Sex is Not Assigned at Birth, and I Never Beat my Wife - How Little Lies Lead to Big Lies
I was asked to fill out a survey at work this week. The content of it isn't important here. Important here was the demographics portion. Specifically, when I was asked about my sex.
After going through the entire survey, it asked a few demographic questions at the end, finishing with “What is your assigned sex at birth?” That’s where I exited out and decided to scrap the whole thing. There is no way I am participating in this game.
To answer a question like that, I have to agree with the premise that sex is assigned. It’s like asking, “Do you still beat your wife?” and only allowing “Yes” or “No” as an answer.
When my wife was pregnant with our son and then our daughter, we knew their sex before they were born. Being older parents, the clinicians had mandatory screening tests done through blood draws. What the tests do is look for elements of our children that are circulating in their mother’s blood. From that blood test, they told us — if we wanted to know and we did — the sex of the baby, amongst other screening tests.
Their sex was not assigned but revealed in utero — before birth. The question “What was your assigned sex at birth?” has not only one but two lies embedded within it.
So when I come upon a question like “What is your assigned sex at birth?”, I have to participate in a type of lie in order to answer it because sex is neither assigned nor is it a function of what happens after the child is born.
If I answer the question “Do you still beat your wife?” with a “Yes” or “No”, I admit to beating my wife in the past if I answer “No”, and still beating her if I answer “Yes”, even if I never did beat my wife.
My willingness to answer a question presumes my agreement with its premise. And this is a premise that conflicts with reality.
Now some may say that it’s a small price to pay for assuring that some among us who deserve basic human respect feel comfortable in the language we use. But we’ll have to figure out a way to do so better, in a way that does not include lying about basic reality. Otherwise, I, and likely many others, will not participate willingly.
For a survey like this one, it’s not necessarily some grand public stand that I took because the survey itself is voluntary. I don’t have to explain to anyone I work with why I didn’t complete it. But little lies, whether through commission, omission, or participation, always lead to bigger lies. That is not a path I am willing to take, even if it is a baby step.
In the seventies, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the famed author of the Gulag Archipelago, addressed his Russian comrades in a now-famous speech titled Live Not by Lies. In the speech, he describes the manner in which people who have been pummeled into silence by an oppressive regime could resist oppression. They may not protest or stand in front of tanks waiting to be smashed to bits. They may not have the courage to do so. But what they could do is simply not lie.
“Though lies may conceal everything, though lies may control everything, we should be obstinate about this one small point: let them be in control but without any help from any of us.”
The concept is that all totalitarian regimes are created by and then supported by the propagation of lies. Their people first ignore lies, then accept lies, and then repeat lies. Eventually, nobody is sure of what is and is not true. Lying becomes so ingrained and an expectation of their culture that they don’t even realize they are lying. Lying becomes a reflex.
Exiting out of a survey may not be something that changes the world. But it’s my small step down the path of truth and preservation of the one soul I have control over. If we as a people move down the path of lies, it will not be because of me.
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