In addition, this paper will argue that the two-sex systems embedded in our society are not adequate to encompass the full spectrum of human sexuality. The “two-gender system” is defined as the classification of sex and gender into two biological categories of masculine and feminine: a social boundary used to prevent people from crossing or mixing gender roles, where the society divides people into male and female gender roles (Larkin, June. From lecture oct. 3, 2012). This binary system forces an individual to fit into one of the two categories of male or female.
This bipolar categorizing of sexuality however does not and cannot encompass the full range of human sexuality. According to statistical analysis, it is said that out of 1,000 children born, seventeen children are intersexual (Fausto-Sterling, 2010, p. 14). The 1. 7 percent, though it is an estimate, is not a small number: theses intersexual individuals will feel out of place and/or easily uncomfortable in society that imposes a two-sex system. In addition, children born with both male and female anatomies as well as genitals are more likely to develop grave psychological frameworks when forced to obey the socially accepted two-gender system.
The genital ambiguity in newborns is seen to be a medical emergency and in most cases, the newborns undergo surgery. Psychologist Dr. John Money further highlights this argument by claiming that gender identity can be changed and enforced upon up to eighteen months after a baby is born (Fausto-Sterling, 2010, p. 15). In the case of John/Joan however, the sex reassignment was unsuccessful. The doctors performed the procedure on John, who then was surgically turned into “Joan”. The case, although codified as John/Joan, was actually about an adult male named David Reimer.
David eventually turned to masculinising medication, rejected his female assignment, and committed suicide (Fausto-Sterling, 2010, p. 15). As one can learn from David Reimer’s case, children born with genital ambiguities are faced with confusion and psychological stress as they grow up. The two-gender system leaves no room for such people to freely express themselves and their sexuality. The patients in this case, upon being obliged to follow the decisions made by the physicians, are then expected to act “natural” in the gender that was chosen for them.
It is clear that the gender system embedded in society is not holistic enough for all humanity to truly express their full spectrum of sexuality. To avoid such conflicts and controversy, society should implement a wider, holistic perspective on gender and sexuality so various forms of intersexuality can be recognized and accepted as a both natural and normal way of life. Science, taking a biological approach to the topic of gender, inserts that gender and sexuality is strictly determined by the innate biological organs that one is born with.
Ajnesh Prasad, in an attempt to supplement this argument, claims that “sexual difference is commonly experienced as part of ontology rather than epistemology, as part of nature instead of culture” (Prasad, 2005, p. 80). Other scholars however, argue for both a cultural and a historical perspective in explaining this gender ambiguity. The cultural view is related to the historical perspective in that while colonizers took over these already domesticated societies, they enforced strict cultural gender roles and sexual relations in order to reflect what they deemed was natural.
For example, when the English settlers invaded North America, they took it as one of their primary goals to colonize the way these indigenous people dealt with sexual relations and gender: “the western imperialism…governance of sexual relations was central in classifying the colonizer and the colonized into spheres of distinct human kinds while policing the domestic recesses of imperial rule” (Prasad, 2005, p. 81). The gender role that was enforced was one of heterosexuality: the argument that men should act masculine and females, feminine.
Previously existing practices that did not reflect this Westernized notion of heterosexuality was heavily frowned upon and neglected. This ultimately led to the subordination of other such frameworks pertaining to gender and/or sexual relations. Historical events thus as evidence from the colonization of indigenous people, renders concrete that gender is not a concept that is biologically determined, but one that implemented and reinforced through culture. Moreover, the native settlers rarely linked, “biological” sex, gender, and sexual activity together.
These Native cultures were not divided up between heterosexuals and homosexuals as contemporary “Western” societies were, and in their culture, cross-working and cross-dressing men and women belonged to the other gender or to a third gender that either combined male and female features: “Encounters [were made] with male and female ‘berdache’ [meaning prostitute]. These berdache were cross dressing, cross-working people who constituted a third gender of fourth gender in some of these indigenous cultures” (Kinsman, 1996, p. 92).
There were not just two gender groups, but three or four gender groups for “biological” females, and these alternate-gendered people were seen as combining the spirits of the other two genders (Kinsman, 1996, p. 93). Furthermore, the societal notion of what composes a widely accepted gender and sexual relation is extensively dependent on the culture and the fabrication of historical intervention. In conclusion, the two-gender system advocates the individuals in society to be defined as either male or female and sets limitations for individuals who do not fit into specific categories imposed on them.
As a result, intersexuals or individuals born with genital ambiguity face discrimination and is forced to accept what is widely accepted as “natural” gender in society. Moreover, taking a scientific approach to gender, many argue that sexuality is determined by nature, what genitalia one is born with, but taking on a historical and cultural view, the issue bag to differ. As seen from the indigenous people and the way how two-spirited gender roles work in their society illustrates that the concept of gender is not singular and is determined by culture and society one is exposed in.
The two-sex system enclosed in society is not adequate to encompass various forms of sexuality, so rather than confining one’s view to society’s ways, we should raise awareness for wider perspective on gender and sexuality to allow various forms of sexuality can be recognized.