Big Question: What is Free Choice?

Free choice is complicated, especially as it relates to subjects of this class. On one hand, we’re all human beings and we make our own decisions, both short- and long-term. That’s what makes us human. However, I think it’s impossible to say choice is free in every way, particularly when it comes to issues involving gender, sex, and sexuality.

As we have seen in The Business of Being Born, American women and their partners have limitations on choice because they are largely unaware and uninformed about their options for childbirth. Rather than making a conscious decision about when, where, and how to deliver the baby, many women are passive participants in this major life event. Women seem to follow the ritual/performance of consulting a doctor and taking their advice (without seeking other birth professionals), a method that stories from friends and family, dramatic media representations, stereotypes, and even urban legends have popularized. Without complete knowledge about alternatives to medicalized birth or full understanding of what happens during hospital birth, free choice about giving birth is nonexistent.

Additionally, as we saw in Diagnosing Difference, transgender individuals are limited in their choices when it comes to healthcare because of the standards that medical professionals determine. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders currently uses the term “Gender Identity Disorder” as means to diagnose and medicalize people’s feelings that are aberrant from the dichotomous man/woman gender identities. Because of this, transgender people have many barriers when it comes to seeking procedures to help them transition or feel more like themselves in their bodies. Rather than having the free choice to get these procedures done, there are gatekeepers and barriers to them, unlike most other plastic surgeries and injections. Additionally, many medical professionals who are able to act as these gatekeepers are largely uninformed about transgender and transsexual people, making it even harder for them to get the procedures they need because of another person’s ignorance on the subject. Because of the limitations that medicine has placed on them, transgender people are unable to have “free choice” about their bodies.

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