Misogyny in the IT World: a Rebuttal

The furor that erupted in the media this week in response to a Google employee’s manifesto that claimed women aren’t biologically suited for high tech careers got me to thinking, and reflecting, on my own 25+ years in the high tech world.

I began working on this post by trying to list all the female superiors, mentors, co-workers and subordinates I’ve had over the years who have had a positive impact on my own career.  But, that list quickly became quite long; and so I quickly set aside that effort.

Besides, while recalling my old friends and co-workers brings back many fond memories for me, it would be meaningless to you, the reader.  I also did not want to risk missing someone, and wasn’t sure how some of my long ago co-workers would feel to see their name popping up here without warning (or permission).  So, I’ll just say that I could not have been who I was in the IT world, and the man I am now, if it hadn’t been for them.  To each and every one of of them I give a deep and heartfelt (though anonymous) “Thanks.”

Continue reading “Misogyny in the IT World: a Rebuttal”

Why Isn’t Jesus a Girl?

The point of this exercise is to challenge our preconceptions of what Jesus must have been like: Why do we think he is male, and why do we assume Jesus is just like us?

Slide1This particular discussion was inspired by this (admittedly facetious) blogpost entitled “Where Would Jesus Pee?”

In it, Andrew Seidel raises an interesting point:  Jesus had a biological mother, but no biological father.  Therefore, even if the Holy Spirit intervened to cause Mary to become pregnant, all of the genetic material was from his mother.

Now, a person of female gender has two X chromosomes (XX) while a person of male gender has an X and a Y (XY).   The gender of their child is determined by which chromosome they get from the father – either the X or the Y.  But, since Jesus has no biological father, then all of his genetic material would come from Mary, meaning he got an “X” instead of a “Y” and so must be female.

I recently presented this as part of our church’s “Message for All Ages” (being very careful of how I presented it, given that grammar school aged children were present).  Then asked the question, “So, what do you think; why isn’t Jesus a Girl?”

As you can imagine, this produced some amazing facial expressions (and answers) from kids and adults like!

The point of this exercise is to challenge our preconceptions of what Jesus must have been like: How can we be sure he was genetically male, or even that he presented himself as a typical male, for that matter?  Why do we assume Jesus is just like us?

Continue reading “Why Isn’t Jesus a Girl?”

The Fiction of Binary Gender

If we are to treat persons we encounter who are not “fully male” or “fully female” (as we imagine they should be) with compassion and respect, then we must first understand and accept that our belief that anyone is either “fully male” or “fully female” is a mistaken social construct or assumption, not a concrete and unchanging reality.

Recently, Dr. Michelle A. Cretella, MD of the American College of Pediatricians wrote a letter to the organization “District 211 Parents for Privacy” (in Illinois).  That letter was published on the group’s Facebook page, and I include it here (click on the images below to read that letter):

Despite its name, the “American College of Pediatricians” is a small (<200 member) group that broke away from the 60,000 member American Academy of Pediatrics in 2002; and so is far from representative of the opinions of the Pediatric profession as a whole.

A key statement in Dr. Cretella’s letter is this: “No one is born transgender because no human being is born with an awareness of themselves of being male or female.

The latter half of this statement is true: we are not born with such an awareness, but to claim that we are not born transgender because we do not have this awareness is a fallacy – a conclusion drawn without evidence to support it.  One could just as easily say that we are born without a gender identity because we are not aware of it at birth, and we would be equally correct in saying so.

What IS true is that by the time a human being becomes aware of (or develops) a gender identity, let alone a sexual orientation, it is extraordinarily difficult to change, if it can be changed at all: research strongly indicates that it really cannot be changed; and has convincingly demonstrated that attempting to reorient someone in such a situation causes far more harm than good.

Dr. Cretella clearly agrees that we need to be extraordinarily careful in how we care for and raise children who appear to be transgender, which is correct.  However, she also believes that, ultimately, a “mismatch” between a child’s physical gender and their gender identity is a disorder, and that the way to resolve it is to make the gender identity conform to the physical gender – i.e., that physical gender trumps gender identity.

I know children who are transgender, and I see their parents anguishing over how to help their child deal with the many issues that arise because of it, and I see them having to defend their child when they are hurt by the unthinking and judgmental actions or words of others. It is not a path any parent, let alone their child, pursues willingly.  What is clear is that Dr. Cretella’s proposed solutions have done more harm than good in the past, and there is no reason to believe that will change.

What is being wrestled with by school systems and many other groups across this nation is not whether to promote a “gender-fluid ideology” or not, as Dr. Cretella claims.  There is no such ideology, unless one believes that our growing awareness that gender identity is not exclusively either female or male, and not in lockstep with physical gender, is an ideology.  Rather, the challenge is how to respond to this growing awareness that there is a spectrum of gender identity (just as there is a spectrum of physical gender, and a spectrum of sexual orientation) in a compassionate and respectful way.

If we are to treat persons we encounter who are not “fully male” or “fully female” (as we imagine they should be) with compassion and respect, then we must first understand and accept that our belief that anyone is either “fully male” or “fully female” is a mistaken social construct or assumption, not a concrete and unchanging reality.  Changing our own assumptions is where we must begin if we are to come to grips with this difficult and troubling challenge: changing “the other,” especially children who are struggling with their sexuality even before they are fully aware of what it is, is not an option.

Copyright (c) 2016, Allen Vander Meulen III, all rights reserved.  I’m happy to share my writings with you, as long as proper credit for my authorship is given. (e.g., via a credit that gives my full name and/or provides a link back to this site – or just email me and ask!)