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My Last (and Only) Word on Sex and Gender

March 5, 2012
Aristotle, a 4th-century-BCE philosopher, port...

Aristotle in the Nuremberg Chronicle

There is a popular distinction between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ whereby sex is said to pertain to biological constitution, while gender pertains to ‘sexual orientation,’ which is ‘socially-constructed.’ (Or maybe it’s the other way around—I try not to pay much attention.) This is meant to decouple physiology and behaviour, and to normalize any combination of the two. But it’s obfuscatory nonsense. The real situation is much simpler, though less flattering to the disordered.

We may take a cue from Aristotle, who said something about how the good is one and the bad is manifold. This means, roughly, that there are many more ways for things to be messed up than not to be messed up, since everything has to go right for something to turn out properly, while anything can go wrong for it to all fall apart.

In the case of gender, the good is dual. You can either be a man—with male organs and male sentiments—or you can be be a woman—with female organs and female sentiments. Sometimes, regrettably, things go wrong. There may be a genetic mutation or a hormonal imbalance; a doctor may snip too much; a child may be abused. And so people are born with confused genitalia, or are attracted to members of their own gender (or to children or to inanimate objects), or their tastes and interestes are at odds with their physiology.

Cataloguing and understanding these disorders can be interesting for a variety of medical or theoretical purposes. But from a normative perspective, there are only men, women, and tragedies.


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