The Cutting Edge-April 14, 2014
Barbara F. Anderson, Ph.D., LCSW
“Neither Female Nor Male” is the title of an op-ed piece by Julia Baird in the NY Times, April 7, 2014. Ms Baird hails from Sydney, Australia and is commenting on a recent Australian court decision addressing the desire for some individuals to decline to adhere to the binary system of gender. At the center is an individual, Norrie May-Welby “who has been permitted to register as ‘nonspecific’ on official certificates. Now, 52, Norrie was identified as male when she was born… but was drawn to the world of girls…. In 1989, Norrie underwent gender [sic] reassignment surgery. But after a while being purely female did not seem right, either.” The article goes on to say that she “began questioning the sex binary, and realized I didn’t want to dissociate myself from aspects of myself simply because they were labeled masculine…. I am both a man and a woman, I am not simply one and not the other.”
In researching this subject, the author says that Nepal now issues citizenship papers with an optional category, “third gender.” Germany became the first European country to allow parents of intersex children to mark their birth certificates with an X. Various terms such as androgynous, neuter, intersex and transgender were considered by the Australian court but “nonspecific” was chosen to describe the situation of an individual unwilling to adhere to the binary system of categorization.
Norrie is reportedly over the moon in view of her triumph in court. She has held news conferences, posed on a rainbow-colored bicycle and then announced her engagement to her best friend, Samuel. Unknown is whether she can marry Samuel in view of the fact that same -sex marriage is illegal in Australia. Well, they’re not the same sex, are they? What’s the problem?
Along the same lines, Facebook now offers users 50 different alternate opportunities to identify one’s gender. Some of the options are non-binary, neutrois, androgyne, agender, gender fluid and neither. This “gender project” was developed with input from Glaad in NY. Facebook has not revealed how many users have departed from the standard choices of M & F.
The 2nd annual Trans 100 event has just occurred. Its purpose is to recognize trans persons who have had a positive impact on society. Trans model, Carmen Carrera, as well as Alana Nicole Sholar, author of “Hung in the Middle: A Journey of Gender Discovery” were both recognized. (See April’s edition of this column for a review of Ms. Sholar’s book).
The NY Times of April 12, 2014 featured an op-ed article, “The Trouble With Too Much T.” The authors, one a bio-ethicist, Katrina Karkazis and Rebecca Jordan-Young, a professor of women’s gender studies, highlight the unfairness of subjecting women athletes with higher-than-average testosterone levels to humiliating tests and treatment involving either surgery or drug therapy to reduce their hormone levels. The authors cite studies which dispute the commonly held belief that T levels predict performance outcome on tests of speed, strength, or determination to win. Instead they maintain that lean body mass better explains superior performance.