40 years of faulty wiring

Why Determining Gender in a 7-Week Old Fetus is a Sociopolitical Step Backward

The headline in the internet last week that caught my attention was one that declared it is now possible for ultrasound technicians to detect a 7-week-old fetus`s gender, rather than waiting for the old-fashioned 4-month amniocentesis. There was an interesting number of mixed responses by readers, the majority of them focusing on abortion:

  1. One reader commented this leads to an even quicker abortion for families that are happy with the infant`s sex.
    I say what difference does that make since they will likely do the same when the fetus is 4 months old anyway.
  2. Another reader commented this cements foreign cultures`inclination towards sons and rejection of females through speedier, easier abortions.
    I say it`s not only foreign cultures who value boys above girls.  Many North American families feel the same way. Whose to say they don`t abort children based solely on gender

I don`t disagree with the abortion objection:  eliminating human life based on sex is amoral and a waste of a potential human being.

No one made mention of my perspective on the whole gender issue. Rather, my objection speaks to the intersex and transgender person. We ascribe to the binary gender system (male or female) for obvious reasons: we only understand what we only see, and what we believe we comprehend.  Gender however is much more than anatomy.  As a person grows however gender identity can change and our narrow view of gender creates many sociopolitical complications for the transgender person.

A friend of mine had a friend who birthed a beautiful boy. She was disappointed. She wanted a girl. So my friend actually advised her to cross-dress the boy as a girl until he got a little older. This idea baffled me at the time. I felt the boy`s mother should have been grateful that she had a healthy, beautiful child. Dressing the boy as a girl simply confirmed her lack of gratitude.  Now I think a fair compromise might be dressing the child in a gender neutral wardrobe.

Of course what is a gender neutral wardrobe.  Well, probably not one that emphasizes too much pink or blue.  It is unlikely there could be any dresses or skirts in such a wardrobe but since infants are usually dressed in slacks and jumpers, that`s neither here nor there. In fact it`s a rather fashion and gender forward way of thinking.

When I suggested that early ultrasounds negate the experience and the validity of the transgender person one response I received stated:

Then a mother can abort the transgender baby and a baby that is homosexual.

Abort a transexual infant.  How, I asked in reply, is that possible considering there is no possible biological means of knowing if a fetus is transgender. This is as much a psychological condition as it is biological. It is impossible to determine through an ultrasound if an infant is homosexual or not, and who`s to say the appropriate response is to abort it for either of those reasons. Abortion issue aside however the emphasis on fetal gender insists that the binary gender system is the only `normal“ human gender, just as the heterosexual orientation serves as a social “norm“.

As for the intersex person I am unaware if it is possible to determine fetal gender ambiguity via ultrasound. Let`s hope not. I mean, what of it. Eventually the individual normally settles on one gender or the other, and he or she tends to favour a particular sexual orientation. Of course there are also genderqueer people who, regardless of having a determinate gender if they should, prefer not to choose one gender or the other but retain a fluid movement between both, and in some cases, neither.

Personally I believe we should keep the prenatal focus on fetal health. Prenatal surgery is a profound medical breakthrough and offers many children and families a brighter future than would have been possible without the latter. Use the 7-week technology for that. I`ll support that purpose 100%.

August 14, 2011 Posted by | Human Biology, Human psychology, Politics, Technology, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Changing Face of Gender



Transgender, Transsexual, Intersex and Genderqueer people aren’t just people who feel as though they were born in the wrong body or are comfortable as both genders (can you imagine Michael Jackson saying that?…I’ll take it). It doesn’t always specify a particular sexual orientation. Trans and genderqueers claim both or neither gender. Sometimes they float between the two.  In other words they themselves have invented a third gender – a non-gender or neuter gender that defies male or female identification. It defies the gender binary system in terms of roles, biology and sexual orientation. This is also known as heteronormativity and it defines the majority of our society.


watch Gender queer me. The gender binary system is known to contribute to the prejudices which stigmatize intersex and transgenders. Gender binary as a restriction against trans, intersex and genderqueer people is undeniable. True, women universally are the only humans capable of giving birth (at this point in our history). Arguably, it is this biological function that many cultures and religions use to justify second-class treatment of women. And within the rigid roles women are forced to accept, the gender binary system flourishes.

Riki Wilchins author of GenderQueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary, argues that gender binaries “divide and polarize society“. They certainly do. In fact gender binaries result in stereotypes, bullying, exclusion and hatred of genderqueer and trans people (along with lesbian, gay, bisexual people – however that is a sexual orientation, not necessarily a gender role). Sexual orientation of pansexuality or polysexuality, provides a flexible option for people’s sexual orientation since it encompasses all kinds of sexuality and gender or non-gender roles; “pansexuality is not limited or inhibited in sexual choice with regards to gender or activity.” Pansexuality can apply to heterosexuals too. Consider that gender roles are more of a psychological concept than a biological one. Can a heterosexual person not establish an intimate relationship with an intersex or transsexual person, even if the former thinks of his/her partner as the opposite sex? I believe that is possible. Chaz Bono on becoming a man

What concerns me the most is the struggle youth and young adults face when coming to terms with their gender or non-gender. Many teenagers in high school have committed suicide due to bullying over their sexual orientation; worse, these teens have lived in terror that their orientation would be discovered by others when they have worked so hard to conceal it. Of the annual teen suicides that occur in Canada every year 30% are committed by LGBT students. There are no stats available as to whether any of these youth are intersex, trans, genderqueer, neuter, or pansexual. Recently I watched a brief news documentary where a young man informed his parents he was homosexual. His mother’s reply was he would have to move out since her live-in boyfriend didn’t approve and she couldn’t bear to lose her boyfriend. It’s no wonder that 40% of homeless youth are LGBT. It’s not rational for teachers and students to expect that LGBT students will be treated with respect and equity at school when they aren’t being treated as such at home. We need to start with educating the public and families about various gender roles and sexuality if we’re going to make a difference.  Watch It Gets Better – LGBT Anti-Bullying Movement

June 7, 2011 Posted by | Health and Wellness, Human Biology, Human psychology | , , , , , , | 3 Comments