Lost in the Gender Triangle: is transgenderism social, medical or legal?

source: http://www.mercatornet.com/conjugality/view/lost-in-the-gender-triangle-is-transgenderism-social-medical-or-legal/18084

There is an area of the Atlantic Ocean, called the Bermuda Triangle, within which ships and aircraft vanish without a trace. When it comes to transgenderism all reason and logic disappears within what we might call the Gender Triangle.

The Gender Triangle is that area enclosed by the relationships between three distinct models of gender—the social, the medical and the legal. As we shall see, these relationships are flawed beyond repair.

Let us begin with the social side of the triangle.

Feminist academics use the term gender to denote the socio-cultural outworking of sexual difference, existing in the form of expected behaviours and appearances i.e., stereotypes. These folks see gender as a limiting social construct which ought to be airbrushed out of existence for the sake of justice and equality.

And yet John, who is male-sexed, is now legally permitted to enter a female restroom on grounds of having appropriated for himself certain female stereotypes—make-up, long hair and so on. In an effort to erase stereotypes the State has succeeded only in reinforcing them. And of course the reason John seeks to appropriate the stereotypes which have clustered around femaleness is that it is not possible for him to appropriate femaleness itself. He can look like a female but cannot look as a female.

The second side of the Gender Triangle is the medical model.

It says John can experience a difference between his sex and gender identity, with said difference falling within the sphere of medicine. Treatment may involve major surgery. The contradiction here is that certain countries permit John to change legal identity (‘re-assign’ gender) without surgery, without hormone injections and without diagnosis. In Denmark John need only fill in a couple of forms. The emerging gold standard of gender re-assignment laws is that countries should implement a regime of self-declaration: When John says he is female, his saying so is also the very thing which makes him so.

Unless we are to consider gender re-assignment to be some kind of talking therapy, we have another contradiction on our hands: how can a medical problem be cured by having the sufferer fill in a form? Transgender, heal thyself?

Moreover, there is an obvious tension between the academics and the surgeons, as gender identity cannot be both a social construct which the State can erase by force of law and a personal condition which a surgeon can erase with a scalpel. Where does this leave us? Well, given that gender identity cannot be both social and medical, the temptation is to conclude that it must be one or the other. But there is a second conclusion available to us, namely that gender identity is something other than social or medical.

To expand on this, consider just a few of the many ways in which the idea of self-chosen legal identities contradicts both academia and medicine. Let us suppose that John wishes to undergo legally unnecessary ‘gender confirmation surgery’. It is possible for a surgeon to sculpt John’s body into a rough approximation of the female form, and this is possible precisely because the female form exists. But what if John identifies as, say, bi-gender or pan-gender? How can any surgeon know what a pan-gender body looks like? What are we to make of this notion of attempting to transform John’s body so that it ‘fits’ his mind? Such a notion can make no sense unless gender is understood to be mapped onto sex.

read more at: http://www.mercatornet.com/conjugality/view/lost-in-the-gender-triangle-is-transgenderism-social-medical-or-legal/18084