Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Postgenderism: Liberation from Homogenization

Presented at the 2017 Mormon Transhumanist Association Conference on 8 April 2017 at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo, Utah

The word postgender might conjure up various ideas and images—everything from a society evolved beyond traditional gender roles, to the total abolishment of gender, to a conformed, sexless, genderless species void of diversity. While many postgenderists have different views and perceptions, my hope today is to share a unique view of gender that offers us insights into the possibilities of what a postgender society could look like. Do we need gender equality or gender abolishment? Or do we need gender liberation?

Let’s begin by taking a closer look at sex and gender. What is biological sex? How is it different from gender? How does this affect a person’s gender identity? How accurate are our binary categories?

Biological Sex
What does it mean to be female and male?

1. Chromosomes

The oversimplified version of sex chromosomes is that women have XX chromosomes while, men have XY chromosomes. It seems straightforward, until it’s not. Females do have XX chromosomes while males have XY chromosomes. However, a third gender exists quite naturally without any technological, social, or philosophical intervention. Roughly 1 in 1,000 births are of XXY [1] chromosomes, known as Klinefelter syndrome.[2] Other chromosomal variations include Turner syndrome, XYY syndrome, or triple X syndrome.[3] Many are also born with an inability to reproduce. These individuals are intersex and are not chromosomally classified as male or female even though their genitalia may or may not present indicators of their chromosomal variance.

2. Gonads

Dorland’s Medical Dictionary defines sex as “the fundamental distinction based on the type of gametes produced by the individual.”[4] Smaller gametes called sperm are assigned male and larger gametes, called ovum, are assigned female. While most people fall into the male and female categories, some people are born with ovotestis, which are gonads that contain attributes of both ovarian and testicular tissue.

3. Sex Hormones

Natural sex hormones are made by the gonads and interact with androgen (male) or estrogen (female) receptors.[5] The two main sex steroids for females are estrogen and progesterone. For males, it’s testosterone.

One could also argue extreme hormonal abnormalities could constitute a biological sex variance that is non-binary. For example, females who contain high levels of testosterone may experience deepening of the voice, increased muscle mass, enlarged clitoris, or frontal balding similar to men. Their hormonal variance can play a significant role in how they experience gender.

High concentrations of androgens (male steroid hormones) have been associated to infertility in women, particularly polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). An interesting aspect of a study conducted by researchers from the London Women’s Clinic found that lesbians are twice as likely to have an imbalance of sex hormones. Dr. Rina Agrawal commented about the study, "Our research neither suggests nor indicates that polycystic ovaries-PCOS causes lesbianism, only that polycystic ovaries-PCOS is more prevalent in lesbian women. We do, however, hypothesise that hyperandrogenism - which is associated with PCOS - may be one of the factors contributing to the sexual orientation of women."[6]

In other words, if a female has higher levels of androgens, like testosterone, does that make her more male and more likely to be attracted to women? Conversely, if a male has higher level of estrogen in comparison to his levels of testosterone, would that make him less male and more likely to be attracted to other males? Possibly.

This could be the beginning of linking biological sex variances with sexual orientation and/or fertility. This is one reason it’s important to understand biological sex, independent of gender identity and performance, before making conclusions about sexual orientation. We are a product of our anatomies and a better understanding of our biology could lead us to better understand sexual orientation, and when, how, and where those sexual orientations fit into society.

4. Internal Reproductive Anatomy

Internal reproductive anatomy of women generally includes a vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.[7] Internal reproductive anatomy of men generally includes a vas deferens, seminal vesicle, prostate gland, Cowper’s gland, epididymis, and testes.[8] However, when we look at the intersex population there are overlaps that can challenge our binary categories. A person might be born with external male genitalia while also having internal female genitalia. A man could have a fully functioning uterus and penis. A woman could have an abnormal or dysfunctional uterus while still having perfectly normal female genitalia.

5. Genitalia

The clitoris and the penis are homologous organs, meaning they share a biological structure, but not the same function. Clitorises and penises are made out of the same tissue and both will fill with blood and become erect during arousal. In fact, all of our genitalia is homologous. The labia and scrotum are made from the same tissue as well.[9] So why do genitals looks so different if they are homologous? In the womb, when genitalia is being developed we start off as unisex. The esthetics of your genitalia and the functionality of your breasts and nipples are then affected by the hormones that are present. Females will often develop fatty breast tissue with more functional mammary glands for production of milk. Generally, males are denied this function.[10]

But what happens when there is a variation in the hormones during genital development? Sometimes you get ambiguous genitalia, a clitoris can look like a small penis or a penis can look like a large clitoris.

An intersex person may identify her penis as feminine, because it is in fact her penis. The way she perceives and experiences her body and gender will vary and will sometimes challenge our prescribed social gender assumptions. Perhaps it’s time we realize sexual dimorphism is not as binary as we’d like to believe.[11]

Gender Identity
What does it mean to be a woman and a man?

Gender identity is a person’s inner sense of being male, female, a blend of both, or neither. A person’s gender identity may be in likeness or contrast to their biological sex. An individual whose identity matches the gender they were assigned at birth is cisgender.

Different cultures have different gender identities and labels. Some labels include: non-binary, gender queer, bigender, trigender, pangender, agender, transgender, two spirit, or gender free.

Most recent studies suggest a person’s gender identity is usually formed by ages 3-6.[12] Prior to that it is quite common for children to play and experiment in cross-gender roles and performances. For example, my three-year-old daughter recently has taken an interest in peeing while standing up. Is this a product of a unique gender identity or is she simple exploring the world around her because she has a father and two brothers who pee standing up? It’s likely the latter, but perhaps time will tell a different story.

Gender identity, though influenced by others, should be determined separately by each individual. For example, I identify as a woman, I perceive myself as a woman, and call myself a woman. For another person to assign my identity against my own perceptions can lead to a host of negative outcomes.

Gender Expression
What does it mean to be feminine and masculine?

Gender expression is usually the external appearance of one’s chosen gender identity. This is expressed through various mannerisms, behaviors, apparel, style, and voice pitch. Gender expression is mostly predicated on socially constructed ideals of what constitutes as masculine and feminine. Many people express some sort of androgyny containing both masculine and feminine qualities.

Gender performance is highly subjective based upon geographic location, time period, and belief system.

For example, men regularly wear kilts in Scotland or sulus in Fiji, while being in perfect compliance with masculine gender norms. However, if a man with a beard were to wear a skirt in the US, many would consider this a social taboo. It challenges our ontological categories of socially acceptable “norms.”

As time passes and society evolves, so do our perceptions of “normal” gender expression. If a female were to wear pants or trousers in the 19th century, many people would condemn her of attempting to be too masculine in her gender expression. “Women can’t wear pants!” However, today, a woman may choose to wear pants and not be in violation of gender social norms. Gender performance standards evolve.

Religion also plays a role in this social construct. In LDS Mormonism, some women designate a specific Sunday as “Wear Pants to Church Day”[13] that challenges traditional gender stereotypes in a religious context.

Gender expression is a performance, not constrained to any singular act, but the repetition and ritual of a person performing a gender until it becomes naturalized.[14] Our parameters of acceptable gender expression are highly subjective and constantly changing.


In review, biological sex is based on a person’s anatomy and embodiment. Gender identity is how a person perceives and experiences their anatomy. Gender performance is how they express their gender identity based on their anatomy. As you can see these concepts are interrelated, but do not necessarily mandate a social prescribed performance and/or experience.

Now, let’s look at this chart. We can plot points on the graph to see where a person could fit on these spectrums. A person could land on any one of these, creating countless possible combinations.

So, what does this say about gender?

Biologically speaking, every human being is different with a unique anatomy. Cognitively speaking, every human being has a unique consciousness and individual way of experiencing and perceiving their own gender identity. Performatively speaking, there are countless and unimaginable variances that a single individual could choose. There are countless possibilities in which a person could experience gender and biological sex. There are as many genders as there are human beings.

Gender Fluidity

Now that we have deconstructed some overly simplified and rudimentary approaches to biological sex and gender, let’s touch on gender fluidity.

Our bodies are constantly regenerating a continuous pattern of information. The cells of our body are constantly dying and perpetuating with slight variances along the way. In many ways, you are not the same person today that you were yesterday, nor could you be. Impermanence is real. Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, commented, “Everything flows and nothing stays. All is flux, nothing is stationary. You could not step into the same river twice.”[15] I tend to agree. The water is always flowing and changing in both radical and subtle ways. Imagine your body as a river, constantly evolving. We are our anatomies and as our bodies change it’s quite possible our gender identity, perceptions, performances, and identities are constantly flowing too. Some more than others, but all is in flux. Over time, the balance and desires of our gender may fluctuate, perhaps more so in some people than for others.

In a very real sense there are just as many genders as there are humans, but not only that there are as many genders as there are persons at any given point in space and time. This view of biology, gender, and fluidity provides an infinite number of variations in the space-time continuum.


There are commonalities in categories, but our categories are about as useful as they are accurate. When categories become silos in which there is no exchange among other categories we are being dishonest and doing a disservice to ourselves by ignoring the various forms of androgyny that naturally exist within the tangible world we live in. We don’t live in a binary world. The law of excluded middle doesn’t apply here. Things aren’t just true or false. Sometimes things are true and false, or neither true or false. We must start removing ourselves from binary illusions that are not only inaccurate, but also harmful.

Advanced technologies are only going increase the diversity and complexity of our ideas of gender and sex. Reproductive technologies enable humans to create offspring in ways that have never been accomplished before. For example, I was born with an abnormal or bicornuate uterus. Additionally, it’s a mutated bicornuate uterus which is tilted and mutated. This makes conception nearly impossible. According to natural selection, if I were born 50 years ago and were so lucky as to become pregnant, delivery for both me and my offspring would likely result in death of one of both of us. It’s as if natural selection said, “Blaire you can’t reproduce and pass on your genes and if you do, I’m going to kill you and your offspring.” That’s brutal, but the story doesn’t end there. A person who was once infertile due to biological sex variances can now reproduce with assisted reproductive technologies. What natural selection had deemed as unworthy to perpetuate offspring before, the human species has decided otherwise today. We are transcending our biological sex and gender limitations. But is that in and of itself a product of evolution? If we are the product of evolution, so are our technologies and we do not need to distinguish the “naturalness” of the two. Technology is the natural progression of our evolution. So, while my body may lack certain “female” qualities, technology compensated for those abnormalities. And as we continue to compensate for the outliers who don’t fit on the binary, perhaps we will find that postgenderism will result in a beautiful complex rainbow of gender identities and sexual variances that is far more interesting than homogenization or binary categories.

This challenges certain perceptions of sci-fi films projecting advanced civilizations as plain uniformed, homogenized sapiens. I see that quite the opposite as the more plausible outcome.

In short, the kind of postgenderism I’m interested in is a future that not only recognizes our similarities, but also our unique differences. I see a future where gender and sex aren’t constraints or mere functions, but also artistic expressions of the constantly evolving face of humanity. Where biological sex and gender do not mandate expectations and limitations of what a person is capable of.

As with any evolution or revolution, transitions can be perplexing, frustrating, and intimidating. So please be kind, and trust that we can reconcile together. As technology and science continues to develop and shape our perception of one another, I have a hunch it will also amplify our inner most desires. If those desires are love, compassion, reconciliation, and understanding, then we have the potential to create something quite beautiful, complex, and diverse. Something that enables us to creating both meaningful and lasting relationships. Independent of gender, people generally want to love and be loved in return. So be kind, and love each other. Thank you.

*Note to my non-cis or non-binary readers: My perceptions and opinions are based upon academic research and my own subjective experience. If you think I have inaccurately represented the queer community, feel free to contact me. I’m happy to learn more about your unique experiences.

Notes and Citations

[1] Intersex Society of North America, “How common is Intersex?” ISNA, accessed February 12, 2017,

[2] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. "Klinefelter Syndrome," (accessed March 29, 2017),

[3] Janell L. Carroll, “Sexuality Now: Embracing Diversity,” 4th Edition (Belmont: Wadsworth, 2013), 87.

[4] Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary, s.v. “Sex,” 32nd Edition. (Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders, 2012).

[5] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. "Sex Steroids," (accessed March 31, 2017),

[6] Danny Kingsley, “Hormone Imbalance More Common in Lesbians,” ABC Science, July 3, 2003, accessed February 17, 2017,

[7] Janell L. Carroll, “Sexuality Now: Embracing Diversity,” 4th Edition (Belmont: Wadsworth, 2013), 113.

[8] Janell L. Carroll, “Sexuality Now: Embracing Diversity,” 4th Edition (Belmont: Wadsworth, 2013), 137.

[9] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. "List of Related Male and Female Reproductive Organs," (accessed March 28, 2017),

[10] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. "Mammary Glands," (accessed March 30, 2017),

[11] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. "Sexual Dimorphism," (accessed March 30, 2017),

[12] Pamela J. Kalbfleisch & Michael J. Cody, “Gender, Power, and Communication in Human Relationships,” (New York: Routledge, 2010), 366.

[13] The first “Wear Pants to Church Day” was on Dec. 16, 2012. It was launched as an effort to normalize the action many LDS women have taken to wear formal, respectful dress pants to LDS church services. Mormon feminists, women and men, wear dress pants and the color purple to their local LDS Church services for many different reasons, but many of those who participate are concerned about gender equality in the LDS Church. For more details, see

[14] Judith Butler, “Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity,” (New York: Routledge, 2007), Preface 1999, XV. “. . . performativity is not a singular act, but a repetition and a ritual, which achieves its effects through its naturalization in the context of a body, understood, in part, as a culturally sustained temporal duration.”

[15] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. "Heraclitus," (accessed March 31, 2017),