Sexuality and Gender

Slate: Don’t Let the Doctor Assign a Gender to Your Newborn

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 06/27/2014

Remember when I said that we should expect more attempts to erase the differences between men and women, and that the conflict in our culture over sexuality is, at root, a disagreement over “whether human nature is something in particular or a sea of possibilities bound only by what we can imagine for ourselves”?

Well, Slate has kindly illustrated that for me in its article “Don’t Let the Doctor Do This to Your Newborn”:

It’s a strange hypothetical scenario to imagine. Pressure to accept a medical treatment, no tangible proof of its necessity, its only benefits conferred by the fact that everyone else already has it, and coming at a terrible expense to those 1 or 2 percent who have a bad reaction. It seems unlikely that doctors, hospitals, parents, or society in general would tolerate a standard practice like this.

Except they already do. The imaginary treatment I described above is real. Obstetricians, doctors, and midwives commit this procedure on infants every single day, in every single country. In reality, this treatment is performed almost universally without even asking for the parents’ consent, making this practice all the more insidious. It’s called infant gender assignment: When the doctor holds your child up to the harsh light of the delivery room, looks between its legs, and declares his opinion: It’s a boy or a girl, based on nothing more than a cursory assessment of your offspring’s genitals.

Male and female aren’t particular things. They aren’t real. And they certainly have nothing to do with what genitals your baby has. They’re merely a doctor’s “opinion,” and he’s stepping completely over the line by forcing his opinion on the baby.

According to the author, Christin Scarlett Milloy, “assigning” a gender to your child is potentially damaging:

We tell our children, “You can be anything you want to be.” We say, “A girl can be a doctor, a boy can be a nurse,” but why in the first place must this person be a boy and that person be a girl? Your infant is an infant. Your baby knows nothing of dresses and ties, of makeup and aftershave, of the contemporary social implications of pink and blue. As a newborn, your child’s potential is limitless. The world is full of possibilities that every person deserves to be able to explore freely, receiving equal respect and human dignity while maximizing happiness through individual expression.

With infant gender assignment, in a single moment your baby’s life is instantly and brutally reduced from such infinite potentials down to one concrete set of expectations and stereotypes...

And there it is. We cannot stand to have any sort of ruler over us. We are gods, able to create even our own being by our will and desires. We answer to no one and nothing. No reality of what it means to be human defines us—not even our own bodies. We define all. We create all. We transcend all.

It’s madness.