The same-sex marriage debate continues to broil. As with many other broiling debates (like abortion on demand or my earlier post: What Does the Word “Fornication” Mean?) the same-sex marriage debate also centers upon the definition of words. Remember, ours is a society that has recently decided to define a corporation to mean that it's a person (in order to allow them to contribute, financially, to political campaigns) but has also decided to define a little baby in its mother’s womb to mean that it IS NOT a person. (Question: What does the word person mean?)
I was very familiar with the acronym LGBT over the years, because I’m just about the most tolerant and likeable guy you’d ever want to meet, but the whole LGBTTTIQ thing really took me by surprise. The incredible lengthening of this once familiar acronym seems to stem from the fact that some people think that gender is a social construct. Some things (e.g., marriage) ARE, in fact, social constructs; but, in my opinion, gender is certainly not one of those things.
So what, exactly, does the acronym LGBTTTIQ stand for? LGBTTTIQ stands for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Two-Spirited, Inter-Sexed, Queer (and “Questioning” one’s sexual orientation). The definitions of these words, which follow, have been taken from the OK2BME website:
"Lesbian": "A lesbian is a woman whose primary sexual and romantic attraction is to other women."
"Gay": "A gay man is a man whose primary sexual and romantic attraction is to other men. ‘Gay’ is also used as an inclusive term encompassing gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people. In the last 20 years, this has become less and less common and ‘gay’ is usually used currently to refer only to gay men. The term is still often used in the broader sense in spoken shorthand, as in ‘The Gay Pride Parade is at the end of June’."
"Bisexual": "Bisexual men and women have sexual and romantic attractions to both men and women. Depending upon the person, his or her attraction may be stronger to women or to men, or they may be approximately equal. Bisexuals are also referred to as ‘bi’."
"Transgender": 1) "Transgender (sometimes shortened to TRANS or TG) people are those whose psychological self (‘gender identity’) differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with. To understand this, one must understand the difference between biological sex, which is one’s body (genitals, chromosomes, etc.), and social gender, which refers to levels of masculinity and femininity. Often, society conflates sex and gender, viewing them as the same thing. But, gender and sex are not the same thing. Transgender people are those whose psychological self (‘gender identity’) differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with. For example, a female with a masculine gender identity or who identifies as a man. 2) An umbrella term for transsexuals, cross-dressers (transvestites), transgenderists, gender queers, and people who identify as neither female nor male and/or as neither a man or as a woman. Transgender is not a sexual orientation; transgender people may have any sexual orientation. It is important to acknowledge that while some people may fit under this definition of transgender, they may not identify as such."
"Two-spirited": "Two-spirited is a term adopted by some contemporary North American Aboriginal peoples to refer those who embody both the male and female spirit. The term is inclusive and can refer to both sexual orientation and/or gender identity or expression. Therefore, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and heterosexual trans-people may all refer to themselves as two-spirited. Terms such as ‘berdache’ have a colonial origin; and ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ are, to many people, Eurocentric and culturally irrelevant to Aboriginal two-spirited people.”
"Inter-sexed": "A medical diagnosis that describes a person who is born with physical and/or chromosomal features in which sex characteristics usually considered to belong to distinctly male or female bodies are combined in a single body. Intersexed persons are often subjected to surgical intervention at birth (with or without parental knowledge or consent). The term intersexed is often encompassed under ‘transgendered’. However, while there are some areas of overlap with intersexed and transgendered issues, there are also many areas of distinction."
1. "A political statement, as well as a sexual orientation, which advocates breaking binary thinking and seeing both sexual orientation and gender identity as potentially fluid. Many of those who use the term feel it is more inclusive, allowing for the diversity of race, class, ability and gender that is represented by the LGBTTIQ communities."
2. "A simple label to explain a complex set of sexual behaviors and desires. For example, a person who is attracted to multiple genders may identify as queer."
3. "Used by some to refer to themselves, the LGBTTTIQ community, a person who is LGBTTTIQ, or even someone who is supportive of the LGBTTTIQ communities."
4. "Often viewed as a political statement as well as an identity or label."
Many older LGBTTTIQ people feel the word has been hatefully used against them for too long and are reluctant to embrace it. In addition, because it was used to demean LGFBTTTIQ people, those who do not identify as queer are urged to use the term with caution, or not at all."
What does the LGBTTTIQ community think that gender is? Here are a couple of definitions of gender which, again, have been taken from the OK2BME website:
"Gender": 1) "A socially constructed system of classification that ascribes qualities of masculinity and femininity to people. Gender characteristics can change over time and are different between cultures. Words that refer to gender include: man, woman, transgender, masculine, feminine, and gender queer. 2) One’s sense of self as masculine or feminine regardless of external genitalia. Gender is often confused with sex. This is inaccurate because sex refers to bodies and gender refers to personality characteristics."
"Gender Identity": "One’s initial and psychological sense of oneself as female, male, both or neither. At birth, we are assigned one of two genders, usually based on our visible genitals. For many people this gender assignment fits and feels comfortable. Others do not feel as comfortable in the assigned gender, either because they find the two-gender system too limiting or because they feel more identification with the gender opposite that to which they were assigned at birth. Gender identity does not cause sexual orientation. For example, a masculine woman is not necessarily a lesbian; a feminine man is not necessarily gay."
And, after reading all of that . . . it’s really hard for me to know exactly what to say . . .
Is gender neutrality even possible? No, because neutrality itself is impossible. We always have presuppositions, which influence our thinking about the world; therefore no one can approach the world from a completely neutral perspective. The fact that, biologically, the higher living organisms are of two, distinct kinds (i.e., female and male) renders impossible any attempts on our part to attain neutrality regarding gender.
Certainly all rules have exceptions, even “the rule” of life. But just because some (very few) people are born with a confusion of primary and secondary physical sexual characteristics does not mean that gender is a social construct. The overwhelming majority of people are NOT born with a confusion of primary and secondary physical sexual characteristics; therefore gender—as determined (objectively) by the observation of primary and secondary physical sexual characteristics as belonging to either the one or the other grouping of a certain and distinct kind (i.e., male or female)—is, very simply, an empirical fact (i.e., the rule) of life.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary (4th Edition), the word gender means: “Sexual category; males or females as a group [> Lat. genus, gener-, kind.]” (See also the FreeDictionary entry for the word.)
This is what I said above. Gender is a grouping of kinds, which are either female or male. And these grouping are determined by observable, physical characteristics. There are only two kinds of people in the world: men and women, boys and girls. And everyone knows that.
The definition of gender given above, which was taken from the OK2BME website, states that gender is “[o]ne’s sense of self as masculine or feminine regardless of external genitalia…[g]ender is often confused with sex. This is inaccurate because sex refers to bodies and gender refers to personality characteristics.” But again, according to the American Heritage Dictionary (4th Edition), the word sex means: “The property or quality by which organisms are classified on the basis of their reproductive organs.” I’m sorry, but the only confusion here, regarding the word gender and the word sex, is in the minds of the gender neutralists.
Since, according to a standard dictionary, the word gender refers to the grouping of living organisms into the sexual categories of female and male, and since these sexual categories are based upon the empirically observable physical reproductive organs of these living organisms, the word gender and the word sex mean the same thing: living organisms can be classified as either male or female. The word gender does not and cannot mean “[o]ne’s sense of self as masculine or feminine regardless of external genitalia” nor can it refer “personality characteristics.”
Once we start changing the meanings and the definitions of the words we are using to attempt to communicate our thoughts and ideas to one another we should be prepared for the inevitable confusion that will inevitably arise.
So, I'm sorry, but I just can’t jump on the whole LGBTTTIQ bandwagon, because I’m not even sure what, exactly, is being said here, or what, exactly, the idea the LGBTTTIQ community is trying to communicate here, with this sort of language (the words which are not being used according to the standard dictionary definitions).
Do I want people to be tolerant of one another, regardless of their sexual preferences or orientations? Of course I do, but I cannot accept the misuse of words and language in order to promote an agenda (i.e., gender neutrality), which has no basis whatsoever in reality and is in fact flatly contradicted by an over-abundance of physical evidence that is plain for all to see (i.e., that the overwhelming majority of people are (objectively) either male or female).
And we wonder why the whole same-sex marriage issue has become so controversial? The LGBTTTIQ community has been changing the meanings and definitions of words, which denote ideas and concepts, for a very long time now. What does the word marriage mean? And why does it mean either one thing or another? The word marriage presupposes the fact that people are of either the female or the male gender or sex, and the word marriage means that two people—one of each sex—are joining together in a social contract, the purpose of which is relational, sexual, and based upon the innate drive to reproduce (marriage IS, in fact, a social construct, which is based upon the objective fact that there are only two kinds (male and female) of people in the world (again, the question: what does the word person mean, right?) As a society, we may decide that the word marriage means "the joining together of two people—regardless of their sex—in a social contract, the purpose of which is both relational and sexual, and the basis of which (even if homosexual) is the innate human sexual drive to reproduce". But we haven’t done so yet; not according to the dictionary anyway.
Marriage, unlike gender, IS a social construct, so we can define it in whatever way we may wish to define it. Currently, the word marriage means: “The legal union of man and woman as husband and wife” according to the America Heritage Dictionary (4th Edition). This is what the word marriage means, and when we communicate our ideas to one another using words we had better be prepared for trouble whenever we change the meanings of those words. The term “same-sex marriage” is, in fact, a contradiction of terms, because the word marriage means: “The legal union of a man and a woman [not a man and a man or a woman and a woman] as husband and wife [not husband and husband or as wife and wife].”
It may be that the word marriage will take on this additional (i.e., same-sex) meaning, but it hasn’t yet. And it may never take on this meaning, because social constructs (like marriage) are determined by society and our society may not accept this change in the meaning of the word. The current battle over same-sex marriage has more to do with whose definition of the word marriage—society’s (in general) or a sub-culture’s (in particular)—is more appropriate. It’s a battle of words, which is why I’m so nit-picky about words and their meanings. Whoever controls the terms (i.e., the words and the definitions thereof) controls the debate. And I, for one, don’t care for playing fast and loose with words and their definitions. When the meanings of words differ between individual peoples who are using the same language to communicate their thoughts and ideas to one another, they become unable to accurately express their thoughts and their ideas to one another (i.e., they talk past each other). Our common language and our ability to communicate our ideas to one another is one of the most important things we have as a society. In fact, without a common language, we could not have a society at all.
On religious grounds, as a Catholic, I would oppose same-sex marriage; but politically—as a libertarian and as an American—I believe that as long as people are consenting adults and they are not harming innocents by their actions people should basically be allowed to do whatever they want to do. I mean, who really cares what they do, as long as they’re not harming anyone? It’s nobody’s business! I would certainly support civil unions (and the legal protections thereof), but I cannot support changing the definition of the word marriage to mean "two people—regardless of their sex—joining together in a social contract called marriage, the purpose of which is both relational and sexual, and the basis of which (even if homosexual) is the innate human sexual drive to reproduce".
This is not what the word marriage means in our society; at least not according to the dictionary anyway. And I certainly don’t know where else (besides a dictionary) we might look for the definitions of the words we are using. Do you?