In light of the recent discussion on identity and moral conflicts, I stumbled upon an article that describes one of the more controversial dilemmas of modern day: the topic of gender identity and conformity. As one of the leading debate topics, many argue the origins of sex and gender, as biological or social, and if gender can ever be altered by social influences. Now the point of this post is far from which side is right and which side is wrong because that debate itself is never-ending. What I want to address are the moral values that clash in this specific situation and then raise a much larger question about humanity in general.
This CNN article specifically describes a case in which a little boy repeatedly tells his parents that he is a girl. Even though his parents think he is confused, they try to force upon him the idea that he is a boy. Much to their discretion, this boy insists he is a girl and prefers dolls to footballs, and dresses to shorts. The article brings up the question of gender conformity and acceptance, describing how some children feel they are of the other sex and do not agree with nor accept the social role they were given by their parents at birth. In many instances with gender acceptance, parents choose a social role for the child to fulfill and form the child’s sex as male or female.
We have seen in our recent studies the argument of ascriptive identity by Appiah. He references this in more of the ethical sense, but the argument can still be applied to gender roles. The idea of your identity being chosen by another person seems illogical and immoral, particularly in one of the most liberal countries in the world, one in which the individual has the freedom to basically do whatever he or she pleases. The phrase, “Identity Theft” is known to most in another context, but the play on words is of utmost relevance to this topic. From this very young age, your sex and gender, two characteristics that have a lasting impact on your future and can shape the outcome of your life, are determined by someone else. In my eyes, your identity is essentially stolen, hence the title of this post.
The question is about humanity, not specifically the parents determining the sex of their child, but the topic seems to arise most in these conditions. The question of is it right addresses the morality component; can a parent choose to raise a child as whichever sex they choose, or does this situation warrant input from the child? It may be in good intention, but I feel that it steps on the rights of their child. Contingent facts of birth, factors in life that may have turned out differently, over which the child has no control, are determined by the parents, but here I feel there is a misinterpretation of which aspects of life they can in fact control. Determining where to live, the social class the child is born into, these are factors parents can and should control; choosing what sex their child is should not be controlled. Most parents cannot predetermine the sex at conception, so they should not be able to determine this after birth either. Biology, though, has created unique situations such as intersex babies (male and female characteristics) and psychological discrepancies (feeling of belonging among other sex) that place parents in difficult situations: choose a gender for their child and risk potential distress attempting to find true identity, or allow the child to select a gender role and receive criticism.
In the end, if parents have good intentions to protect their child and may prevent the embarrassment of say a boy without male organs, can they raise their child whatever way they want? People like me think it is unethical to determine the identity of others regardless of their age. No one knows themselves better or knows what is best for themselves more than that person. I feel it is a violation of rights to define the being of someone else. Since this is a controversial topic, it is obviously up for discussion: is it ever morally acceptable for one person to choose or force an identity on someone else? Where do one’s rights end and another’s begin?