The art world is not the only contemporary circus of the absurd. Everyday life competes with and often outstrips the most bizarre forces of the cultural avant garde. Or perhaps we should say that everyday life, too, has its avant garde. If mistaking a suicide for an art performance betokens one sort of breakdown, what about the proposals, announced in London last month, to allow transsexuals to marry under an assumed gender? Not only will Jane (né John) be able to marry James (née, possibly, Joan), but also either or both parties will be allowed to obtain new birth certificates emblazoned with only their new name and sex.

The last time we looked, birth certificates were legal documents that guaranteed a few basic facts about an individual: his or her birth date, birth place, birth name, and sex—perhaps we will now have to say “birth sex” or “sex at birth.” Henceforth, in Europe, anyway, the birth certificate will be a more negotiable document. The London Daily Telegraph, reporting on this story, noted that the original birth records would remain “unamended” and that a link from the new certificate could be traced by agencies such as the Criminal Records Bureau. Nevertheless, as an editorial in that paper commented, what the new proposals mean is that “the law will sanction a lie.”

The new “birth” certificate will state that X was born a woman, when in fact X was born a man, or vice versa. While the state—the Criminal Records Bureau, say—will be entitled to find out a transsexual’s original identity, the public will not.

The right to privacy has been elevated above reason, logic and truth. Is this not a reductio ad absurdum of the ideology of human rights? And does it not make an ass of the law?

Well, yes on both counts. And it must also be said that the new proposals, if adopted, will sorely complicate life in some quarters. According to the Telegraph, a new bureaucracy will be established with the power to decide whether individuals have, legally, assumed a new identity. “Those wishing to register will have to show they have lived under their acquired gender for at least two years,” the paper reported. “Surgery,” it continued, “will not be a condition of registration”—that’s some consolation, we suppose. “It would be possible for someone who retains male sexual organs to register as a woman and marry a man.” “O brave new world,” Miranda said, “that has such people in’t.” Lucky creature, she didn’t know the half of it.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 21 Number 5
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