The problem with binary…
Part of the requirements for the bioethics class I am taking this term is that we write a lifestyle journal entry, based on the readings and material we have covered in our seminars. This post is that journal entry, and will detail one of the things that I have taken away from the class. Bioethics has been a great class, taking a critical look at many of the various areas in our lives where we let our assumptions run free. Assumptions about what is normal, assumptions about what is acceptable, assumptions about what is and is not ethical.
One of the readings I found most interesting focused on the topic of transgendered individuals. These can be individuals that have been born one sex, but do not identify with the other, transvestites that are pre-operation or post-operation, and everything else along the gamut.
One of the readings in particular discussed the fact that our binary system of categorizing sex created a wealth of problems for these individuals. In our country, for better or worse, marriage happens between a man and a woman. These are binary distinctions, and anyone that does not fit within either of these two categories is out of luck.
Take a moment to reflect on how pervasive this distinction is in our society..
Sex: M _ F _
That’s what we are presented with every time we fill out a form, every time we sign up for something, any time someone needs information from us.
I don’t think that anyone is condemning the means by which we arrived at this point (at least, I certainly am not). Until recent times, people have not even had the time to devote thinking about anything other than how to survive until the next day. However, we are entering a new era of awareness, and simply throwing up our hands and stating “well hey, most people are either male or female” is no longer an acceptable answer.
So how do we deal with this new issue? Well, I don’t know. And there’s probably a lot of people that feel the same way. But saying “I don’t know” is not the end of the discussion. It’s the start.
The funny thing is that the more we look into areas of categorization like this one, the more we realize that binary categorizations are not a very accurate representation of the world. The world does not exist in digital. That is to say, life (and possibly the universe, if quantum mechanics are any guide) does not exist in discrete packets that we can put into clean categories. Life exists along a continuum. We are not black or white – we are all varying shades of grey.
It is only now that we are starting to realize that this holds true for most aspects in our lives: disorders such as FASD and ADHD are no longer treated with binary categorizations, but rather along spectrums.
So next time you’re out, spend some time reflecting on the categorizations that you are creating and using in your head, as well as those that you are being presented with. You may be surprised by what you see.