Dead To Me

RIP to the Ghosts of Past Prejudices

It’s Halloween, folks. That time of year we celebrate by impersonating other beings. People have been doing this for thousands of years – fulfilling a basic human need to shuck off our identity and explore our inner selves. Coupling this practice with ghoulish imagery is no accident. Until the early 1900’s, most Halloween “celebrations” were seriously (and intentionally) terrifying. The message was clear: It might be fun to push boundaries but the consequences are deadly. Mwahahahaaa…

Today, this holiday is all treats, no tricks. As a society, we’re much more accepting of individuality in the public realm. There’s a whole new set of genders, new pronouns, new words for ways people would like themselves and their relationships identified. “Pangender”, “intersex”, “nonbinary”, “LGBTQQIP2SAA”… It’s a lot to take in, and frankly I’m not so sure I want to know that much about everyone I meet. What’s the point? The more we learn about gender identity, the less relevance it seems to have.

Remember how we were taught chromosomes determine our sex? “XY” is male and “XX” is female – right? Now scientists have learned it’s actually just one single gene, and there’s no guarantee which chromosome it’ll attach to. Surprise: it’s not uncommon for someone to be physically one sex but chromosomally the other, which is something we can measure now.

Then there’s hormones. We used to think there were “normal” levels of certain hormones for males and females, but now we know that’s not true. Some women have more male hormones than some men, and vice versa. Some people don’t have enough hormones at significant points in their development, perhaps due to trauma or environment. All this can affect gender identity.

Back in my day (I’m mid 50’s), when someone didn’t match society’s idea of male or female, doctors would prescribe “gender normalizing” procedures and pharmaceuticals which could be painful and disfiguring. Thousands of parents every year were signing off on these treatments to “fix” their child, who’s raised thinking they’re not OK as they are. So of course I understand the urge to name and validate every gender experience now. And I’m sure it’s all very interesting. To you.

From my perspective, though, this sort of talk feels like none of my business. Why are we even asking people’s genders anymore? Let’s keep it between you and your doctor and whoever else you choose to share it with. We can remove it from 90% of forms and applications, I bet. While we’re at it, I’ve got another box we can stop asking people to tick: Race.

Talk about meaningless. For starters, there is no biological foundation. None. Scientists have analyzed millions of DNA profiles across the globe, and discovered that skin color is no indication of genetic makeup. Africans, for example, share more DNA with Europeans than they do with Pacific Islanders, though our eyes would tell us otherwise. There are literally no distinct evolutionary branches of humanity, we are 99.9% the same.

What’s worse, the very idea of race was invented by racists! True Story: there was no such thing as race until the 18th century, when white colonists began enslaving and massacring indigenous populations to steal their land and labor. Look up Bacon’s Rebellion, for how the concept took hold here in America, where race continues to be a major factor in almost every aspect of life.

I’m not saying that rejecting racial labels will solve racism – but it’s a start. Every time we see “race” on a Census form, college application, bank loan, etc. it legitimizes this myth that how we look has anything to do with who we are. Whether or not I identify strongly with my African roots and the Black culture in Philadelphia is at once evident to all who know me, and also none of anyone’s business.

Race, gender, sexual orientation are irrelevant. Let’s stop asking everyone to identify themselves and – here’s a thought –let’s accept each other at face value. Let’s give each other all the rights and respect we’d want for ourselves. Peace.

Follow the links in this article for deeper dives. Read Dr. Woodson’s last column here. 

About Lorenzo Woodson 37 Articles
Dr. Lorenzo Woodson (Ph.D., RBT, CC, LBS) is a licensed behavior analyst specializing in clients on the autism spectrum. He lives in Germantown with his wife of 24 years, and lectures nationally for social causes. Lorenzo is a member of Men Who Care of Germantown. Connect with Lorenzo on Facebook or email him at

1 Comment

  1. This article does make one think.

    Stepping back from ‘race’ and ‘gender’ just for a minute so we may bring ‘religious’ discrimination back into the spotlight for comparison. I’ll tentatively posit that perhaps religious discrimination has abated somewhat in say the last perhaps half-century? What exists today is less intense, perhaps even nicely fading away? Not to suggest in any way we can or should forget religious discrimination and the effects of said discrimination through history.

    Let’s suggest for a thought exercise that perhaps discrimination based on sexual orientation may go the way of religious discrimination? Progress has been made, and perhaps it is merely a matter of avoiding backlash from those who will need more time to adjust?

    In the original article, race was saved for last, and so it is here. To suggest the point that by order of magnitude this issue should be delineated from other discrimination’s. I agree completely with Dr. Woodson, that it would be wonderful if we could stop asking for race, gender and orientation identifications, but I fear we must recognize that the sheer mass and intensity of systems organized around race will require proportionately far more effort, and over a longer time, and with more intensity and attention than other biases.

    Let’s consider we begin by learning and teaching more about the dynamics leading up to Bacon’s Rebellion, and tone down ‘critical race theory’, which, despite laudable beginnings, has been bludgeoned into a counterproductive divisive issue. The historical record is there, why not teach it?

    Indeed, ‘why not’. I suspect many have come to the conclusion the general public does not have the patience to peel away the onions layers and see that at it’s core, we have rottenness. And on that lack of patience, add various distractions as needed, and ‘landed’ classes are built using the ‘lower’ classes. This is what Bacon’s rebellion was about. This is the underlying, insidious core of every rebellion and revolution before or after.

    The topic of ‘class’ has been made intentionally ugly, nearly taboo, difficult to approach. And perhaps this is for the best. Theoretical alternatives to and permutations of a hierarchical class based society have been tried. Tried at great human cost.

    So in conclusion, Dr. Woodson, bravo and kudos. Thank You for keeping up gentle restrained pressure, as we’ve done so poorly with radical change in volatile conditions.

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