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Social Construction of Gender & Intersexed Individuals

  1. Oct 6, 2005 #1
    Everyone knows (or does now) that gender is another socially constructed category. It is based on biological differences (which are real) such as differences in DNA, hormones, genitalia, sexual orientation, and overall appearance. Even the idea of what sex a person is is not always certain. A person could have the sex chromosomes yet not develop the genitalia associated with this sex because their receptors are insensitive to certain sex hormones.

    *Before somebody says this, I know that we could say this is sign of defectivity. I would like to point out that this view is a Western view. Many cultures see this as a normal way to be. And yes, we could use science (as Western culture does) to prove how defectivity is tied to normalcy. But there is a difference between using the scientific method to gain knowledge and using scientistic thinking to prove a truth that is socially constructed. For, the people who have the power to ask the questions frame the question and the study in such a way (which entails a bias) that they unavoidably come to the answer they seek.

    EG why are some people gay (which assumes this is unnatural)? What are the abnormalities associated with homosexuality? Such as how the male homosexual is emasculated. There is no question there as to what abnormalities and negatives come from heterosexuality.

    EG why are whites better than blacks? this question presupposes that whites are better and is in fact seeking to prove how whites can be proved to be better than blacks in order to prove why they are indeed better.

    This is a common use of science, to find proofs for what we want to believe, to highlight key points rather than simply trying to gain knowledge and truth. Every question is biased and is usually asked in hopes of reinforcing our own cultural perspectives/ways of knowoing. So keeping in mind our own cultural biases (and science is a part of our culture and both the scientific method and scientistic thinking do reveal things about our Western culture), please consider my question from what we actually know and not what we think we know. *

    That said, I do believe science is a great tool and does tell help us in understanding things...which in turn leads to ways in which we can use that knowledge to improve our lives.

    So, seeing intersexed individuals as equal states for the trait of sex, how can we begin to understand and delineate structures for this understanding? These people are sterile, but that assumes that sex must always be tied to reproduction (please don't respond that it is and leave it at that, explain why this is something I must take for granted). For some, sex is not tied to reproduction (leave out why they are wrong by using science, thanks again). We define sex in terms of gametes, the female having the larger gamete and the male the smaller. But what about those who have both? Are they are 3rd sex that blends both or are should they be considered an unrelated category of sex?

    Secondly, how should we assign gender? Should this always be tied to sex (as it is in Western culture)? It will be hard for some of us to separate this for my discussion, but consider that in other cultures the males are taught to be the passive, nurturing, emotional ones and the females are taught to be the aggressive ones. We could justify gender being related to sex because of hormones, but I think that humans are more than just their physiologies and that even there, there are degrees. I consider myself to be more masculine, as Western culture defines it. In astrology, there are male and female signs, and I have way more masculine signs (again, as Western culture defines it) it. So, is there any other more accurate system for assigning gender? Which qualities should be female, male, and which can be assigned to both? Should the majority of characteristics be either/or, or both? In this way, an intersexed individual would not have an ambiguous gender. And if we specified a third category they would not have an ambiguous sex either. For that matter, should sex be exact or a matter of degrees and why?

    Finally, where does sexuality fit in? There are those who are asexual and do not have a sex drive. I have talked to one girl who says she has more of an affinity for women, though she has no sexual interest in either sex. This seems like a good example of the seperation between gender and sex & sexuality and reproduction.

    This is being approached from an anthropological point of view, which sees science as a part of culture (tho it took a while to do so). We can link physical phenomenon with ways of understanding concepts such as sex and gender, but that is for another discussion.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 6, 2005 #2
    Feminity and masculinity

    But you report that you geographically-navigate in a feminine way and that you have a feminine right-hand.
  4. Oct 7, 2005 #3
    That's not the only determining factor for what it is to be female.
  5. Oct 7, 2005 #4
    why should we not use the biological definitions? (that being, which type of reproductive organs)
  6. Oct 7, 2005 #5
    In that case, we define linked femininity with "female" sex hormones. Thus, any male or female who had more estrogen (was it?) would have more equal 2nd and 4th digits, as is the case with a male friend of mine. So would we define him as feminine? Plus, I do also navigate by map. But in this thread, I would like to question whether femininity/masculinity is always tied to such things as you have brough up - navigational style, hormones....Plus society does have a role in shaping how you act and what you believe you can do so perhaps if I had a father that plastered maps on my wall, I may be more inclined to use maps. I did just go on vacation in Boston and did successfully use maps to get around since I didn't know any of the landmarks:smile:

    I do have more to post on this, but it'll have to wait till later today.
  7. Oct 7, 2005 #6
    if you read my initial post, you'll see why. I did post a few definitions of what it is to be female, and not all of those biological definitions coincide. EG if a person has female sex chromosomes, but does not have female genitalia. I think the prime definition is actually who has the larger gamete. But sex has more meaning than who carries the baby, does it not? Do we not ascribe cerain qualities to each sex? Beyond that, where does gender fit in (the social role one plays, in our culture this is based on sex). If I am chromosomally female, heterosexual, and masculine in personality, what gender am I?

    Btw, what is the trait sex to you? And why should we define it that way? (not that I don't see you're point, I was indoctrinated into this culture as well).
  8. Oct 7, 2005 #7
    you must also consider the psychological perspectives...

    to my knowledge, there has not been any "gay" gene found for example. in fact, this is an attempt (in my opinion) by the gay community to try and comfort themselves. they want to believe that it is genetic, they want to believe this because they dont want it to be their fault, even if they only do this subconsciously.

    there are actually "ex-gays", and these are ridiculed by the gay community as people who cannot accept what they are. i believe that this is a dangerous idea as many homosexuals can trace their feelings back to childhood.

    view: homosexuality is due to feeling of never being fully accepted and afirmed as a man (or woman of course, but im speaking more of males here). all the guys here know what its like growing up as a boy, and if you were to never feel like they "thought" of you as one of the guys, then you might be led to believe this, even subconsciously. then you would begin to idolise them, feeling they were better than you, and this could lead to feelings of attraction.

    But in terms of the topic, you can think that being gay is unnatural for one reason: if it is not genetic, then its unnatural.

    however, if its genetic, then this means that it is a genetic DEFECT, as homosexuality holds no purpose within nature, and for example, in the animal world, were there to BE ga animals, then they would not attempt to lead "normal" lives and would never have offspring, and so the faulty gene would never be passed on...
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2005
  9. Oct 7, 2005 #8


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    Personally, I think we should assign gender the same way we assign ethnicity - by self-identification. If a given person thinks of himself as male, he is male, if she thinks of herself as female, she is female. Sex is best off tied to the gametes, as that is the most precise of the possible definitions.

    However, to get past this, I also think that there is no reason that we need to have any concept of dualistic gender at all. In reality, the way a person thinks of him/herself lies somewhere along a spectrum that is nearly impossible to cut strictly in two. Actually, I think we should just do away with ethnicity as well. I'm not a big fan of poorly defined and seemingly arbitrary ways of identifying oneself. Keep it to sex and national citizenship, neither of which is ambiguous.
  10. Oct 7, 2005 #9
    Female. There is no confusion. If you have a vagina, you are a female. If you have a penis, you are a male. If you have both you are that other word that I can't remember right now. If you have none then your bladder will burst and you will die before your first birthday.... unless doctors decide to cut you open and you live on life support from day one of your life. In that case, we need a new word - or maybe there is one already I just don't know it. If you reproduce without a partner you are asexual. It's very clear.

    Gender is biologically defined. The only confusion I can think of is if someone get's a sex change. Part of them (externally) is one gender, the other part (internal organs that cannot be changed as of yet) are another part. Maybe we can use that other word I can't think of to describe these people. Possibly with an "Artifical" prefix on it, although I doubt they'd approve - they obviously want to be referred to as their new gender.

    Merely because you do not want to follow the culturally prescribed gender roles does not mean you are of a different gender. One mine as well ask "If I disagree with all culturally prescribed roles, does that make me non-human?". The answer is obviously no.

    trait sex? how do you mean? I'm male. My personality is probably considered to be rather feminin in my current culture, although it would be considered perfectly Masculin in Sweden.
  11. Oct 7, 2005 #10
    I think we should throw off gender roles altogether. We do not need to limit our understanding of personality types to a 2-D dualistic viewpoint with Male at one end and Female at the other. If a person thinks himself a male and has female gamtes, she is wrong. Vice versa. Neither gender nor ethnicity should be assigned by self-identification.

    Explain to me though, why would you want to do this? I've never heard the arguments for it.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2005
  12. Oct 7, 2005 #11


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    There is nothing inherently incorrect in using, say, a chromosomal definition of sex, in which case the two most common human genders will be the XX and XY types.
  13. Oct 7, 2005 #12


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    Read the rest of my post, smurf. You just said exactly what I said.
  14. Oct 7, 2005 #13
    ...hmmm maybe I should really read a person's whole post before responding...
  15. Oct 7, 2005 #14
    actually i forgot to say that most of what i said was from an article on sexual identity

    (Removed reference to a deleted post ~ Moonbear)
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 7, 2005
  16. Oct 7, 2005 #15
  17. Oct 7, 2005 #16


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    Being gay, and having quite a few gay friends, I can tell you that I have never, ever met any gay man who would ascribe to this nonsense as descriptive of their own experiences:
    Quite simply, it is factually wrong; it does not describe the experiences of (the major portion of) youths eventually finding themselves to be gay.

    Most probably, that piece is written by a straight man who thinks he knows how gays have felt. He doesn't.
  18. Oct 7, 2005 #17
    well, being straight myself, i wouldnt know about you or your friends. but i was pointing out is how the gay community is seemingly trying to make it "fashionable" to be gay, (gay pride, etc) when, well if everyone was gay we'd all end up extinct :eek:

    my other point was (not well explained) that animals do not show signs of homosexuality (or its not talked about) which would suggest that it is not genetic, as animals can get genetic defects much like humans, and if they did not exhibit gay behaviour, i would believe that there is no gay gene
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2005
  19. Oct 7, 2005 #18


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    Nope; why do you think that? :confused:

    Evidently, you do not know a single thing of "nature" either; I suggest you find out something about our closest relatives, the bonobo chimpanzees.
  20. Oct 7, 2005 #19
    just to make it clear, i am not trying to insult you or any other gay person, nor am i trying now to hijack the tread, so i will keep this brief.

    why do you seem to just want to hate me or something, because i questioned your beliefs? i havent insulted you in the slightest in the entire thread, and yet all you have done is call me an "idiot" and tell me i know nothing.
  21. Oct 7, 2005 #20


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