The difference of 30 years

An article in the Huffington Post caught my eye recently. It is an honest, heartfelt story of a woman who obviously cares a great deal for her friend.  She chronicles the emotional journey of learning about her friend’s transgender identity and how she supported the friend through the struggles of the transition process.

But there was a line tucked in the middle, one that could have easily been missed. The author stated, “I agree that it’s kind of scary to admit that many of our previous perceptions around gender were false.”

It seems like such an innocent statement on the surface. However, the implications are striking.

Her assertion leads to some very important questions: On what basis are we attributing truth and falsehood? When has it become so easy and acceptable to allow subjective experience to trump objective reality?

In another article, Carlos D. Flores  uses two different analogies to make a point about this issue:

Suppose that a Caucasian man from Finland—call him Gunther—suddenly decided that he identifies as being of Sub-Saharan African descent. Suppose further that, in light of this, Gunther undergoes unusual procedures to have his skin darkened and his skull’s bone structure re-shaped so as to resemble that of individuals of Sub-Saharan descent. Would we think that such a person has suddenly become of Sub-Saharan descent through such procedures? Of course not, and his identifying as such does nothing to change this. His appearance as someone of Sub-Saharan descent might be very convincing. But, again, this doesn’t change the fact that he is not of Sub-Saharan descent.

 Similarly, suppose that a seventy-year-old man—call him Bob—comes to identify as a sixteen-year-old. Wouldn’t we think it absurd if people considered it “rude” or “bigoted” to tell the man: “You are not sixteen years old. Your identifying as such doesn’t change this fact, and we will not indulge you in your strange delusions by not calling attention to your old age and by pretending that you really are sixteen years old”?

These illustrations serve a powerful point. When there is a disconnect between subjective perception and objective reality, does it make sense to reinforce one’s personal perception as true, even when external and objective factors indicate otherwise?

As people here in Alberta and around the world are facing the transgender revolution, we are experiencing new social norms, options and pressures that simply did not exist before.

And what happens when we legitimize, and even institutionalize, perspectives that equate subjective experience with truth?

Consider the story of Jean Lloyd. In her article, she offers a perspective on how very different her life may have been as a gender confused teenager growing up in 2015, versus in 1985. Her insight into the difference of those 30 years is thought-provoking.

Here in Alberta and around the world, we are facing polices that protect an individual’s self-identification as “the sole measure of their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression” and state that “No student or family should be referred to programs which purport to ‘fix,’ ‘change’ or ‘repair’ a student’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression” (page 5 of Alberta Education’s guidelines document).

Please do not be caught unaware or buy into the idea that these new rules won’t change anything. On the contrary, I would argue that these ideas are incredibly powerful and have significant implications for our next generation’s perception of truth, identity and sexuality.

It’s up to us how we choose to respond – whether we embrace these changes, stand by and allow them to happen or vocally oppose them.  What will you do?

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