By ALEXANDER DOLITSKY
Rebecca, a young American in her late 20s, seemed restless; she anxiously wandered around the room in all directions of the compass. Then, she asked me, “Alexander, do you believe in death?”
I was somewhat astounded by the question but answered cautiously and without hesitation, “Yes, I do.”
“Everlasting?” she followed up.
“Of course, everlasting. Why do you ask such a trivial question? Eventually, we all will biologically vanish, forever,” I responded.
“Well, do you ever think about your legacy?” she continued.
“Not on a daily basis; but, yes, I do from time-to-time,” I answered.
“Please don’t be offended; take my question in the friendly spirit with which it is intended. I’d like to propose two versions of your hypothetical obituary and ask which one you’d prefer. Is that OK?” she asked sheepishly, looking straight to my eyes.
“Okay, shoot,” I smiled and answered with an expression of friendliness.
“Thanks. Here is the first version: “Alexander D. was born and raised in such-and-such place, he was educated in such-and-such institutions, he was accomplished in many areas of his life, including achievements in many academic fields. In death, he preceded his ideologically progressive, far-left child who, as an adult, considered themselves to be non-binary and requested to be referred to as ‘they/them.’ This was an identity and ideology that Alexander D. reluctantly accepted.”
Certainly, Rebecca’s first hypothetical version of my legacy/obituary got my attention. “And what is the second version?” I asked, with obvious curiosity.
“The second version is this: “Alexander D. was born and raised in a such-and-such place, he was educated in such-and-such institutions, he was accomplished in many areas of his life, including achievements in many academic fields. In death, he preceded his ideologically progressive, far-left child who, as an adult, considered themselves to be non-binary and requested to be referred to as ‘they/them.’ This was an identity and ideology that Alexander D. sadly rejected.”
I was puzzled by Rebecca’s questions and the direction she was headed.
“So, what version of your hypothetical legacy/obituary would appeal to you?” Rebecca asked with a smirky smile.
I looked directly into Rebecca’s smirky eyes, which were radiating signals of distorted compliments, and replied, “Rebecca, I understand your implication of and reference to my child’s decision to begin using plural pronoun “them/they” in reference to themself. You know that this has been a difficult transition for our family.
“Keep in mind, Rebecca, that social anthropologists define kinship terminology systems as a set of words (e.g., mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, etc.) used in various languages and cultures to describe or label specific relationships between relatives. Societies in different parts of the world use more or less the same terminological patterns of kinship. Indeed, kinship terminology is fundamental for the preservation of the nuclear family.”
Rebecca objected with an accusatory voice, “But this traditional kinship terminology, both nouns and pronouns, does not adequately describe some peoples’ gender identity. They are not masculine or feminine; they are something in between. It is a science, you know.”
“Rebecca, don’t confuse the word science with the practice of scientific inquiries. Science is not a subject like math, physics, astronomy, anthropology, and so on. Science is a method and methodology. It’s a procedure, a process used by scientists for the scientific inquiries of the natural world. Scientists ask logical questions, propose logical hypotheses, testproposed hypotheses, collect and analyze data, prove or disprove proposed and tested hypotheses, derive to logical conclusions, and, finally, propose explanations based on the evidence derived from their research,” I said.
“Alexander, it is a proven fact that peoples’ gender identity may evolve and change in the course of their life. A child may be born as a girl (feminine) and gradually evolve into a boy (masculine). My 3-year old niece is convinced that she is a boy. She always yells to my aunt: ‘Mom, mom, I am a boy,’” Rebecca argued.
“Rebecca,” I countered, “an innocent 3-year old child dressed as an elephant during a Halloween or his/her birthday party will also innocently believe in being an elephant. Don’t you think so?
“More importantly, Rebecca, it is a proven biological fact that peoples’ hormones—the chemical substances that act like messenger molecules in the body—will definitely change in the course of their life. This is evidenced by the changes people experience in metabolism, appetite, growth and development, mood, stress, and body temperatures as they age.
“Additionally, it is an undeniable biological fact that peoples’ chromosomes (masculine or feminine) will not change in the course of their life. The X and Y chromosomes, also known as the sex chromosomes, determine the biological sex of an individual. Females inherit an X chromosome from the father for a XX genotype, while males inherit a Y chromosome from the father for a XY genotype (mothers only pass on X chromosomes).”
“Well, fine,” Rebecca reacted angrily. “So, what version of your hypothetical legacy would appeal to you, the first or the second?” she asked abruptly.
“Each of us has ownership of our life, identity, and ideologies. We can choose to vehemently disagree with the gender identity decisions that our friends and loved ones make,” I said. “Yet, it’s important to recognize that in spite of genetics or our personal ideologies, each person has the freedom to determine the course of their life and the decisions made there-in.
“Our freedom, however, can be used for good or ill. Ultimately, we are given freedom that we might freely choose the good—not like robots, but like humans. That is really the only purpose of free will—to choose the good. When it is misused to choose that which is hurtful or harmful or delusional, then it is misappropriated.
“We must certainly make every effort to love and respect every human as children of God, but without fostering or enabling a harmful fantasy that ultimately changes the course of their life.
“My life and my identity belong only to me, and to nobody else. I cannot and will not compromise my life, my beliefs, faith, ideology and factual truth. So, in regard to your question, and from the Judeo-Christian values and perspectives, my legacy ought to be the second version that:
“Alexander D. was born and raised in a such-and-such place, he was educated in such-and-such institutions, he was accomplished in many areas of his life, including achievements in many academic fields. In death, he preceded his ideologically progressive, far-left child who, as an adult, considered themselves to be non-binary and requested to be referred to as ‘they/them.’ This was an identity and ideology that Alexander D. sadly rejected.”
Alexander B. Dolitsky was born and raised in Kiev in the former Soviet Union. He received an M.A. in history from Kiev Pedagogical Institute, Ukraine, in 1976; an M.A. in anthropology and archaeology from Brown University in 1983; and was enroled in the Ph.D. program in Anthropology at Bryn Mawr College from 1983 to 1985, where he was also a lecturer in the Russian Center. In the U.S.S.R., he was a social studies teacher for three years, and an archaeologist for five years for the Ukranian Academy of Sciences. In 1978, he settled in the United States. Dolitsky visited Alaska for the first time in 1981, while conducting field research for graduate school at Brown. He lived first in Sitka in 1985 and then settled in Juneau in 1986. From 1985 to 1987, he was a U.S. Forest Service archaeologist and social scientist. He was an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Alaska Southeast from 1985 to 1999; Social Studies Instructor at the Alyeska Central School, Alaska Department of Education from 1988 to 2006; and has been the Director of the Alaska-Siberia Research Center (see www.aksrc.homestead.com) from 1990 to present. He has conducted about 30 field studies in various areas of the former Soviet Union (including Siberia), Central Asia, South America, Eastern Europe and the United States (including Alaska). Dolitsky has been a lecturer on the World Discoverer, Spirit of Oceanus, andClipper Odyssey vessels in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. He was the Project Manager for the WWII Alaska-Siberia Lend Lease Memorial, which was erected in Fairbanks in 2006. He has published extensively in the fields of anthropology, history, archaeology, and ethnography. His more recent publications include Fairy Tales and Myths of the Bering Strait Chukchi, Ancient Tales of Kamchatka; Tales and Legends of the Yupik Eskimos of Siberia; Old Russia in Modern America: Russian Old Believers in Alaska; Allies in Wartime: The Alaska-Siberia Airway During WWII; Spirit of the Siberian Tiger: Folktales of the Russian Far East; Living Wisdom of the Far North: Tales and Legends from Chukotka and Alaska; Pipeline to Russia; The Alaska-Siberia Air Route in WWII; and Old Russia in Modern America: Living Traditions of the Russian Old Believers; Ancient Tales of Chukotka, and Ancient Tales of Kamchatka.