The case against the bipolar cultural gender construct

Expression of gender during recent times in "Western" culture has followed an ebb and flow of rather dramatic change. The bipolar lines segregating gender have been gradually eroded--witness the unisex expressions popular in the early '70s. Popular entertainers continually challenge the bipolar gender construct--David Bowie, Boy George, Madonna, and Michael Jackson are only a few of the more well-known examples. Gender expression within the lesbian and gay population also sometimes blurs the barriers of the artificial bipolar cultural construct.

As well-documented in medical science, genetic (chromosomal) sex has wide variations beyond the XX and XY combinations. And more contemporary medical research of brain constructions and function points to a veritable continuum of physiological variances in sex where it is almost impossible to accurately categorize a true bipolar sex for an individual and completely negates any attempt to limit sex to a simple male or female categorization. In essence, each individual has a completely unique genotype with a resultant unique gender. The continuum line of sex would resemble an inverted bell curve of statistical analysis. A strict male, female, or neuter categorization can only be supported by innate reproductive ability and function, and a subsequent desire to engage in reproduction (infertile and non-breeding individuals for whatever reason must be classed as reproductively neuter regardless of social gender role).

The natal medical "diagnosis" (resultant sociological assignation of bipolar gender role) of gender is a ludicrous presumption, since it is based on only one phenotypical (visual) criterion—at birth, the only differentiation that is made is the observation of "indoor" or "outdoor plumbing" (it is the only phenotypical differentiation possible). Following this cursory and potentially inaccurate medical "diagnosis," the psychological specialists presume it as an absolute, and any individuals who express a personal interpretation of their core gender identity contravening their assigned bipolar role must therefore be "mentally disordered," suffering from "gender identity disorder," and subsequently "trans-sex" to a gender expression within the confines of the bipolar cultural paradigm. (This is potentially the next great oppression for lesbians and gays since many exhibit behaviors and gender expressions within the "GID" diagnostic criteria.) Every bit of this flies in the face of all known physiological, sociological, and anthropological fact. The whole concept of "trans-" sex or gender is inane. Individuals do not "trans-" anything, they merely express what to them is a sociological construction or interpretation of their core identities.

What we end up with in the final analysis of the issue is a cultural model which absolutely requires a bipolar gender construct in order to exist. The patriarchal schema depends on first, absolute bipolar gender assignment into male or female, based on reproductive function, and second, on absolute control by males of the reproductive function of females (this control of the reproductive function translates to total control of females). Without male control of females and the reproductive function, paternity may be indeterminate and with indeterminate patrilineal descent, a patriarchy cannot exist.

In the sociological evolution of humans, using an interpretation of the anthropological evidence without patriarchal bias, we can find ample evidence of diversity of gender expression and wider variance of gender roles. Before humans understood reproductive biology (hunter/gatherer cultures of the Late Paleolithic Period) it is logical to presume that the male role in reproduction was unknown and therefore a patriarchal construct was impossible. Women would therefore be accorded the highest status as sole "creators" of life, yielding a matriarchal schema. Only as reproductive biology became clearer with domestication and breeding of animals could a connection be made to a male reproductive role. And then it is a logical hypothesis that the understanding was that males gave the complete "baby" to the female who was simply the nurturing agent. The lengthy era of the matriarchy can be found in the archaeological evidence from approximately 25,000 to 5,000 BCE in the Indo and Middle Eastern cultures. And it took approximately five millennia for the patriarchal schema to wrest complete cultural dominance using a religious basis for establishment--Judaic, Islamic, and Hindic.

Examination of the Neandertal physiology, reveals little morphic (phenotypical) differentiation between males and females aside from reproductive organs. This would tend to put the reproductive process at risk if both males and females engaged equally in the high-risk task of close-in kills of larger prey. Skeletal remains of females show similar injuries to those of males which mostly likely were the result of hunting injuries. Homo sapien morphic differentiation between males and females would tend to provide a greater degree of task separation for males and females during the hunt. With females not participating as much in the high-risk close quarters kill, the reproductive process is at less risk. The advent of projectile hunting weaponry and domestication of animals, began to allow more role differentiation and placement of females at even less risk.

Religion (integral in shaping culture) would follow the ascendent gender of reproductive primacy, and the archaeological record supports the theory with feminine gods as creators in the matriarchy followed by masculine gods as creators in the patriarchy. The archaeological and anthropological evidence also supports religious rituals of voluntary emasculation and self-emasculation through the third century CE for worship of female gods. Emasculation persisted in relatively common practice through the 18th century with both eunuchs and castrati. In essence, a "third" gender (phenotype) was "surgically" created over the overwhelming majority of the total human experience. In native American cultures, a recognition of gender variance beyond reproductive bipolar sex was common to many nations, particularly those of the southwestern pueblo and northern plains. Even in cultures today, such as that in Samoa, gender variance is culturally sanctioned.

As we take a leap forward into the current era of gender evolution, we can find advancing technology as an enabling tool for continuing evolution. Technology becomes the equalizer, and gender role differentiation diminishes in importance. When the need for gender role differentiation is less important, individuals begin to gain freedom of expression of their own unique gender identities. Advent of medical technology of artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization begins to throw the patriarchal construct into chaos, since it places the reproductive process into complete female control (also add the feminist reproductive choice tenet to the chaotic mix). In fact it is medically possible for males to bear children through in vitro fertilization, ectopic implantation of the zygote, and subsequent surgical delivery, which theoretically makes reproductive differentiation a completely moot point. And of course looming in the future is the distinct possibility of science fiction's complete foetal development in the laboratory. The patriarchy may be just a small aberration in the whole of human gender evolution.

The discussion then brings us back to the psych-generated irritating little gnat of "gender identity disorder" we must deal with at present. By moving beyond the "Freudian" sexual principles, to "Jungian" persona principles, we can find gender enlightenment and perceive the mechanics of construction of gender expression from the individual's core or preeminent persona. The answer should now be obvious to the question of how can we class an innate human trait of diverse gender expression of one's core identity as a disorder when the only disorder it brings is to the cultural patriarchal, reproduction role-based construct. Is the preservation of a completely antiquated and unnecessary cultural schema of any value to the future success of the species? The quite obvious answer is, "No." So it's time for a little more "gendeRevolution."

Tere Prasse
© 1995, San Antonio, Texas (excerpted from a more lengthy article)

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