Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Inconvenient Exceptions

In my last post, I mentioned "inconvenient exceptions". Here's one case, inconvenient for my own views, which means I must change them to accomodate reality.

From The Scavenger :
EXCLUSIVE: 8 March 2010: The NSW government in Australia has issued what is believed to be the world’s first ‘Sex Not Specified’ Recognised Details Certificate in place of a birth certificate, writes Katrina Fox.

Norrie, a member of Sex and Gender Education (SAGE), a lobby group campaigning for the rights of all sex and gender diverse people has been issued with what is understood to be the world’s first ‘Sex Not Specified’ Recognised Details Certificate in place of a birth certificate.

This means that Norrie (also known as norrie mAy-Welby) – a resident of Sydney, NSW – is legally recognised as neither male nor female according to the Australian government.

Originally Norrie, 48, was born in Scotland and registered as male at birth. At age 23 Norrie commenced sex and gender conversion to female through hormone and construction of a vagina and was then issued with a gender recognition certificate as female in Australia.

But this did not work out for Norrie as zie (gender-neutral pronoun) did not feel comfortable living solely as a female so zie ceased lifelong hormone treatment and took up a neuter identity which is neither male nor female, resisting any further female or male normalisation.

In January 2010 doctors declared that they were unable to determine Norrie as either male or female as zie has no gonads, the hormonal system was atypically male or female, and Norrie’s psychological identity was neuter.

NSW Births Deaths and Marriages then issued the ‘Sex Not Specified’ Details Recognition Certificate in accordance with recommendations made by the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 2009 report on the legal rights of sex and gender diverse people proposing a greater scope of legal recognition be used beyond male and female for certain individuals.
I'm a member of SAGE, but can't claim credit here.

I fit the binary gender model really well. OK, I'm Intersexed, biologically I don't fit the binary sex model well at all. Not unless you think that sex is mutable.

The existence of inconvenient exceptions, people who don't fit the binary model, is seen with some justification as a threat to those like me. Why a threat? If I was cis-sexual, they wouldn't be. But as I had to give legal and medical justification for medical treatment, and legal document change, yes, they're a huge threat. Here am I, claiming to be a "real" woman despite appearances (and I hate that silliness about "real"), having to explain that yes, it's simply a case of female brain in male body, and no, I'm not a "third gender" and neither will I regret surgery, it's really necessary for me... and along comes a person like hir. Someone we even have to use neologismic pronouns for. Someone whose existence complicates the issues, and is darned inconvenient when you're trying to fit things into a simple model.

Someone who... is rather like me. My existence does for sex what zie does for gender.

The plain fact is, that biology is messy. Some people just cannot be categorised as male or female. Just as I have to fight for my rightful place within the binary model of gender, so I must fight for the rights of those outside that model. Not a "third sex" but a "not applicable". And you know what? It's the height of arrogance for me to tell anyone what their "real" gender or "real" sex is. I have to ask.

This is a baby step in one way. Note what was said:
...doctors declared that they were unable to determine...
Hir wishes or views were ignored as irrelevant. Had zie not been biologically, sexually neuter, zie would not have been permitted to have documentation that accurately recorded the reality of hir gender.

OII Australia has a mixed view:
Please leave intersex people out of identity politics. Intersex is anatomical differences and thinking that intersex has any connection to identity politics simply muddies the waters.

That aside, OII Australia is pleased that Norrie has received the first ‘Sex Not Specified’ Details Recognition Certificate and is grateful to NSW Births Deaths and Marriages for issuing it.

In doing so, NSW BDM has recognized the fact that not all human beings consider themselves a part of the sex binary.

The notion that this offers some kind of solution to parents of an intersex child misapprehends intersex and the problems faced by both the parents and children in this situation.

OII Australia does not agree that the identity of a child should be battled out on an already contested body. Children should be given a ‘conditional’ assignment of male or female and gender neutral names. When the child decides then they can then change their birth certificate under already existing regulations that allow for a change of designators because of a mistaken assignment at the time of birth.
...
It is one thing for a cogent and strong activist to opt out of the sex/gender binary and make it so in law. It is another thing entirely to expect a seven or eight year old to understand these issues and to face down the prejudice such a document would engender.

OII Australia is interested to know if this sex non-designator is available to everyone or is it only available to those who can show medical and/or anatomical non-binary inclusion. If it is not available to all people we consider it analogous to creating a third sex for those who have physical differences of sex. OII Australia opposes the creation of such a category.
I agree.

Assign a child an arbitrary sex on the Birth Certificate if you really must. Bring up the child as that sex. If they tell you it's wrong, re-do it. And when they get to the age of consent, allow them to opt out of the whole male/female thing if that's right for them. Don't insist on surgical or hormonal body modification. Allow it though, when they're old enough.

To a conservative, traditional, prim and proper straight-laced prig like me, this goes down like a lead balloon. I think the electorate will feel likewise.

Nonetheless.... and I've had to be dragged kicking and screaming to this conclusion...and this is not a matter or libertarianism gone bonkers, nor a fanatic "follow your own bliss" ideology.... this is the closest system I can think of that accounts for biological reality.

Spit. This complicates things, and will make it much, much tougher to explain to the great unwashed, who distrust this kind of Moonbattery and Idiocy. It threatens to undo a lot of my work.

Um.... can't exactly ask hir not to exist though... nor can I trample on her human rights and claim the same ones for myself.

From hir story:
Having gender markers as part of our legal identity is a problem for everyone facing gender discrimination, and anyone who does not fit the standard options of male or female.

Not everyone does, you know, with one in a thousand people being born with an intersex condition, and other people of sex or gender diversity, such as transsexuals in transition, or bigendered people who may identify as either male or female or both, according to the situation or time of day.

While many transsexuals may prefer to identify as whichever of the two standard sex options they see as appropriate, many other people of sex or gender diversity, and also many non-transgendered women, would prefer to not have sex listed as part of their legal identity.

It may be problematic or embarrassing or simply allow for sex based discrimination, which we've had enough of.
According to the TIME OF DAY??? Oh great. Here am I having spent ages pooh-poohing the whole notion that such a ridiculous thing could happen, that it's only in the fevered dreams of the ignorant, and now zie says something like that.

Is it true though? The fact that I've not come across it doesn't mean to say it doesn't happen. And I know that biology is messy, sex identity may crystallise late... what happens of it doesn't crystallise at all? Because it won't always.

Remember the Mantra, Zoe. Reality always wins, best surrender to it now and work around it. And besides which... arrogantly telling people what they "really" are rings all sorts of alarm bells in me.

I hope my readers won't mind if I , um, not exactly gloss over these inconvenient exceptions, but don't emphasise them, except in the Advanced Course. Some Lies to Children might be in order...though now I'm being arrogant in a different way.

Ah spit again. Trying to act ethically is hard.

10 comments:

Cynthia Lee said...

(mumbles something about stupid computers.....)

Hello Zoe I got a ??

Do the 3rd genders in Australia have the right to marry. If not they are being denied a human right. If it is yes does that mean that the individule has the option (as if love gave you options...) to marry either sex.
If married do they legaly become the oposite gender of the spouse, thereby ruining the chances at ever marrying the other gender.

I really like that there are options, but I find myself asking myself 1000s' of questions. Like where would you jail a nueter if zie comits a felony...

Imogen said...

It also goes over like a Led balloon to this wild ├╝ber-liberal punk anarcho-socialist, so it's pretty safe to assume that it's not a great idea.

Why do there need to be gender markers at all for anything non-medical? What's it doing on a driver's license?

Zoe Brain said...

We got rid of gender markers on drivers licenses a long time ago.

As for "unspecified" and marriage - nope. But they can enter a common-law relationship, not registered, with the same rights but no requirement to formally divorce.

Kd said...

As a female-to-intersex person myself, I find this whole post quite interesting. I see no particular reason to raise any child as a particular gender, myself, but then, I wouldn't.

I call myself 'to intersex' because it matches the physical body I want. Yes, I can be male, female, both, or neither, depending on the day, time of month, my mood... It is very confusing, even for me.

In that line... I applaud you for using gender neutral pronouns. However, I notice that 'hir' is very easily confuse with 'her', or 'here'. Might I suggest 'zir', to go with 'zie'? Linguistically, I believe that it's more neutral, in part because it's less easily confused with anything.

Anyway, thank-you for this very interesting blog. I return now to lurkerdom...

~AkZeal.

Nicole said...

Good on you norrie!

It took me a very, very long time, but I'm now on your wavelength - completely!

Sara said...

Not Monbattery or Idiocy! Not even Cretinism!

This event and person only further promote the idea that gender identity (including the subcategory, sexuality) is a multitude of spectra, based on a finite number of sexually dimorphic neural and somatic structures; it's the combinations of those spectra that matter and separate yet link the various non-mainstream identities in our cultures.

But recognition of that idea is dependent on how the raw data has been collected and massaged; so far it would appear that researchers have been looking for a single fully binary dimorphic structure at a time, and so categorize the results as such along an inverse bell curve, with most data points being either male or female, the few data points in the middle are dropped as not being significant or as two overlapping bell curves, again with the messiest of the overlap being dropped as "inconclusive" or "indeterminate" or "insignificant".

To Norrie, I would guess that all those intermediate data points for all the various structures are significant, indeed.

Battybattybats said...

"According to the TIME OF DAY??? Oh great. Here am I having spent ages pooh-poohing the whole notion that such a ridiculous thing could happen, that it's only in the fevered dreams of the ignorant, and now zie says something like that.

Is it true though? The fact that I've not come across it doesn't mean to say it doesn't happen. And I know that biology is messy, sex identity may crystallise late... what happens of it doesn't crystallise at all? Because it won't always."

*waves*
Don't forget me Zoe.

Zoe Brain said...

BBB - I didn't forget you, Batty. You helped me get a closer approximation to reality than I had before.

Thanks for that. Thanks also for your patience - it can take a while before my views change, I usually have to be hit over the head with a cluebat several times. But I get there in the end.

Finally, thanks for your friendship. I think that's most important of all.

Battybattybats said...

Your more than welcome Zoe, and any questions you have of my experience are always welcome.

And its good to ponder any subject thoroughly so a fault cannot be found in taking time to change ones mind, only so long as the mind is capable of change and 'damned data', as Charles Fort called it, is not dismissed offhand. And we learn most from that which most challenges us.

I too value your friendship and am most thankful for it.

Oh and as for credit on this result, was this effected by HREOC/AHRC's Sex and Gender Diversity report? Because you and i both put forward some powerful arguments on IS and documentation issues there.

Zoe Brain said...

BBB - I quote:
NSW Births Deaths and Marriages then issued the ‘Sex Not Specified’ Details Recognition Certificate in accordance with recommendations made by the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 2009 report on the legal rights of sex and gender diverse people proposing a greater scope of legal recognition be used beyond male and female for certain individuals.

So yes, this is partly due to you too. Individuals can make a difference. It's by no means guaranteed, and many, many people were involved, but yes, sometimes you do something and it has a real effect.

This is already being quoted outside Australia. There will be ramifications in the future worldwide.