Identity – Challenging Bromberg On His Argument

TW: suicide, but only a brief mention.

 

Is identity predestined or chosen? I’d say bit of both, but more of the former. Let me explain what I”m talking about.

I read this article on Andrew Bolt’s blog I’m just reporting what some other guy argues. It would probably be unlawful for me to agree. Predominately, it’s talking about cultural heritage, however, there are mentions of sexual orientation and gender identity that I feel compelled to comment on.

In terms of racial identity, I can see where Bolt is coming from. His parents migrated from Holland just before he was born in the last 1950’s. In his adult life, he made the deliberate choice to identify as “Australian”, leaving his Dutch heritage behind. However, I wonder if it’d be the same, for example, if the suburb in Adelaide (where he grew up), had a bigger Dutch population? What if he had a non – Caucasian heritage, like Chinese, Arabic or Vietnamese? Would his decision be the same? I also know of a family who’s kids I grew up with who’s parents spoke Cantonese at home. Isn’t it possible that could’ve had some influence on how they identify?

I know someone who’s mother came from Germany after the war. The mother slammed German relatives who spoke their native tongue in fron of the children because of the pain it caused. Maybe if this person was more exposed to the German culture or language, would things have turned out differently in the way she identified?

First thing; cultural heritage. In this article, the associate professor Mike Keane, among other things, quoted from Justice Mordecai Bromberg:

In my view, identity like any other form of consent, is completely contemporary phenomenon. At each and every juncture you make an autonomous choice about how you identify…

(Couple of paragraphs down):

Justice Bromberg’s standard would then create some bizarre and wholly unacceptable ethical precedents. Imagine what this principle, if logically extended to other forms of identity and ethics, would mean. Your upbringing would forever cast you into a certain  identity. You were born a Catholic? Well, then society will hold you to it all through your adult life. And if you want to identify as transgender? No, sorry you’re not allowed.

OK, on this little bit. I think I can safely say that the majority of transgender don’t “want to identify as transgender”. It’s how they authentically feel themselves. From what I’ve heard/ read about gender it’s pretty instinctual. Actually, on Sunrise one day (last year?), columnist Shelley Horton paraphrased respected Melbourne – based childhood and adolescence psychologist Dr. Michael Carr – Gregg when she said that if a transgender child isn’t able to express their gender identity, their risk of suicide skyrockets. (NOTE: not all children who go through this in early childhood end up as transgender adults).

By the way, this decade, century, whatever, is not the first time that there have been people who have identified as transgender. There have been historical accounts from the early 1900’s of certain biological women who have dressed up as men and have even married other women in that disguise. In such cases, historians have genuinely questioned whether the women were in actual fact transgender.

Secondly:

At a time when we are talking on the intolerance of Islamic State, Justice Bromberg’s decision would have us forever cast people to racial, religious and sexual identity from birth without the possibility of opt out.

How does exactly someone “opt out” of being straight? Or gay? Or asexual? I have said in the past that, yes sexual identity/ orientation isn’t black – and – white for some people. I have also argued that for others, sexual orientation is never likely to be fluid. And I still stand by that. I think it’s fair to say after the collapse of the “ex – gay” industry both here and the US, for a lot of people, gay, straight, asexual, etc, that there are people who can’t just “opt out” of their sexual identity (some of them can’t anyway). It’s how they’re wired. According to the American Psychological Association (although there are differing views, I might add), most people’s sexual orientation is identified and pretty much determined by the age of fifteen. Of course, there are exceptions.

It’s my view that identity is complex. I don’t think it’s simple to say, “it’s choice” or even that it’s all natural. It’s a mixture of both and probably more. Should we discriminate on any of these grounds? Good heavens no! But, like I said before, completely ignoring people’s differences isn’t the answer either, whether they “choose” these differences or not.

 

 

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