex identity are linked with the sex development of an individual. However, we do know that these categories would not be as functional without a binary construct of sex and gender which is the fundamental principal justifying such categories.

Sex is a social construct and so is gender and often they are one and the same if you look closely at how medical and legal discourse are defining and categorizing people.

Why OII denounces transphobia and the pathologisation of intersex people

Now, I hope it is clear that it is not necessarily the word "gender" which bothers me. It is the notion that sex is a biological category and that gender is purely a social construct which I find troubling and inaccurate.

It is important to expose the dishonesty of what the experts are trying to tell us.

The sex of an individual is not really a biological fact as that term is used medically and legally and intersexed children prove that sex as used in medical and legal discourse is really an identity (not a biological reality) that is imposed on children.

However, the doctors admit that one cannot predict a child's identity or personal sense of self as a male or female. Nevertheless, this does not stop them from imposing a gender identity on the child and that becomes the SEX of the individual.

If doctors really are convinced that the "gender identity" of a person is the real sex of the individual (and it appears that the protocols in effect would confirm that they do in fact believe that this is the case, otherwise why put a "gender identity" as the sex of a person on a birth certificate?), then it would be logical to conclude that any person who is not in agreement with the identity imposed is better placed to declare their TRUE SEX since in essence we are dealing with an identity and not biological facts which can be substantiated.

It is not the word that causes so much harm. It is the dishonesty of how the specialists use this word which causes so much harm.

It is only the individual person who can determine their own sense of self and their identity and not a doctor. If one disagrees with the doctor's imposed "gender identity", one is not ill. The person who is violently imposing his own definitions and using his medical and legal power to erase and damage another person's most initmate sense of self is the one who is part of the problem and the society which would knowingly condone this needs to be questioned, challenged and eventually given the help it needs to enlarge its vision of human rights.