These days you can find ‘educated people’ correcting you if you use the word ‘sex’ to refer to either of the two categories which divide humans (and most other beings) according to their reproductive function. Do you mean “gender” they will say. Hmm? The fairer gender?
You will read John Stuart Mill’s essay on The Subjection of Women without once coming across the word gender. Plenty of “sex” no “gender.” Gender is a modern construction when applied biologically to distinguish men from women. It has caught on because it lends itself to fragmentation. Sex is binary. Gender, apparently, can be a continuum of finely divided sexual orientations.
Those in the know claim there are many complex gender variations among folk on the planet. As I am not one of those in the know I Googled. Prominently, on the first page of search results, was a site, apath.org. It listed 63 genders broken down by physicality, personality, preference and descriptor. For example, number 57 was an “Androgyne, female-attracted hermaphromale.” Mindboggling.
Another site lifehacker.com.au was less ambitious in referring to a Queensland University survey which listed in less exotic terms 33 different genders. Even so, the meaning of descriptors such as neutrois, genderqueer, demigender, and trigender, are not immediately obvious (to me). I re-Googled with a slightly different query. Up popped Tumblr, wherein ambition knows no prosaic bounds. Tumblr is a social-network blogging site; which, I concede, heretofore, has escaped my attention. On my count, it lists 112 different gender types. Maybe it’s a spoof? I would like to think so. Take the first one on the list.
“Abimegender: a gender that is profound, deep, and infinite; meant to resemble when one mirror is reflecting into another mirror creating an infinite paradox.”
This and most other of their gender types are even more mysterious to me than are cryptocurrencies and blockchains. I am out of my depth and must move on.
What I am moving onto is men’s and women’s sports, which I do understand. Or I did. Now I have a deep sense of unease about the whole business of sex-segregated sports. Even mixed doubles in tennis is open to interpretation as to how mixed it is or has to be.
To illustrate my dysphoria, I will refer to three cases recently in the news. The first concerns Hannah Mouncey. This is how one newspaper (Daily Mail, February 2018) reported her position:
Previously known as Callum before her transition, Mouncey was part of the national men’s handball side which competed to qualify for the Rio Olympics. She stood at 190cm tall and a muscular 100kg with strength and body mass test results ‘off the charts’. However, the athlete started hormone therapy to become a woman in 2015 and was previously found within the testosterone limits permitted by the International Olympic Committee, which the AFL has adopted for transgender athletes.
She has now been cleared by the AFL to play in state leagues during the 2018 season. Let me say, I pass no judgment on Ms Mouncey. Good luck to her. But just once I played a game of Aussie Rules. It was not a happy experience for someone of my size and not the most alpha-male kid on the block. I resolved to stick to soccer. I definitely would not want to tangle with Mouncey in any full-on contact sport. And I doubt many women would either.
Notice, testosterone seems to be the principal criterion for deciding eligibility.
My second case concerns New Zealander Laurel (formerly Gavin) Hubbard. This is how one newspaper (SMH, November 2017) reported her position:
The 39-year-old was a national junior record-holder in the male 105kg class before transitioning in her mid-30s. Rival athletes complained that she had an unfair advantage after winning gold at the Australian Open this year, lifting 123 kilos in the snatch and 145 kilos in the clean and jerk…Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand said she met International Olympic Committee regulations related to acceptable testosterone levels.
The International Olympic Committee allows transgender (male to female) athletes, who have not had reassignment surgery, to compete internationally provided they keep their testosterone levels below a specified benchmark for twelve months before competing.
My last case concerns Mack (Makenzie) Beggs. This is how one newspaper (The Guardian, March 2017) reported the case.
Mack Beggs, the 17-year-old transgender athlete…was jeered by some spectators after winning the Texas girl’s wresting competition…Beggs, who identifies as male and is transitioning from female to male, drew the ire of some, who believed his testosterone supplements make him too strong to compete against girls; he went undefeated for the entire season.
And, by the way, Beggs won the title again as an 18-year-old in February this year and against the same unfortunate non-transitioning girl in the final. To be fair to Beggs, he says he wants to compete against males but isn’t allowed to in old-fashioned Texas, where a person’s sex is fixed by whatever is recorded on their birth certificate. On the other hand, what’s the self-identifying-male Beggs doing wrestling against girls? It ain’t gentlemanly, some man in his life might care to inform him.
Testosterone is again in the frame. But this time in the opposite direction. In this case, boosting testosterone gives Beggs an advantage, just as reducing it allows Mouncey and Hubbard their advantage.
To where will all this messing around with hormones lead? I don’t know. It is confusing to those of us more comfortable in a less-fluid sexual world. And now comes WA Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds (SMH, February 2018) to pile bewilderment on confusion.
We no longer segregate women solely on their gender. Women now have the opportunity to compete on merit in the military, maybe it’s time to rethink the segregation of women in sport simply based on their gender and not on the talent.
Based on their gender, she says. Does she mean sex? Or does she really mean gender? If indeed males and females are in reality a differential mish-mash of a host of gender characteristics, it no longer makes sense to have sexually-divided sports at all. So, yes, let’s simply have non-gender, non-sex specific sports. There go women’s sports as we knew them.
After all, in this brave new world of gender fluidity, Margaret Court and Billie Jean would have struggled against Rocket Rod if he’d decided to transition half-way through his career. No tennis hall of fame for them. Alternatively, Mesdames Court and King might have won even more grand slams with a judicious regimen of testosterone injections.
What a pickle we’re in. And it’s our own work. At least part of it is.
Those of us who still have our common sense, have not pushed back hard enough against the postmodernist, Marxist, leftist, radical feminist, LGBTQI claptrap that would doom our society to androgyny. Best to shout from the rooftops that the future of mankind (sorry, ‘people-kind’) depends on mums, dads and kids who respectively fall, without ambiguity, into one or other of the two binary sexual categories.