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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Categorical Sex & The Poetics of Gender

Categorical Sex & The Poetics of Gender

And we almost typed "Politics" of Gender . . .

Briefly: Taxonomies are classed as either categorical or dimensional. Taxonomies are classification systems, comprised of "taxons." Categorical classes, taxons, are "either/or" "if/then" . . . "yes/no." An example would be dog/cat. Dogs are categorically not cats.

Dimensional taxons are relative, e.g. "tall" relative to "short."

The current narrative in gender theory argues for a distinction between "sex" and "gender" -- essentially that "sex" is a biological/physiological characteristic and "gender" is a socially mediated behavior. The parameters regarding sex in this paradigm, are sometimes problematic. Theorists raise issues of sex designation in terms of XX, XY, XXY, ambiguous genitalia, intersex, and others . . . But, at bottom, sex works out to a simple, categorical dyad. Sexual union of 23 chromosome haploid gametes, one from cis-M, one from cis-F, combine to reproduce. Science has devised ways to meddle with this reproductive process in cloning, but at bottom, sex is about reproduction, categorically.

Ironically perhaps, sexual union and reproduction is a taxonomy, and the end result is taxonomic in the form a a "family tree" -- The hetero-normative dyad (Judith Butler) begets progeny and branches the taxonomic tree. No other combination of sexual union results in reproduction. It's categorical. I see implications here. Your mileage may vary.

Sex is about reproduction, union of haploid gametes, progeny. Sex in this context is biological. Everything else relating to pairing of gamete producers (humans) is about gender and gender presentation.

Sex is a driven motivation, intrinsic to the human condition. Mating and related sexual union is a complex process for humans, involving social, legal, familial, psychological, religious, parameters -- for starters.

These complex, seemingly infinite parameters of sexual union constitute gender, gender expression, gender orientation/presentation, and sexual orientation.  Gender presentation is a social mechanism whereby individuals define sexual boundaries. In essence, gender presentation is narrative through which individuals present to others their status as a potential sexual mate -- for purposes of reproduction. (Although a great deal of sexual activity may occur without resulting in reproduction.)

Gender is a dimensional taxon. Dimensional taxons, particularly with regard to gender presentation, have the potential of infinite expression. Like the relation between signified and signifier (Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics (Cours de linguistique générale), 1916), the relation between physiological sex characteristics, sexual orientation/expression, gender, gender presentation are arbitrary, fluid, dimensional. While individuals may possess distinctive, categorical gametes, expression of gender has the potential of being entirely independent of physiological categorical sex.

Sexual function is potentially independent of gender presentation. That said, let us note that the "hetro-normative dyad" exerts a hegemonic influence over the social expression of gender. And it is arguably this dyadic hegemony and the social constraints intrinsic to sexual behavior that mediate gender expression -- in the normative dyad, this expression being fundamentally aligned with physiological sex of the individual.

 Because sex and reproduction are crucial to survival of the species, and because sexual union is an intimate human function, sexual relations are freighted with monumental socio-cultural constraints -- social, legal, medical, religious, ethical, bigoted.

Using reproductive function as a criteria, any sexual union other than the male/female union of haploid gametes is at the very least "problematic" . . .  But sexuality, sexual identity, "gender presentation" pertains to much more than the simple union of haploid gametes.

Accordingly, let us assert here --

Sex is categorical.

Gender is poetical.

We intend to develop this line of inquiry, mostly as a theoretical criticism of Blanchard's categorical taxonomy in "autogynephilia."  How we express gender is poetical. Gender expression, gender presentation has nothing to do with the mechanism of erotic arousal -- at least not with regard to Blanchard's categorical taxonomy. I am hetero-sexual, cis-M, presenting as "non-binary" for want of a better label (fuck labels). I find women sexually attractive. I aspire to look like Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidmann, Susan Sarandon . . . Hell, I aspire to fly like an eagle, but it's not a fetish, not pathological.

As part of Queer Theory, part of "gender fuck" and ambiguous, non-binary presentation I make a fetish out of wearing casual "uni-sex" attire with "Women" labels. I've inherited a fashion sense from my mother, who owned a boutique, tailored original designs. I know what I'm looking at in clothing, details, pockets, cut, seams, darts, hems, gussets, flounces, plackets, fabric, color, weight, function.

Interestingly, and this asserts my contention about "labels" -- I own two Columbia brand polar-fleece jackets. One inherited from my mother, a "Men's" jacket. And one found in a thrift shop, identical to my mother's jacket, and marked "Women." Except for the labels, and size designation, they're identical jackets. I wear a lot of clothing marked "women" and yet it's pretty much the same fashions, same designs as the "beach casual" clothing I see on both cis-F and cis-M. My cis-F friends, associates also drive trucks, run chainsaws, skipper boats.

 (We have a cis-F bar pilot on the Columbia River "The Captain's A Woman") --

The Captain's a Woman: Tales of a Merchant Mariner Hardcover – February, 1998

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