If you’ve followed my work over the years (and a lot of it is archived at this website) you’ll know that I have adapted and evolved my views on human sexuality over the last two decades. One of the most helpful shifts, which I believe is foundational to making it easier to engage with the many different debates about human sexuality and gender that are raging in society right now, is to stop thinking of gender as two boxes called “male” and “female” and to start seeing it as a spectrum.
Everything else in our world exists outside a simple binary. Line a random group of people up, and you can see this: height, weight, eye colour, amount of hair, ability with language, intelligence, etc, etc. Nature is filled with animals that show this spectrum, even shifting from male to female and places in between.
When we deal with human sexuality, there are three main issues to consider:
1. Sexual biology – what external and internal gonads someone has, as well as chromosomes and hormones. This is who someone IS sexually.
2. Sexual preferences – this is who someone is sexually attracted to
3. Gender – this is a whole range of societal markers that indicate a particular place in society based on the above.
All three of these exist on spectrums, and can shift and change over time.
Here are some resources to help you understand this further:
- VIDEO: TED talk: The way we think about biological sex is wrong, by Emily Quinn
- VIDEO: Trans athletes in women’s sports: Is this fair? by Sabine Hossenfelder
- Thread on genes, hormones, chromosomes and cells, by @RebeccaRHelm
- BOOK: Queer Ducks (and Other Animals): The Natural World of Animal Sexuality, by Eliot Schrefer
- READ: https://medium.com/@QSE/the-xx-xy-lie-our-social-construction-of-a-sex-and-gender-binary-4eed1e60e615 The XX & XY Lie: Our Social Construction of a Sex and Gender Binary
- VIDEOL: https://youtu.be/kT0HJkr1jj4″ rel=”noopener noreferrer” target=”_blank”>There Are More Than Two Human Sexes
- TED Talk: Alice Dreger: Is anatomy destiny? – this is an old video, and we’ve learnt much since it was recorded, but it is still worth watching
- Only two sex forms but multiple gender variants: How to explain?
- Nature: Sex redefined – The idea of two sexes is simplistic. Biologists now think there is a wider spectrum than that.
- PDF: An introduction to Gender: Chapter 1 – from Stanford
- PDF: The Future of Sex and Gender in Psychology: Five Challenges to the Gender Binary
- https://www.nature.com/news/sex-redefined-1.16943 – The idea of two sexes is simplistic. Biologists now think there is a wider spectrum than that.
- https://www.teenvogue.com/story/gender-variance-around-the-world – a history and geography of gender variance