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Saturday, February 24, 2024
Feb. 24, 2024

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Letter: Gender identity is complex


Rory Bowman’s letter (“Relevant category is sex, not gender,” Our Readers’ Views, May 19) merits a response. Bowman engages in faulty biological essentialism to deny that trans and intersex people exist. That is, Bowman believes that a person’s gender is defined by average physical characteristics, and oddly enough, the size of reproductive cells.

But biological essentialism regarding gender is faulty because human physical characteristics don’t crisply segregate with gender differences. Moreover, fundamentally, any kind of essentialism denigrates the value of a human life, since a human life cannot be reduced to a sum of “essential” physical parts for reproduction. Similarly, as Thomas Merton wrote, humans are not machines for making and spending money. This holds for people of all genders.

On the other hand, human existence is much more “dense” than essentialists assert. That is to say the Golden Rule, or benevolence, is mandated in so many religious teachings because our existences are so deeply intertwined with each other. While I cannot imagine my existence as a trans or nonbinary person, I can act as though their experience of themselves is as valid as my experience of myself.

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