Ladies and gentlemen and smizmars…

Should federal IDs offer a category other than male and female?

By Ron Kozar

Everyone has heard of LGBT. Sometimes they add Q, and sometimes more letters. Now, however, maybe they should add N for 2017’s Neologism of the Year, non-binary.

Then there are M and F. Should we add N to that lineup too? Germany says yes. A court in the Fatherland says that basic justice demands a third sex to choose from on official forms.

We know only the first name, Vanja, of the German whose lawsuit elicited the ruling. We know no details of Vanja’s predicament; the New York Times calls Vanja she, while NPR calls Vanja they. But we do know that poster-children for a third sex option usually fall into two categories. First, there are those who may be anatomically male or female but who profess to have come to an inner realization, an existential feeling that neither of the two sexes applies. Second, there are those who are objectively, anatomically ambiguous from birth, such that the doctor might as easily have checked the box for one sex as for the other on the birth certificate.

Other governments and agencies have already taken steps like Germany’s toward a non-binary world. Judges in Oregon and California have issued orders allowing petitioners to officially declare themselves intersex, another nifty neologism. And various states and provinces have started issuing forms that either leave sex out entirely or provide an X or intersex option.

Should something like that be the new rule across the board?

Proponents of a third option often cite statistics on hermaphroditism. One in every 1,500 births, says a UN study, features atypical genitalia. It is common enough that even Pakistan, hardly an exemplar of sexual grooviness, offers a third sex on its forms. And others argue for a third choice more for social reasons than medical ones, in the view that sex, like race, is a social construct, not a necessary category, that the desire to force people into one box or the other is aimed only at perpetuating arbitrary conventions about hairstyle or clothing.

Those who say no argue that the third box is a solution in search of a problem and that hermaphroditism is a statistically puny red herring. Those who portray themselves as intersex, the argument goes, need unsentimental correction and care, not soft-hearted, empty-headed indulgence. The main beneficiaries of the push for brave, new sexualities, opponents contend, will be he-perverts who want to use the girls’ restroom. How many people, naysayers ask, have you ever met whom you had the least trouble calling either male or female?

Whether you’ve met anyone who’s hard to categorize or not, the debate won’t be going away anytime soon.

Ron Kozar is a lawyer in Dayton. Reach him at RonKozar@DaytonCityPaper.com.


Going farther than gender

Third gender options gives equality and humanity

By Patrick Bittner

While many of us have been wallowing in self-pity at the current political climate, myself greatly included, situations that have never before been brought to the public eye have been thrust forward in such a way that our society, and other cultures around the world, have been forced to ask questions that will determine the future of those very cultures. Topics such as equality, inherent rights, and the ability of the government to institute such deeply held ideas have risen to a boiling point. Now, more than ever before, the explicit right to privacy should be given the highest authority. Among these rights, the right to gender privacy is perhaps the most fundamental. Germany has come up with a unique solution to this growing problem; they have allowed a third gender category. While the court ruling allows for the use of a third, non-specific gender, it only allows it to be used at birth. This is a step forward, yes, but ultimately it falls short of the true nature of a privacy provision. The only true measure to ensure equality and privacy is to allow individuals to choose their gender as adults.

While the history of the United States is not necessarily built on total inclusiveness, great progress has been made in the past 200 years. From the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 19th Amendments, to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the definition of “equal” has shifted greatly. However, it was not until the Obama Administration that certain legal guarantees of equality were put into place by the federal government. And while these measures are a step in the right direction, they, as well as the current administration, leave much to be desired. The best way to ensure equality for non-binary and non-gender specific citizens is to give explicit legal rights that guarantee the same treatment under the law that any other citizen would receive. The way to achieve this is to provide an avenue of equality. This can be found in allowing individuals to choose their legal gender, including a third option that is neither male nor female.

Creating a third legal gender option is not only a matter of equality but of privacy. Allowing individuals to choose their gender as adults creates a legal footing for the fundamental right to privacy. Building from the ground up, by allowing this choice, to either declare male, female, or neither, provides a level of privacy and subsequent anonymity that has never before been realized, although it has long been implied by our governing documents. If an individual were allowed to choose their gender, other guarantees would follow. The definition of “peers” when considering jurors becomes more private and more equal, the way healthcare is delivered changes in a way that would benefit a much larger swath of the population, and the way that the demographics are understood and utilized would expand with caution and privacy that would allow scholars and policy makers to craft a better society. Allowing a third gender option would open doors to a portion of the population that has never before been granted these inalienable rights.

We all have an obligation to our fellow citizens to ensure the same treatment that the best of us receive.

Fundamentally, the United States was founded on the idea that we are all equal and that we are all entitled to the same potential and experience. This profound idea is undermined when a significant portion of the population is unable to correctly identify themselves at the most basic level. Creating a system that allows citizens of this great nation to truly be who they feel they are and guaranteeing them the rights and privileges that come with that equality is the true basis of this country. The Germans are moving in the right direction, but it is once again up to the United States to lead the world. And while we have never quite been at the forefront of social change, we have always come out ahead when it comes to moral change. This is not just an issue of equality or privacy, but also one of morality. We all have an obligation to our fellow citizens to ensure the same treatment that the best of us receive. We must promote these ideas but also realize that this is not just a debate of gender, but one of humanity. Allowing a third, non-specific, gender option would give more than equality, privacy, and morality, it would give humanity to those in our society that are most often demonized for simply being who they are. I urge everyone of us to be better, to do better, and to treat each other better.

Reach DCP freelance writer Patrick Bittner at PatrickBittner@DaytonCityPaper.com.


Misidentification

Biological identification is crucial for public safety

By Don Hurst

The United States should not follow Germany’s lead to offer a third gender option for identification cards. People are free to live however they want without government prejudice, but identification cards are not the place for individual expression. These are legal documents with the sole purpose of proving you are the person you say you are.

Contrary to the increasingly louder cries for a gender-neutral society, our perceived sex continues to assert itself in important ways. When victims of crime describe suspects to the police they usually start with race and gender. Even the most #woke victim will use gender specific pronouns. A white guy robbed me. An Asian woman stole my car. A third gender option would be of no help to law enforcement to capture criminals.

Family members of missing persons speak in terms of perceived gender as well. How would that conversation go without gender specific pronouns? Who is missing? My child. Son? Daughter? Just a human child. Fantastic…that doubles the search criteria while reducing the probability of a safe return. But at least that missing human child didn’t have to live with society shoving a gender on them.

Gender is crucial to identifying unknown bodies in the morgue. I don’t mean to get too morbid here, but in my years as a cop, I saw more unidentified dead people than I thought was possible. The first thing investigators will go on are the biological identifiers. White male with brown hair, brown eyes, 165 pounds, about 30 years old. Then they comb through missing persons reports and state identification records for anyone matching that biology. A third option would help the less than one percent of the population who possess genuine ambiguous genitalia, but it does no good for those whose psychology motivates them to select the “other” box.

These biometric criteria are for the government to identify you. Anything that impedes that goal has no place on ID cards. That’s why the photo has to look like you. That’s why the address has to be correct. That’s why your signature is on the card. Your driver’s license does not exist to make you feel comfortable in your skin.

The argument for adding a third option that I hear most often is that it’s not fair to force people to choose male or female. Allowing them to identify as other is more inclusive and humane. Can we follow that logic for a bit? When I was a child I only had to deal with two genders. Forty years later we have 63 genders. By the time this article is published, we could be pushing 80.

People are free to live however they want without government prejudice, but identification cards are not the place for individual expression.

How do we equally respect all those nuances of self-identification? I doubt all those other genders will be happy about being lumped into one “other” pool. The Masculine Male-Attracted Androdites are different than the Masculine Male-Attracted Hermaphromales which are different than the Masculine Male-Attracted Hermaphrofemales.

Accommodating the entire spectrum of gender identity is impractical. I understand the charge is for three gender options, but history proves that there will eventually be a call for either no gender on identification, or a way to include all the genders. We can’t throw out gender because biological identifiers have legitimate uses. Parsing out these differences that are more internal than external is unreasonable. The differences are glaringly dramatic to those in that community, but try explaining them to the 99 percent not in that community and you’ll just confuse them. For ID purposes, clarity is essential.

These checked boxes cannot account for all variations even if you are in the 99 percent. I’m a white male, but what does white mean? European? Slavic? South African? What about Asian box checking people? Are they Japanese, Chinese, Cambodian? Who knows? The boxes aren’t designed to drill down into the specifics of your biological identity; just the very broadest most identifiable category.

This debate brings to light a glaring contradiction in our society. We march and protest for greater inclusion while identifying ourselves in ever-limited niche tribes. Christian? Presbyterian or Reformed Baptist? Republican? Rino or Freedom Party? Gay? Well, what kind of gay? We cry out against labels oppressing us while creating at least 60 new labels for ourselves.

We hoped these new labels would create clarity and peace within ourselves. I no longer have to question who I am when I have a very specific term that defines me as a person and differentiates me from everyone else.

Unfortunately, these new constructs are flimsy. Strong ideas don’t require constant external validation. Strong senses of self don’t need other people to tell them who they are; they just are. How weak, how unreal is an identity if it cracks when a government form does not have a checked box for it? Perhaps the real question is how we can develop inner strength, so we can be comfortable with ourselves no matter what it says on a government issued ID card.

Don Hurst is a combat vet and a former police officer. He now lives in Dayton where he writes novels and plays. Reach DCP freelance writer Don Hurst at DonHurst@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Don Hurst
Don Hurst is a combat vet and a former police officer. He now lives in Dayton where he writes novels and plays. Reach DCP freelance writer Don Hurst at DonHurst@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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