New directions and the logic of sex

Posted: December 21, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

I’m trying to make myself more focused again. I’ve been slacking off too much for too long, and it has to stop. Thankfully, I’m incredibly interested in my project, so it’s not hard to think about. The more I make myself work, the easier it is to do.

I find I’m constantly noticing little things that remind me of my project, which in turn is helping me really define it. I met with Walter Bockting last week (more on him later), and I think he was pretty interested in helping me out, but while we were talking, I saw that I really need to refine my work a bit. I need to know exactly where I’m going, and I need to give it borders and limits.

I started this with the idea of gender identity construction in online communities, and then naturally moved to look at the fringe group (the transgendered) because that would show me the most variety. But as I get more and more involved, I’m finding that my focus is moving from just gender identity. Sometimes, I want to look at the heteronormative binary. Other times, I want to look at gender stereotypes. Identity remains an important step throughout, but I’m not sure it’s exactly what I was originally aiming towards.

The heteronormative binary is a very fancy way of saying “two genders.” Basically, it’s referring to the idea that there are only two genders (male and female) and that being one means NOT being the other. Similarly, it refers to the idea that sexuality is pure, either homo or hetero.

I don’t like binaries, and I’m a big subscriber to the Law of the Excluded Middle. I think that there is more to being a woman than NOT being a man, and vice versa. I also think it is possible to have aspects of both without being in transition from one to the other. And, it’s possible to be neither one, and be perfectly satisfied with that. Similarly, even if we throw in bisexuality to the homo/hetero split, I STILL think there’s more. That’s a matter of simple logic.

Most of us understand logic as being a binary system (bivalent, as the philosophers say): something is either True or it is False. So a truth table with two variables (p and q) has only four possible lines:

  1. pq
  2. TT
  3. TF
  4. FT
  5. FF

But when you get beyond bivalent logic, you get more lines. And what is beyond bivalence? Well, you could have something be neither true nor false; it could be both true AND false. Or it could partially true or partially false. Moving into regular language, it’s not hard to see. But it IS hard to represent in a truth table.

Take something as simple as negation (~p or ‘not p’). In bivalent logic, there are only two lines. If p is true, ~p is false. if p is false, ~p is true. Simple. But when we have four possibilities, there are many more possibilities. We have to decide if ~p means “p is false” or “p is not true” or “p is completely false” or “p is not entirely true” or “p is neither true nor false” or “p isn’t completely true or completely false” etc.

Coming back to sexuality, then, we see a similar explosion. If we add a third gender (let’s call it xemale, and define it as having aspects of BOTH male and female), then sexuality expands quite a bit:

  1. MM/FF: homosexuality
  2. MF/FM: Heterosexuality
  3. MX: ?
  4. FX: ?
  5. XX: ?

That’s without even considering people spanning multiple categories. And if we add a Neuter gender (neither male nor female), it gets even bigger:

  1. MM/FF: homosexuality
  2. MF/FM: heterosexuality
  3. MX
  4. FX
  5. XX
  6. MN
  7. FN
  8. XN
  9. NN


It gets pretty daunting pretty quick. But if we accept that there are those two extra genders (and there are probably MORE than two), then we have to wonder how they create identities for themselves. And we have to wonder if there are stereotypical ways for them to act. We know there are some activities or qualities that are called ‘manly’ and some that are ‘womanly,’ but are there any ‘xaley’ or ‘neuter’ activities or qualities?

That brings me to the second question, the idea of whether or not there are even helpful stereotypes. Do men tend to write shorter sentences? Do women use more flowery language? Do xen use a lot of big words? Do neuters tend to avoid discussions of gender? I have no idea; but that’s the kind of thing I want to look at.

And I think working with Walter Bockting will help me do that. When I met Walter, I was amazed at what a fantastic person he is. He is wickedly smart, incredibly nice, and he was able to get behind what I was looking for so fast it almost made my head spin. I shouldn’t really be all that surprised, I suppose. Having read some of his stuff, the guy is kind of a big deal in the field. Just looking at his stuff made me realize that there was a lot out there I didn’t even know I COULD think about.

Some of Bockting’s work is on FtM (female to male) transgendered, and on their sexuality. Many of them, he says, elect NOT to have the complete surgery, and so become male without a penis, men with vaginas. And their partners, if the partner is not also transgendered, tend to accept them AS members of that gender with different parts. It’s amazing, it’s fascinating, and I’m really excited to look more into this.

In the meantime, I’m going through a ‘crash course’ in queer theory, which I will probably post a lot about over the next few weeks. But this connection to logic, even the connections I’ve made in THIS post, just suggest an enormously large and interesting field. I’m very excited.

And “The Logic of Sex” is a great title. I’m going to have to use it some time.

On a side note, I apparently have a subscriber. I’m VERY proud. Hi there, subscriber!


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