Choosing Your Identity

Trump's administration has apparently defined the "transgender" identity out of existence by saying people are stuck with the sex indicated by their chromosomes. There are lots of other possible arguments about identity. Elizabeth Warren has been pilloried both by Trump and Native Americans for mentioning and proving that she has Native American ancestry. Another woman was drummed out of a leadership position by apparently falsely claiming to be black.

So which categories are up for choice? We mostly agree that Americans are allowed to choose their political party, religious affiliation, and what sports teams they cheer for - though some religions don't allow that kind of choice. Ethnic identity seems to me a lot more socially determined than biological gender, so why is that off the table or delegated to some bureaucracy?

We know the reason. It's because some privileges or opportunities are reserved by ethnic identity. It's possible to argue that the benefits of affirmative action outweigh the disadvantages, and usually I agree, but the fact is that it does pose some knotty philosophical and moral puzzles.

For the record, I don't care what bathroom people use or how they dress, but I don't have any problem with the Census identifying people either by their biological sex or whatever they choose to claim, though it might be good to be consistent.

If I get thru another couple of graduate courses in astrophysics, I might even start calling myself an astronomer - or, more probably, not.


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