Criteria used to categorise individuals by gender.

  1. Attitudes in society

  2. Gender identity at a glance

  3. Gender assignation in practical terms

  4. Outdated beliefs
Attitudes in society
People often harbour strong opinions when it comes to the subject of sexual relations between people- opponents of homosexuality sometimes sound as though the private habits of others affect them viscerally and personally.

Common criticisms against homosexuality include:
  • Gut reactions:
    It's just unnatural/ wrong.
  • The doubtful and somewhat uncomfortable:
    It seems to override the physical anatomies of our bodies.
  • Traditional beliefs:
    My religion says that it's wrong; it’s an abomination to God.
    It hinders procreation.
    It spreads HIV.
    The family structure is altered for the worse.
    Men and women are clearly separable and have distinct 'roles' in society.
I'll start by addressing the most general complaints- those that don’t directly invoke religious beliefs.
Gender identity at a glance
Firstly, let’s examine the widely held idea that there exists some absolute way of categorising each human being into one of two mutually exclusive groups: men and women.

We can usually tell, at a glance, whether a person is male or female, based on their bone structure, their body hair distribution, their gait, their fat distribution, and their voice.

However, on certain occasions, we find it difficult or impossible to be sure, and even if this occurs a minority of the time, it is far from rare or unusual.
Gender assignation in practical terms
So, let us turn to biology: after all, we're assigned a gender at birth, so doctors must have established an unambiguous way of determining one's gender, surely?

It turns out that gender assignation is made on based on four key characteristics:
  1. The most easily examinable factor is the type of external genitalia present, usually consisting of a penis and scrotum, or a clitoris, urethra, and labia.

  2. Requiring closer inspection are the internal genitalia, usually a seminal tract and accessory glands, or a uterus, vagina, and adnexa.

  3. The sex chromosomes, usually XX or XY, are genetic components within each person's cells that act in tandem with various hormones during the body’s development, to determine the genitalia that form.

  4. The most difficult factor for observers to measure and quantify is the individual’s psychological make-up, which affects the gender with which one tends to identify with more closely.
At this point, readers must come to grips with the existence of ambiguity in nature. Although large proportions of people may be considered either male or female quite conclusively, based on a match between all four criteria, plenty of others do not fall exclusively into one category or the other on all four levels.

People are born with various chromosomal combinations, such as XXX, XXY, and XYY- these genetic factors lead to alterations in hormonal secretion and body biochemistry, that affect the development of one’s reproductive organs and psychological sexual orientation.

It's impossible to place people unequivocally into categories and assign strict gender identities, because gender is a characteristic that varies along a continuum. It just happens that the distribution of people has its clusters at both ends, rather than in the middle. Essentially, all gender assignations are relative.

For instance, people with three X-chromosomes tend to be thought of as 'ultra-feminine,' while those with two Y-chromosomes tend to be 'ultra-masculine.'

But if we performed a thought experiment and adopted another (equally valid) perspective, and considered the XXX and XYY combinations to be our baseline for comparison, then people with XX chromosomes would be considered less feminine, and more masculine than those with XXX, and people with XY would be more feminine, and less masculine, than those with XYY.

People (and indeed, all other organisms) have inherited a complex combination of genes throughout the history of evolution. There exists no a priori, strictly binary sexual classification system to which the rambling walk of nature must adhere.

The development of genitalia, whether external or internal, is similarly dependent on numerous genetic and biochemical factors- certain proteins have to be produced by the body at the right time, in certain quantities, in order for the development of 'normal' sexual organs to proceed.

Again, there is no set formula to ensure that the process marches along one unambiguous route. We do not have an absolute standard to define what constitutes a penis and what a clitoris- in reality, across the human population, the size and appearance of the organ varies along a continuum.

Consider the fact that at birth, numerous children are in possession of both male and female genitalia. Doctors, in collaboration with the parents, make a decision about the type and degree of intervention they want for the child- whether to conduct surgery, and whether hormone treatments should be given while the child grows up.

Gender identity is not set in stone, even for adults. The administration of hormones triggers changes that affect the whole body, including the brain, shifting one's gender identity along the spectrum. In essence, the notion that gender is a clear-cut, one-or-the-other affair is mistaken.

Moving on from physical anatomy, what about the behavioural component? If someone has XY chromosomes, and masculine external and internal genitalia, does that mean that this person should only have sexual relations with a person with XX chromosomes and feminine genitalia?

This narrow perspective does not even take a person's psychological gender identity into consideration. This is an aspect that is little understood at present, because biological knowledge is not sufficiently advanced to sort out the complex factors involved.

(Note that for the sake of brevity, I’m referring to a person’s psychological makeup as though it’s distinct and separable from the body. This simplification suffices within the context of our discussion, but keep in mind that in reality, the mind is part of the body and is as physically embodied as any other observable physical trait we can think of.)
Traditional, untenable beliefs
I’ve devoted the previous paragraphs to an examination of the inherent biological ambiguity that exists in all assignations of gender identity. These considerations aside, let's examine several preconceptions that persist in society, regarding the following issues:

There’s absolutely no reason to consider sexual interactions between two similarly-gendered individuals (or differently-gendered, for that matter) as 'wrong' or unnatural, in any way.

Many people tend to insist that there ‘just is’ something abominable about homosexual relationships, without providing any substantial reasons. What one believes to be morally right or wrong is primarily one’s own business, but in the absence of logical arguments, there is no reason for others to be swayed by groundless opinion, let alone to engage in or condone the persecution of same-sex couples.

Some believe that the process of procreation has been unchanged over the history of our existence, and furthermore, its trajectory cannot and should not change at any point in the future. Such a belief is truly impossible to defend. Our species has evolved from life forms that are not classifiable as human, and continues to evolve biologically, and innovate and adapt to technology.

Family structure

The idea that a family must consist of two differently-gendered individuals who produce offspring is increasingly outdated. The fact that it describes the structure of many families today does not somehow prove that it is the default configuration, or the only one that is conceivable or acceptable.

Similarly, the notion that heterosexual relationships have been the norm throughout human history is flawed and groundless. Single- and multiple-parent families have existed throughout our history; legal recognition of biologically unrelated children as being part of the family is a widespread phenomenon.

Significant change, in recent decades, has been in the variety of conception methods that have become available. People may use donor sperm and eggs, surrogate mothers, adoption agencies, nannies, grandparents, extended family, friends, and so on, to conceive and raise a child.

Technological developments will continue- the sooner we jettison arbitrary and unfounded assumptions about the 'correctness' of family structures, and focus on specific factors affecting individual families, instead of making over-generalisations, the better.

The AIDS myth

Let’s examine the argument that a link exists between HIV and homosexuality. The initial spread of AIDS has closely studied, and the basic mechanisms of transmission are understood biologically. Many groups are tackling the social and economic factors that facilitate it. The virus is transmitted between individuals through the transfer of bodily fluids, whether this takes place between sexual partners, blood donors and receivers, or mothers and children.

Early outbreaks of AIDS were prevalent among members of the gay population due to the particular characteristics of the virus and quirks in history. Patterns describing the spread of HIV were determined by the physical mode of transmission- not because of any ‘moral’ reason. If the early sufferers had been in predominantly heterosexual relationships, then the spread would have occurred within a heterosexual population.

To readers who still believe that AIDS is God’s punishment to homosexual individuals, may I provide you with two simple, logical, statistically-verified pieces of evidences to expound the fact that HIV transmission has nothing to do with a divine aversion for homosexual practices:
  • There're plenty of homosexual individuals who do not have the virus.

  • The HIV rate is lower among the population of people who are homosexual and female, compared to the heterosexual population.
AIDS is a global problem. It is not confined to any sector of the homosexual or heterosexual population. Misguided associations of HIV with homosexual behaviour alone, for religious reasons, are erroneous and destructive, because they focus efforts away from the relevant, genuine factors.

With the benefit of ever-growing understanding of human biology, we come to realise that gut-reaction-type aversions to homosexual behaviour are products of a bygone era.

The refusal to recognise that homosexuality is an innate part of human nature, after a thorough examination of the evidence, is delusional and self-handicapping. I’ve only provided a summary of the issues involved, and can't expect you to be convinced unless you explore the subject in greater depth- please take the time to delve into it if your interest is piqued.
comments courtesy of Disqus

background image