09:49, November 09 285 0 abajournal.com

2017-11-09 09:49:05
‘The Orville’ explores issues related to gender neutrality

This might come as a surprise to some. Still, others who are familiar with Mr. MacFarlane’s work know that no topic is too taboo.

The producers of the series The Orville recently devoted an episode to a conflict between cultures. The series’ third episode focuses on Orville crew member Bortus and his partner Klyden, who are from the planet Moclus and are parents of a newborn. They seek to change the child’s biological sex from female to male to conform to the norms of their male-dominated planet.

The episode exposes the fallacy of male superiority and the dangers inherent in assigning roles based solely on sex. Gender-neutral parenting has grown as a movement in the U.S. and in other countries to allow individuals the freedom to develop without the assignment of stereotypical male or female roles.

The gender neutrality movement seeks to eliminate gender-based stereotyping of children. Its goal is to allow children to grow up without being forced into playing with certain types of toys, wearing certain clothing, pursuing courses of academic study, or entering particular careers simply based on what “society” expects from them as a result of their sex at birth. The hope is that common sense will eventually prevail, and all individuals will realize that some boys play with dolls and some girls gravitate toward toy trucks and cars based upon what they like rather than what is expected based upon their sex.

Some proponents try to accomplish this by raising children in a completely gender-neutral way. This can include not suggesting the sex of a child through clothing, toy selection or even the colors chosen for a child’s bedroom.

The concept of all children being offered the same opportunities in life regardless of sex is laudable, but the idea has divided many cultures as it has grown in strength and recognition. Some experts believe differences between males and females occur naturally and innately without regard to social contacts or influence from parents. Other folks just refuse to deviate from the notion that “a boy is a boy and a girl is a girl.”

Sex and gender are not the same, yet people frequently use the two terms interchangeably. The Census Bureau has had to deal with the issue of sex versus gender to determine how to word its questions to obtain the most accurate data.

A person’s sex is determined by the following three factors:

Gender, on the other hand, is based upon how the society or culture to which a person belongs labels specific behaviors and tendencies. For example, wearing makeup might be labeled as being a feminine trait while wearing a necktie might be considered as masculine. A ballet class might be perceived as feminine while a class in small-engine repairs is looked upon as male-oriented.

The definition of gender identity moves the focus toward the direction of self-awareness. According to groups working to address the assignment of traits based upon male and female stereotypical behaviors, gender should be determined by how people perceive themselves. Using that approach means gender can be male, female or a mixture or none of the two depending on the individual’s self-perception. Gender does not have to align with the sex category assigned at the time of a person’s birth.

I have represented transgender clients and seen firsthand the difficulty they experience while trying to maneuver their way through the legal system. This can become even more difficult and unnecessarily complicated when a person decides to transition. The sad fact is that our society is not currently equipped to address the needs of all people regardless of sex or gender.

Individuals who identify as being nonbinary and not identifying with only masculine or feminine traits and behaviors experience hardships in a world where most government agencies are set up to identify people by only a male or female orientation. For example, a nonbinary couple in Canada is asking the courts to force the government to allow their child’s birth certificate to be issued without a gender designation.

The government refused to issue a birth certificate when the child was born without assigning a gender designation. The refusal of the parents to pick either “male” or “female” led to a certificate being issued with a “U” which the parents assume means gender was “undetermined” or “unassigned. The parents want the certificate to be blank in the section of gender designation.

Their cause might be helped by a slow shift in public policy as state governments begin to move closer to gender neutrality. For example, California, Oregon and the District of Columbia have enacted laws allowing people to obtain a gender-neutral driver’s license. As our understanding grows, the hope is that no person will be left in legal limbo simply due to their personal perception.

California recently became the first state to pass legislation authorizing the issuance of gender-neutral birth certificates. The Gender Recognition Act offers a nonbinary category on birth certificates along with the male and female designations. It also makes it possible for individuals to have their birth certificates changed simply by submitting a request along with an affidavit attesting to the fact the change is not requested for fraudulent reasons.

Changes to state laws giving recognition to gender neutrality offer nonbinary individuals the legal support to avoid discrimination. No longer does an individual’s physical appearance have to align with a legal document reflecting an assigned gender.

Adam R. Banner is the founder and lead attorney at the Oklahoma Legal Group, a criminal defense law firm in Oklahoma City. Mr. Banner’s practice focuses solely on state and federal criminal defense. He represents the accused against allegations of sex crimes, violent crimes, drug crimes, and white collar crimes.

The study of law isn’t for everyone, yet its practice and procedure seems to permeate pop culture at an increasing rate. This column is about the intersection of law and pop culture in an attempt to separate the real from the ridiculous.