Whose Gender? Which Identity?

Who decides what these social expectations are and when and why they need to be combated with hormone therapies and gender reassignment surgery?

The Minnesota State High School League has caused something of a media storm by adopting a new policy on transgender athletes which would allow a (biological) male or female to play in a team of the opposite (biological) gender. Aside from the predictable and largely justified outrage, the policy and the action offer insights into the fundamental confusions that lie at the heart of transgender politics.

The draft policy contains the following definitions of gender and transgender persons. Given the dramatic nature of the proposed policy and complexity of the issues involved, these are remarkably brief and superficial.  They also raise far more questions than they answer.

Transgender Person: a person whose gender identity is different from and which does not match the gender assigned at birth.

Gender Identity: a persons’ [sic] deeply-felt internal sense of being male of [sic] female.

Gender Expression: a person’s external characteristics and behaviors that are socially defined as either masculine of [sic] feminine (i.e. dress, speech, mannerisms, social interactions, etc.)

Then, just to provide a veneer of scientific objectivity, the policy refers to the need for the involvement of medical personnel in the initial assessment. In the draft appeals procedure, a letter from a health professional is also required.

Of course, playing the “health care professional” card that does not really address the problem of what transgenderism is: The radical separation of gender from biology thrusts us into the realm of psychology and of philosophical distinctions. Thus, any health care professional opining on this matter is not actually making a statement about a verifiable medical condition but rather making an unfalsifiable philosophical judgment about the personal and social significance of a subjective psychological state.

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