Sex, gender, and listening rather than insulting each other | Waikato Times

Winston Peters was no doubt aware that ‘gender ideology’ had become contentious across a wide political spectrum and surmised that targeting it could potentially attract votes from two very different constituencies, who were usually at opposite ends of the political spectrum: conservative voters (including lobby groups such as Family First); and ‘historically left’, but politically disaffected, ‘gender critical’ feminists (including researchers, health professionals and parents). Albeit resting on different political and ethical foundations, both factions had produced critiques of the guidelines’ definitions of, and conflation between sex, gender, and related terminology. Written in dictionary format, the guidelines’ glossary implies consensus on the meaning of key terms, but concepts such as ‘gender’ and ‘gender identity’ remain objects of dispute. Why?

‘Gender critical’ feminist researchers have critiqued (and opposed aspects of) recent changes to legislation, data gathering, and regulations in which ‘objective’ biological sex categories – male, female, or (rarely) intersex – are being replaced with ‘gender’ categories into which one self-identifies. This, they argue, undermines women’s hard-won sex-based rights and protections – including single-sex sports, spaces to undress, health services, and access to accurate statistical data on sex. It is possible to protect the health, rights, freedoms, and safety of gender non-conformists, they argue, – including those identifying as trans – without diluting these sex-based rights and protections.

In the guidelines, ‘sex’ is defined conventionally as biological – male, female, or intersex. In contrast, ‘gender’ is “an individual identity related to a continuum of masculinities and femininities. A person’s gender is not fixed or immutable.” It is psychological; a characteristic of an individual’s personality or behaviour. Until recently, this psychological notion of ‘gender identity’ was virtually unknown beyond the medical context in which it was ‘invented.’ In the 1950s medical scientists performed non-consensual surgeries to reconfigure ambivalent infant bodies according to binary norms. They imported the word ‘gender’ from linguistics to name a condition in which a person’s ‘psychological sex’ – their feeling of being masculine or feminine – did not conform to the category to which doctors had assigned them. Amongst biologically ‘normal’ infants, such psychological gender incongruence was rare and seen mainly in boys. Today this is known as gender dysphoria.

Until around a decade ago, ‘gender’ was commonly understood as a sociological, not a psychological, category. As Dr Rachel Dixon, quoted in your article, explains, it refers to the stereotyped roles, expectations, behaviours and personal qualities expected of men and women. These vary historically and culturally. During the 1970s-90s, ‘second wave’ feminists worked to abolish ‘gender stereotypes.’ It was fine for girls (females) to present as ‘masculine’, and boys (males) as ‘feminine.’ Homosexuality meant same sex attraction. But the guidelines redefine a homosexual person as ‘sexually attracted to people of the other binary gender,’ thus overturning the meaning of ‘same sex’ attraction. Lesbians (female attracted females) report being vilified for rejecting self-identified ‘lesbian’ but biologically male sexual partners.

From around 2010, there was growing international concern that young people, especially teenage girls, who did not conform to (outdated) gender stereotypes – and who often exhibited an array of other complex psychological conditions – were increasingly rejecting, and seeking (irreversible) medical transitioning of, their ‘wrong bodies.’

Unless they follow international research, the New Zealand public have been largely deprived of information they need to engage with controversies around the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones with gender distressed youth.

As the lead writer of the guidelines, Professor Katie Fitzpatrick, expressed it, “the more we talk about this and open this up for discussions and understanding, it’s actually better than trying to shut down the conversation.

Source: Sex, gender, and listening rather than insulting each other | Waikato Times

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