Sun | May 28, 2017

Garth Rattray: New questionnaires needed

Published:Monday | July 13, 2015 | 7:00 AM

In spite of social and religious resistance in diverse places across the globe, the world is going through a major sexual flux. As I have repeatedly stated, I have no problem with people who manifest variant sexual preferences. I staunchly believe that although most people are hard-wired/preprogrammed to be attracted to the opposite gender, some are wired to be attracted to the same gender or even to both genders. Additionally, some gender preferences come about because individuals were either traumatically or passively sexually socialised.

I believe that no one can dictate how people should feel about each other. It just so happens that I am heterosexual; but some people are not. Do they deserve being ostracised? Do we know beyond a shadow of a doubt whether or not the biblical writings of the many 'abominations' were intended to bring order in society and not so much to indicate the activities that are an affront to our Heavenly Father?

Varying sexualities

Whether you or I like it or not, there is a global explosion of variations in sexuality, legally binding sexual relationships, and same-gender family units, yet outmoded questionnaires are still being used to glean vital social statistics about applicants for a wide variety of jobs, permits, licences, accounts and visas.

Questionnaires do not address modern-day sexuality. A simple answer to the question of gender has become a hugely confusing issue. Forms still present choices of 'male' or 'female' or an empty space to write in 'male' or 'female'.

But now, things are not that easy as they were a few years ago. With people revealing that they have always felt feminine, even though they were born male (and vice versa), and undergoing hormonal and surgical alterations to change their appearance and function to match their inner feelings, the male/female designation is blurred.

If respondents have undergone physical alterations and now call themselves female (instead of male), it would certainly not be accurate to tick 'female' because, genetically, those individuals are still males. That can never change. Since such individuals perceive themselves as females, they are certainly not going to tick 'male' on any questionnaire in response to the question of gender.

I think that we should resolve the conundrum by asking about 'sexual appearance' and 'genetic make-up'. Therefore, someone like Caitlin (formerly Bruce) Jenner, who is now expressing as a female, would respond 'female' for sexual appearance and 'male' for genetic make-up. That would provide an accurate determination of gender. Someone like me would respond 'male' for both.

Frankly, although I hold liberal views on individual sexuality, I don't agree with calling a same-gender union a marriage. Why didn't they leave it at a 'civil union'? Are there two wives or two husbands in a same-gender marriage? The nomenclature has become unclear - but, it is what it is.

Now that the Supreme Court of the United States has made same-gender marriages legal in all 50 states, the age-old questionnaire choice of 'wife' or 'husband' has lost its relevance. The designation of wife or husband in a same-gender marriage is solely dependent on the individuals. In other words, the character and role of wife or husband may be indeterminate to outsiders. Questionnaires should, therefore, only ask about a 'spouse'.

Old terms

Another obvious problem arises when it comes to widow and widower. In same-gender marriages, when one predeceases the other, if there were two males and the survivor was the 'wife' in the relationship, is he a widow? Conversely, if two females were married and one dies, but the survivor had assumed the role of 'husband', is she a widower? And if a 'transgender' female marries a male but dies, is the survivor a widow or a widower?

It seems to me that we should abandon those terms and insert 'surviving spouse' instead. Additionally, unless married spouses keep their original names, we will also need a new word to replace 'maiden name' and 'nee'. They should be supplanted by 'former name'.

All this confusion is coming our way sooner or later. We might as well start preparing for it now.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.