Someone (I apologize for not tracking every post on this complex thread), said that the area of gender and sex gets into metaphysics, and metaphysics is not part of our job as catalogers.
Well, on the contrary, since catalogers are sorting and labeling various things, we are attempting, in a little way, to define reality. We are dealing on a metaphysical level, whether we are comfortable with that or not. The whole question of gender/sex (and I agree with Amber that the discussion on authority records conflates these two different concepts in an unhelpful way!) is a philosophical one.
However, we are treating it as if it were a question of pragmatics, as we often do in cataloging. But if the metaphysics are flawed, the pragmatic solutions are flawed, perhaps damaging. Many errors of science -- even library science! -- came about because those involved decided: We can do this; therefore, we SHOULD do this -- Indeed, we must.
The decision to code gender is, I think, born out of that defective reasoning. (And I think the demographic group list is the same mistake on a disastrously larger scale, but that's not this thread.) I am grateful for this discussion, because perhaps it shows, as some of us tried to warn the profession years ago, that coding gender is the wrong thing to do, and a binary code is the wrong way to do it. I regret the hurt to my transgender colleagues, and I did wrong by not speaking up sooner about it myself. Both as someone who is often hemmed in by definitions I didn't choose for myself, and as kin to a transwoman, I should have known and done better.
Naomi K. Young
University of Florida
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