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Who are you to assign a gender? Who are you to make that assumption? You can peer into that little magical screen and count the body parts, but those body parts do not add up to anything.
Dear ultrasound technician,
Recently, I accompanied my partner to the doctor for an ultrasound to check on the progress of our precious little blob of cells. It was supposed to be a happy occasion, but, once again, our joy was preemptively crushed under the weight of blind intolerance.
Things started out OK. My partner sat in the chair and I sat down on the floor, so as not to send the problematic message that I'm above her in any way. I wish I could have undergone the pregnancy and ultrasound myself, as other fathers have done, but because of my own latent and unexamined cis-het prejudices I was unable to conceive. My partner (I don't say "wife" because the word is far too patriarchal in the year 2016) generously offered to suffer the travails of child-bearing on her own.
Everything seemed to be going fine until it happened. It's a moment I'll never forget for as long as I live. A moment that so traumatized and injured me that I haven't been able to walk or eat for days. A moment they warned me about in gender studies, but a moment I never thought I'd actually encounter in the year 2016. A moment that seemed, in an instant, to transport me back to the Dark Ages.
Suddenly, without warning, you shouted, "Look! It's a boy!"
We were literally stunned. Our jaws literally dropped. We literally couldn't even. We both shouted in unison: "Boy? What do you mean boy?"
"There. You can see the penis," you said calmly. "Look, right there. You're having a boy! Congratulations!"
Boy? Penis? CONGRATULATIONS? I recoiled in shock. My partner trembled with fury. I fell to the floor in uncontrollable convulsions. She fell on top of me. We rolled around screaming and wailing and weeping and clinging desperately to each other. The emotional anguish was simply too much for either of us to bear. We felt like black people must have felt when they were told to go to the back of the bus. We felt like Roman slaves must have felt when they were eaten by lions in the Coliseum. We felt like all persecuted peoples throughout history must have felt, only worse. We had become victims like them, only more so.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Our guttural growls and moans of rage may not have been discernible to you. Indeed, you looked at us like you didn't even understand what you'd done. I wondered if you could actually be that stupid in the year 2016. Or were you faking your obliviousness? Was this hate crime intentional? Were we dealing with an authentic moron or a spiteful bigot cunningly cloaking her prejudices under a veil of feigned ignorance?
It's hard to tell. But because I am the sort of person who displays great courage and humility in the face of persecution, I will use this travesty as an educational opportunity.
First of all, let's review some basic science, shall we? I can't believe I have to explain this to someone in the medical field in the year 2016, but here we go: The presence of a penis in no way indicates that it's a boy. Penises are just arbitrary, fleshy protuberances, which, by some accident of nature, happen to attach themselves to certain humans and not to others. They're like warts or pimples, only they can get people pregnant. But they mean nothing. They don't tell you anything. Men can have penises. Women can have penises. Trees can have penises. Anyone or anything can have a penis. Anyone or anything can have anything or be anything. Biology textbooks may claim otherwise, but that's because biology textbooks are riddled with transphobia and should be burned as heresy.
During the course of the ensuing argument you suggested that, if we didn't believe you, my partner could take a blood test to confirm the gender. The test would examine the traces of fetal DNA found in the mother's bloodstream, you said, and if a Y chromosome is detected in the mother's blood that would supposedly confirm the fetus as male. But we're far too smart and have watched too many transgender reality shows on TLC to fall for that superstitious nonsense. Chromosomes, like penises, mean nothing. What is a chromosome, anyway? I don't think anybody really knows.
You're obviously a simpleton, so let me break this down a little further. You cannot tell anything about a person based on their physical and biological makeup. Anatomy doesn't matter. DNA doesn't matter. Bone structure doesn't matter. The reproductive system doesn't matter. Nothing matters. You can't tell what a person is just based on what that person is. You can't even tell if it's a person just because it's a person. You can't tell anything about anyone based on anything.
At our core, we are all indistinct lumps of gelatinous matter melding slowly into one another. In our truest form, we resemble something closer to a sponge or some other asexual, self-perpetuating sea creature. It's really poetic when you think about it, even romantic. I often gaze longingly at my partner and say, "Nothing about you means anything." And she'll whisper softly back, "Your body is a vacant shell and you have no soul." And then we kiss passionately.
That is why it was so shocking and offensive when you just blurted out, "It's a boy." Who are you to assign a gender? Who are you to make that assumption? You can peer into that little magical screen and count the body parts, but those body parts do not add up to anything. You cannot simply observe a physical reality and draw conclusions based on it. Some would say that's the very definition of science, but those people are transphobes and homophobes and should be executed.
Here's the problem. You can look at the body parts of a fetus, but you can't know how the fetus will feel. And without knowing its feelings, you cannot know anything else about it. The only thing that defines a person is the least stable and most fickle part of them: their emotional state. That is what determines everything about everyone. Without knowing it, you can't know anything. You can't even know if it's human. For all you know, my partner is carrying a rooster or a tadpole or a pterodactyl in her womb. We can't be sure until we've asked.
But you didn't consult with it first, did you? You didn't even consult with us. You just constructed your own artificial box of identity, assembled from superficial material like DNA and anatomy and chromosomes and reality, and placed that box around our offspring. You tried to imprison our child in a nightmare world where things are solid and coherent.
Sorry, bigot, but that's not how we plan to raise our amorphous spawn. No matter how you or any of your fellow right wing extremists feel about it, we will give our progeny an inclusive, malleable, Jello-like environment where nothing is defined. As progressive parents (and you'll have to excuse me for using the word "parent," which is old fashioned and problematic in its own right), we would never dream of being the sort of parents who parent. We would never think about giving our child any form of guidance or instruction. When it is born, we will say to it, "Lead the way." We will look at this being who doesn't know up from down or left from right and say, "Reality is whatever you say it is." I suppose you're the sort of tyrannical parent who "teaches" and "guides," but most people know better in the year 2016. Most parents know that you should never treat your child like some kind of child.
That's why we've chosen to name our kid Skylyte. We needed something chic and genderless; something that sounds like a paint color or a 12-year-old girl's Twitter handle. But of course Skylyte will be given the chance to choose its own name if it feels the one we've selected is too restricting. Our friends, for example, named their offspring Lyric, but once it was born they asked the baby what it wanted its name to be, and that's why they now call it Gurglegahgah. Scandinavian, I believe. A name with Native American or Buddhist origins would have been more progressive, but we don't judge.
The point is, a child should be able to make every choice by itself without the slightest interference from its parents or society. Or especially, I should emphasize, ultrasound technicians.
Now, here's what you can do moving forward to avoid more of the sort of crippling lawsuit you'll soon be notified about by our lawyer. I suggest -- well, I demand -- that your office come up with a chart listing, at a minimum, the most basic possible identities. This list must be hung prominently on the wall, and everyone who works at the office must be required to memorize it. Then, the next time you or any of your coworkers notices a penis in the ultrasound, you should say something like this: "Oh look, there's the penis! Congratulations you're having a trans, trans*, trans female, trans* female, trans male, trans* male, trans man, trans* man, trans person, trans* person, trans woman, trans* woman, transfeminine, transmasculine, transsexual, agender, bigender, trigender, quasigender, non-gender, androgyn, androgynous, gender fluid, gender nonconforming, gender questioning, gender variant, genderqueer, intersex, neither, neutral, non-binary, non-human, moose, duck, park bench, Jedi, and/or pangender baby!"
If you want to be more specific, you might say, "Oh look, it has a penis, maybe it will be a transfeminine non-binary genderqueer!" Or you could say, "Look, a penis. Perhaps it will be an androgynous pangender trans-identifying otherkin or a gender variant transmasculine octo-sexual! Congrats!" This stuff is so obvious that I'm shocked I have to explain it.
I should stipulate here -- and the list you are required to compile must also make plain-- that a growing number of people reject all pre-existing labels and identify as something completely unprecedented. The chart could provide examples, but it should be clear that the examples are not exhaustive. For instance, another friend of ours has a 3-year-old who identifies as a flying astronaut dragon baseball player superhero construction worker who can shoot lasers from its eyes. I believe the child is the first to come out and live this identity publicly. In fact, he was recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his pioneering work in the LGBTQIFADBPSCW community.
Actually, the more I think about it, perhaps no list or chart will really work. Increasingly, people in my generation are finding that labels of any kind are grossly insufficient. I have not even mentioned that I've discovered a rather progressive identity for myself. Feeling constrained and practically suffocated by any existing word or description, I now identify as a Bwaaaaaagrumphielue. That's not an acronym. It's not even a word. It's a sound. A sound that expresses, at the most primal level, my true and indescribable nature. Perhaps my child will be a fellow Bwaaaaaagrumphielue, or maybe it will be a different sound entirely. Maybe it will not be a word or a sound at all. Maybe its identity will best be described through a symbol, like Prince, or an interpretative dance.
The possibilities are endless.
It's the year 2016, in case I hadn't mentioned that. Time to accept it. Even the Pentagon has adopted progressive gender ideology, but somehow we still had to deal with archaic "boys have penises" fables at the doctor's office. Hasn't anyone passed a law about this? How have you not been arrested and publicly flogged yet? How have you not been forcibly lobotomized like Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? It appears we still have a lot of work to do before the bigoted proponents of objective reality are officially purged from society.
I simply cannot take anymore of this hatred.
I truly hate you for being so hateful.
You'll be hearing from my lawyer.
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