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Brave new worlds without gender definitions

If my memory serves — and it often doesn’t — the first time I heard “post” used other than in “posthole digger” was in graduate school. That was in the ‘60s and a buzz word in English departments was “post-modern.” The term really impressed and confused me.

Had I actually lived past time and was in a future world? How can something be “post-”of now?

Since those days and long after I realized that it was gobbledegook fomented by some strange professors, I have encountered many “posts.” Some time ago as I was watching the news, I caught someone saying we “are now in the post-gender era.” Wow, does that mean Gov. Jerry Brown is right in having birth certificates indicate “Californian” instead of “male” or “female”?

If one reads the words of postgenderists, a brave new world awaits. All society must do is desist from determining a person’s sex by his or her reproductive organs, those fascinating anatomical mysteries that have intrigued kids for a very long time. I’m not at all clear on how this upheaval of perspective will benefit the human race, but those folks hint that it will.

Already some schools are endeavoring to ease the tension between the sexes. For instance, the University of Texas has a program in its Mental Health complex called HumanUT. Ostensibly, its aim is to reduce the violence and abuse that men cause to women.

And last week the Boy Scouts of America announced that soon girls will be able to enroll in its programs, a decision that has left a lot of us old Scouters bewildered. We are so old-fashioned that some of us think there are hormones at issue that well may cause eruptions at Scout camps. Follow the BSA lead, and you will give up such clubs as the Boys & Girls Club, the Boy and Girl Scouts and sororities and fraternities. What might the new name be for the Fraternal Order of Elks? As BSA will soon totally ignore sexual aspects of its members, as it already does with gay and lesbian boys and leaders, some of us are simply left to shake our heads.

If these revolutionary thinkers are correct, when will the calendar no longer include Mother’s or Father’s Day. Much of their attention is focused on childbearing. Here is what one Canadian bioethicist, George Dvorsky, suggests: “Given the radical potential for advanced assistive reproductive options, postgenderists believe that sex for reproductive purposes will either become obsolete, or that all post-gendered humans will have the ability, if they so choose, to both carry a pregnancy to term and ‘father’ a child, which, postgenderists believe would have the effect of eliminating the need for definite genders in such a society.”

Instead of hanging the label “boy” or “girl” on a child, the new world will gently let the choice be a voluntary one on the part of the individual. A decade ago, the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies reached similar conclusion: “Postgenderism is the idea that gender in humans should be voluntary, and that we should rely on advanced technology to replace it. They argue that the abolishment of gender would, in fact, be freeing, and would rid society of traditional gender roles and expectations that are largely detrimental to society. The argument says that one day, the technological advances in assisted reproduction could make biological sex moot, because a baby could be born from a same-sex couple or from three different parents to create a single fetus.”

Wikipedia later offers this definition of the word: “Postgenderism is an extrapolation of ways that technology is eroding the biological, psychological and social role of gender, and an argument for why the erosion of binary gender will be liberatory.” Yes, that sentence includes the assertion that people will be liberated once the burden of gender is removed. One can only wonder how the human race has developed to its present state with “male” or “female” on so many birth certificates. Poor old Darwin’s Origin of Species ends up in the dustbin, after all he and his era went to great lengths to clarify the roles of the two sexes.

Quite likely the center of this new universe will be the maternity ward, where we may well soon watch “men” welcoming their new babies. Just consider what the wonders of science have in store for us: “Assisted reproduction will make it possible for individuals of any sex to reproduce in any combinations they choose, with or without “mothers” and “fathers,” and artificial wombs will make biological wombs unnecessary for reproduction.”

I’m not sure which author I feel the more sympathy for — Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, or Aldous Huxley, who wrote a visionary take on our world: “Brave New Worlds.”

T.J. Ray is a retired professor of English at Ole Miss.