Female, Male, Both, Neither?

Bearded Iris

Bearded Iris

In the 1950’s my friend’s brother and his wife had a new baby. Her genitals were neither all-male nor all-female and they decided to call her a girl and operate on her to give her the appearance of a female. When she grew up she married and adopted a child. Decades later I began hearing about people who had the body of a male, for example, but felt like a female. They were frustrated when their parents tried to force them into a gender role that felt alien to them. I hoped that in the future parents and others would be more flexible about gender roles for kids, encouraging them to be who they are.


In early April, Australia’s High Court ruled that Norrie May-Welby could register as “nonspecific” on official certificates. She appeared to be male when she was born but was drawn to the world of girls. She played with dolls at age 4 and tied a tie around her head at night to create the illusion of long hair.


In 1989 Norrie underwent gender reassignment surgery but being only female didn’t seem right, either. She didn’t want to dissociate herself from aspects of herself simply because they were labeled masculine. She considered herself both male and female.


Julia Baird wrote in the April 6 New York Times about the 1995 Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act (New South Wales). “Australia’s highest court found that a person’s sex might be ambiguous and does not require that people who, having undergone a sex affirmation procedure, remain of indeterminate sex—that is, neither male nor female—must be registered, inaccurately, as one or the other. The Act itself recognises that a person may be other than male or female and therefore may register as ‘nonspecific.’


“The implications are enormous” Baird writes. “Five of the seven Australian states and territories have the same language in their legislation, so it is expected to apply to most of the country, and to be used for interpretation of any laws that refer to the sex of a person.


“A ruling last year in Australia states that people could mark X for ‘indeterminate’ in the gender category of their passports (without having had surgery); the same decision had been made a year earlier in New Zealand… in 2013 Nepal started to issue citizenship papers with a category for a ‘third gender,’ and Germany became the first European country to allow parents of intersex children—those born with both genitals, or ambiguous sex characteristics—to mark their birth certificates with an X.” In this country, President Obama said, “every single American—gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender—deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law.” Transgender service members are still described by the U.S Defense Department as deviates, but Defense Secretary Hagel is open to a review of this policy. Gays and lesbians have been able to serve openly since 2010.


Baird writes, “The global third-gender movement is gaining momentum with a startling rapidity that our laws and language are scrambling to keep pace with. Norrie prefers the term ‘androgynous’… but the court decided on ‘nonspecific…’”


How long will it take until parents routinely raise babies and toddlers with a flexible attitude about gender instead of thrusting a gender upon them that might not fit? Boys who want to wear pink. Biological girls who identify mainly with maleness and children who feel they’re both genders—or neither—will be accepted.


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See The Enneagram of Parenting (Kindle and Paperback) and Finding the Birthday Cake (an Enneagram book using animal characters for small children.)

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