You may have heard: gender issues are to be taken with gravitas in the 21st century. If events over the course of 2006 are any indication, this is serious business indeed. Bearing this weightiness in mind, I shall devote this month’s column to counting down what I believe to be the top ten most important gender-related stories of the past year. May you never use the pronouns ‘he’ or ‘she’ again without due reflection.
10. The New York City Board of Health, with the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, considered a policy that would permit people born in the Big Apple to change the sex recorded on their birth certificates if they so desire. The idea, as described by advocates, is “to separate sexual identification from anatomy.” Only an affidavit from a doctor or mental health professional making the case for the change would be required. To be eligible for the affidavit, applicants would have to have changed their name and shown that they had lived in their adopted gender for at least two years. “Surgery versus non-surgery can be arbitrary,” explained Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City’s health commissioner, to The New York Times (Nov. 6). “Somebody with a beard may have had breast-implant surgery.”
9. A cross-dressing Norwegian man who describes himself as a "trans-person” has appealed to his government to assist him in obtaining two passports, one with a woman's passport photo. The cross-dresser explained to Norway's Aftenpost (Aug. 30), “I have previously applied to the Ministry of Justice on this matter, since traveling as a woman leads to considerable problems when one's passport photo depicts a man.” Increased security checks at airports since September 11, 2001, he complained, have “made it virtually impossible [for me] to travel as a woman.”
8. According to researchers, unfermented soybean products like tofu and soy milk are feminizing boys. Although soy has many healthy nutrients, it also contains substantial quantities of the female hormone estrogen. Parents who feed their babies soy formula are flooding their infant bodies with the estrogen equivalent of five birth control pills a day. Furthermore, medical studies show that soy is feminizing boys; regular consumption commonly leads to a decrease in penis size, testicular atrophy, sexual confusion and homosexuality (WorldNetDaily, Dec. 12).
7. A student organization calling itself the GenderQueer Task Force at the University of Colorado at Boulder claimed that the school's public restrooms are discriminatory against “genderqueers” — people who consider themselves neither male nor female. According to the student-run Daily Camera (May 1), Task Force members are demanding that signs on restrooms feature a hybrid icon with half of the figure wearing a dress and the other half wearing pants.
6. A bill pending in the California legislature, if it becomes law, would remove all references to gender in public schools. The legislation, sponsored by former actress Sen. Sheila Kuehl, would require all references to “husband” and “wife” or “mom” and “dad” to be removed from school textbooks.
5. Fire Captain Jamie Faucon of Knoxville, Tennessee, filed a grievance against Fire Chief Carlos Perez. The captain accused her boss of depriving her of a take-home car, of reassigning her, and cutting out her overtime — all because she is a transgendered fireman. Faucon, who underwent surgery to change from male to female in 2005, also alleged that her superior used “incorrect gender terms” when referring to her in conversations in 2006. Since Faucon has legally changed gender, she wants the misuse of pronouns to stop. “The proper terminology should be she, her, or ma'am. Not he, sir, or his,” Faucon told Knoxville's Channel 6 News.
4. You’ve heard of same-sex marriage, but have you heard of “same-person marriage”? In June, a group of women from Vancouver, British Columbia, gathered in a park near Jericho Beach dressed in wedding gowns for a mass marriage ceremony. Taking advantage of Canada's new same-sex marriage law, each of the seven women, aged 24 to 50, married herself. Corset designer Melanie Talkington, one of the brides-to-be, explained that by marrying herself she intends “to embrace her femininity” (LifeSiteNews.com, June 22).
3. According to an official government announcement, Spain will be issuing new birth certificates in which the word “father” will be replaced with “Progenitor A,” and “mother” will be replaced with “Progenitor B.” Pilar Blanco-Morales, the head of the national Civil Register, told the Spanish newspaper ABC (Mar. 6) that the change was necessary to avoid discrimination against same-sex couples after the Socialist government approved “gay marriage” in 2005.
2. A prisoner in a North London jail for women who underwent a state-funded $25,000 sex-change operation to become a woman is to undergo further surgery to become a man again. John Piley, known at the moment as Jane Anne, made legal history in 1999 by becoming the first inmate in Britain to be granted permission for “gender reassignment.” The 54-year-old felon, serving time in the big house for attempted murder and kidnapping a female taxi driver, underwent seven years of hormone treatment prior to his surgery — all at taxpayers’ expense. During that time he was permitted to wear women’s clothing at night but wore men's clothes during the day. After his second operation he will be returned to a men’s prison in Leicestershire (London Times, Jan. 12).
And a drum roll please…
1. Church of England leaders have warned that calling God “He” encourages men to beat their wives. They told churchgoers they must think twice before they refer to God as “He” or “Lord” because it could lead to domestic abuse. In new guidelines for bishops and priests on such abuse, they blamed “uncritical use of masculine imagery” for encouraging men to behave violently toward women. They also warned that clergy must reconsider the language they use in sermons and check the hymns they sing to remove signs of male oppression (Daily Mail, Oct. 12).
Alas, such was 2006. May the coming year bring greater clarity. Happy New Year!