Stephen Whittle says yes, John Milbank says noby Stephen Whittle, John Milbank / August 11, 2017 / Leave a comment
The government is proposing to remove the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria before someone is able to apply for gender recognition. But can you choose your gender?
Yes: Growing up, when I tried to imagine myself as a woman, I could see nothing—and that made me suicidal. However, I would see flickers of a man, the man I eventually became… and that, I knew, was iniquitous; sinful.
I eventually became Stephen in 1975. Yet I was still and would remain a woman in law. When my (now) wife gave birth to our children, I was a stranger to them. I could not register as their father, nor adopt them, as the law said we were a lesbian couple and same-sex marriage did not then exist. I was an outlaw. The Gender Recognition Act changed all that, and by 2006, I had been made a professor, received an OBE, had married my wife, and adopted our children. The unbelievable had happened, and the sky had not fallen down.
In 1977, I had not had gender reassignment surgery, but was taking testosterone, so my wife met a standard-issue short, slight, trans man with a full beard. When our relationship showed signs of becoming intimate, I was certain that when she saw the catastrophe of my body, she would shun me. But then, one morning, she told me that she had suddenly understood it—the “it” being transsexuality. “Clearly,” she said, “Some women, a tiny proportion, are born with penises, and a similarly small group of men are born with vaginas.” And that was that.
She was 18, just out of school, and she got it, so why did no one else? They didn’t because they reasoned gender was sex. But gender to sex, is like race to skin. A conjecture put forward by white men to justify their ongoing oppression of others. Now that we understand that gender, like race, was never real, we can choose whether to include it as part of our personal cultural and social expression, and if we desire, we can change it.
No: We must welcome the fact that intersex people with confused genitalia are now treated with compassion. Similarly we must accept that a very few people suffer from gender dysphoria, which may have a physical basis. In either case we should respect the wishes of…