24 Jul They, It and Identity
by McKayla Skinner
Recently, BBC News published an article entitled Canadian Baby ‘First Without Gender Designation’ On Health Card. The article talks about a non-binary transgender person (neither completely male or female) known as Kori Doty (originally a female), who gave birth to a baby in November of 2016. Ms. Doty has gone to great lengths to keep any form of the child’s gender identity from the birth certificate. Ms. Doty is part of the Gender-Free ID Coalition, and she hopes that by refraining from officially identifying the baby’s gender that it will cause less emotional distress later in life when the baby “decides” its gender. At present, she calls the baby “they.”
In learning of this disturbing story, I was reminded of the work of a renowned author by the name of Dave Pelzer. In one of Pelzer’s books, A Child Called It, he recounts his own childhood experience of being abused both emotionally and physically by his alcoholic mother, who went so far as to starve and stab him. In one of the most poignant moments of the book, he recalls how his mother ceased referring to him by name, stripping away his identity until he was degraded to being called an “it.” In his own words he says, “Even though I had heard the same words over and over again, this time the word ‘IT’ stunned me like never before. She had stripped me of my very existence” (italics added). This stripping of Pelzer’s identity left him without ties to his own family, and a connection to society.
While the actions of Ms. Doty are not necessarily tantamount to the physical abuse suffered by Pelzer, the mental and emotional harm that could be done to a child who is stripped of his or her identity could be considered abuse.
In this case, the baby does not have the ability to speak for his or herself. However, the person charged with custody and care of the child has already tried to rob “they” of “their” identity, all in the name of idolized social change. Gender is not an abstract concept to be twisted and manipulated, it is the essence of who we are. Yet, the choice to refrain from identifying a child’s rightly received gender abuses the child’s right to the truth, isolates him or her from society, and neglects ties to their family line.
Additionally, when there is no tie to a father or mother, children cannot be esteemed as a daughters or sons, nieces or nephews, granddaughters or grandsons. Without a clear record of who they are, they cannot establish what role they may lead in their own future family, and end up missing out on links to current generations, future generations, and the ability to navigate established family patterns from their peers. Without truthful and complete records, children may be coerced into decisions that they may not have chosen for themselves. They may experience psychological stress, or even risk a power struggle between guardians to obtain their own records in order to protect the integrity of their personal history for future posterity. French Painter Georges Braque once said, “truth exists, only lies are invented.” In short, identity help us understand who we are, and how we relate to others, especially in traditional families where healthy male and female relationships help children grow, families to function, and societies to thrive.