Gender Identity

I recently read an article by Denise Shick, the author of “My Daddy’s Secret”, “When Hope Seems Lost” and “Understanding Gender Confusion”. In the article, she discusses her father’s journey from identifying as male to identifying as female and how this affected her, her mother and her father. It is an interesting perspective.

My own interest in this subject comes not from an identity crisis but a different type of philosophical crisis. I have spent most of my life walking the thin line between libertarianism and anarchy. I believe strongly in the rights of the individual to live as he/she sees fit, but also recognize the need for individuals to compromise their own self-interest at times, for the sake of a functioning society.

The smallest, most intimate form of society is the family unit. Ms. Shick’s works demonstrate how disruptive one person’s search for self-satisfaction can be on all the other individuals in that family. But is it fair to ask anyone to live a life of quiet desperation for the sake of others? The answer lies in the individual’s level of commitment to the family that will be affected.

Societal norms change. We of a certain age – members of the “Boomer Generation” – have witnessed quite a bit of change. Many of us are shocked by the recent demands for acceptance of untraditional lifestyles. We shouldn’t be. It was our generation that started the movement for individualism. Just because we didn’t predict where it would lead doesn’t mean we aren’t responsible. This is the natural progression of our own acts. We need to own it.

Nor should we be surprised by the breakdown of the family unit. We broke the barriers that had prevented us from living together without marriage. We considered commitment as an unnecessary obstacle to “free love”. If we didn’t need to commit to marriage, it follows that we wouldn’t need to feel any obligation to the well-being of the families we create.

When an individual’s happiness is seen as more important than the happiness of our spouses or our children, the society formally known as “family” is irrelevant. And if we can ignore the well-being of our own families, it is easy to care less about the effect our actions have on the larger society.

We are the original “Me Generation”. This is on us.

Religious rights vs. gay rights

The debate raging over religious rights vs. gay rights has escalated thanks to a law that is, not surprisingly, applauded by some and condemned by others.

This really shouldn’t be called a debate. Neither side has any interest in seeing – let alone listening to – the other side’s point of view. The only way to get around this deeply held bias is to examine the issue from another perspective, one that doesn’t involve gay people.

So, let’s consider a hypothetical situation: An art enthusiast (who happens to be a Christian) has been buying paintings for years from an artist (who happens to be an atheist). Neither party has been troubled by their different views because the artist has been painting what he wants to paint and the buyer has been buying only what he likes.

One day, the buyer approaches the artist with a request. “Since I have always admired your work, I would like to commission you to create a religious painting. I’ll pay you what you usually charge, but this time I want you to paint what I want, not what you like.”

Since this would conflict with the artist’s world view, does he have the right to refuse?

If he does refuse, would you applaud him for standing up for his principles? Or, would you condemn him for discriminating against someone whose principles disagree with his?

In the infamous case of the baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding, the gay couple had been buying cakes and cookies from the baker for years. Neither had a problem with that, since the baker got to bake what he wanted to bake and the couple got the sweets they enjoyed.

Like the artist in my fictional scenario, the baker did not refuse to do business with his customer until the customer decided to dictate what the artist should create. The baker probably considers himself to be an artist, too.

Some people who strongly support gay rights might say this is two different situations, and that the one has no bearing on the other. One thing I’ve learned over the years is no matter how different we perceive ourselves to be, we are basically very much the same. We all want to be treated with respect and we all want our opinions validated by others.

The first part is a reasonable request. In a civil society, everyone deserves to be treated respectfully. The second part is an unreasonable demand.

There is a big difference between acceptance and approval. We should accept everyone because none of us has the right to tell others what to think or how to live. We should show respect for the opinions of others, but we don’t have to agree with them. Approval indicates agreement. No one has the right to demand that. And, yes, that means I hope you have given respectful consideration to what I’ve written, but I can’t expect everyone to agree with what I’ve said.

Anyone who is confident in their beliefs shouldn’t need the approval of others. Believe what you will and live your life accordingly, but respect the rights of others to do the same. If you want the respect of others, behave respectfully. If you can’t live without the approval of those who disagree with you, recognize that you have a problem. Don’t blame others for your problems.

P.S. ~ It may seem as though I’ve sided with the artists, but that last piece of advice applies to everyone.