Friday, January 15, 2016

Am I what I am?

According to the BBC, a government report suggests that 'as many as 650,000 people in the UK are "gender incongruent to some degree"'. That sounds like a lot of people, but it represents just 1% of the UK population, the same percentage as have autism, are members of the three mainstream political parties, or believe that their ears stick out too much.

If as many as 1% of the population are "gender incongruent" then 99% or more are not. Gender, or more properly, sex, is still well defined. It still takes a man and a woman to conceive a child without any external assistance, and likewise, it still takes a woman to give birth. This has not changed in aeons.

According to the BBC, MPs declare that the UK is still far from becoming "gender equal". What is "gender equality?

When we think of equality, we primarily think of equality under the law. The law should apply equally to everyone and everyone is expected to abide by the law for the Common Good of society. A lawful government is expected to seek the Common Good of each and every citizen. This means that must enable or supply that which can be reasonably expected for the good of each citizen so that each citizen can bring what they have to the Common Good of Society. At all stages, there is reciprocity, a social contract to draw together the individuals into a society in which they can live seeking the good of others.

What is being suggested is that, as part of their new identity as a woman, a transgender man can claim the right to female only spaces. This is clearly problematic: female only spaces have the property that a woman feeling in need of distance from the company of men can take refuge in such spaces. A transgender man (particularly before surgical augmentation) is still biologically male and thus still represents a threat to vulnerable women.

We can each one of us think of some aspect of our being and seek some entitlement from it. The question is, given that living in Society demands reciprocity, how does that entitlement enable us to contribute to Society and further the Common Good?

Of course, we inhabit a postmodern society: the word "good" means different things to different people. Relativism has exiled the idea of Common Good, replacing it with a society of individual "good"s. Thus we find more and more that the individual's perception of identity and "good"ness are impinging on others'. Most of the time, what one sees as good is rooted in what makes one happy.

This is the wrong way round: happiness needs to be rooted in goodness. To will each other's happiness should be the result of goodness. Goodness should be the cause of Happiness not vice versa. If we accept the premise that goodness is relative, then we have no grounds to complain against ISIS operating its own brand of goodness which involves lopping the heads off of innocent people. If there is no objective goodness, then there can be no moral outrage. Even if ISIS were in the majority (and perhaps they will be, if we're not very careful) their actions cannot ever be described as being good and we know that.

Goodness causes happiness. A man may not be happy being a man, but that is what he is. He may have surgery to "become" a woman, but how does he really know that he has become a woman? How does he know what being a woman is like. We can't ask ourselves what it is like to be someone else because we can never be someone else.

He may acquire certain characteristics of his preconception of what it is to be female; he may believe that he has that character even in himself but it still remains a preconception of what it is to be female, even to the extent of perpetuating a sexual stereotype. Desiring to change into the other sex cannot do anything more than perpetuate sexual stereotypes that are driving the true inequality between men and women. Not to put too fine a point on it, such preconceptions fuel sexism.

What we perceive to be our identity runs deep, even our sexual identity. Only one in two thousand people have an actual genital ambiguity. In the UK, this is about 32,000 people. The rest of us don't suffer this and thus have a well defined genital identity. However, genital identity is not the definition of a person. To reduce someone to a few aspects of their personality is stereotyping and caricature. Some people caricature themselves: we need only look at the life of the gifted comedy actor Kenneth Williams who ended his life as a self parody.

The fact is that we have absolutely no control over our identity whatsoever. We are what we are. Our lives may indeed be a collection of augmentations on that body, but we can never get away from ourselves. In a society based upon superficiality, we may be convinced. Yet, with the increasing level of dissatisfaction with the superficial culture, human beings are beginning to look for themselves again. There is an increasing unhappiness with the situation. Why? Because there is no common goodness.

The existence of a what is truly good points to God. All things made by God are indeed good. Every human being is good in themselves as an indelible part of their identify given to them at birth. For all of us, it is not the struggle to be accepted by God that matters - He has already accepted you in creating you - nor is it the struggle to be accepted by Society that matters - your identity will never meet up with every definition of "good" amid the pluralism of postmodernity - it is the struggle to accept ourselves as we are, and to accept our transformation from sinner to saint that a lifetime with God will generate. He is the author of our being and so only He can make transformation into the Good truly possible.

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