What is sex anyways?

Only with the rise of Western medicine and genetics has sex been conceived as dual and ontologically stable—male and female.

– Burrus, Virginia; Keller, Catherine (2006), Toward a theology of eros: transfiguring passion at the limits of discipline

I have been having an interesting conversation with a friend about the masculine, the feminine and the androgynous. It started with Plato’s The Symposium and the Myth of Aristophanes.

“In the first place, let me treat of the nature of man and what has happened to it. The original human nature was not like the present, but different. The sexes were not two as they are now, but originally three in number; there was man, woman, and the union of the two, of which the name survives but nothing else. Once it was a distinct kind, with a bodily shape and a name of its own, constituted by the union of the male and the female: but now only the word ‘androgynous’ is preserved, and that as a term of reproach.” go here: http://outre-monde.com/2010/09/25/platonic-myths-the-myth-of-aristophanes/ for a full translation.

I am not in the space for a heady philosophical post so instead i will go to the questions elicited in our talk. For me, it is easy to consider the masculine and the feminine aspects of myself, as i do and have for a long time lived them. Many people have contemplated and have even worked to develop both attributes in themselves as is also true of this friend. However, somehow, the reality of my transition seems to be making a number of people consider what it is to be a man, a woman, or androgynous – or even something else entirely.

I am seeing such bravery as we ask questions such as: “who would we become if we were to embrace both the masculine and the feminine inside?”. Or “who are you as you transition?” vs getting caught up in some stereotypical understanding of what it is to be a man or a woman and the fears or judgements that elicits. Or ” how did our society today arrive in this binary system of sexes?'”. And finally, “what differentiates a man’s brain from a woman’s and what are the implications of this in my relationship with you?”.

I am finding many of my friends (and even my mom) looking deep within themselves to understand gender. To understand that the male and female binary system is a relatively new phenomenon, and for all of history at least three sexes have been acknowledged. And for much of history we transgender people have existed, multi -culturally. Some completely switching sexes and roles and some combining the two. Throughout history, there has been an embrace of this transgression as unique and natural. There has always been a place for us in history.

To have my cis-gender friends get curious about the deeper forces at work and what they are missing either in themselves or in understanding another (me), I find courageous. And I once again feel myself bowing down in humility and gratitude to all the people in my life that are really by my side in this process of evolution and becoming. Allowing themselves to be touched and made somehow bigger in the process. It is truly a beautiful beautiful thing. Thanks you!!!!



  1. Haylee – there is so much to understand. I keep thinking of asking a cousin of mine who is a dean of a university to see if she knows of any good gender studies books. This was not even a topic of study when I went to school. I am learning as I go really, through my experience and others.

    And I have no doubt that the influence you have on others will be profound and that you will find open dialog and inquisitiveness – maybe not everywhere but enough to be fulfilling and affirming.

  2. Pingback: Square pegs and round holes | Tangled Web

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