Tuesday, November 10, 2009

All people are either male or female: think again

Not everyone is born as a boy or a girl biologically. In almost every distinguishable way [e.g. 1) genetically, 2) discerning by genitalia, and/or 3) hormone profile], some people are born ambiguous- i.e. with both sets of male and female genitalia and/or atypical genes [e.g. XXY or XXYY instead of typical XY or XX]. Though rare, hundreds of people find themselves in this class [see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klinefelter's_syndrome,
http://www.isna.org/, and especially
the references section of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersex]. Though in these cases it is obstreperously difficult to determine gender, many parents choose either male or female for their child and raise the child as that gender.

We also know that:

"Gender is an essential characteristic of individual
premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." - The Family: a Proclamation to the World

Yet courts, parents, and individuals often elect, necessarily arbitrarily in many cases, to subject a child to surgery and subsequent hormone therapy and counseling to socialize the child as a chosen gender. Societal pressure buttresses this practice.

There is a rising movement opposing this insistence on selecting a gender: "intersex people, activists, supporters and academics have contested the adoption of the terminology, seeing it as offensive to intersex individuals who do not feel that there is something wrong with them" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersex). This movement regards the societal consensus as "reinforcing the normativity of early surgical interventions." They insist: "Alternatives to categorising intersex conditions as "disorders" have been suggested, including "variations of sex development".[16] Organisation Intersex International questions a disease/disability approach, argues for deferral of intervention unless medically necessary, when fully informed consent of the individual involved is possible, and self-determination of sex/gender orientation and identity.[17]"

So, here we stand! Extant questions:

1) If gender is an essential characteristic of premortal identity, yet many children come into the world with biologically indistinguishable gender, how do we as mortals discern that "essential characteristic"?
2) Would it be appropriate for the individual, the individual's parent, or a judge to refrain from committing an intersex person to a gender, and instead allow the individual to remain intersex? Would in be ethical not to do so?
3) Is an individual, parent, or judge accountable for the decision to mandate an invasive course of action including hormone therapy, surgery, and counseling to make a biologically intersex individual either male or female? What if they "mess up," as measured by the individual later in life? [e.g. some intersex people such as Brian/Bonnie Chase (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheryl_Chase_(activist)), who was initially given a boy's name due to her ambiguous genitalia but was subsequently raised a girl based on the advice of baffled doctors, later speak out about the psychological harm caused them by the surgical mutilation they're subjected to]
4) Should an individual in this class seek to change one's gender later in life in some cases, no cases, or all cases? Should society permit or forbid this later-on "switching" behavior? Same questions for less gender indistinct individuals? How about non-ambiguous people like probably every person reading this blog?
5) On what basis should we as a society classify gender? Genitalia? Genes? Hormone profile? Parent choice? Effeminate behavior? Some other factor or combination of the above?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mini Blogs

Comments below are thoughtproducts that don't quite merit a full blog.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Do not your alms before men

Charitable Giving- To give secretly or conspicuously?

Arguments for Secret

Arguments for Conspicuous

· 3 Ne. 13: 1
1 VERILY, verily, I say that I would that ye should do alms unto the poor; but take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father who is in heaven.
· Matt. 6: 3-4
3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

16 Therefore let your alight so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and bglorify your Father who is in heaven.

... be thou an bexample of the believers, in word, in cconversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in dpurity.

· If others observe your charitable giving, they are more likely to give charitably themselves.
· If people give charitably because they observed your giving, they will themselves reap the research-identified benefits of charitable giving:
- Increased wealth
- Increased health
- Increased happiness
· “Giving is one way that we identify qualities of leadership in others.” In one experiment, “Eighty percent of the time, the person who had contributed the most to the other members of the group was elected. The biggest givers were also the most popularly-chosen partners in follow-up tasks.” -Brooks
· The net amount of charitable giving increases, thereby benefitting the charities themselves: “giving openly also provokes mimicry by others, and thus a public gift can multiply itself.” – Arthur Brooks
· For more in-depth arguments, see “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compasionate Conservatism Who Gives, Who Doesn't, and Why It Matters” by Brooks

I used to be secretive about my charitable giving. After hearing Arthur Brooks, I described my charitable giving on Facebook. Now I'm considering removing that description. Help me decide!

Cast your vote by commenting below.

(18 Feb 2010) - My decision is "secret." My justification is that the counsel not to do alms before men is more narrow than the same-source counsel to "let your light shine" and "be an example." I esteem the scriptural conclusion above the secular one (which seems to suggest conspicuous).

Thanks for helping with the decision!

Subsequent note (July 2010) - Whether people will help someone that is in need depends more on whether they are in a hurry/preoccupied than whether they recently pondered the Good Samaritan story. (look at minutes 1:00 to 2:30).   

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