Monday, 19 March 2012

Is God a He or a She? Are you Mr or Ms?

When I attended a Catholic missionary school we always  prayed to “Our Father in heaven…” and now I am a devotee  of Devi Ma. Therefore, for me God tends to change gender  depending on who I am praying to. Yet I have been told God  is a supreme soul who is genderless like all of us. We all  are souls incarnated into body costumes of men and women  but if we were soul conscious we would not identify ourselves as men or women, boys or girls. All of us have qualities which are attributed to both sexes. This as a concept is  hard to imagine or comprehend.

This reminds me of the various aspects of the gender debate, which goes on in our society today. One of our general surgeon friends was telling us about a man who had undergone a sex change operation to become a woman. Since becoming a woman he/she had had a few health issues necessitating a visit to a general surgeon who was a man. Since the health issues related to the organs his/her body still carried due to being born a man, she/he found the line of questioning, attitudes and bedside manner of the male general surgeon objectionable and therefore transferred his/her care to a female general surgeon. The team of doctors who were looking after her/him, had to be careful about addressing her in the appropriate manner while still eliciting aspects in her/his history pertaining to male organs of her/his body. While this was challenging and confusing for everyone involved, it made everyone think.

Recently there has been a debate in the media about allowing gay marriages. Sometime back, there was one about gay couples adopting children. People against gay marriages are quick to point out that civil partnerships are already allowed and in vogue and they work as well as a marriage. If we allow gay marriages the terms “husband” “wife”, “mother” “father” would no longer be relevant and all forms and data collection would have to be overhauled. Children’s story books would in the future anyway have to feature two dad and two mum families along with traditional dad mum families. The man who was speaking in favour of gay marriages was of the opinion that marriage was the ultimate relationship and that he and his partner should be allowed to be married. The BBC presenter clearly asked about the words which would be used for him and his partner if they were married and he was of the opinion that they would be each other’s husbands.

This is in contrast to what happened on another TV report about someone who was detained for questioning by the authorities. The guy who was detained was asked if he would want to contact anybody and he said he would want the authorities to contact his girlfriend. When the girlfriend was contacted she turned out to be a man. When the man who had been detained was questioned about it, he said he was well aware that his girlfriend was a man, but that, he was still his girlfriend! And so the gender debate rages.

I have to be careful about the way I take a history from a woman who is in a same sex relationship. If I am not aware, I would be asking irrelevant questions about how many pregnancies, contraception and fertility issues where as the reasons why she could be having pelvic pain might be something I still need to learn about, while getting trained in sensitive history taking.

Will there come a time when people will be asked how they would like to be addressed- Mr or Ms? And with the world becoming progressively gender neutral, will it pave the way for reducing levels of violence against the weaker human? I wonder!

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