I think that people call things complicated when it seems like the only black and white decisions to make would offend people. My intent with this post is not so much to question the ethics of allowing those who don’t identify by the typical male/female into “single-sex” organizations; that’s really not my place.
That said, as a man who identifies with a community I’m often in political opposition to, I feel the need to explore why people are so shy around the question of being male, female or transitioning from one to the other. Really, I want to explore why there are such interesting stigmas surrounding some forms of body-change surgery versus the surgery (or surgeries) and processes behind transitioning to a new gender.
Also of note: I have very, very limited experiences in working with those who would identify in this category of people. I am certain that I’ve had more experience than most, but not nearly enough to understand what would be considered a trigger and what is not, so accept my assertions as naive and a willingness to learn.
If I prefer that my fraternity remain single-sex and that the sex of choice is male, I may choose to define that genetically. To be a member, an individual must contain Y chromosomes. I may choose to define that based on the law (which I think is a cop out of sorts), meaning that someone who qualifies as male in Alabama may not qualify as male in New York. I may also choose to define that based on a person’s definition of their sex.
I’ve seen several fraternities take the latter two options as doctrine, at least until something more universal can be uncovered, but have never seen a fraternity move toward the most obvious and literal definition of being a male or female: our genetics.
Considering that then led me to wonder why there is such a fervent fan base for those who feel the need to transition. There may be a method to change a person’s DNA structure in the future. As of today; however, most if not all who transition use some combination of hormone treatment and surgery, the latter is typically cosmetic in that it changes one’s appearance, but doesn’t necessarily affect them at a genetic level.
A typical argument in support of transition surgery is that the person chooses the procedure because they are, in their right and mind, a person born into the opposite sex’s body. The transition is a means of coping with that reality.
Can someone who supports the right of a person to transition to a new gender surgically then be considered a hypocrite for dismissing celebrities or individuals who receive other forms of cosmetic surgery? Is a man who transitions to a woman in a different frame of mind than a woman who seeks to enhance her womanhood with larger breasts, larger lips, and thinner thighs?
Are both of those people not equally affected by popular culture’s caricature of a woman and simply going about whatever means possible to make that their reality? Are they both not tormented by the thought of living in a body which they do not consider their own?
This brings me back to fraternity, because we often associate being inclusive with being inclusive. Perhaps those of us who are okay with the thought of cosmetic surgery should re-think our philosophy and stance on those who wish to transition. For those of us who are okay with the thought of a female transitioning to a male or vice versa, perhaps we should rethink the stigma we associate with other forms of body-changing surgeries and medications (penis enhancement, breast enhancement, braces, whatever).
Maybe then, if we were to see everything equally and for what it is, there wouldn’t be such an offense to the idea of there being some organizations for people with Y chromosomes, some for people of XX and XY chromosomes, some for people just of XX chromosomes as we are with the idea of there being some organizations that cater to black individuals and some that cater to gay or Hispanic individuals.
It’d be a matter of preference in the type of people you wish to consider “brothers and sisters,” but that doesn’t mean that such groups can’t and wouldn’t interact. Even today, fraternities and sororities collaborate on events other than socials so regularly that single-sex organizations are probably no more irrelevant than the idea to eliminate them.
It may do some good for those who support the transgender community to do more to relate it to lesser degrees of body-changing surgeries as upsetting as that statement may first come across. The power of persuasion comes in allowing people to accept something through their lense and set of values, and maybe we’re simply placing way too much pressure on other people to accept our definitions when there can be a simpler way to relate.