By accident, I came across a document that relates the adoption of a resolution concerning human sexual identity, by the Kansas Republican Party. The resolution focused particularly on the rights of transgender individuals.
The resolution was submitted on February 17th, 2018, by Eric Teetsel, a delegate for the third district, and was adopted. The actual wording of the document makes for interesting reading, and the logic of it is, at best, dubious.
The short text begins by citing nine facts concerning ‘transgenderism”, as perceived by the author. Two of the stated facts are cause for concern:
- WHEREAS, all persons are created in God’s image and, therefore, have inherent dignity and inalienable rights; and
- WHEREAS, these cultural currents [i.e. normalising transgenderism] run counter to God’s created order and violate the dignity of every human being…
The adopted resolution states that, “the Kansas Republican Party recognises the dignity of every human being, including those who identify as LGBT; that we affirm God’s design for gender as determined by biological sex and not by self-perception…”
Needless to say that the party is against all forms of surgery to help these people, and opposes the creation of public facilities for transgender individuals. The resolution also discourages schools to, “undermine the values of parents who do not agree with transgenderism,” and that, “students have a reasonable expectation of privacy and safety at school.”
Before even starting, I can already say that the Republican Party’s choice of the word “transgenderism”, reflects a profound lack of knowledge concerning transgender individuals, or a profound hate. The transgender community does not represent an ideology in the same way that federalism, or any -ism does. Transgender individuals are, like it or not, individuals.
Others can analyse what the Holy Bible has to say about gender, much better than I can, so I won’t go into that here, apart from citing this beautiful quote,
If the Bible is our guide, then God’s design for gender is a gigantic rainbow of variation, not a black-and-white conformity with sex. – Jay Michaelson
However, I would like to dwell on the two points from the resolution, cited above and, in particular, the notion of “dignity”.
The resolution alludes to dignity, and qualifies the dignity as being inherent. Dignity is defined as, “the importance and value that a person has, that makes other people respect them or makes them respect themselves”. Inherent refers to that which “exists in something as a permanent, essential, or characteristic attribute.”
The Republican Party has interpreted dignity solely in the view of their interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. The most important part of the definition of dignity is that concerning self-respect. Dignity is a state of mind that takes its source from within. Furthermore, if dignity is inherent – as stated by the Republicans – it is present in all of us, from the minute we are born. Dignity transcends all our mental and physical differences, and emphasizes, above all else, the fact that we all have a common human identity. I firmly believe that dignity is the closest that we come to Plato’s Ideas and, if anything, it is this human identity, embracing all differences, that was created by God. It is a universal transcendental value that, despite the enormous difficulties in defining what it actually is, represents the very nature of what we are. We, as individuals, are incapable of defining what dignity actually is, but are the only ones capable of deciding whether we possess it. Not one of us is made in the “image of God” (if there is such a thing), more than the other, and no-one has the divine right to tell another human being that he does not have the right to be who he feels he is, in all dignity.
It is now being more widely accepted that “sex is between your legs, and gender between your ears.” For most of us, one corresponds with the other. But what happens if it doesn’t? Are such individuals forced to live with a body that they feel ashamed of, and that they do not respect?
Human dignity is constantly being questioned and threatened, wherever you look. A particular concept of dignity is being imposed by both authoritarian governments, and religious fundamentalists. For Stephen Pinker, the problem stems from the fact that human dignity is hard to define, and even harder to apply, without prejudices and bias. How am I to decide what is dignified for another?
The problem is that “dignity” is a squishy, subjective notion, hardly up to the heavyweight moral demands assigned to it. – Stephen Pinker
Contrary to Pinker, I do not think that dignity is “skin deep”. On the contrary, dignity reaches the most profound layers of our psyche, can cause irrevocable damage, if destroyed, and is the fundamental pillar for our freedom. It implies a conscious appraisal of, and decision over, our way of life and, in particular, what we want to do with our bodies. Dignity is thus synonymous with autonomy over your mind and body. As an example, Muslim women should only find the wearing of a burqa acceptable and dignified, if all women who wear it, did so by choice, and were universally allowed to wear non-religious clothes. Only too often, we hear Muslim women saying that they are not forced to wear religious clothes – but have we actually seen the same women dressed differently?
The feeling of dignity, akin to the feeling of faith, is an extremely personal and subjective state of mind. As individuals, we may not have the same notions of what dignity actually is. How many times have you thought, “I wouldn’t be seen walking down the street, like that.” But who are you to judge?
What becomes more complicated for religious conservatives to accept and support, is that individuals be allowed to synchronise their bodies with their minds, in order to protect their dignities. But the logic remains the same – wearing the right clothes is just as important as being in the right body. Both must protect and enhance my dignity. Nothing can be worse than when body and mind do not correspond. Unfortunately, that is something that religious conservatives cannot, or will not, understand.
There are only two beings who can decide what dignity represents for me, and how I should conduct my life with dignity. The first is myself, and no-one else. The second, dare I say it, is God. But the least that God can do is tell me face-to-face who I am and what I should be. The only problem is, by the time that happens, it will probably be too late.