Massachusetts voted a couple of day ago to allow a proposed (state) constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage to proceed, thereby setting in motion a legal process which might eventually (after several legal hurdles) make it illegal in MA (currently the only state to permit same-sex marriage) for two individuals of the same sex to marry each other. The only way around such amendment, should it succeed, would be the fairly drastic measure of having one of the individuals legally have his or her sex changed. Of course, a proposal two months ago by New York City’s Board of Health would have made that latter process significantly easier (at least for New Yorkers). The proposal, which was withdrawn a month later, would have “created a new standard for certifying a change of gender,” effectively allowing transgendered individuals to alter the sex specified on their birth certificates even without necessarily having undergone surgery and/or hormone therapy (though applicants would still have needed “reliable documented evidence from a licensed physician and a mental health professional that they had completed the transition from one gender to the other and intended to permanently remain in their acquired gender.”) Meanwhile, a reminder of the traction which various forms of sexual determinancy continues to carry in the contemporary world, together with the potential divergences of gender and a slippery notion of biological “sex,” is provided by the announcement a couple of weeks ago that Santhi Soundararajan, a top Indian woman athlete, might be stripped of her silver medal at the recent Asian Games in Doha on account of having failed a “gender test” (given that “gender,” in contemporary usage, is usually understood as referring to a socio-cultural construct, presumably what the Asian Olympics officials meant was a “sex test,” though Judith Butler, among others, has argued persuasively that the notion of a rigid boundary between socio-cultural “gender” and biological “sex” is, itself, a socio-cultural construct).
These issues of the social and biological “realities” of sex and gender, meanwhile, also carry over in interesting ways into the virtual world. Although one sometimes gets the impression that the web constitutes a fluid space in which it is possible to adopt a range of alternate identities (for instance, the image of gay men adopting the personas of teenage girl in order to flirt with horny heterosexual boys/men), in practice, though, it seems that in some respects on-line identities are not as fluid as they might be. For instance, the influential and intelligent pseudonymous female blogger Bitch Ph.D. suggested on the last day of last week’s MLA convention (according to a summary provided by another blogger) that, based on her informal polls, "most pseudonymous bloggers are who they say they are; if they say they are women, they are." Coincidentally, the very next day another influential and intelligent pseudonymous female blogger, Bitch|Lab (no relation), appeared to come out of the virtual closet as being actually a “queer dewd.”