The proposed addition of “gender identity and expression” carries that transformation even further by suppressing the binary logic itself. Backers of these bills often make no attempt to disguise this. “One of the great myths of our culture,” insists the Canadian Labor Congress, “is that at birth each infant can be identified as distinctly ”˜male’ or ”˜female’ (biological sex), will grow up to have correspondingly ”˜masculine’ or ”˜feminine’ behavior (public gender), live as a ”˜man’ or a ”˜woman’ (social gender role), and marry a woman or a man (heterosexual affective orientation). This is not so.”
The standard notion of sex, then, must be replaced by the more malleable concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity. And I do mean must. Here in Quebec a recent government white paper promises to wipe society clean of both homophobia and heterosexism””that is, of any “affirmation of heterosexuality as a social norm or the highest form of sexual orientation [and of any] social practice that conceals the diversity of sexual orientations and identities.”
What this will mean in the long run for the legal protection of women remains to be seen, of course, but we can’t have it both ways. Sex cannot serve as an effective legal marker for discrimination if its binary nature dissolves into fluid sexual subjectivities. In that sense, these bills constitute unfriendly amendments to the civil and criminal codes they purport to refine or perfect.