Sex and Gender are not Binary
Come sit with me. Let’s share! In today’s post I’m going to start off a series on gender. The common argument used against transgender people is that there are only two sexes. This argument is fallacious for several reasons which I will outline below. Let’s start off with two important definitions.
Sex: either of the two major forms of individuals that occur in many species and that are distinguished respectively as female or male especially on the basis of their reproductive organs and structures.
a : sex– the feminine gender
b : the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex
As we see above, herein lies the problem with words: they mean more than one thing at a time. The simplest definition of gender, and one that is often used is that it means the same thing as sex. Arguments that gender is binary are typically connected to this definition. However, if we look a bit closer at the definition of sex itself, that argument begins to break down.
Sex is not binary.
The first ding to the argument that sex is binary is the inclusion of “two major forms of individuals” in the definition. If there were only two sexes, then the word “major” would superfluous. However, since it is included, that means there are one or more minor forms of individuals. A binary relationship can only have two forms, since the definition itself admits of three or more forms, then sex is by definition not binary.
Reproductive organs and structures
The second ding to the argument that sex itself is binary is the inclusion of the following: “especially on the basis of their reproductive organs and structures.” Interestingly, the definition that google gives is similar but contains another damning phrase. It ends with “reproductive functions” rather than “organs and structures.” If we follow Merriam-Webster’s definition and sex can be broken into two categories based on the reproductive organs and structures” then that means that only two different types of organs and structures can exist. This is known by science not to be true in humans because there is a nearly infinite range of different cases of intersex individuals. Here is their definition of intersex:
the condition[…]of either having both male and female gonadal tissue in one individual or of having the gonads of one sex and external genitalia that is of the other sex or is ambiguous.
After the definition they give a statistic that states that intersexuality occurs in about one of every 2000 births. Based on the current population of the U.S., this means that there are approximately 164,000 individuals currently living in the U.S. that are intersex. That any of these individuals exist is proof that the reproductive organs and structures come in more than two varieties and are, thus, non-binary. If we use google’s definition and assume that it is reproductive function, this is even more damning because this assumes that those who have lost reproductive function no longer have a sex.
So, given that sex is non-binary, we can conclude that gender, if equated to sex, is also non-binary. So if someone says that transgenderism cannot exist because there are only two sexes, now we know how they are incorrect. The male/female dichotomy doesn’t exist, even if we solely consider the definition of “sex”. However, similar arguments can be made for gender as well. This way, the argument that “there are only two genders” can also be proven as fallacious.
Gender is not binary
By disproving the idea that sex is binary, we have already eliminated any arguments that gender is binary based on it’s equation to “sex”.
Behavioral, Cultural, or Psychological Traits
I would like to propose an exercise for this part of the definition. Let us have a room full of people representatively populated by race, “sex”, etc. you know, all the characteristics by which we define people that don’t actually exist. We will ask these people to make individual lists. On one list, each person will write the behavioral, cultural, and psychological traits that make a person “male”. On another list, they will write those traits that make a person “female”. If we have the room populated via different areas of the world, then we already know that the lists will not match based on the different cultural belief systems of individuals. If the lists do not match, then there are different definitions for “male” and “female” based on the different cultural systems. The same is likely to be said of behavioral and psychological systems.
Gender is a Social Construct!
Cultural beliefs and practices often have no base in the natural world. Sure, there are some cultural practices that have helped people survive in certain environments, but otherwise, they are socially constructed (i.e. imaginary) terms whose definitions may, in fact, vary between each individual said to inhabit a cultural group. Thus, we come to the necessary conclusion that “male” and “female” do not have given definitions as such, but rather are nebulous clouds of meaning based on the individual definer.
Gender is non-Binary
If the words are nebulous clouds of meaning, then at some points, those clouds will inevitably overlap in meaning. This is especially true in egalitarian-esque societies such as the United States. One need only look at the cultural connotations surrounding an item such as pants to see that male and female definitions overlap in this area. Is it male or female to wear pants? It is both or either. Since this one cultural idea/behavior set can be defined as both male and female, then we must admit that “male” and “female” are non-binary because their definitions can overlap, they can be one and the same. Therefore there are at least three genders: “male,” “female,” and “both.” It is often argued that gender is a continuum, but that will be a different article.
Thank you for sitting with me today! As always please like this post if you enjoyed reading or learned something and leave a comment if you wish to expand or detract from my arguments. Here are some questions to spur comments:
- After having read my argument, what are your thoughts on gender, on sex?
- Do you have any non-religious arguments that refute what I have argued, or did I leave anything out?