They feature heavily into my ongoing story Dark Science (which starts here). All that’s currently known is that they use a mysterious alternative...
Violence continues to erupt in Ferguson, Mo., more than a week after the fatal shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown by policeman Darren Wilson. The 18-year-old’s family demands justice be brought to their son with the arrest of the six-year veteran officer. Protesters have clashed with authorities as control over security shifted from local police to St. Louis County officers to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Gov. Jay Nixon has since called in the Missouri National Guard. And the Brown family continues to prepare for the teenager’s funeral arrangements amid completion of three separate autopsies.
Now there are some folks on tumblr, (not sure if this goes beyond tumblr or not) that are trying to say the whole idea of a biological sex binary doesn’t exist…..What?
Now I understand this whole gendergluid/nonbinary movement.
THere are various ways to present your gender. If you wanna present and identify as male cool. As a female? cool. As a mix of both? Cool. As neither? cool. In my mind gender is indeed a very social construct depending on where you live. And going outside of that construct is not bad in my eyes.
But the idea of no sex binary? Thats just wrong and ridiculous and unhealthy tbh. If there is anything more solid in this world its that there are males and females. In almost every species on this planet. It’s how the human race got here. Through sexual reproduction between males and females. That is a undeniable truth.
Now a lot of them bring up the fact that there are intersex people, and various folks with hormonal disorders that can mess with your chromosomes, therefore messing with your sex itself, and even how you mentally think about your sex and gender. I can’t deny that. A simple bit of research can prove this.
Now I can say there is a bit of a grey scale because of this. Not everyone is male or female. BUT to suggest that there is no binary at all? And that most beings on the planet aren’t male of female is just unrealistic.
Okay, no, I can’t ignore this. This isn’t even speaking as a nonbinary advocate, this is me speaking as a biologist.
"Most beings on the planet" aren’t male or female in any way you could map onto the human sex binary. Yes, sexual reproduction in plants and animals is achieved through the fusion of two cells, and in many cases those cells have differentiated into one large sessile kind and one small mobile kind. In many species it is true that some members of that species carry one kind and some members another. This is, for example, true for most (but not all) mammals (some mammals have lost the male sex, and reproduce asexually!)
Non-mammals do things way differently (like, some fish change their sex depending on what’s convenient, and a lot of animals have no genetic component to sex, or any non-reproductive sexual dimorphism), but hey, let’s focus on our closest relatives: primates. That’s about as comparable as we’re going to get, right?
Turns out, primates have all kinds of approaches to sex. Some species have very clearly delineated sexes with definitely separate roles and the biological differences to match (gorillas are an example). These species tend to live in polygamous troupes, where most males do not engage in reproduction. Other species, generally the rarer monogamous ones like bonobos, have such weak sex characteristics you can’t tell without looking at their genitals.
And of course, in all these species there is a percentage of individuals where, even if you strictly define sex as reproductive capacity (which is what biologists tend towards, since it is the one that is most portable across species), they are neither male nor female. They aren’t numerous enough to have a defined social role, but they exist.
Now how does that relate to humans? Well, hominids are an odd one. Nobody knows what social structure early hominids had, and our sex characteristics do not fit with either a dominant-male polygamous origin, a partial monogamy model (like most birds have), or a bonobo-like pure monogamy. We do present sexual dimorphism, but it is weak and far more fluid than is usual for dimorphic species. Think, even humans presenting canonical sex traits vary wildly in their expression. Some have a lot of body and facial hair, some have barely any. Body fat arrangements exist on the full continuum between canonically “feminine” and “masculine”. Breasts can be incredibly prominent or barely present, while still displaying full functionality.
This is odd. You don’t see male peacocks without tails! Sexual dimorphism is an evolutionary adaptation arising for the need to compete for mates, and selection pressure is strong: non-dimorphic individuals do not reproduce. Yet hominids appear to play fast and loose with how our bodies express our hormonal makeup, with differences between “sexes” having to be drawn in terms of small gaps in statistical averages rather than clear differences. Different hypothesis have been suggested, but my two favourites are that either early hominids lived in cooperative groups where members freely chose mating partners and offspring were raised by the group as a whole, or hominids descended from a polygamous species but changed into a mostly monogamous structure, with our dimorphism being a genetic relic that is not selected for anymore.
I kind of got carried away there, so let’s talk about the sex binary. What is the sex binary? The sex binary is the idea that all humans can be clearly separated into male and female, and that each of those groups is distinct in a number of characteristics, including genetics, anatomy, reproductive capacity, chemical biology, and even social role.
This is bollocks.
And I don’t say that because of some ideological conviction, it is literally not true. Reproductive capacity (that is, whether an individual produces eggs or sperm) is the one with least exceptions, but there are some even there, and anyway reproductive capacity is not associated with any other traits half as strongly as the idea of the binary says. Genetically XX and XY are the two most common caryotypes related to reproductive potential, but because genotype =/= phenotype, not even all XY people develop sperm or XX people eggs. Anatomy is a spectrum, and anatomically intersex people are actually fairly common (but overwhelmingly receive non-consensual cosmetic surgery in infancy to “normalise” their anatomy), as is chemical biology, and to throw a further wrench in those gears, humans love to play around with those things. And social roles, well, anyone who tries to tell you that gender roles are clearly defined and immutable needs to get out more.
So yes, on a biological level, humans, like most mammals, are divided into sperm-producers and egg-producers.
But this isn’t strongly related to anything else, and it is certainly not what people mean when they talk about “male” and “female”. It’s not the “sex binary” that people talk about existing or not existing. And the kind of gametes you produce isn’t all that significant to your identity, in general.
- Iron Man - the moral flaws in building weapons of mass destruction and the lack of accountability given to the people who provide those weapons to war zones.
- Captain America - the dangers of pushing science too far, zealotry and - again - weapons of mass destruction being used against a civilian population.
- Iron Man 2 - how useless nuclear deterrents are because they just impel people you don’t want to have them to build them.
- Thor - a critique of the “they hit us so we hit them back and harder” mentality which seems prevalent in most recent military incursions, and the fact it only makes things worse.
- Avengers Assemble - don’t trust the shadowy authority figures in suits because they will only see the peasants on the ground as collateral.
- Thor 2 - again with the Weapons of Mass Destruction being BAD.
- Iron Man 3 - a study of the treatment of veterans of combat on their return to civilian life, and how they deal with the trauma they have suffered, embodied both in Tony Stark’s PTSD and the disabled veterans who signed up to the Extremis programme.
- Captain America 2 - an observation of the problems that arise when society is run by middle-aged, middle-class white guys on a power trip with no concept of how the world really works. Note how they were stopped by two women, two black men, and a formerly-disabled liberal.