If We Can Pick Our Gender, Can We Pick Our Age? Our Race?
Stella Morabito
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Facebook offers a rainbow selection of more than 50 genders to choose from when you sign up. So why doesn’t Facebook let us select our date of birth as well? After all, both our sex and our age are “assigned” to us at birth. If you perceive yourself as younger or older than the “official” calendar says you are, you face discrimination by the state, by employers, by schools, and the whole array of ageist organizations and clubs and restaurants, etc., that provide you only one option when it comes to age or date of birth. And they stick you with it for life.

But the Facebook gender-bending menu is old news, at least a month old.

The new news is that Maryland is next on the hit parade of states (it will be the 18th) to pass legislation claiming to protect transgendered individuals from discrimination. It’s due to happen today in fact (if it hasn’t already). If you haven’t yet heard about the Maryland law, that’s because there appears to have been a pretty strict media blackout on it.

Your gender identity – in case you didn’t know – is your perception of yourself as either “male, female, or something else.” And that’s official, according to the American Psychological Association. Many LGBT activists will say that gender identity means your perception of yourself as “male, female, both, or neither.” In any event, most such legislation, including the Maryland bill, define gender identity as: “the gender related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior of a person, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth.”

But a big part of the audacity of the legislation is that it goes by the devious name “Fairness for All Marylanders Act.” What it really means is “Fairness for Some Marylanders,” only those who perceive themselves to be a different gender from the sex “assigned” to them on their birth certificate. Yet there are no doubt a whole lot more – probably millions more – Marylanders who perceive themselves a different age than what was assigned to them at birth. Senate Bill 212 affords them no protection at all. None. Every single Marylander must abide by the age assigned to them by the State of Maryland. And so this bill really perpetuates – in your face — continued discrimination in the workplace, at schools, and, well, in all areas of life where people might look at us funny or make unfair assumptions when we say we’re one age and they see us as another.

Neither does the Maryland legislation provides any relief whatsoever for individuals who are discriminated against on the basis of their racial or ethnic identity. Should those who perceive themselves as Native American or African American be discriminated against just because the world perceives them as white or Pacific Islander? Not if SB 212 means anything.

But we won’t go there for now. Let’s stick with the issue of age identity. It’s most closely related to gender identity because both deal with a trait “assigned” at birth. Sex happens. By which I mean that well over 99 percent of the population is born with distinctive physical characteristics that are either male or female. But – get this – one hundred percent of the population is born at a distinct time that forces an identity of age on them, whether they like it or not. Worse, we are not permitted to change that date on our birth certificates. This puts us all at a definite disadvantage – unequal if you will – with transgendered individuals who are already given the privilege of changing their gender on their birth certificate in several states — and counting. But many transgendered individuals may well agree that age identity has been a neglected area of anti-discrimination law.

Do you feel you need an example of age identity discrimination? Don’t get me started. I’m what some people would call “old.” That’s a slur. Hate speech. I identify as younger than the age I was assigned at birth. A couple of decades actually, which is at least a half a career-span. Yet my career options are grossly cut off because of age identity discrimination.

Below are just a very few examples of the suffering that genuinely can and does occur through age identity discrimination.

A 72-year-old identifies as 50. She has enormous experience, a sharp mind, and excellent health, but she is forced to retire from teaching.

A 12-year-old who identifies as 20, wise beyond her years, is stuck in an inane middle school classroom from which the state offers no escape.

A 57-year-old has had a lot of health problems and identifies as 76 but social security is withheld from him until the state deems he is “at least 62 years old.” (Maybe he can get disability benefits, but that’s irrelevant to the fact that he identifies as an age that’s well within the realm of qualifying for collecting social security.)

Codified Perceptions Make Bad Law

The most dangerous thing about the language of gender identity legislation — including the version before Congress known as ENDA — is that it codifies self-perceptions. (You can read an extensive piece here which I wrote about ENDA when it was passed by the Senate last year.) Perceptions are protean things, slippery and ever shifting. They exist not just in the eye of the perceiver, but of the perceived as well. What you perceive today – about yourself or anyone else – may change completely tomorrow.

To codify self-perceptions as protected traits requires that the rule of law give way to as many different interpretations of perceptions as there are people perceiving and being perceived. Such Orwellian distortions of language always serve as recipes for tyranny. They become halls of smoke and mirrors that breed more ambiguity and confusion. It requires us to do away with any common acceptance of reality. This is a very hazardous path. It doesn’t lead to justice and it doesn’t lead to liberty for all. Ambiguity in the law cannot help but breed corruption. Such laws are bound to be enforced entirely at the whim of whatever bureaucratic clique rules the day.

The push for same sex marriage in many ways has operated as a feint or diversionary tactic that disguises the far more invasive agenda of transgenderism. The “T” in LGBT has always been part of the package. It’s the most radical piece because it appears to apply only to a few individuals, but it’s meant to wipe out gender distinctions for everybody. It’s scope is meant to be applied universally. It strikes at the heart of what it means to be human.

Consider the following. Legally, as a private citizen stripped of your livelihood, you may still accept the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. And, for the moment you are permitted even wider berth in expressing the belief that humanity is of two kinds – male and female. But if states like Maryland keep passing this stuff — or if the House of Representatives passes ENDA and it’s signed into law — you can bet that expressing such a view will rapidly become suspect.

In fact, we should be able to imagine Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy accusing all who view humanity in this way as filled with “animus,” just as he did in the Windsor decision legalizing same sex marriage. So if you continue to believe you are either male or female because you were “born that way,” expect to be accused of malice for saying so down the road. Get used to it. Because that’s where we’re headed.

Stella Morabito is still getting started on Twitter.  You can follow her here.

Photo "Baltimore Pride 25735" by Ted Eytan
Photo "Baltimore Pride 25735" by Ted Eytan
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