A woman was sacked for having short hair and wearing trousers to work. “They said I was gay,” she complained to an unsympathetic labour tribunal in the city of Guiyang, southwest China.
How could her employers get it so wrong? A pixie cut and skinny pants are what all the babes wear these days. Only guys have long hair, handbags and dresses.
The growing gulf between modern and ancient attitudes became evident a few days ago when I sat through a discussion on gender politics.
No one is born male or female, an American friend insisted. In evidence he offered a recent US court judgment saying, in an unmistakably skeptical tone, that the law should not give much credence to “birth-assigned sex”, or so-called “biological sex”.
This casual dismissal of science irked some of the nerdy Asians in the group, who pointed out that every strand of DNA in each of the 30 trillion cells in your body specifies male or female.
I could see both arguments but luckily avoided having to take sides by diverting attention to an astonishing gender-related news item which popped up on my email feed from reader Austen Au Yeung.
A wallaby in Sydney’s main zoo managed to get pregnant more than a year after her male partner had left, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The discovery followed soon after a report in New Scientist that virgin births are not only possible, but common, having been observed in snakes, fish, chickens and sharks.
The belief that virgin births only produce sterile daughters was also disproved, the science journal said, and the findings “overturn everything we knew about parthenogenesis”. (The magazine’s letters page should expect a one-word email from a Jewish woman writing from a PO Box c/o Heaven: “FINALLY.”)
I made a note to hide my copy of New Scientist from my daughters in case they got funny ideas – and then expanding mid-sections. (“Dad, you know you said we couldn’t have a puppy? Well.”)
As for the “trans debate”, I used to believe that anyone can use any toilet, until I stepped into a public restroom beside a wild nightclub in Pattaya and came out convinced that no human should be allowed to use any public toilets ever.
So who can use them?
About a month ago, a US reader told me the true story of Ricky Hernandez of Phoenix, Arizona, who decided that he was really a transgender woman, and had a series of surgeries. After he had become Eva Tiamat Medusa, he decided that he’d made a mistake. He wasn’t a woman – he was a dragon. He’s recently had more surgeries to get scales, horns and a snout and describes himself as “transspecies”.
The reader expected me to be shocked by this, but having grown up on “The Sword in the Stone” and the Animorphs novels, I could see the cool side. If transspecies operations ever became available on welfare, I would wait until the next time someone called me “a bear with a sore head” and then sneak off to hospital and come back as one. RAWWRR.
Clearly skyscrapers of the future will consist of one small office and 95 floors of toilets, one per person. I can get over my Pattaya trauma. Finally.
(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and comments via his Facebook page)