Light is Right Joe Campbell

Light is Right Joe Campbell

When she revealed that she was carrying twins, her next-door neighbour suggested an ultrasound to determine their sex. “Ultrasounds don’t determine sex,” she replied.

“Of, course,” the neighbor declared, “I should have said ‘discover.’”  But the clarification didn’t help.

The twins came only minutes apart. When the first arrived, the doctor declared happily, “It’s a boy.” The new mother frowned. “But you needn’t worry,” the doctor said when the second arrived. “This one’s a girl.”

She frowned again.

“Are you all right?” a nurse asked after the doctor had left the room.

“It’s not up to him to decide my children’s gender,” she replied.

“You just decided the doctor’s,” the nurse said.

“We’re all afflicted with society’s male-female biases,” she replied.

When I heard the foregoing anecdote, I couldn’t help wondering what species we belong to. The ancient Greeks labeled us rational animals. But if we’re beginning to think that male and female are biases rather than biological realities, maybe the label no longer applies.

When it matters, few of us fail to recognize the biological imperatives of sex in animals. If dairy farmers treated their cows as bulls and stopped milking them, it could be costly. If ranchers treated their bulls as cows and tried milking them, it could be deadly. If both promoted same-sex mating in their herds, it could be both.

But if sexual realities are obvious in animals but not in us, maybe we’re not animals after all; and if we’re increasingly incapable of assessing the biological evidence, maybe we’re not rational either.

Oh, I know that in some of us our sexual organs and inclinations may be out of sync or our genitalia ambiguous. But because that’s the way they are doesn’t mean that’s the way they should be. The way they should be depends on what they’re for, their function. An essential function of our sexual equipment and inclinations is procreation. When they’re in sync and unambiguous, they’re usually functional. To the extent that they’re out of sync or ambiguous, they’re dysfunctional.

The dysfunctional is not a rational basis for recognizing sexual identity. Nor is it something to be desired or celebrated.

We have little difficulty seeing this with other biological attributes. Few of us celebrate visual, auditory and digestive dysfunction or base identities on them. We try to overcome or cope with macular degeneration, inner ear impairment and eating disorders.

I realize that some who are hearing impaired or anorexic see their condition as essential to their identity and embrace it. Nevertheless, their preferences don’t alter the reality that deafness and near starvation are dysfunctional. They militate against what ears and digestive systems are for.

I don’t claim that having sex is only about procreating life any more than eating is only about sustaining it. Having sex is also about intimate love and venereal pleasure just as eating is also about fellowship and gustatory pleasure. But life is a fundamental human good and abusing it is fundamentally evil. Consequently, to embrace dysfunctional sex or eating is morally wrong.

When we lose sight of what sex is for, different genital arrangements, genders, and orientations can seem like natural variants of masculine and feminine rather than dysfunctions. Hence, the elevation to equality of asexual, intersexual, transsexual, transgender, intergender, genderfluid, gay, and lesbian disorders, among other supposed identities. Unhinged from the reality of human sex, they seem to be increasing and multiplying and filling the earth. Why, one sexual prophet claimed that there are as many genders as there are people.

Champions of sexual irregularities may claim that they’re innate or God given and we should therefore allow them to flourish. If so, we could say the same of the much more numerous non-sexual disorders many of us are born with. But surely we shouldn’t champion genetic predispositions to kleptomania, excessive hoarding, hyperactivity, alcoholism or obesity. Rather we should champion and help those afflicted with them. What’s more, in a fallen world it makes no sense to attribute human imperfections to God.

Not so long ago, gender usually referred only to words and inflections that were masculine or feminine in languages like French. Second-wave feminists, however, appropriated the term to describe sex-based social constructs. Ever since, feminist philosophers—there are such creatures—have been arguing with each other about what the term means.

Whatever the result, let’s hope they come to realize that gender irregularities are more critical in life than in language.