Subject: harping on the sex/gender distinction.
Date: Wed 30 Jun 1999 - 22:23:01 BST
Steve asks why I keep flogging a distinction between sex and gender.
The answer is simple.
If sex and gender are hard linked, then the only way we have to change the
scope of gender is to change the scope of sex. That seems to me to be a
silly and well neigh impossible task, because people have known the
difference between male and female ever since breeding began.
The distinction between sex and gender exists now. We don't talk about woman
dogs or how great and historic a female Eleanor Roosevelt is -- those sound
funny, because we know dogs don't have gender, and Mrs. Roosevelt was great
because of her social role not her sexual behavior, though there are a few
lesbians who would like to change that.
I want people to have social roles which fit their spirit, not just their
reproductive organs. I want to classify people by the content of their
character, and not the shape of their genitals, to paraphrase Martin Luther
I don't want people to feel pressure to resex their body, femaling or maling
it, just to change their behavior in the world. They shouldn't have to
change their body to meet social expectations, rather social roles should
embrace a wide range of human forms.
The only way to do this, as far as I can see, is to make that separation
between social role and biological configuration to be clear, to have
language which allows us to be clear on which we are speaking about, sex or
Some people, those who are stuck in old ways, will not hear what people are
saying when they make that distinction, but as we be clear on it, it will
come into focus, especially for youth.
If the choice is to change what we think of as birth sex, to change the model
of humans as sexually dimorphic species, with two distinct kinds of
reproductive organs, seems to me to be a very hard battle, as long as science
still uses male-female relations for reproduction, and male-female sex roles
are coded in the instinct.
The choice to change the hard linkage between physical/anatomical
reproductive sex and the skills and possibilities of a person is a battle
which already has been fought by feminists, and which does not demand
individuals get biological intervention to live out the call of their
I harp on the sex/gender distinction because it is at the root of my
thinking, at the root of everything I have shared here for over two years,
and seems to me to be the most effective way to open possibilities to humans
which are not based on a rigid social classification by birth sex
In other words, if you don't understand why I harp on it, you don't
understand anything I have been saying.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2a23 : Wed 21 Jul 1999 - 18:23:20 BST