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Paulette and I gave our children deliberately ambiguous first names --- "Merle", "Gray", and "Robin" --- from which it's not obvious what sex each one is. It was in part a bit of gentle nose-thumbing at what seemed (and seems) to us an occasional over-preoccupation with gender in our culture. Undeniably, there are plenty of (delightful!?) differences between the sexes (however many sexes one cares to count). But for most parameters there's far more statistical variance within each category than there is among them. And there's no need to bin individuals prematurely based on genetic happenstance. Better to pigeonhole people after getting to know them and gathering a few data points, eh?

Douglas Hofstadter wrote a short fantasy piece ("A Person Paper on Purity in Language" reprinted in Metamagical Themas) several years ago on a related note, about a hypothetical world's language in which names and pronouns revealed not gender but race. Alas, Hofstadter reported, his experiment in social commentary was widely misunderstood; he was accused of racism by readers who didn't pick up the ironic intent. Perhaps some thorny issues are too deeply-embedded to touch, at least not without causing pain....

(see OurStonehenge and WomenAndMen)

TopicPersonalHistory - TopicSociety - Datetag20011213

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