I’ve reduced my engagement with Gender Critical / Radical Feminist & LGBT activists several times in several stages, each time as common sense appeared to be gradually breaking out. But no:
Last night Alice Dreger – a hero of mine on the right side of this for a long time – posted an emphatic tweet that provoked much angry response. The polarisation between sex is / is-not “binary” and sex is / is-not a “spectrum” and “dictionary definitions” of sexual dimorphism. This is what Alice actually posted:
Do not erase intersex people
Do not erase feminine gay men
Do not erase butch lesbians
Do not erase trans people
Do not erase gender nonbinary people
Do not erase bigendered people
Stop insisting sex is simply dimorphic in humans because these realities make you uncomfortable.
— Alice Dreger, Ph.D. (@AliceDreger) January 17, 2022
Obviously in non-specific response to much traffic on the topic, and exactly what progress she was hoping to make I can’t guess, but the frustration is obvious. As is the care for the “people” in those groups. Most of the anger is the mistaken assumption that she’s prejudicially “othering” those groups. The insistence on simplification – denial of subtleties – is her actual target.
The real problem is that however binary plus exceptions sex itself is, the word gender has been erased as too problematic, so the word sex has simply inherited all the problems of expression and interpretation. However clear scientific definitions might me, and they are, the problems of caring vs othering are not entirely scientific. As ever this is just a topical example of the much deeper problem I call #GoodFences – between narrow use of class definitions and broader conceptions of individual participation in reality.
Classic example on the scientific side is this one from Dr Emma Hilton
Systematic differences between the two sexes of a gonochoristic species of a physical characteristic (or set thereof), not including reproductive anatomy.
— Emma Hilton (@FondOfBeetles) January 18, 2022
It’s a very good thread, except for some non-scientific subtleties in assigning good and bad faith to expressed positions. Possibly a bit circular to have the word gonochoristic within the definition, and not sure why “not including” reproductive anatomy. But very useful summary of the scientific aspects.
As ever, I need to complete the #GoodFences thesis. Ho hum. I fear taboo words like intersectionality, lived-experience and critical-theory will be unavoidable 🙂