Saturday, April 23, 2005

Searching for the Third Gender: Part 1

This post had been particularly difficult to write because I had to contend with my religious affilation, on top of my packed revision schedule for exams in June 2005. I am a Christian.

Previously, I had argued that the bipolar gender classification is insufficient on both physical and psychological grounds. This leads us to the crossroad where we have to choose our next route: "Did God create more than 2 genders?" or "Is strictly classifying people male/female sufficient?"

According to the famous 7-day theory (as recorded in the Genesis of the Holy Bible), God created man on the 6th day. Genesis 1:27 (NIV) says "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them". The creation of man is furthur elaborated in Genesis 2:22 (NIV) which says "Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of man, and he brought her to the man."

The second quote is a figurative description of the creation of woman. Is it possible to literally create a woman from a man? The answer is yes. Genetically, woman is someone who possesses the XX sex chromosomes and a man is someone who possesses the XY chromosomes. Examining the genetic structure, it is possible to extract the 2 X chromosomes from a man to create a pair of XX. By inserting this XX pair into a sexless human stem-cell, we essentially engineer a genetic female. Given that God created woman from man, it points out that God first created the X and Y chromosomes in man. In doing so, God had already created male and female when he first created the male man. The terms male and female in Genesis 1:27 therefore must refer to the X and Y chromosomes respectively.

cross diagram

Figure 1 shows that the propagation of genetic sexes will only preserve male and female genetic sexes. Moreover, people with mutant sex chromosomes are barren, thus the mutant sex genes cannot propagate themselves into the next generation. Therefore, we can see there is selective pressure (an act of God) eliminating mutant sexes within the human population and there is selective pressure acting for the preservation of the normal genetic sex. Also, mutation of the sex chromosomes occurs randomly and and not on a rampant basis. All these point out that mutant sex chromosomes are results of pure chance and it is not an intended result of an elaborate design by a higher entity. In conclusion, in creating only X and Y chromosomes, God therefore had meant human to be divided into 2 genetic sexes. In another words, God did not create more than 2 genders.

Now that we have established that God created only male and female, we must remember that biblically, gender and genetic sex are essentially the same. However, the social classification system (which is based on the biblical classification system) fails to accomodate people who cannot fit the classical description of male or female. Does it not point out that our social classification system is not comprehensive enough? To address this discrepancy, gender must be furthur socialised to accommodate the diversity of gender identities, and this no longer depends solely on our physical construct. In this way, we are extending the social classification system, maintaining the biblical classification system and still recognise God's soverignity.

In conceiving the idea of a third gender, we must take caution to remind ourselves that there is no actual creation of a third gender. God, not man, is capable of creation. We had already established there are only two physical genders (created by God). The third gender is therefore non-physical in basis - it is a social concept conceived by man to accommodate people whose gender identities are strictly neither male nor female.

This social concept, aka the third gender, will be discussed and explored furthur in the next post.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Rebuttal to a friend

This post continues to discuss the topic "Are you sure of your gender?". Some of my friends has made known their comments and I would like to share their opinions with you:

"People tend to take care of girls not merely “because they are girls” but because women are generally weaker in terms of physical strength. Women’s emancipation cannot be complete if they were only given equal opportunities. The physical imbalance is still not compensated. You seldom expect women to win men in a race. Men are simply built with physical advantages compared to women. Therefore, we need a human construct to protect and women and right the physical imbalance so that each one of us is given equal opportunities. We need a social construct to protect the physically weaker sex so they will not be subjugated." - Jolene

Male don't compete against female in physical competitions, so their physical attributes won't contribute to their advantage. Moreover, it's not necessary true that woman is the weaker sex. The female body is more kinetically stable than the male body. The extra-stability conferred by the female physical structure compensates the lack of higher muscular strength exhibited by male bodies. Moreover, statistics has shown that ladies live longer, less likely to suffer from mental illness, and live a better quality life than guys. Having different set of strengths doesn't make woman the weaker sex.

Conversely, I am not suggesting that male is the weaker sex. There's no need for a social construct to protect the physically weaker sex because there isn't one in the first place. The male sexual intercourse technique involves penetration and in its most primitive (and forceful) form constitutes as rape. This contruct leads to the idea that only man is capable of rape, and thus promoting the myth that male is the stronger sex.

One more point to note, is that democracy today promotes equal opportunites for everyone, regardless of sex, unlike the old times when society was biased against women. Democracy aided in dispelling the myth that male is the stronger sex and reinforce that fact that ladies today are on par with guys in terms of physique and opportunities. Fair competition between sexes is the evidence that there is no weaker sex.

"Gender is a social concept, so it would be rather nonsensical to define gender using scientific rules. For a lot of scholars, “gender” and “sex” are different things. Culture and society are non-stagnant. So, given that, gender is “sexual identity, especially in relation to society or culture.”, it can be extended from “male and female”. The problem is imagining and creating that 3 gender. So far, all that we see are conjugations and combinations of the two existing genders." - Geraldine

Sex and gender are undifferentiated layman-wise. An average person uses terms sex and gender inter-changeably. Extending the sex/gender of a person to classify the "conjugations and combinations of the two existing genders" makes perfect sense because it acknowledges the lack of proper classification of sexuality in our society today and addresses the diversity of sexuality in our society. The recent increased use of terms such as metrosexual, male lesbian, necrophillics propagates the increasing diversity of sexuality in our society and therefore calls for the need of a new classification system.

"Ideally, one should be free to choose his/her own gender. I’m not very sure about this part. Perhaps, you all can think about why we should or should not be allowed to choose our genders and what the possible outcomes and social implications are." - Tom

Given that our gender/sex is a collective set of opinions, people can work to change the opinion of others, or accept the prevailing forces in society to shape their opinion of their own gender. It implicates that we have the choice to choose our gender. Even apathy is an opinion, by accepting our parents' opinion that we are male or female without exercising independent thought. Our final gender is the compromise between selective pressure and free will. Even Tom agrees that our gender/sex is a collective set of opinion.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Are you sure of your own gender?

I have a little donut here for you readers to stomach:
Are you sure of your own gender?

Gender defined at describes it as:
gen·der ( P ) Pronunciation Key (jndr)
n. Grammar.
1. Sexual identity, especially in relation to society or culture.
2. The condition of being female or male; sex.
3. Females or males considered as a group: expressions used by one gender.

Our sex is governed by a pair of sex chromosomes in our DNA. Males are XY by nature and females are XX by nature. If our sexuality is only confined by the condition of our sex, then what are the sex of the people who are borned XXY or XYX? Are they sex-less or they are male, female or both?

X is called the female sex chromosome. When X expresses itself in the human body, it leads to the production of female hormones. The presence of female hormones exert different effects on the host body. If the level of female hormones is high in a fetus during the pregnancy period, the fetus will develop into a girl because high level of female hormone result in development of the female genitals. Normally, high level of female hormones results when there is more than 1 X chromosome present in the DNA.

Y is called the male sex chromosome. When Y expresses itself in the human body, it leads to the production of male hormones. Male hormones not only suppress the development of female sex organs but also bring about development of male sex organs. A normal male contains the XY sex chromosome. The X and Y chromosomes are codominant, ie. they don't completely terminate the expression of the other chromosome. This suggests that he has both male and female hormones present in his body. However, the male hormones suppress the development of female sex organs, thus the male body will not exhibit breasts and a female pubes, but rather a penis.

Considering the sex condition of people borned with a mutated sex chromosome would be very difficult. It would be seem as if there are double standards in our basis of judgement. Essentially, we are people who see, observe, then rationalise. Our eyes cannot see genes directly when we look at a person. However, we can tell if the person is a he or she in virtue of the presence of certain sexual characteristics such as augmented chest of a woman and the adam's apple of a guy. We will consider a XXY person female because she only exhibits the female phenotype due to the high level of female hormones present in the body and the Y chromosome is defective. However, considering her sexuality on the basis of her genes, she is both male and female because she contains XX and XY. Isn't this conflicting? Don't you find it disturbing? It's even more upset to talk about the XYX people.

XYX is a rare mutation and its resultant phenotype is the development of both male and female sexual organs in the body. If you have both a penis and a vagina that is naturally part of you, do you consider yourself a male, female or both? It would be intitutivel to rationalise your sexual identity by yur sexual preference. Being a mutant, you would think "If I like a girl, I must be male" or "If i like a guy, I must be female" or "If I fancy both sexes, I must be bisexual". Considering that you are physically capable of acting as both female and male during the copulation process, why not consider yourself bisexual? Is one's sexual preference truly the guide of one's sexuality? Even I can't decide my own sex, how sure can I be sure about the other party's?

Now that I am finally done with discussing about the physical aspects of our sexual characteristics, this essay is not complete without examining the psychological concept of sex. As we all know it (through our naked eye looking at society around us) we see girls in skirts, guys in jeans, girls with long tresses, guys with crew cut. The psychological aspect of sexual identity is interesting because we can change it, unlike our physical characteristics which is determined by our genotype. If we project ourselves as the opposite sex, we will tend to dress up like what society would expect the opposite sex to wear and try to emulate their behavior. Not everybody has fantastic ability to perform this job, but there is evidently interest among some people. It's not how good they are in projecting themselves as the opposite sex, but rather the interest, the reason and sometimes the natural preference to be the opposie sex.

Why would people want to be the opposite sex? They could be envious of certain characteristics or social advantage inherent that particular sex. eg. People are more willing to take care of girls because they are girls. In fact, girls' clothes are generally much better designed and tastefully coloured, unlike the limited variety of clothes imposed by male fashion around the world. Sometimes it could be a bad memory from the past. Imagine if you are a young girl who was raped by her dad, would you grow up detesting male sexuality? Probably to the extent that you find it unacceptable to copulate with a male, but you find yourself more comfortble to make love to a fellow woman? Perhaps, it's just one reason to act as the turning point for one's sexual preference. Sometimes, we been brought up with the idea of one's sexual gender being imposed by others. Many a time, my sister would consider as herself as a guy because she was brought up as one, expected to behave like one, especially when the rest of her siblings are male and she's brought up in a confuscian family where guys are always given preferential treatment. I consider her as my sister and not my brother because the idea of her being a female has been imposed on me since her birth by my parents.

With the advancement in modern cosmetic technology, it is hard to differentiate male and female based on appearances. Even examining one's genotype to determine one's sex is not conclusive enough to decide one's sex. There is no rule-of-the-thumb or a proper scientific method present to determine one's gender. Only ideas that have been imposed on us while we were growing up. Hence, there is a need for a scientific method to determine one's gender. If no such procedure exists, how can you be sure if you are male? How can you be sure if you are female? Can you accept that your gender is actually a collective set of opinion?

Perhaps differentiating one's gender by male and female isn't sufficient. After-all, there are 30000 types of sex in the mushroom family (due to high level mutation in their genome). Can't we humans extend our sex types too?

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News Junkie, Irreverent Blogger, Anarcho-Capitalist, Technologist