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Peter Espeut | Sexual identity, gender identity

Published:Friday | June 17, 2016 | 12:00 AM

"Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions."

- G.K. Chesterton

A new tide of subjectivism is sweeping the world and has begun to lap Jamaica's shores. It must be resisted.

In this way of thinking, nothing is absolute, and reality depends upon what the individual (the subject) 'feels'.

A person may be born with XY (male) chromosomes, which will cause him, as he matures, to develop male sex organs. Sexual identity will, therefore, be male, whether the person feels it or not.

But as every student of sociology knows, gender identity is determined by socialisation, which takes place as a person is impacted upon by family, school and church, and peer group. Males have to learn how to be masculine from other men. If a biological male is not properly socialised into the masculine gender, or is socialised to display feminine traits, the person's gender (as they 'feel' it) will not match his or her biologically determined sex. Later in life, that person may 'feel' like a woman trapped in a male body and may wish to be considered female.

The question we may ask is, is the person - in reality - a man or a woman? The facts are that the person is biologically male but has been socialised into the female gender. Traditional psychology will consider this mismatch to be a 'disorder', requiring corrective therapy.

The philosophy called subject-ivism will declare this mismatch to be 'normal' and 'natural' and will declare that persons should be free to choose whether they wish to be considered a man or a woman and would require everyone else to respect their decision, since they have the 'right' to choose whatever gender they wish.




Rather than just two genders, they will argue, we see in nature, a range of gender identities. Therefore, they conclude, this range of gender identities must be 'normal' and 'natural', and, therefore, not disordered. And individuals must have the 'right' to live according to how they were born.

The fallacy in the argument should be obvious. Persons are not born with a range of gender identities; they are born biologically male (with XY chromosomes) or female (with XX chromosomes). Yes, statistically, there is a tiny number of people born with chromosomal abnormalities (e.g., XXY or XYY), but these are considered to be disorders because of mutations.

The range of gender identities is linked to flawed or incomplete socialisation, which takes place in the years and decades after birth.

I would argue that every biological male has the human right to be socialised into the same gender as his biological sex, and it is a tragedy when dysfunctional families fail to socialise their boy children to be masculine.

So in a culture with male and female washrooms, which toilet should this improperly socialised male be allowed to use? His subjectivist friends will tell him that he has a 'right' to use the washroom of the gender he decides he wants to identify with. What is going to stop him from 'feeling' female today and male tomorrow? This is a recipe for disorder!

But toilets are not gender specific; they are sex specific because they are designed according to the sexual equipment the user brings to the job. It is irresponsible for laws to be passed to permit persons with a clear sexual identity but confused about their gender identity to use any toilet they feel like because this will breach the right to privacy of others.




When this mismatch occurs, and the person feels like a female trapped in a male body, often, they conclude that it is not the feelings that are wrong, but it is the body that is wrong, and so they want a sex-change operation. A surgeon trained in the plastic arts is then employed to construct female sex organs from the patient's male tissue. The name of the operation is a misnomer, for the patient's sex cannot be changed. Every cell in his body contains male genetic material; all that can be changed is outward appearances.

One's sexual identity is not a subjective matter; each of us is born either male or female. When gender socialisation fails, the solution is not to say, as the subjectivists do, "However you feel is normal and natural, and nothing is wrong." We must do everything possible to prevent and reduce these mismatches.

We must strengthen parenting to make primary socialisation more effective, and we must equip school guidance counsellors with the skills to assist schoolchildren confused about their gender identity to straighten themselves out.

- Peter Espeut is a sociologist and Roman Catholic deacon. Email feedback to