Monday, February 24, 2014

Male, Female or ???

You are filling out some forms. Under the usual name, address, birthday, ssn, race, etc., you see "sex: M/F". That may be a thing of the past, however, since our post-modern society has added increasing categories of gender. Each one is being split into more and more subgroups and the whole thing can't help but make me think of the long-standing and continuous splintering of Protestant churches. Even those gender categories are not expected to be static and individuals are expected (and increasingly encouraged) to move about within them. Depending on the kind of week you've had, you can select a pull-down menu on Facebook and choose another gender from a list of over fifty. A "flavor of the week" kind of thing.

Really, it's all rather ridiculous. At least it would be laughable, if people weren't taking it so seriously.

The problem is that there seem to be two main groups: (a) Those who push for more and more shades of grey in gender, working very hard to demolish the foundations of traditional sexes, grinding even the individual stones into powder, and (b) those who want to keep it quite simple: heterosexual and homosexual. Why is this a problem? Because neither is correct.

There is no homosexual or heterosexual. We are all human beings, male and female (yes, there are only two despite medical claims to the contrary and individual variations in physiology), created in the image of God. We were created to be procreative - otherwise humanity would be at a dead end... literally. Why is it wrong to label people as homo- or hetero-sexual? Well, in what other ways are we labeled by our sins?

No, sex is not a sin in and of itself. God created sex and He didn't create anything evil. But He did give us free will and we are able to turn that will away from Him in whatever way we choose. Just because someone is "heterosexual" doesn't mean they are standing on the moral high ground. People who commit adultery or fornication are heterosexual and few would say they are leading morally superior lives. Homosexuality, or the attraction to those of the same sex, is not considered a sin unless one (1) either entertains the thoughts or (2) acts on them. Let me be very quick to point out that entertaining thoughts of fornication with someone of the opposite sex is just as wrong.

The Church teaches us that everyone is called to either marriage or virginity. There is no other path. Anything else falls short of what Christ created us to be. And we all fall short, every day. Perhaps not in this area, but in others. So we all sin... but again, are we labeled by that sin?

Let me give you an example: Someone cheats on a test at school and is labeled a cheater...forever? If someone steals something, are they forever branded a thief? Isn't it possible to repent? Well, of course! Do any of these things become sociopolitical labels, demanding respect from the general population and earning federal funding for promotion? Um, no. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

A fascinating article, "Against Heterosexuality", by Michael Hannon, examines the entire social construct of heterosexuality and homosexuality. I urge you to read it. It caused me to take a very hard look at how I have viewed the subject and come to the conclusion that I have been a dupe of the psychobabble academics in this area.
Alasdair MacIntyre once quipped that “facts, like telescopes and wigs for gentlemen, were a seventeenth-century invention.” Something similar can be said about sexual orientation: Heterosexuals, like typewriters and urinals (also, obviously, for gentlemen), were an invention of the 1860s. Contrary to our cultural preconceptions and the lies of what has come to be called “orientation essentialism,” “straight” and “gay” are not ageless absolutes. Sexual orientation is a conceptual scheme with a history, and a dark one at that. It is a history that began far more recently than most people know, and it is one that will likely end much sooner than most people think.


  1. I actually refuse to use the term gender anymore. It was a deliberate change to use that instead of sex. Gender is a linguistic term, it applies to words which are arbitrarily assigned a sex. La table, le stylo, for instance. It was not used for animals, because these were determined by genetics, physical expression, etc (and yes, there are exceptions, where the genes don't match the body parts, but there are exceptions to everything).

    There was a deliberate change in usage, however, to use the term gender to apply to humans. Along with that shift, came the same sense of arbitrarily assigned role that gender implies. Thus, just using the term gender is part of a movement to say that sex is a fluid, changeable idea, that it is a social construct, rather than a biological reality. It is rooted in the sexual libertinism of the 60s, rather than in scientific fact.

  2. I don't disagree with you. I'm just throwing this out there as something that has always truly puzzled me: the the occurrence of hermaphroditism, which is itself a spectrum of genetic mutations.

    I'd love to hear a well thought out explanation. That's not a challenge, though! Just something that's always kept me mum.

  3. Ranee, you have a valid point.

    Laura, if you look up the various types of "intersex" (considered to be not male, not female) you can see that there exist a number of variations. Most of them, however, are actually considered male or female. For instance:

    Klinefelter syndrome: mix of XY and XXY (male with extra genetic material - usually sterile or very nearly)

    Turner syndrome: XO (female with monosomy - sterile)

    Triple X syndrome: XXX (female - reduced fertility through premature ovarian failure)

    XYY syndrome: (male with extra genetic material - usually normal phenotype)

    de la Chapelle syndrome: XX (male because there is male genetic material and the phenotype is male - invariably sterile)

    Swyer syndrome: XY (female by default because the development of the gonads in early pregnancy did not happen normally - really fascinating to read about - sterile and won't experience puberty without the administration of hormones)

  4. Hi Matushka, thanks for answering.

    Yes, I know that genetically, there is a way to determine the sex of the person eventually. I guess I assume that the experience of living with that ambiguity would resist such a reduction (for example, <a href =">this link I came across today</a> shows a typical mutation (congenital adrenal hyperplasia) where the physiology is male, but the genetics are female. I can't imagine being a grown man and told "You're actually a woman, now act and feel like a woman," makes any sense to the person. Or being a grown man and feeling female, but then being told transgenderism is evil.

    I want to reiterate that I'm not defending American queer theory, just that I think that the issue of hermaphroditism deserves thorough treatment. :) I guess I find this sort of brain exercise interesting.

  5. No problem, Laura! In looking those different disorders up I noticed that for none of them does there seem to be a problem in terms of sexual attraction. A few are associated with other issues such that the person is unlikely to mature enough to experience sexual attraction. For example, in Swyer syndrome the chromosomes might be male, but because the gonads did not develop enough to stimulate the production of fetal testosterone the end result is a sterile female and the person would feel and appear female (until they simply didn't experience puberty). In this case you would simply see the person as female, just as they would phenotypically appear and would feel themselves. The "streak gonads" (underdeveloped testes that never descended, unless I'm misunderstanding something) wouldn't be visible and there wouldn't be anything to suggest the person was not female until an examination by xray, CT scan, etc. was performed.


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