As December is the season of celebrating one special birth, the editors of the historic and long-esteemed New England Journal of Medicine are curiously using it to advocate for a wholly radical and anti-scientific idea. They contend that birth certificates should no longer record the sex of the child. You heard that correctly.
A commentary published in the journal’s December issue states “We believe it is now time to update the practice of designating sex on birth certificates…” Is this motivated by some new scientific discovery that this universal practice is now medically ill-advised? To assume such a reason would be to give the doctors who penned the piece and the editors who published it far too much credit. Their interest is not medical in the least. No, their reason is purely emotional, political, and ideological. Full. Stop. They essentially say it themselves.
They recommend halting the practice of noting male or female on all birth certificates “given the particularly harmful effects of such designations on intersex and transgender people.” This scientific publication doesn’t bother explaining what these supposed harms are. They can’t, because they don’t really exist. It’s as if they simply expect us to agree that in the age of the supposed “non-binary” and “there-are-more-than-two-genders,” that speaking objectively of male and female is necessarily bad. This is not science. It is pure ideology.
The article incorrectly contends “Designating sex as male or female on birth certificates suggests that sex is simple and binary, when, biologically, it is not.” Biologically, it actually is simple. Male and female are the only two biological games in town for humanity and nearly every life form. This is obvious to everyone willing to be honest on the matter, even atheistic, French feminist philosophers like Sylviane Agacinski who notes in her book Parity of the Sexes:
One is born a boy or girl, one becomes woman or man. The human species is divided into two, and, like most other species, in two only. This division, which includes all human beings without exception, is thus a dichotomy. In other words, every individual who is not man is woman. There is no third possibility.
Agacinski is speaking of biology. The article incorrectly states “about 1 in 5,000 people have intersex variations” without defining what they actually mean and offering no citation for the claim. This statement is light-years from the truth. The Journal of Sex Research indicates that a minuscule 0.018 percent of the human population is genuinely intersex. And the Intersex Society of North America is very clear that being intersex is a genital or chromosomal maladaptation, not a third, fourth or twentieth gender.
So nixing sex designation altogether on birth certificates to accommodate a contra-scientific, ideological belief is deeply unsound. Afterall, asking “Boy or girl?” is the first and most exciting question we ask about every newborn child, even before “Is it healthy with ten fingers and toes?” There is a reason for this, and it has everything to do with what it means to be human. Even the Canadian alternative magazine PostMillennial asserts that “Compassion is not a good enough reason to divorce humanity from itself. Yet, the New England Journal of Medicine thinks that it is.”
In fact, readers’ reactions at New England Journal of Medicine’s Facebook page have been lively and pointed, to say the least. Here are just a few of the passionate responses to this silly idea: