My first thought about gender-neutral birth certificates is that it will interfere with genealogical research. Perhaps people who choose gender-neutral birth certificates are less likely to have descendants, so it won’t matter.

But it may also be a sign of the weakening of our cultural understanding of facts. People are born with a certain number of X chromosomes and nearly all are born with clearly identifiable sexual characteristics. At birth, about 1 in 1500 children has any ambiguity in gender. For the vast majority of humans, being male or female is a simple fact at birth.

Later on, people may have uncertainty about their gender. They may have a sense of certainty that their personal truth is at odds with their biological fact. The discussion right now is about whether that is perfectly okay, or a psychological disorder. But the basic fact is not actually changed. These individuals usually had a clear gender at birth. Going back and changing that information doesn’t reflect a higher reality. It just removes a fact.

Can you change facts? I think by definition you cannot. Interpretations of facts can change. Understandings of facts and their implications can change. But the data itself does not change.

We heard candidate Trump talk about grabbing women. That can’t be changed. Many people seem to be prepared to overlook it, but it happened. It’s not “fake news” or “alternative facts.” The claims that the wall is already being built and that ir will paid for by Mexico, which all of use know are lies, are still being posted and printed and broadcast. There is something wrong with our national willingness to pretend that facts are fungible.