Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Sexual-Identity Debate Is So Much More Complicated Than Man and Woman

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Sexual-Identity Debate Is So Much More Complicated Than Man and Woman

Article excerpt

Byline: Sam Leith

THE speed with which matters of sexuality and identity in this country are being liberalised shows no sign of decreasing. We are 50 years on from the decriminalisation of homosexuality for men. Section 28 is a smudge in the rearview mirror. Less than five years ago same-sex marriage became legal. And the Government is now planning sweeping changes to the treatment of trans people.

The suggestion is that trans people will now be able to self-certify, with a statutory declaration that they "intend to live in the acquired gender until death" sufficient to secure a new passport and birth certificate. There'll be no requirement that you live in your target gender for two years, nor that you secure a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, nor that you undergo surgery.

The basic principle underlying this seems to me both decent and reasonable. Most importantly, it de-medicalises the process. It says that trans identity is not a mental pathology. Let's not forget that until 1987 homosexuality was listed as a psychological disorder. It was an important step forward for LGBTQ rights that this injustice was corrected.

You might make a narrower cavil, however. There is an argument that the requirement that you live in the preferred gender for the rest of your life re-entrenches a narrowly binary idea of gender. What of the non-binary or "gender fluid" who might not identify as male or female, and may take the view they have a perfect right to identify as one thing at one point and another, or a third thing, at a later date? And then there is the point at which the extreme constructivist position that gender has nothing whatever to do with physical biology crunches into what might be called the reality-based community. Our whole society as witness the row about the BBC pay gap is organised around gender difference, and that is substantially rooted in ideas about biology. …

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