Thursday, April 16, 2009

We Are Not Our Genitals: The Continuum of Sex

Our minds want clothes as much as our bodies.
- Samuel Butler

Sexual identity, like nationality, is cultural and not genetic. The expression of sexual identity is called gender. The final liberation of humanity from its animal past requires the replacement of a black/white apartheid of sex, imposed at birth, with a rainbow spectrum of gender selected at will. This victory of continuism over duality means that people must be as free to choose and change their gender as they choose and change any other aspect of their self-expression.

The origins of sexual identity lie deep in the murky pasts of human evolution. And the origins of sex itself date back to the beginnings of multicellular life. As we explore the beginning of sex and the genesis of gender, it becomes clear that for humans, sex is in the mind, and brains are “transgendered.” It also becomes evident that our sexual identity, absent the repression of sexual apartheid, is as individualized as is our personality.

When Sex Began

Sex exists because it creates genetic diversity. Frequent reshuffling of genetic codes is favored by evolution’s rule of natural selection. At first glance the necessity of two animals exchanging genetic material in order to produce offspring might seem to violate natural selection. After all, it is much easier for one animal to produce offspring on its own, without the need to mate with another animal. Hence it would seem that mating species would produce many fewer offspring than asexual (“parthenogenetic”) species—all the more so since mating behavior also makes one more vulnerable to a predator. Natural selection eventually eliminates characteristics that produce fewer offspring. So without considering the benefits of genetic diversity, sex should have been tried and then died out along ago.

But sex lives on. A landmark paper by Professor William Hamilton in the 1990 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences proposed that sex evolved as a “strategic weapon” in a “coevolutionary arms race between parasites and hosts.” By “hosts” scientists mean any kind of animal, from fish to insects and birds to people. “Parasites” are ubiquitous microscopic creatures that live off of all living things. Natural selection tends to make parasites harmless—our intestines are full of them—because if they kill their host, they have killed themselves. But random mutations continually create virulent parasites as well.

Now suppose a virulent parasite invaded a host. If the host reproduced asexually, then its offspring would have the same genetic makeup as its parent and hence the same biological susceptibility to death or disease due to the virulent parasite. This is not good for the host species or for the parasite—neither will survive long. But suppose the host reproduced sexually, that is, in combination with another organism. Then the offspring would not look biochemically exactly like either parent, would have the benefit of a recombination of large amounts of genetic information (some from each parent), and often would no longer have a biological susceptibility to the virulent parasite. Thus sex helped the host species to survive, which also helped the parasite. This is what saying that sex evolved as a “coevolutionary” strategy between hosts and parasites means.

The other main theory explaining why there is sex is that it eliminates harmful mutations within the host species itself. Without sex a species would constantly be “inbreeding”—creating clones. Any unhelpful characteristic that arose through random mutation, such as poor vision, would get passed on to one’s offspring. The unhelpful inherited characteristic would soon cause the asexual species to die—unless by luck another random mutation came along to eliminate the harmful characteristic. But with sex there is always a reshuffling of the inherited genes based on contribution from two parents. In this way unhelpful mutations are minimized much more quickly than the alternative of waiting for random mutations to occur.

Scientists argue over whether sex’s ability to help save future offspring from parasites, or from random mutations, is the main reason that life is full of sexed species and not the superficially more efficient asexual forms. But they do agree that it is from such mundane, biochemically rooted causes that sex arose. Creating offspring from two parents’ cells had enough evolutionary benefits to outweigh the survival costs of tying up two organisms in some kind of a mating ritual in order to reproduce. Apparently the additional genetic diversity of using three or more parents did not outweigh the evolutionary costs.

So sex began accidentally. Random mutations about one billion years ago gave some ancient asexual organism the ability to include genetic material from another organism of that species before reproducing. The offspring of this Adam and Eve pair inherited the genetic ability for “sex” and must have multiplied rapidly with a special immunity from the parasites that plagued all their relatives. Today we call the organism that just contributes genetic material “male” and the organism that both contributes and includes such material “female.” This does not always mean that the female actually nurtures the offspring. Female sea horses, for example, deposit eggs into a male brood pouch, where they are fertilized (by the insertion of the male’s genetic material) and incubated (with the male’s uterinelike supply of blood and oxygen). Female pipefishes glue eggs along a male’s underside, and midwife toads wrap eggs around the male’s legs.

Having begun sex accidentally, nature proceeded to create many variations of sex. First, there is a bewildering diversity of methods to contribute and include genetic material for reproduction. Among the deep-sea anglerfish, for example, a four-inch male sinks its jaws into the forty-inch female. The male contributes its genetic material as part of a process whereby it literally merges into the female, with skin and blood vessels permanently growing together. Certain mollusks shoot each other with sexual darts.

Second, there is a seemingly limitless number of variations of sexual types. Many species are male and female simultaneously or sequentially. These hermaphrodites usually still retain the genetic diversity benefits of sex by mating with other hermaphrodites, with one partner contributing solely and the other both contributing and including genetic material. The slipper shell (Crepidula fornicate), for example, lives in oyster beds and gradually changes from male, to hermaphrodite, to female in old age. On the other hand, certain Caribbean coral-reef fish start out female and die as males. Many types of fish, such as butter hamlets and swordtails, change sex back and forth to balance the ratio of males to females currently around them. The sex expressed by these types of fish depends on their social surroundings. Bird gonads generally have the ability to develop either testes or ovaries, and intersexuality occurs frequently. Reptile sexuality often depends on the temperature at which the eggs were hatched—for leopard geckos, low and high temperatures produce females, medium temperatures produce males. Among certain garter snakes and bluegill sunfish, there are males that don’t change their gonads but only their look and behavior, so as to appear female. Sexual diversity seems limitless!

As mammals evolved several hundred million years ago, the urinary tract became favored as the passageway for genetic material. It provided most of the “plumbing” needed to get reproductive material from the testes and to the uterus. Sex between “penetrators” and “recipients” worked well for ensuring the genetic diversity of mammalian species. Male and female sex roles began to harden because of the more complex mammalian anatomy, although cross-sex behaviors were never lost. After reviewing numerous cross-sex mammalian behaviors, such as the common mounting of female cows by other females, University of Texas zoologist David Crews opined in his work Animal Sexuality that “the brain never completely loses the dual circuitry that permits both homotypical and heterotypical sexual behavior.” In a similar vein he notes that since “every male must contain evolutionary traces of femaleness [and vice versa], biologists might be well served to focus less on the differences between the sexes and more in terms of the similarities.” In short, as we approached the epoch of human evolution, sex had proved its evolutionary worth, and while it had a “male or female” expression, there were also age-old undercurrents of sexual diversity and sexual continuity.

A frequently ignored fact is that evolutionary advances in sexual behavior are one of the major differentiators between humans and their primate cousins. In their book The Great Cosmic Mother, Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor list four major differences between human sex and other primate sex:

• Elimination of the estrus cycle and development of the menstrual cycle. All other mammals had an estrus cycle, during which females were periodically in heat and copulation necessarily resulted in pregnancy. Humans alone can enjoy sex on demand.

• Development of the clitoris. This anatomical evolution provided females with much greater sexuality and orgasmic potential than other primates.

• Change from rear to frontal sex. Evolution front shifted the human vagina, leading sex to occur more comfortably in a frontal position. For the first time among mammals this created a “personalization” of sex. We along among primates can gaze into each other’s eyes as we make love.

• Development of breasts. The breasts added to a female’s potential for enjoying sex, and in the words of Sjoo and Mor, “Combined with frontal sex, no doubt the female’s maternal and social feelings were also now aroused by the personal lover, whose body was now analogous to the infant’s body at her breast.”

In short, human beings became the only creatures on earth for whom sex could occur at any time for nonreproductive purposes. Sjoo and Mor concluded:

Human sex thus became a multipurpose activity. It can happen for emotional bonding, for social healing, for pleasure, for communication, for shelter and comfort, for personal release, for escape—as well as for reproduction of the species. And this is one of the original and major, determining differences between humans and all other animals, birds, reptiles, insects, fishes, worms, for whom copulation exists only and solely for species reproduction.

The decoupling of sex from reproduction and from estrus-driven biological determinism is integral to the evolution of humans as a unique species. A clitoris, breasts, and front-shifted vagina also made sex much more enjoyable. There was no longer any anatomically predestined reason for the contributor of genetic material to mount. Either sex could mount and produce babies just as well, or not produce any babies at all. For the first time since sex began, a life form could decide for itself how and when and whether to reproduce. In other words, sex was now mostly in the mind, not in the biology. What began a billion years ago as clever biology to outwit parasites eventually evolved to a choice whether or not to do something that might feel good. And it was at this time that the apartheid of sex began—what nature liberated, mankind oppressed. Ideology replaced biology as the commandant of sexual expression.

The Genesis of Gender

Gender, the expression of our sexual identity, must be performed in accordance with society’s expectations, just like all other behavioral expressions. If one contradicts social norms, there are sanctions to suffer from, the fear of which keeps most people in line. Nothing in biology requires people with vaginas to behave in one manner and people with penises in another. So why did genital-specific forms of gender arise? More important, what has changed that now allows social approval of gender expression regardless of one’s genitalia?

Humans have age-old habits for generalization and stereotyping. Similar-looking phenomena are generalized into a category. Characteristics of some part of the category are then stereotyped to apply to all parts of the category. Stereotyping usually has as its main purpose the justification for treating people differentially. Hence we can be certain that as human language evolved, the gross differences in people’s genitals were generalized into categories of male and female people. Depending on the chance development of local culture, either benign or prejudicial stereotypes of each sex followed naturally from the establishment of these two superficially obvious categories. Once a category is established, it is typically human to start investing it with attributes and to reinforce the reality of those attributes with training and social sanctions. Gender becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, imposed from childhood until it seems part of our nature. So the human passion for categorization and organization lies behind the genesis of gender.

Many people believe that the gender attributes of today are what they always were. That is almost certainly not the case. Indeed, the same variety of sex that we saw in the fish and animal kingdoms can be seen with regard to gender diversity in human societies. Merlin Stone, author of When God Was a Woman, cites several scholars’ work to buttress her claim that most early human communities “were originally matrilineal, matriarchal, and even polyandrous (one woman with several husbands).” The vast majority of prehistoric stone carvings (so-called Venus figurines), which date from around 25,000 B.C.E. to about 3000 B.C.E., are indeed of goddesses. Such specific authority structures and religious carvings presuppose the existence of female gender behavior that is activist and leadership oriented, traits mostly associated with men today. Indeed, as of 1000 B.C.E., Herodotus of ancient Greece observed “in Egypt, women go in the marketplace, transact affairs, and occupy themselves with business, while men stay home and weave.”

Notwithstanding the different possible expressions of gender that have occurred throughout history, at least since the time of the Greeks and in nearly all tribal societies investigated by anthropologists, the dominant gender stereotypes were empowering to people with penises and oppressive to people with vaginas. The reason stereotypes are employed is to help justify the differential treatment of people with similar characteristics—in this case the oppressive treatment of people with vaginas. Hence the most important question behind the genesis of gender is, why did men feel they had to dominate women?

A number of different theories have been advanced as to why men historically sought to oppress women, and we have no way to know the “true reason,” which may vary even from place to place. It is clear, however, that none of the potential reasons for men’s oppression of women remain valid today. Accordingly, the genital-specific stereotypes that arose in support of male suppression of people with vaginas—what we call male or female gender—are no longer valid today.

The three most popular theories that seek to explain the origin of genital-stereotypic gender are (1) that men were jealous of women’s biology, (2) that men were egotistically driven to know which children were born of their “seed,” and (3) that men found women to be convenient targets for anger and aggression born of higher levels of testosterone. Each of these three theories will be discussed below to gain insight into the origin of genital-stereotypic gender and into the modern sociotechnological advances that render the old stereotypes obsolete.


Most feminist historians explain the rise of male domination of society as a result of men’s jealousy over female biology. The focal point of male jealousy is said to be women’s ability to bear children, but in some tribal societies that consider blood to have spiritual qualities, there also appears to be evidence of envy over women’s ability to bleed periodically (menses). In the view of these historians, early peoples at one time believed that women could produce life without male involvement, and this led a high status of women in those societies, with associated positive gender stereotypes. Male jealously eventually fueled an alternative view of women as mere receptacles or incubators of a male (if the sperm connection was known) “life seed.” With this new worldview, men no longer needed to envy women’s childbirth ability since the men saw themselves as the real initiators of life. Stereotypes were developed to reinforce this somewhat shaky new worldview. The stereotypes colored men “active” and gave them the important roles in society, while women were painted “passive,” with a principal purpose in life of incubating the male seed.

Evidence in support of the jealousy theory comes from studies of certain tribal cultures and from the earliest detailed written descriptions of gender stereotypes, the views of Aristotle and other Greeks. In a number of tribal societies in the South Pacific, South America, and Africa, males go through bloodletting rights that mimic menstruation. Within these societies, such as the Sambia of Papua New Guinea, a clear distinction is made that the artificially induced (with a stick or other cutting tool) male bloodletting is clean blood, but the naturally occurring female menses is dirty blood. Sjoo and Mor report on an Australian aboriginal male ritual in which the men “cut wounds in their penises, inserting stones to keep the wound permanently open. This rite imitates female bleeding, and the wound is called, in their language, a ‘vagina.’ During this rite young men pass through the legs of older men, being ‘reborn’ from the ‘male womb.’”

In all of the tribal societies studied that practice male imitation of female rituals, there is an extreme amount of genital-specific gender stereotyping. Women are considered dirty, weak, and untrustworthy. They are beaten frequently. Feminist historians explain this as a result of men trying to overcome their jealousy of female biology.

Aristotle and other Greeks first laid down comprehensive concepts of maleness and femaleness about 2,500 years ago. In their view maleness was characterized by activity and femaleness by passivity. All of society’s other numerous gender adjectives flow from these two key terms. “Active” presupposes other stereotypical masculine qualities such as aggressiveness, strength, leadership, and intellect. “Passive” implies other stereotypical feminine qualities such as peacefulness, frailty, nourishment, and idleness. Many feminist historians believe that these stereotypes arose as a reaction to male jealousy over female childbirth. These feminist historians believe that, rather than envy women’s miracle of childbirth, the Greeks used their newfound knowledge of the need for semen in conception to “turn the tables” on women and consider them as mere receptacles for the male miracle of sperm.

According to Aristotle, women were “passive by nature” as evidenced by their functioning as a “passive incubator of male seed.” The parent was not the mother, but “he who mounts.” Hence the Greeks and their Roman successors based an apartheid of sex on the theory that the male phallus was active while the female vagina was passive. This presumption arguably, but not always successfully, made it self-evident to these ancients that men and women had two different natures, which meant that they should follow two different sets of gender rules, active ones for men and passive ones for women.

The Greeks could not rely on male semen alone to maintain the apartheid of sex because that would still leave their society open to female intellectual participation. After all, even if the woman’s body was in the Greeks’ words a “mere receptacle for male seeds,” a “fertile field being planted,” or “menstrual blood being cooked by male semen,” none of these anatomical capabilities necessarily spoke to her intellect, her soul, or her nature. Greeks were also worried about grounding apartheid on the phallus alone. Greek men knew too many dynamic women lovemakers and too many flaccid phalli. Leading Greeks such as Plutarch and Cato worried that if they allowed women, as Cato said, “to achieve complete equality with mean, do you think they will be any easier to live with? Not at all. Once they have achieved equality, they will be your masters.” The belief that men controlled childbearing or coitus was simply not enough to fully control women. Women could say “Okay, the kid is yours” or “I don’t want to sleep with you” and go on to compete for worldly rewards. There was a persistent fear that women would spring back to their former matriarchal glory, a glory that was still recalled in folklore. Hence the Greeks began to institutionalize the apartheid of sex with gender socialization. In other words, they began to shift the ultimate reason for apartheid form the body to the mind.

From Greek to Roman times persistent efforts were made to establish nonreproductive, nongenital pillars for sexual apartheid. Classical myths emphasized that life sprang from Olympian male gods and set up male and female gods with stereotypical gender attributes. While there were many gods, just one was the original male father. This was intentionally in opposition to the ancient matriarchal belief in a single female ancestor. The Greeks and Romans also passed laws to limit the participation of women in sociopolitical life, based on assertions that women “lacked the nature” or were “too passive” for intellectual affairs. It was not women’s bodies per se that primarily condemned them to second-class citizenry, it was their souls. Active or passive genitals were certain signposts to active or passive souls.

Contradictions in the Greco-Roman gender scheme arose everywhere, and these contradictions undermined patriarchal control. For example, the myths about women multiplied so greatly that one could readily find activist female heroes among the Olympic gods. Soon the mythical gods were all fighting gender wars, a terrible precedent for patriarchal life back on earth. Also, despite all efforts at repression, there were always examples of women who totally defied the “passive” stereotype.

The Greek woman Agnodice, a contemporary of Aristotle, graduated from medical school and became the most successful gynecologist of her time—all the while disguised as a man. Accused by jealous colleagues of building a practice by seducing clients, she shocked ancient Greece by revealing her true sex in a famous trial. Having proved their claims of seduction false, she proceeded to argue successfully for her right to practice medicine as an exceptional woman, despite laws limiting the medical field to men. There were also numerous women warriors, generals, and tradespeople in neighboring societies that had not yet fully yielded to patriarchal control. These women could not exist if women were passive by nature. Hence, despite a strong overall patriarchy, many women thrived in Greco-Roman times. Indeed, early Christians used the checkered ability of Greco-Roman society to control their women as evidence of their theology’s shortcomings.

As the Roman Empire began to wane, it was clear that neither reproductive anatomy nor the notion of an inherently passive nature would suffice for keeping women fully under control. The patriarchy had succeeded in wiping out matriarchal societies, but arguments based on childbearing or gender rules did little to quash the desire of individual women to participate fully in life’s opportunities. And each woman who did try to participate actively in society was a stick of dynamite in the edifice of apartheid. Where one woman succeeded, many more would follow. Taken to its conclusion, men would lose their female slave class and double their competition—and both “evils” would occur with a class of people they had just violently dispossessed of thousands of years of matriarchal supremacy!

Perhaps nowhere was this clearer than in the famous case of the Alexandria-based Greek mathematician Hypatia. A brilliant astronomer living around 400 C.E., she was adored by her pupils and considered one of the most articulate proponents of rationalism. She did not have children, and her very success flew in the face of all the Greco-Roman stereotypes about women. As long as Hypatia was around, girls in Alexandria were inspired to be more than a “receptacle for semen,” and need not believe the stereotypical gospel about “women being passive by nature.” In more and more households girls talked about going to school, and men began to feel threatened. The patriarchy finally solved the problem of Hypatia: a mob of Christian zealots dragged her from her chariot and killed her by slicing the flesh from her bones with crude tools. This was to be a terrible omen for the next phase of mankind’s efforts to enforce an apartheid of sex.

Today we know what the Greeks did not: an egg cell is just as necessary for childbirth as is a sperm cell. Neither sex is reproductively more active or passive than the other, and in any event, reproductive functions have nothing to do with mental abilities. In the 1990s it is now possible to fertilize sperm and egg cells in a vial, check for a variety of genetic abnormalities, and then insert the fertilized zygote into the uterine lining. We are at the cusp of being able to actually modify the zygote before it is inserted into the uterine lining, changing genetic characteristics for health or cosmetic reasons. Neither sperm nor egg cells have a monopoly on the miracle of life. Since sperm and egg cell bearers are themselves, the product of dual-sexed parents, reproduction is, in fact, an inherently transgender experience.

It is ironic that if the genesis of our gender stereotypes came from unwarranted jealousy over women’s apparent ability to produce life spontaneously, or from false pride in men’s apparent ability to plant the seed of life, it was all a big mistake. We now know that both sexes are equal contributors in the creation of life. Neither sex is more active or passive than the other. The egg marches as far as the sperm swims. Women can hump men as easily as men can mount women. A vast social superstructure of genital-specific gender stereotypes was created on a false platform. The stereotypes were then forged into such a self-fulfilling prophecy that the lies became truth. It is our duty, in the twenty-first century, to remove this false gender foundation upon which the apartheid of sex has been built. A person’s nature has nothing to do with gonads. Natures are transgendered.


In contrast with the feminist historical viewpoint, sociobiologists argue that gender stereotypes arose from men’s egotistical “instinct for survival.” This instinct led men to ensure that the offspring they helped to support carried their genes and not those of another man. For a sociobiologist, this makes evolutionary sense. While every child born to a woman carries half that woman’s chromosomes, the child will carry only the chromosomes of the man who impregnated that woman. Under sociobiological theories, this fact created great evolutionary-type pressure for men to come up with social systems that ensured the children they fed and defended were the children of their seed. The only way to ensure this would be by controlling women’s sexuality. And the most effective way to control women’s sexuality was to control their minds. Genital-specific gender stereotypes were the principal tools used to control women’s minds and hence their bodies.

Evidence in favor of male parental egotism comes from the major organized religions throughout the world, all of which have as a principal doctrine the control of female sexuality by one man. With the objective of better cementing patriarchal control over women, organized religion added more normative, value-laden content to maleness and femaleness as compared with the active/passive dichotomy of Greece. Starting from the “Word of God” story of Adam and Eve, and similar stories from non-Western cultures, maleness was now also righteousness, inherent goodness, and trustfulness. To be female, under the major organized religions, was now also to be sinful, inherently evil, and devious. Even an intellectually active woman could not escape these negative labels. The trap was complete.

The thrust of early Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judeo-Christianity was to make women feel ashamed of their bodies and to thus make it easier for men to control them. Women were to stay home, work the fields, and have children because they could not be trusted to do anything else. All of the organized religions banned polyandry and female extramarital sex. The religions all insisted that God decreed for men to have absolute dominion over their families. Whether we consider the Buddhist rule that only a man may achieve nirvana or the Jewish law that only a man may study Torah, the message is always the same: Since males are nobler than females, since males are closer to God, it is only proper that men should have authority over women. Organized religion is a monument to male ego.

Organized religion put Western women in a much worse position than ever before. Under the Greco-Roman laws an activist woman could be found in violation of the law, but in her defense she could claim simply to be following her nature. While the stereotype called for women’s nature to be passive, there was nothing sinful or evil about having a nature that failed to comply with the stereotype. The activist woman was simply an oddity who might be spared or killed based on the whims of the circumstances. But under Judeo-Christianity, for example, a woman who failed to follow the gender dictates of the Bible was violating the Word of God. She was at best a sinner and at worst, depending on the particular Judeo-Christian cult, possessed by the devil and condemned to hell. There was no way out of the dilemma: if your “nature” was out of line with “God’s Word,” then you must be evil. Millions of women who practiced old matriarchal folklore were ignored by the Greco-Roman laws but were condemned to death as witches by Christianity. The religious doctrine of male goodness and female guile (evil) gave men the control over women that was never perfected under earlier active/passive gender stereotypes.

Science and technology have decimated both the religious stereotypes in support of male egotism and the sociobiological basis for genital-specific gender. This occurred mostly when the scientific method replaced religious doctrine as the basis for finding truth on earth. Concepts like “men are godlike” have no scientific meaning. Social scientists could find no evidence that people with vaginas are more evil than people with penises. If evil is defined as most people would define it—propensity for murder, rape, callousness—then people with vaginas are generally saints, whether or not they follow a bible. Finally, one needn’t lock up a woman to ensure that a child she births has been created by a particular man’s sperm. Technology provides chromosome tests to give that information.

One of the biggest tragedies of the apartheid of sex is that countless millions of women have been terrorized over centuries simply to ensure that half the chromosome complement of a new child is, within a fraction of a percent, that of a particular male. While the genome (chromosome complement) of no two people is the same (other than identical twins), the genomes of all people are identical to well within 1 percent. Many people find this surprising because they fail to realize that what they see in a person—hair color, skin tone, facial shape—is but a minute fraction of what a person is actually made of—hair, skin, face, internal organs, and extraordinarily complex biochemistry.

It would seem that the biggest flaw in sociobiology is that the harm caused to the human species by savagely oppressing half its population (women) must far outweigh the problematic evolutionary advantages of individual men devoting their efforts only to their genetic offspring. After all, offspring sired by other men would chromosomally be almost the same. So the evolutionary losses due to polyandry are minimal. But the lost contributions to humanity of oppressed women have been massive—half the potential of the species! If unbridled egotism was ever an evolutionary advantage, it no longer is today. To surmount the manifold challenges to our survival on fragile earth, the species needs the unrepressed energies of its female half far more than a limited guarantee that certain babies are partial copies of self-selected men.


A third school of thought, represented mostly by physical anthropologists, argues that men oppressed women throughout history because of the greater flow of testosterone through the male body. In this view, heightened levels of testosterone make men angry, frustrated, and aggressive. Societies developed a female “punching bag” class as an outlet for male aggression because incessant fights among men would be too destructive. Negative gender stereotypes for women emerged so that their treatment as second-class citizens did not grate too roughly on the human psychological need for consistency.

As evidence for this anger theory, physical anthropologists point out that testosterone is associated with aggressiveness in humans and animals. Hyenas are often pointed to as an example of an animal species in which females are more dominant and aggressive than males and also have high testosterone levels. Similarly, scientists point out that female rat embryos that are nestled between male rat embryos in a mother’s womb are more aggressive than those born from all-female litters and also have higher levels of testosterone (as a result of seepage from the neighboring male embryo). Lawyers have been found to have higher testosterone counts during a trial than when occupied with less aggressive pursuits.

Testosterone is also used to explain the average 10-15 percent greater upper body musculature of men. Anthropologists have observed that as a result of this greater upper body strength, it was in the survival interests of tribes to let men do the hunting, warrior work, and heavy plowing. This resulted in men differentiating themselves from women, stereotyping themselves as strong and the women as weak.

Male anger can no longer be used to justify genital-specific stereotyping. Laws against assault and battery require people to control their hormonal urge to strike out against someone. Increasingly, men cannot beat women without going to jail. Hence there should be less and less male-on-female violence to justify unempowered female stereotypes. As far as physical strength goes, technology has been the great equalizer between sexes. As women continue to be integrated into the armed services, the “weak woman” stereotype will become ever less credible. Women soldiers are just as deadly as men soldiers. The physical anthropologist’s perspective on gender stereotyping is ably summarized in University of Florida professor Marvin Harris’s essay “The Evolution of Human Gender Hierarchies”:

An obvious point, but one likely to be missed in the absence of an evolutionary perspective, is that today’s hyperindustrialism is almost totally indifferent to the anatomical and physiological differences between men and women. It is no accident that women’s rights are rising as the strategic value of masculine brawn declines. Who needs 10 or 15 percent more muscle power when the decisive processes of production take place in automated factories or while people sit at desks in computerized offices? … Despite the waning importance of brute strength in warfare, women continue to be excluded from combat roles in the armed forces. Clearly women can be as competent as men with intercontinental ballistic missiles, smart bombs and computerized firing systems. But men and women must jointly decide whether to push for equality of opportunity in the killing fields or to push for the end of war and an end to the social need to raise macho warriors, whether they be males or females.

Testosterone is also fingered by physical anthropologists as the causal factor that leads men to think differently from women. It is alleged that testosterone influences neural development so that men and women have differently structured brains. In this view, many male and female gender stereotypes exist because they accurately depict different male and female approaches to life, regardless of gender socialization.

Once science toppled religion as the arbiter of truth, there was in fact little choice but to look to the human brain for the absolute difference between men and women that history told us prevailed. The seat of “human nature” could only be the brain or the soul. Since the latter could not be found elsewhere, it was presumed to arise from the mind. So science had to find absolute differences between the minds of women and the minds of men or else admit to a transgendered human nature and an end to the apartheid of sex.

First there were abortive pseudoscientific attempts up through the early twentieth century to prove female intellectual inferiority due to smaller brain size or female physical infirmity due to maternal skeletal structure. It was during this time that Madame Curie became the first person ever to win the Nobel Prize twice, once in physics and once in chemistry. Another stick of dynamite in the edifice of apartheid. Nor did physical infirmity stop Gertrude Ederle, in 1926, from breaking (by two hours!) the male world record for swimming the English Channel. Kaboom! By the late twentieth century scientists abandoned efforts to prove absolute differences between the “natures” of men and women. They weren’t there.

Finally, within the last twenty years science has settled on differential test score results and microneural anatomy to establish male-female meaning. For example, it is frequently said that women score better on most tests of verbal ability and men on most tests of mathematical skill. To laypeople, this is translated as “Women are more communicative (in other words, emotional, idle) and men are more mechanical (smart, active).” Similar average test score results have been used to say women are more intuitive and men more logical. In essence, average test score differences today are used to reinforce ancient Greco-Roman sexual stereotypes. This might be called “quantitative patriarchy.”

In fact, as shown in the following table, there are always men who test in the women’s range and women who test in the men’s range. The table shows the sexual spread of several mathematical skills tests, with scores above the ninety-fifth percentile meaning subjects who received scores higher than 95 percent of the other subjects. The overlap between women’s and men’s scores is almost always much greater than the range in which only women or only men score. The table also reflects the phenomena called “variability” —that women’s scores tend to be bunched a bit more closely together and men tend to e disproportionately represented by extremely high and low scores. For example, there are more than twice as many men as women in the very high scorers—but those persons represent only about ten percent of all the men and women. In other words, the tests actually show that men and women think more alike than unalike. The tests are testaments to gender individuality, not to the validity of stereotypes.

Neurobiologists look for differences in dissected, damaged, or electronically scanned male and female brains. To the extent differences are found, there is an irrestible urge to relate them to apparent real-world differences and to explain them as result of more or less testosterone hormonalization of the brain. To date, neurobiologists have not provided any repeatable scientific evidence of absolute differences in male and female brains. Various researchers’ findings are contradicted by other researchers.

Spatial Analysis Testing*

Scoring below 5th Percentile: .56% (Males); .44% (Females)
Scoring below 95th Percentile: 92.09% (Males); 96.34% (Females)
Scoring above 95th Percentile: 7.35% (Males); 3.22% (Females)

* Extrapolated from A. Fausto-Sterling, Myths of Gender: Biological Theories about Women and Men (2nd ed. 1992), 33.

As of today, the strongest claim made (based on a few dozen dissected brains) is that a small part of the hypothalamus, a tiny clump of important nerve cells deep within the brain, varies in diameter from .01 mm to .16 mm in women and .01 mm to .21 mm in men. Thus the volume differences within each sex are far greater than the differences between sexes. In any event, the total differences are less than .1 (one-tenth of one) percent the size of a cigarette. This sex difference research is so weak that there is still less than a fifty-fifty chance of looking at a hypothalamus and guessing correctly whether it belonged to a woman or a man. As with other scientific research showing average mental differences between men and women, the results argue more strongly for a continuum of sexual identity than for a duality of sex types. Areas of overlap are always much greater than areas of difference.

None of the scientific research has shown an absolute difference between men and women. There are always many men to score in the women’s range, and vice-versa. Science has finally disproven the age-old dogmas about the absolutely different natures of men and women. There is nothing inherent in having a penis that leads one to act “masculine” or to be “active.” Nor does having a vagina necessarily imply femininity or passivity. Instead science has shown that people are infinitely unique with one of two kinds of genitals (in many variations) and the potential for any sexual identity they choose.


All of the reasons for men to use negative stereotypes against women are obsolete. Men need not put down women as passive in order to assuage childbirth insecurities, because there is nothing to be insecure about. Both men and women are important to childbirth. Men need not cast women as evil, out of fear of female sexuality and parentage insecurity. It is the emotional bond, not the chromosomal, that ties child to father for life. Besides, evil is what you do, not who you are. Finally, men need not label women as weak or dumb in order to justify pushing them around. The world of today is too dangerous a place for testosterone cowboys. In any event, one doesn’t need much testosterone to be a killer or a genius. Ask a female GI or Nobel laureate. None of the factors that may have justified genital-specific gender over the past thousands of years are valid today.

If there’s no longer a need to “out-group” women, there is also no longer a need to differentiate between men and women. If there is no out-group, we are all part of the same in-group. Technology has transgendered us. Technology has changed society in ways that decouple gender from genitals. Accordingly, society can liberate gender from genital stereotypes just like biology liberated intimacy from estrus cycles.

As the table below outlines, human civilization since the rise of patriarchal governments has provided us with several definitions of mental maleness and femaleness:

Exemplary Conceptualization Gender Stereotypes


ACTIVE v. PASSIVE (Grcco-Roman; Polytheistic Patriarchy)
Aggressive v. Peaceful
Strong v. Frail
Assertive v. Nurturing
Intellectual v. Idle
Leader v. Follower

RIGHTEOUS v. SINFUL (Monotheistic Patriarchy)
Good v. Evil
Trusting v. Devious

MATH-LIKE v. VERBAL (Science; Quantitative Patriarchy)
Logical v. Intuitive
Direct v. Indirect
Mechanical v. Communicative

Gender stereotypes will continue as long as people have an obsession for categorization. But the association of these stereotypes with reproductive roles or genitals is meaningless now that sex is mostly something we do to feel good and child rearing is something any-sex person can do. In essence, family law and technology is returning much of the freedom from biology that patriarchy took away.

We know today that offspring are the product of one person’s egg, another’s sperm, millennia of genetic ancestors, and maybe some reprotech or genetic engineering assistance. So there’s no need to fight over which sex caused the baby—lots of sex, going back thousands of years, causes every baby. We also know today that the child’s name and inheritance are matters of gender-free choice. So there’s no need to pin down our sexes just to ensure the kid gets a name and a house. The legitimacy of a child no longer depends on their father or their mother. For the vast majority of people, what they have is what they worked for. As a pillar of sexual apartheid, reproduction control for patrilineal or matrilineal reasons is obsolete.

The Greeks’ effort to strengthen the early patriarchal structure with justifications that went beyond reproductive roles was later taken up by monotheists and eventually by pseudoscientists. They began to locate sexuality in the person’s soul and to color that sexuality with pervasive gender-based stereotypes. Hundreds of years later Judeo-Christian doctrine would paint the stereotypes as good (Adam) or evil (Eve). And, in the present day, pseudoscientists are attempting to persuade us that gender-stereotypical behavior is burned by testosterone into the modern-day cognate of the soul, our brain cells. Hence even though reproductive roles alone cannot justify gender stereotypes, the Greek myth of genitals as gender signposts to the soul burdens us still.

Test scores reveal a continuum of brain sex, ranging from stereotypically very “male” attributes to very “female” characteristics. Based on this research, one would have to say that brain sex is analogical (continuous), not digitally male or female. Yet legally we force sex to be male or female, based on digitally dimorphic (either/or) genitals. Hence unless we exclude the brain from the definition of sex, we are imposing a legal apartheid of sex that lacks a scientifically rational basis. Brains are transgendered.

In fact, the brain cannot be excluded from a definition of sex. All concepts of sex—from the Greco-Roman active/passive dichotomy to the Judeo-Christian good/evil dialectic to the scientific math/verbal divergence—presuppose thought, mind, and brain. It would appear to us to be singularly inhuman to channel a person’s life according to hidden genitals rather than intrinsic abilities. In modern times the false simplicity of the age-old dualisms is realized; we accept that any person may be more or less active/passive, good/evil, or mathematical/verbal. This inevitably implies that any person may be more or less male/female. Hence it is logical error to label all persons as either male or female. This logical error becomes repressive when the law imposes it at birth and mandates conformity to it throughout life.

The law’s error arises not only from the ancient belief in a strict duality of male/female mental attributes, but also from the ancient belief that one’s genitals were certain arbiters of one’s soul. At birth genitals are as digitally different (either/or) today as they ever were. However, science has never been able to show that the dimorphic genital difference is reflected in a dimorphic brain sex difference. The brain is a continuum of sexual stereotypes; the genitals appear as male or female. It is this inconsistency that undermines the prevailing paradigm of legal sex-typing. Hence we must ask: If the legal separation of sexes is not true or real, does the state nevertheless have an interest in classifying people into one of two sexes based solely on their most private anatomy? And if the state does have such an interest, is it sufficiently strong to outweigh the human right to express sexual identity outside the male/female dialectic?

The Sex of an Avatar

Avatars are pure software constructs. If they continue to increase in sophistication at the rate of the past ten years, they will soon literally think for themselves. How will they feel about sex? There are millions of different answers to this question because there will be millions of differently programmed avatars. An avatar whose software program and associated database was very much a copy of a flesh human’s main memories and thought patterns would feel about sex the same way the flesh human felt about sex. Could the avatar actually have sex? Touch-sensitive screens already provide software with a sense of feeling. Chess programming expert David Levy exudes confidence in his 2007 book Love and Sex with Robots that touch-screen software is the leading edge of a full spectrum of replicated sensuality.

Ray Kurzweil, in his 1999 book The Age of Spiritual Machines, demonstrates how a continuation of the computer industry’s 40-year track record of processor speed doubling (Moore’s Law) will result by 2020 in desktop computers with the capabilities of the human mind. Computer science guru Marvin Minsky argues persuasively in his 2006 book The Emotion Machine that software can be written to feel all the same things we feel when we love or make love. A good sign of the humanness, or autonomy, of an avatar is that they choose their own sex and display their own gender. Such an avatar would be both transgendered and transhuman. Transgendered because they chose their own gender. Transhuman because they identify with being human, even though they are not made of flesh.

Avatar sexuality is a key bridge from transgender to transhuman. It makes cerulean clear that sexual identity is limitless in variety and detachable from reproduction. And by making that point, it simultaneously demonstrates that human identity is limitless in variety and detachable from reproduction. If you can accept that a person without a penis can peaceably live life as she pleases (including as a man), then you should be able to accept that a person without a physical form can peaceably live life as they please (including as a human). Can you can accept that someone is not automatically passive, or evil, or dumb simply because they have a vagina instead of a penis? Then you should be able to accept that someone is not automatically passive, or evil, or dumb simply because they have a software mind instead of a flesh-based one. Personhood is about equity, not equipment.

While the ancient trunk of sexual identity lies rooted in successful reproductive strategies, the fruit of that tree has now spread far beyond DNA-swapping. Breaking the connection between gender and genitals opened the channel between personhood and form. Once we realize that our essential sweetness is in our minds, and that each of us has unique life-path potential not fully tethered to a body-determined route, then it is as sensible to be transhuman as it is to be transgendered. The being is mightier than the gene.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Billions of Sexes

The human face is really like one of those Oriental gods:

a whole group of faces juxtaposed on different planes; it is impossible to see them all simultaneously.
- Marcel Proust

Billions of Sexes

There are two sexes, male and female, right? Wrong! In fact, there is a continuum of sex types, ranging from very male to very female, with countless variations in between. This startling new notion is just now beginning to emerge from feminist thinking, scientific research, and a grass-roots movement called “transgenderism.” In the future, labeling people at birth as “male” or “female” will be considered just as unfair as South Africa’s now-abolished practice of stamping “black” or “white” on people’s ID cards.

What is Male and Female

There is little that we take more for granted than the separation of people into two sex types, “male” and “female.” Yet when we try to define the difference, problems and inconsistencies arise immediately.

At birth a cursory examination is made of a baby’s genitals. If the doctor sees a small penis, the parents are told, “It’s a boy!” A small vagina, “It’s a girl.” From this initial declaration, most people are sent off on two different tracks in life. Those tracks are called “gender development.” Gender is the set of different behaviors that society expects of persons labeled either “male” or “female.” Is the significance of being born with either a penis or a vagina so great that a person’s future destiny should be dictated accordingly? Would we consider predetermining a person’s life path based on either accidents of biology, such as birth weight, eye color, skin tone, or hair texture?

Of course, there was a time when accidents of birth determined everything about a person’s life. And in many ways accidents of birth biology are still paramount. But the course of civilization is to provide all persons with equal opportunity regardless of their birthed biology.

Up through the eighteenth century, the doctrine of “primogeniture” held that the first son to be born automatically inherited all of a family’s land. This concept was banned around the time of the founding of the United States, a period when land ownership was equivalent to power. Founding patriots such as Thomas Jefferson and Noah Webster argued successfully that primogeniture was undemocratic because it locked individuals into conditions of inequality based on the mere accident of birth order. In time, the once-paramount sociolegal classification of society into firstborn sons, and all others, became completely irrelevant.

Up through the nineteenth century “illegitimate” children could be disavowed of almost all legal rights. It took Supreme Court decisions to finally ban discrimination based on the marital status of a person’s parents. Since the marital status of one’s parents is wholly irrelevant to a person’s humanity, we would be shocked today if people’s life paths were sharply limited by when or whether their parents stood before a judge and exchanged vows. But at one time, even in America, that’s how it was.

Well into the twentieth century, being born with an enriched-melanin skin tone meant being channeled into a menial life. Today we recognize this as fundamentally unfair. Law, and gradually society, accepts the choice of apparent African Americans to work in any profession or to identify as nonracial citizens. Similarly, there are young Europeans who identify as dreadlocked Rastafarians, Asians who have adopted African culture and increasing numbers of persons of all geographic backgrounds who identify themselves simply as human.

Gradually, “immutable race” is becoming “choosable culture.” The analogy to sex is unmistakable. Manhood and womanhood can be life-style choices open to anyone, regardless of genitalia. It is law and custom, not biology, that makes birth order, birth parents, skin tone, or genitals relevant to one’s ability to choose a culture, perform a job, or adopt a life-style. Liberated from legal constraints and archaic stereotypes, our social identity can flow from our soul and our experiences, not from our anatomy and our birth status.

The course of progress in civilization has been to render as irrelevant as possible the birth status of a particular individual. As this is accomplished for categories of birth status—firstborns, children of single parents, children of one or another religious or ethnic group—those very categories begin to lose rigid social meaning. This is because the true meaning of any category of persons is but the meaning assigned to those persons by law and society. Ultimate equal opportunity means that from birth on, people are persons first, free from then on to choose such cultural and social affiliations as they like. Ultimate equal opportunity means to be born free from any label: child/bastard, black/white, or male/female.

The shape of one’s genitals would appear to be a most arbitrary basis for determining to which of two fundamental human classes a person should belong. How did we arrive at this situation? Searching back into prehistory, our ancestors recognized that genital shape was a systematically recognizable difference among humans. Categorizing people based on genital shape was a simple method for establishing a division of labor among early human communities. Childbearing and child-nurturing capabilities of women further led our ancestors to establish a genital-based division of society. As civilization advanced, extensive gender-based rituals and customs reinforced the ancient genital-based division of society into men and women.

Today progressive people accept as self-evident that genital morphology (shape) is irrelevant to one’s productive role in society. Childbearing and child nurturing are a matter of choice. Hence, whatever relevance genital shape had for a division of society into men and women in the past, those reasons and traditions are obsolete as we move into the twenty-first century. Unfortunately, the gender-based rituals that grew up around genital distinctions still weigh heavily on our heads. As noted scientist Richard Lewontin has observed, “The immense superstructure of attitude and social power that has been built historically on the base of biological [sex] differences has long ago become independent of the actuality of that biology.”

Despite the apparent irrelevance of genitals to a person’s capabilities, the legal system in the United States defines men as people with penises and women as people with vaginas. This has been made clear in several cases dealing with transsexuals—persons who claim to be women despite their birth with a penis, and persons with vaginas who claim to be men. In cases dealing with marital, business, and criminal rights, courts have regularly held that one’s sex is determined by one’s genitals. For example, a person with a penis who has lived for twenty years as a woman will not be allowed to marry a man. But a person who undergoes a surgical transformation of the penis into a vagina will be immediately allowed to marry a man.

So, while men and women are defined by their genitals, the significance of that genital difference no longer justifies the social and legal division of society into two classes of people. The division of labor in an advanced society is not based on sexual status. Hence, why bother to divide people form birth into two groups, men and women?

Are Genitals But the Tip of the Iceberg?

It might be argued that genitals are but the tip of the sexual-differentiation iceberg—don’t women have XX chromosomes and men XY? Doesn’t this chromosomal differentiation give rise to a wide variety of clear differences between the sexes—hormonal balance, reproductive capabilities, physical abilities, mental thought patterns? Surprisingly, the current scientific answer to these questions is increasingly no, or at least ambiguous.

First, it is not true that all legally defined women are XX and all legally defined men are XY. Hundreds of thousands of people are born with all manner of chromosomal variations, including XXY and X, among others. The Olympics has ceased using chromosomal tests for a second X as a means of disqualifying women, after certain athletes—namely, persons with a vagina, a lifelong “female” gender identity, and but one X chromosome—were cruelly disqualified right at the quadrennial event. Similarly, the famous transsexual Renee Richards was ordered by a judge to be accepted into women’s tennis competition despite her XY chromosome makeup. The judge found her no different from any other ovariectomized and hysterectomized woman. Chromosomes are an unreliable means of classifying society into two sexes. They argue better for a continuum of sex types.

Second, sex based chromosomal differentiation appears to be relevant only in triggering different amounts of estrogen and testosterone. Both men and women produce both estrogen and testosterone, although in differing amounts. This further shows the chromosomal similarity of all people. Portions of the X or Y chromosome appear ultimately to govern the relative amounts of estrogen and testosterone produced, creating a continuum of “male” and “female” possibilities. When certain hormonal thresholds are reached, “male” or “female” reproductive organs are created. The specific levels of hormonal production, and their timing of release, are different for each person and result in a continuum of “maleness” and “femaleness” that may affect thought patterns and body shape. For example, the leading explanation of transsexuality is that a person’s chromosomes triggered levels of testosterone and estrogen that resulted in the genitals of one sex and the thought patterns of the other sex. Hence, not only the variety of chromosomal combinations, but also the actual operation of the chromosomes themselves, argues for a continuum of sex types.

Finally, it is quite clear that in modern society sex chromosomes would be a specious basis for separating people into two classes, male and female. If we were to separate people because different kinds of chromosomes create different kinds of reproductive capabilities, how would we account for the legitimacy of biologically or intentionally infertile persons? In a February 1994 review of in vitro fertilization, Scientific American estimates that there are three million biologically infertile couples in the United States alone. Clearly ability to reproduce in one manner or another would not create a consistent category of male and female persons.

If we were to separate people because different kinds of chromosomes create different hormonal states, how would we account for the legitimacy of the millions of people who alter their hormonal balance through daily pharmaceutical hormones? In this regard it should also be noted that as people age, their hormonal levels continually decline, creating a convergence between “male” and “female” hormone states in mature adults. Absent estrogen replacement therapy (ERT), postmenopausal women often begin to sprout facial hair and acquire deeper voices. Older men and women begin to look more “transgendered,” more like each other, than in their youth. Such are the transient effects of chromosomes and resultant hormonal states.

It is true that there is a lot of biochemistry behind a set of genitals. Nevertheless, that biochemistry is as irrelevant as the genitals themselves as a basis for categorizing people into two classes. There is no hard and fast biochemical line that separates men from women—just a continuum of biochemical levels with most women toward one end, most men toward to the other, and much overlap and variance in between. Professor Anne Fausto-Sterling, a Brown University geneticist, recently observed that “sex is a vast continuum that defies the constraints of categories.” Behind her observation was new research showing that as many as 4 percent of all births are to some extent “intersexed,” meaning that the infants have portions of both male and female sex organs (often internal and hence generally undiscoverable). Even the presence of nipples on men is evidence of some amount of universal intersexuality.

Chromosomes provide no logically consistent basis for creating sociolegal categorizations of people into “male” and “female.” There are too many exceptional chromosomal combinations, and the net results of the chromosomes—hormonal levels—both vary continuously across all people and may be altered easily by pharmaceuticals. While there are systematic chromosomal differences among peoples from any gene pool—Semitic, Asian, African, Nordic—we would not use such differences as a basis for creating separate legal categories for each gene pool. It would appear equally absurd that such a mundane, variable, and alterable thing such as hormone levels could provide the basis for a fundamental division of humanity into two subspecies, male and female.

Thought Patterns

It might also be argued that different sex types are justified because men and women think differently. For example, as noted above, sex researchers believe that transsexuals have genetically induced “female” (or “male”) thought patterns but “male” (or “female) genitals. Also, authors such as Anne Moir (Brain Sex) have propounded the view that male and female brains are systematically different—leading to different behavior patterns in boys and girls and in men and women.

There are three flaws with using brain sex differences to justify society’s apartheid of sex. First, as Dr. Fausto-Sterling observed, genetics creates a broad variety of sexual diversification. If her statistic of up to 4 percent of the population being physically intersexed (having portions of both sexes’ reproductive tracts) is correct, it’s likely that at least that number of people are also “mentally intersexed” —possessing both male and female thought patterns. No legal categorization of people can be valid if it leaves out such a significant percentage of the population: people can’t be only male or female if 4 percent of the population is neither or both! Indeed, even “brain sex” proponent Anne Moir concedes that “it is possible to be female and have some male attributes, and this simply depends on the presence or absence of the male hormone during certain stages of pregnancy.” If sex is in the brain, and the brain can be a blend of both sexes, what absolute meaning do “male” and “female” have? None, other than the rigid either/or division imposed upon us form birth by society, law, and tradition.

Second, it is far from proven that any anatomical differences in men’s and women’s brains account for behavioral differences. The overwhelming amount of behavioral differences between men and women are learned through a socialization process that insists “act like a girl” or “think like a boy” or pretend to. Anne Moir cites several experiments in which infant girls are much more responsive to colors and sounds than are infant boys. But no one has shown that these knee-jerk reactions have an significance for the complex behaviors associated with job performance and other life pursuits.

Finally, even if there are statistically significant differences in the way most males and females react to stimuli, this does not mean that people should be categorized as males and females for social, economic, or legal reasons. There is no doubt that certain people are gifted from birth with various mental, musical, artistic, or physical abilities. But such relative abilities do not entitle these persons to be legally categorized into a special class of people. In an egalitarian society we recognize that what people actually do with their abilities is far more significant that what abilities they may have.

In essence, a society works much better if biological differences among its subpopulations are ignored or minimized than if those differences are magnified and classified. On average, individual initiative far outperforms biological inheritance. The differences in men’s and women’s thought patterns are at most only statistically significant, not absolute sex differentiators. And as for the persons who do have “male”-type or “female” –type thought patterns, society has learned that it is counterproductive to classify its citizens based on inherited characteristics. Finally, “male” and “female” thought patterns are probably an especially specious basis for sociolegal categorization. This is because such thought patterns are simplistic in nature and easily rendered meaningless in the complexities of everyday life.

New Feminist Thinking

Professor Sylvia Law, a noted legal scholar, recently argued that “a core feminist claim is that women and men should be treated as individuals, not as members of a sexually determined class.” This is also a theme that Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg emphasized in her lawsuits as a women’s rights advocate: “Nurturing children in my ideal world would not be a woman’s priority, it would be a human priority.” This new feminism rejects sex-based differences among people as wholly irrelevant to any socioeconomic purpose. As Simone de Beauvoir noted some four decades ago: “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”

It is but a short step from the new feminist thinking to our thesis. If sex-based differences are irrelevant, then what is the point of saying one is either male or female? While there is often a medical reality to sex-based differences, this does not justify a carryover of sex typing to the social, economic, and legal spheres of life. There are innumerable medical differences among people, such as diabetes or propensity to heart disease, but this does not justify the creation of a legal straightjacket of difference about such medical conditions.

The feminist insistence upon seeing individuals as individuals, regardless of sexual biology, can now be carried to its next logical step: individuals are individuals, not sex types. Labeling people as male or female, upon birth, exalts biology over sociology. Instead the new feminist principles inspire us to permit all people to self-identify their sexual status along a broad continuum of possibilities and to create such cultures of gender as human ingenuity may develop.

The bimodal segregation of people into men and women has oppressed women from the time of the ancients. As Margaret Mead observed in her 1949 treatise Male and Female, the effect of creating artificial expectations for each sex is to “limit the humanity of the other sex.” As we gradually free ourselves from stamping newborn babies as one sex or the other, gender expectations will become self-defining and the full cultural liberation of all people can occur at last.

Scientific Developments

Soon after feminism opened academia’s eyes to the reality that people with vaginas were no different socioeconomically from people with penises, scientific research began to accumulate data that blurred even the biological differences between supposed sex types. As of 1990 Johns Hopkins University sexologist Dr. John Money was able to summarize research in this area: “Despite the multiplicity of [apparent] sex differences, those that are immutable and irreducible are few. They are specific to reproduction: men impregnate, and women menstruate, gestate, and lactate …. However, in light of contemporary experimental obstetrics, being pregnant is no longer an absolutely immutable sex difference. The hormones and stimuli required for normal fetal development are intrinsic and within the early embryo.”

Dr. Money was referring to recent experiments in which male baboons were made to serve as surrogate mothers for zygotes fertilized in the test tube. The embryos grew in a fatty cavity near the intestines and were delivered by cesarean section as healthy infants. In a similar vein, Dr. Money reported on ectopic pregnancies in women whose wombs had previously been removed and on zygotes that implanted themselves in the small intestine and grew their own placenta—with the implication that a man could have carried the embryo as well. All of these cases strongly suggest that even nurturance of a child, with technological help, is not an absolute biological imperative of any one subclass of humans.

Further scientific advances in the areas of genetic engineering and neonatal care foretell the likelihood that a zygote might be formed from the chromosomes of two women or of two men, assuming the necessary biochemical codes that enable cellular union are learned. Once this scientific threshold is passed, the axiom that “men impregnate” will no longer be strictly true. Of course, one need not wait for this science-fiction scenario to occur: as long as sperm banks and in vitro fertilization exist, the relevance of men’s monopoly on impregnation disappears. Impregnation becomes a commodity. And as long as surrogate motherhood is legally available, the relevance of women’s monopoly on gestation disappears. Gestation becomes a commodity.

Scientific developments have blurred the differences between supposed sex types to a greater degree than most people imagine. Feminism tells us that the differences between sexual biology are irrelevant to socioeconomic behavior. And science tells us that the differences between sexual biology are remarkably few and disappearing rapidly.

It might be argued that science masks true sexual differences, since men do impregnate naturally, and women do gestate and lactate naturally. But this argument seems unpersuasive: it could just as well be said that since most men are stronger than most women, men must do “heavy work,” and since women lactate naturally, they must be the ones to care for infants. Yet thanks to science and technology, heavy work can be done with the pushing of buttons, and infant formula can be dispensed from a bottle. Science did not mask “true” differences between sexes; it just made those differences irrelevant in everyday life, allowing us to achieve the continuum of sex types that are possible today.


A grass-roots movement called transgenderism developed during the 1980s. The guiding principle of this movement is that people should be free to change, either temporarily or permanently, the sex type to which they were assigned since infancy. Transgenderism makes manifest the continuum nature of sex types because even if a sex type was real birth, it can now be changed at will during one’s life.

There are two main types of persons in the movement: transsexuals and cross-dressers. Transsexuals use sex hormones and sometimes plastic surgery to change their anatomy toward the other sex type. The results are so persuasive that rarely can a “new man” or “new woman” be distinguished from a biological original. Over a thousand persons a year actually have sex change surgery, and many more than this number simply use hormones to change their facial hair, voice, and physique. What sex type are these persons? The law calls them the sex of their genitals, but in reality they are occupying a vast middle ground on a continuum of sex types.

The cross-dressers use attitude, clothing and perhaps makeup to give the appearance of belonging to the other sex or to an androgynous middle ground. Most modern women may be considered cross-dressers since they often wear clothing normally intended for men. What is a new phenomenon is the rapidly rising number of men who wear women’s clothing. Because a male-dominated society frowns on its members mimicking the “inferior” female class, male cross-dressers are usually deep in the closet.

In questioning why there is a growing transgenderism movement, we reach to the heart of the question of sex typing. Transgendered people of all types normally report that they feed a need to express a gender identity different from the one society associates with their genitals. Leading psychologists explain this need by positing that the transgendered person’s neonatal brain was at least partially feminized (or masculinized) while their genitals were masculinized (or feminized). But if the new feminism and scientific research is correct, there are no “male” and “female” brains. Even if there were, is it reasonable to posit that brain patterns can dictate a need to wear one or another type of clothing? Do all the women who wear blue jeans and T-shirts have masculinized transgendered brains?

A more likely explanation is that sex is a continuum along which people, if allowed, will flow naturally to a comfortable resting point. What that resting point is depends upon the same complex of mental propensities and chance socialization that leads people to adopt one or another career, hobby, or religion. It is a matter not of “male” and “female” brains, but of chance orientations toward primal responses such as “aggression” or “nurturance,” limited by social pressures. Modern female cross-dressing represents gender creativity unconstrained by social rejection. Male cross-dressing is rare because society frowns on male gender creativity.

For most people society’s gender rules are so powerful that they simply go with the flow. But in every society there are the free spirits, the stubborn, and the insistent. In the 1960s they fought for civil rights. In the 1990s they fight for gender rights. The grass-roots transgender movement represents those people who are brave enough to risk some opprobrium to explore the gender continuum. Once that opprobrium is eliminated, the ranks of gender and sex-type explorers is sure to increase manyfold.

The Apartheid of Sex

We live under an apartheid of sex. At birth we are cast into a sex type based on our genitals. From then on we are brainwashed into a sex-type-appropriate culture called gender. Women can mimic (but not too much) the powerful entrenched men. But men who try to be “womanish” face the kind of vicious scorn reserved for traitors or the humiliation accorded masters who identified with slaves.

Like the apartheid of race, blurring of class boundaries is the gravest offense because it challenges the division of reality. Hence the old feminist doctrine of “separate but equal” was more acceptable to the male power structure, because they knew that it would never occur. But the new feminist doctrine of sexual continuity is threatening—it destroys the male-dominated power structure completely. If there are no hard and fast sex types, then there can be no apartheid of sex. If there is no apartheid of sex, then there is no entrenched birthright of power—people must achieve on their own. To men threatened by economics and social survival, loss of birthright superiority is frightening.

The apartheid of sex is every bit as harmful, painful, and oppressive as is the apartheid of race. When people are categorized at birth into a sociolegal class on the basis of chance biology, they will be socialized into a segregated culture. Once they are so socialized, human potential will be repressed, for the mind does not know boundaries except for those imposed upon it from outside. Our legacy of sexual apartheid is countless millennia of female oppression and male frustration, of gynacide and warfare.

The apartheid of sex is too ancient to be dismantled overnight. But there are concrete steps that can start the process of liberating humanity’s future, among them:

• Adopting resolutions in the psychological and medical community to the effect that sex in humans is a continuous variable, a complex of phenotypic and genotypic factors as unique as one’s fingerprints. While male and female categories are useful to group biological characteristics for medical purposes, these same categories have socially detrimental effects when used outside the field of medicine.
• Adopting laws that prohibit the classification of people according to sex type except for bona fide medical purposes.
• Adopting educational curricula and entertainment programming that encourage the concept of self-defined sex and flexible gender behaviors.

Sex should really be the sum of behaviors we call gender—an adjective, not a noun. People should explore genders. When they settle on a set of gender behaviors, the name for that set describes their sex. There are billions of sex types: from Rambo to Oprah, from Madonna to Prince, from deep blue to blood red, and a vast rainbow of androgynous possibilities in between. The important point is that gender exploration should come first, through free choice, and that sex is just the label for one’s chosen gender.

Today we go about the matter of sex ass backward. A male or female label is first imposed upon us without choice. We are then trained to adopt a set of appropriate gender behaviors, whether we like them or not. We have some flexibility in our particular choice of gender behavior but not much choice, lest we fall afoul of the apartheid of sex. However, feminism, technology, and transgenderism have debunked the myth of a “male and female” world. Life has much more gender potential than we can imagine.

As we break free of the chains of sexual apartheid, we will establish a new human culture of unparalleled creativity in personal development. From homo sapiens, literally the “wise man,” shall emerge our new species, persona creatus, the “creative person.” From the subjugation of women shall emerge the sensitization of men. And from the apartheid of sex shall evolve the freedom of gender.

Persona Creatus

A new species implies a very fundamental break with the DNA-based definition of homo sapiens. Yet, as indicated above, we have already made that fundamental break as a consequence of technological changes in the way we live and reproduce. Our DNA no longer dictates all aspects of our individual survival, for if it did near-sighted individuals would be gone, eaten by predators they could not see. Our DNA no longer dictates our ability to pass on our genes. In vitro fertilization with or without embryo transfer routinely provides reproduction for hundreds of thousands of infertile couples.

The rise of transgenderism provides sociobiologists with evidence of a new species. An important part of most species’ signature is the characteristically gender dimorphic behaviors of their members. However, as noted above, thanks to culture and technology, humans are leaving those gender dimorphic behaviors behind as they come to appreciate the limitless uniqueness of their sexual identities. As our creativity has blossomed, we have matured from homo sapiens into persona creatus.

The greatest catapult for humanity into a new species lies just beyond the event horizon of transgenderism. Based upon our rapidly accelerating ability to imbue software with human personality, autonomy and self-awareness, a movement of “transhumanists” have joined transgenderists in calling for the launch of persona creatus. The basic transhumanist concept is that a human need not have a flesh body, just as a woman need not have a real vagina. Humanness is in the mind, just as is sexual identity. As software becomes increasingly capable of thinking, acting and feeling like a human, it should be treated as a fellow human, and welcomed as a fellow member of the technological species persona creatus.

The biologist will insist that members of a common species be capable of producing fertile offspring, and so it is for transhumans and persona creatus. Reproduction will no long necessarily occur, however, via joined DNA. Instead, people of flesh will upload into software the contents and processes of their minds. Think of this as taking all of your digital photos, movies, emails, online chats, google searches and blogging to the next level, and merging it with “mindware” that can replicate how you think, feel and react based on the huge digital database of your thoughts, feelings and reactions. Once we have thus digitally cloned our minds, new digital people can be produced by combining some of our mindware with some of our partner’s mindware. Voila, there are fertile offspring and the species persona creatus is alive. Furthermore, since purely digital people can reproduce with flesh humans in this manner, the humans and the transhumans are common members of persona creatus.

Freedom of gender is, therefore, the gateway to a freedom of form and to an explosion of human potential. First comes the realization that we are not limited by our gross sexual anatomy. Then comes the awakening that we are not limited by our anatomy at all. The mind is the substance of humanity. Mind is deeper than matter.