According to an online BBC report (21 December 2022), so it must be true, if Scotland is representative of the world it has indeed gone mad. How so? Let me explain.

The headline announces: ‘People aged 16 and 17 to be allowed to change gender’. This is what the Scottish Parliament has decided in spite of hecklers shouting ‘Shame on you!’ The BBC elaborates:

The government wants to make it easier for ‘trans’ people to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) that changes the gender recorded on their birth certificate. The proposals will remove the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Hang on a minute! ‘Gender’ is not recorded on birth certificates, or on death certificates, or on passports for that matter: sex as male or female, as the case may be, is what is recorded on birth certificates and other official documents. Sex is an immutable biological fact: it cannot be changed through an Act of Parliament.

The NHS defines gender, which presumably is the same thing as gender identity, thus:

Gender identity refers to our sense of who we are and how we see and describe ourselves.

So it’s a ‘sense’. People may have a sense about all sorts of things but the question is whether one’s birth certificate should be retrospectively altered because of a new sense of identity. Indeed, should a birth certificate ever be altered unless there has been an obvious error?

The NHS also informs us: ‘Gender dysphoria is not a mental illness.’ In that case it can’t be a diagnosis, but what is it then? The NHS again:

Gender dysphoria is a term that describes a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity.

Furthermore, according to the BBC:

Anyone who does obtain a GRC will need to live as their acquired gender  for the rest of their life – and could face prosecution if they do not.

If gender is merely a sense of how someone sees and describes himself or herself, unlike a person’s sex, it’s not necessarily set in stone. Indeed, some people describe themselves as ‘gender fluid’. Why, then, should someone confused over their gender who obtains a GRC be open to prosecution if they change their mind? If gender is someone’s sense of whether they’re male or female, or even if it’s both or neither or something in between, it’s still a feeling – there are no objective criteria for it.

Yet the idea of a GRC implies that someone who is dissatisfied with their sex can declare, even without a so-called diagnosis of gender dysphoria, that they are now of a different gender recognizable for official purposes. For example, if a woman, whose sex is of course registered as female on her birth certificate, obtains a GRC she can retrospectively have her sex as female changed to male on her birth certificate or passport – but this would be a lie.

Gender or sex?
A large part of this problem is due to confusion between gender and sex, using the former when the latter is what’s meant. It’s worth remembering that the Victorians, for all their reputed prudery, had a more robust attitude: it was normal in those times to refer to women as ‘the fair sex’ or even as ‘the sex’.

People can’t change their sex, but if the new Scottish proposals become enshrined in law, then anyone would be able to change his or her gender merely by declaring their new preferred gender identity. The GRC, therefore, would be better called a Gender Alteration Certificate, but what would be the point of that? Would it be to avoid discrimination against so-called transgender people? I believe no one should suffer discrimination on any grounds – every human being should be treated fairly and with respect. But if, say, a man who thinks he’s a woman cannot have his birth certificate or passport changed to say he’s a member of the opposite sex, is that discrimination? I don’t see how stating the truth can be discriminatory.

If a man were to declare that he thinks or believes he’s a woman, then let him so declare. If he wishes to dress in women’s clothes, wear makeup, and affect female mannerisms, let him do so. The same applies, mutatis mutandis, to women. Acting out a fantasy, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else, however, is a personal matter and should be left at that, but for the Scottish Government (or any other government) to give official sanction to such beliefs is a step too far.

Imitation, parody, or caricature
Consider a man who wants literally to be a woman – an impossibility. He regularly takes female hormone (oestrogen) which makes his breasts grow and his beard fail to grow. He has his penis removed, retaining a small part of the glans to function as a clitoris. His testes are removed, his scrotum is re-fashioned to resemble a vulva, and an artificial passage in front of his rectum is constructed in imitation of a vagina. He may undertake plastic surgery to slim down his larynx (Adam’s apple) and alter the shape of his face to a more feminine one. But if you take a microscope to any cell of his body you will find the unalterable XY chromosome – an enduring testament to maleness in the very fibre of his being. To call such a person a woman is a lie: he is an impersonation, caricature, or parody of a woman.

In the case of a woman who tries to turn herself into a man, she has her breasts, uterus, and ovaries removed. She will obviously be infertile and is likely to suffer menopausal symptoms. She will need to take testosterone (male hormone) injections regularly for the rest of her life. But she lacks a penis. To construct one is technically complicated and if undertaken it can never function as a normal penis. And as with a man who wants to change his sex, the tell-tale XX chromosome to be found in every cell of her now mutilated body, is an unassailable and permanent declaration of her femaleness. Such a person would be a grotesque imitation of a man.

Not everyone wishing to ‘transition’ will undergo all or any of these bodily alterations; some may be content merely with hormonal treatment, or with no treatment, and perhaps settle for cross-dressing. Adults should have the right to access such treatments if they want and can afford them, but the law should keep out of it.

Sex: X
In the US from late 2023, without any medical documentation, people will have the option of selecting an ‘unspecified or another gender identity (X)’ instead of stating their sex on passports and other official documents. Thus will those US citizens disdainful of their biology be able to declare their delusions.

No doubt the whole of the UK will soon follow suit.

(About 0.018 per cent of babies at birth show ambiguous genitalia, referred to as disorders of sexual differentiation. The above discussion does not include consideration of these rare abnormalities.)

Text © Gabriel Symonds

Photo credit: Meg on Unsplash