Our 22 May 2014 blog-entry on ‘The Dialectic of Human Sexual Preferences’ --
-- has sparked some queries from its readers.
The dialogue on that blog-entry that is reproduced -- and edited for anonymity -- below, is one between myself and a person of ‘‘‘trans-sexual’’’ sexual orientation, and who is ‘‘‘subjectively female’’’.
I have marked her queries with ‘Q:’, and my responses with ‘R:’.
Listen, Learn, and Enjoy!
Q: All of your categories use the terms “objectively male”, “subjectively male”, “objectively female”, “subjectively female” -- what exactly are these terms referring to?
R: By “objectively male” I mean a person whose physical, bodily configuration of genitalia is male -- neither female nor hermaphroditic. By “objectively female” I mean a person whose physical, bodily configuration of genitalia is female -- neither male nor hermaphroditic. I did not make this definition sufficiently clear in the blog-entry in question, either in its graphics, or in its narratives, and I plan enhance the text of the blog-entry accordingly.
Q: “What is a “subjective male” (or female), and what is a “objective male” (or female)?”
“Are these biological, psychological, cultural, or historically-relative (or imposed) categories?”
“Who decides who, or what, is male or female?”
“Is gender a biological destiny, a psychological determination, a matter of chromosomes, hormones, body-types -- or is it some kind of social relation, or even some kind of persona or performance?”
“How does one know what side of these binaries one is supposed to fit into to?”
“Is it something you are told, you feel, you see in a mirror, or to which you blindly conform?”
“Can you point to your "maleness" and say -- there it is!”
“How do we know if we are male or female?”
R: It is precisely to avoid bogging down in such -- often empirically inaccessible -- quandaries that we chose an empirical criterion for our definitions of “objective femaleness” and of “objective maleness” -- the physical configuration of the genitalia.
Q: “My question here is about the binaries which defines your schema, Even though you apply the schema to categories that are more fluid, or even transgressive, in that you include categories like homosexual, hermaphroditic, and transsexual -- the grounding of all seems to be the baseline of the “objective” and “subjective” male and female.”
R: The categorial progression about which we wrote is not really binary: it is quaternary at the level of its species, and ternary at the level of its sub-species -- with the exception of its fourth species, which is binary, for ‘contental’, ontological, definitional reasons that arise immanently from its content -- and unary at the level of its «genos».
Even the alleged “binarity” of the “objectively female”, “subjectively female”, “objectively male”, and “subjectively male” definitions is actually, potentially, whether or not all of these possibilities are ever observed to actualize, at least 16-fold --
1. objectively female and subjectively female, heterosexual orientation.
2. objectively female and subjectively female, homosexual orientation.
3. objectively female and subjectively female, bisexual orientation.
4. objectively female and subjectively male, drawn sexually to females.
5. objectively female and subjectively male, drawn sexually to males.
6. objectively female and subjectively male, drawn sexually to both females and males.
7. objectively male and subjectively male, heterosexual orientation.
8. objectively male and subjectively male, homosexual orientation.
9. objectively male and subjectively male, bisexual orientation.
10. objectively male and subjectively female, drawn sexually to females.
11. objectively male and subjectively female, drawn sexually to males.
12. objectively male and subjectively female, drawn sexually to both females and males.
13. objectively hermaphroditic and subjectively female, drawn sexually to females.
14. objectively hermaphroditic and subjectively male, drawn sexually to males.
15. objectively hermaphroditic and subjectively female, drawn sexually to both females and males.
16. objectively hermaphroditic and subjectively male, drawn sexually to both females and males.
Q: “My understanding of sexuality -- both objective and subjective -- is that we don't exist in these binaries -- our realities, both physical and psychological, are more like we are part of a spectrum -- the spectrum of human sexuality.”
R: My blog-entry also cites the spectrum-like character of human sexuality.
However, humans typically find it ‘communicationally’ and cognitively useful to break out such apparent “continua” into a small number of conventional discrete categories, categories that capture key characteristics of experienced actuality.
Simply consider the visible light color-spectrum itself, the very forerunner and «arché» for the very word “spectrum”. In English, we find it useful to partition that archetypal spectrum, albeit, not in a “binary” way, but in terms of seven color categories -- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
Q: “None of us are “absolutely male” or “absolutely female” -- whatever that might mean.”
R: We too wish to avoid any assertion of “absoluteness” in matters of human sexuality, preferring terms such as “orientation” or “preference”, which, we feel, are more accurate to the experienced actuality of human sexuality today.
Q: “Obviously we also tend very strongly to participate in the dominant paradigm of male / female -- but not all societies were organized in that way.”
“Many Native American societies, for example, recognized not just two, but three or four genders.”
“Maybe one could even say that there are not just two, three or four genders -- but an infinite number -- because everyone relates to, and experiences, their own sexuality in their own way.”
R: For there to be an actually “infinite” number of genders, an “infinite” number of human beings must have already lived, which is not a reasonable claim. If you mean “potentially infinite”, a la Aristotle, then, OK, but, again, more manageable categorial partitionings are exceedingly useful.
Also: the dialectical, «arithmos eidetikos»-like, systematic model of human sexual preferences that I presented belongs to the “Systematic Dialectics” species of dialectics.
Systematic Dialectical presentations are different from Historical Dialectical ‘meta-models’.
Systematic Dialectical presentations “present” the “present” -- e.g., a ‘synchronic slice’ or cross-section of contemporary human society; of contemporary human experience.
Another example would be Marx’s presentation in the first three volumes of Capital, where his emphasis is on the ‘social physiology’ and ‘social anatomy’ of -- for his time -- present capitalism.
Systematic Dialectical presentations should be critical, but they should be primarily immanently so, by locating the internal “incompleteness”, ‘malfunctionings’, and, in general, the “contradictions” [‘self-dualities’] which are such from the internal point of view of the “System” so presented, “systematically”, locating the internal, ‘self-forces’ by which that “System” is liable to change itself.
Q: “From this understanding, one might say that the whole imposed sexual binary (objective male, objective female) is a form of sexual rigidity that historically originates, or at least conveniently reflects and expresses, the domination of one side of the “sexual divide” over the other -- that is, the “objectively male” rule over the “objectively female”.”
“Thus patriarchy, as a form of domination, requires the binary on which its own power rests.”
“If you are going to rule over some group, you need to maintain the distance and difference between the dominators and the dominated. Thus, perhaps sexual duality was the necessary premise of sexual domination, just as racial enslavement was premised on the idea of racial difference, or even on the idea of race as a legitimate biological division in the first place. So is the sexual binary a kind of holdover of patriarchy -- a way of categorizing people so that, historically, one group could dominate the other?”
R: We do not deny, in any way, that ruling classes of various historically-specific epochs may seize upon apparent, visible, e.g., biological, differences to erect their hierarchies of oppression, expropriation, enslavement, and abuse.
Our goal is to help Terran humanity to grow beyond -- to achieve a kind of historical ‘‘‘escape-velocity’’’ from -- such abominations.
The class hierarchy uses of human gender to the contrary notwithstanding, there is a biological, genomic basis and root -- part of what Marx called the “natural basis” of human society -- to human sexuality.
Our categories of ‘objectively female’ and of ‘objectively male’ human persons are founded entirely upon that biological basis.
Our categories of ‘subjectively female’ and ‘subjectively male’ are, however, another matter entirely.
Had the ‘meta-model’ that we presented been an ‘‘‘Historical-Dialectical’’’, or ‘Psychohistorical-Dialectical’, ‘meta-model’, our objective would have been to trace the chronological historical development of the Human Phenome/Human Genome complex unity around all of the issues of human sexuality, and from one [psycho]historical epoch to the next, arriving, only at last, to the prevailing present-day global ideologies regarding human sexuality, and with at least one iteration of that ‘meta-model’ beyond the present historical epoch, thereby generating predictions as to the potential future of human sexuality.
But the ‘meta-model’ that we presented was, on the contrary, a present-focused, ‘‘‘Systematic-Dialectical’’’ ‘meta-model’ instead.
Q: “My next question concerns what appears to be a collapse in your schema of two realms of human sexuality into one -- namely that of human sexual orientation and of human gender experience.”
“These are two realms, not one (although experientially they can appear or feel quite close).”
“Maybe your schema is only about orientation, so this question is misplaced.”
R: Yes, our focus is entirely upon human sexual orientation, or human sexual preference.
Q: “But what I see as a problem is best highlighted in your category of “trans-sexual orientations.”
“Actually, before the gender question, I also have to ask why your transexual categories are divided into “sexually attracted exclusively to subjective/objective male” (or female).”
“Where does that come from?”
“An obvious question -- transsexuals can't be bisexual?”
R: Certainly, the phenomenon of a person whose genitalia are male, but who wishes to be female, and who is sexually attracted to both “objectively female” and “objectively male” living human bodies, is a categorial-combinatorial possibility, as is the phenomenon of a person whose genitalia are female, but who wishes to be male, and who is sexually attracted to both “objectively female” and “objectively male” living human bodies.
However, in our experience -- i.e., in the cases of ‘‘‘trans-sexuality’’’ of which we know, and in all of the records of cases of ‘‘‘trans-sexuality’’’ that we have encountered, ‘‘‘trans-sexuality’’’ is always a case of what we term ‘subjective heterosexuality’.
That is, precisely, what the “trans-” in our category-name ‘‘‘trans-sexuality’’’ means!
Your posit -- which, to our knowledge, is unempirical -- of a ‘‘‘bi-sexual trans-sexual’’’ does not fit our definition of the ‘‘‘trans-sexuality’’’ category, and would, if found to be actually instantiated, inhere in a new [sub-]species [of another] category than our category of ‘‘‘trans-sexuality’’’.
In our experience, including our personal experience as well as our research, a ‘trans-sexual’ is either an ‘objective female’ who is ‘subjectively male’, e.g., who wants to be, physically, a male, and who is attracted, sexually, to ‘objective females’, or is an ‘objective male’ who is ‘subjectively female’, e.g., who wants to be, physically, a female, and who is attracted, sexually, to ‘objective males’.
Now, admittedly, our sample base is relatively small.
Do you know of any actual cases of “bi-sexual trans-sexuals”?
Q: “Another question -- transsexuals in your scheme are defined as “objective males” or “objective females” (with “opposite” kinds of subjectivities -- so again -- what does this mean?”
R: It means a person born with female genitalia who wishes to be male, and who is sexually attracted to those born with female genitalia, or it means a person born with male genitalia who wishes to be female, and who is sexually attracted to those born with male genitalia.
Q: “Who is determining the “objective” nature of their bodies?”
“For example -- what are their “brain types” (is there male and female brains?), what is happening in their cells, in their primary or secondary sexual characteristics, in their secretion and utilization of hormones, in their emotions, body rhythms, in their ways of moving, talking, feeling, and being in the world.”
“What if, in an obvious example, someone is characterized at birth as “male”. But “he” feels he is a she -- and is allowed at puberty to begin a female hormone regimen -- which also involves a suppression of testosterone -- and so certain “objective” sexual characteristics start changing.”
“Soon this person develops different skin and hair texture, different kinds of muscle mass, different hormone flows and fluctuations, and little niceties like breasts, and of course “he” loses male sexual capacity.”
“So is this person still “objectively male”?”
“This person is a transsexual!”
“So how does he/she fit into any sexual binary of “objective” male or female?”
R: Here, once again, it is the physical configuration of the biological genitalia at birth that is determinative for our categories of ‘objectively female’ and ‘objectively male’, and ‘objectively hermaproditic’.
Q: “But this brings me to my final point -- which is the confusion between “sexual orientation” and “gender”.
“As I said, you title this page using the term “Human Sexual Orientations / Preferences”.”
“And then you talk about "trans-sexual orientations" -- which then are then defined as “exclusively” oriented toward males or females -- and again -- why this exclusivity?”
R: The data at our disposal supports our definition of ‘trans-sexual hetero-sexuality’.
If you have data to the contrary, please bring it to our attention, and we will consider revising our Level 3, ‘sub-species content-structure’, at least.
I will review the text of the blog-entry in question, to see if any loci of confusion between “sexual orientation”, and “subjective gender”, or between “sexual preference” and “subjective gender”, can be clarified.
Q: “But more importantly -- you seem to be defining transsexuality around sexual orientation -- rather than gender, which is more about how one feels about oneself, about one’s experience about who they are, not about to whom they are attracted.”
“I guess that falls within your categories of “subjectively” male or female.”
We are concerned, in the ‘meta-model’ presented, with objectively, observably manifested sexual orientation/preference, primarily, not with subjective gender.
Q: “So what is a “trans-sexual orientation”?”
R: An individual inhering in the ‘trans-sexual sexual orientation’ category, by our definition, is a person whose objective, at-birth genital organs -- either female or male, but not hermaphroditic -- are associated with the opposite sex to the sex to which that person aspires subjectively, and in which that person is drawn to other individuals with the same kind of genitalia as the kind with which that person was born.
Q: “How is it different from good-old regular hetero or homo or bi sexualities?”
R: ‘objective sexuality’ and ‘subjective sexuality’ are aligned in cases of ‘‘‘heterosexual orientation’’’, of ‘‘‘homosexual orientation’’’, and of ‘‘‘bi-sexual orientation’’’.
On the contrary, ‘objective sexuality’ and ‘subjective sexuality’ are ‘contra-aligned’ in cases of ‘‘‘trans-sexual orientation’’’.
Moreover, by our definition, those of ‘‘‘trans-sexual orientation’’’ are ‘subjectively heterosexual’, even though they may appear to be ‘objectively homosexual’.
Q: “Are you meaning to define transsexuality by these categories of attraction -- with the simple twist that the person in question is transsexual?”
“But transsexuality is about gender, not orientation (thus the term transgendered).”
R: To our definition, the category ‘trans-sexual sexual orientation’ is not identical with your “transgender” category, as we understand it, which is a category of ‘‘‘subjective gender’’’ only.
Q: “I guess I am confused about what is being talked about here.”
What you have shown us is that we need to be more explicit in our text(s) in drawing a distinction between an individual’s subjective, inner experience of [their own] gender, unobservable by external others, and their externally observable, objectively practiced -- and, typically, overtly practiced -- sexual orientation.
Q: “It just feels like there is a cross-over between realms -- between the sexual attraction and the gendered experience.”
“If you are consciously and exclusively talking only about sexual attraction/orientation, then I apologize for my confusion.”
R: We accept your apology, with no ill-feeling.
Q: “But it is a very common mistake to make.”
R: Indeed, it is a mistake into which we have partly fallen, by not providing a more explicit description of the difference between ‘‘‘subjective gender’’’ and sexual orientation in our text.
Q: “Being transgendered is about gender, not about who you are attracted to.”
R: We might well embrace such a definition of “transgendered”, but that definition would not be the same as our definition of ‘trans-sexual sexual orientation’.
‘‘‘Sexual orientation’’’, or ‘‘‘sexual preference’’’, IS about “who you are attracted to” in terms of the body-forms, and, specifically, in terms of the genital formation, of those “who”.
Q: “A personal note -- I am a transsexual woman.”
“This means I have a history of appearing “objectively male”.”
R: Thus, your personal instance -- if we understand it correctly, from your description above -- fits our definition of ‘trans-sexual sexual orientation’, in that you were born ‘objectively male’, but were, or became, ‘subjectively female’, if we are also correctly inferring that you are sexually attracted exclusively to those who were born ‘objectively male’.
Q: “Now I am experienced as a woman by all who meet me.”
“If the word “objective” means something like “as objectively, collectively experienced, in the world” -- then by that definition I am objectively female.”
R: As we have noted also above, that is not our meaning for our phrase ‘objectively female’. Again, an ‘objectively female’ person is a person who was born with exclusively female genitalia. But it is our inference that you were born with exclusively male genitalia.
Q: “My body is seen as female, people react to me, see me, converse with me as female, but I know the situation as much more complicated and ambiguous.”
“I certainly can never give birth to a baby!”
“But on meeting me, even doctors and therapists have immediately identified me as female.”
“So where do I fit into the binaries -- both objectively and subjectively, and physically and psychologically?”
R: Your self-description implies that you originally inhered in ‘sub-species n.1’ per our taxonomy -- ‘subjectively FEMALE/objectively MALE, sexually attracted exclusively to subjectively/objectively MALE others.’ -- iff we are correctly inferring your sexual orientation.
Your later transformation -- no doubt via surgical and hormonal, etc., technologies -- into someone whom social others spontaneously perceive as female shows the power of your subjective determination of your sexuality, and further corroborates the reasons why we hold ‘subjective sexuality’ to be determinative over ‘objective sexuality’ for human beings.
Q: “I know the process i went through in my “transition”.”
“My body was changed, and so was my mind, and yet I feel I remain who I was “always”.”
“So was I, and am I now, “objectively or subjectively” male or female?”
“Socially and legally I am female -- but that is also not the whole story.”
“So is my gender something I express, that I am deep inside, is it a role, a designation, a con-job, a performance -- is it objective, subjective, social, in my body, in my world, in my spirit?”
R: Categories of ‘subjective gender’ are much less observable, much less empirical, and thus much less objectively determinable, then are the overt sexual behaviors that manifest ‘‘‘sexual orientation’’’, or ‘‘‘sexual preference’’’.
Therefore, in framing a ‘‘‘dialectical-scientific’’’ account of contemporary human sexual orientations behavior, we have not addressed ‘subjective-genderal’ categories or concepts.
Since your “sex change” operation(s), you would, per our taxonomy, inhere in category five, whose ideogramic description is qnh, which describes a “making/converting to ‘objectively heterosexual’ of the behavior of a ‘‘‘trans-sexual’’’ individual whose sexual orientation was initially ‘objectively homosexual’, but ‘subjectively heterosexual’. We have not presented / solved this category, or any other category that arises in the Step 3 ‘self-iteration’ of ‘meta-model’, in our blog-entry.
Q: “And again -- what would my sexual orientation (who I am attracted to) have to do with any of this?”
“Basically, nothing (although it is also very much intertwined with my feelings of sexual drive, and therefore how I express myself in the world).”
“But the two realms are separate...”
R: “how you express yourself in the world” sexually, is what our dialectical ontological taxonomy is all about.
Various concepts of “gender” might well have a very strong correlation and interconnexion with ‘‘‘sexual orientation’’’ as we define it, but we have not ventured any definition of “gender” as such, in our ‘meta-model’ of this HSO domain, for the reasons already given.
Q: “There really does not seem to be an easy answers -- and so it may be not accurate to try to categorize these kinds of experiences into simple binaries.”
R: We agree about the inefficacy of “simple binaries”, but we also hold that the dialectically-generated “quaternaries”, and beyond, of our ‘meta-model’ can be very useful in systematically theorizing and summarizing the otherwise typically confused and “chaotic” experience and cognition of objectively observable aspects of the domain of Human Sexual Orientations.
Q: “Human experiences just seem too varied, ambiguous, changing, open-ended, transitioning...”
R: Many said the same about the domain of the human experiences of capitalism, before Marx applied his dialectical method to the systematic exposition of that domain.
And many still today -- ignorant of Marx’s masterful contribution -- continue to say the same about “capitalism”, or about “modern human life”, or about “human life” abstracted from all historical specificity, etc.
Q: “Finally, I question whether your categories really capture the spectrum of human experience in that there are people who reject these binaries altogether.”
“What the history of all this might be I really don't know, or whether this really might be a case of a radical chic or something -- but there are people who openly seek to express themselves in ways that are non-sexual, or multi-sexual, or androgynous, etc.”
“I am not talking necessarily about hermaphrodites -- but rather people who reject all the categories as social impositions, or that consciously seek a middle ground of non-male, non-female, neither/both -- but not just as a sexual orientation but as a non-specific gender.”
“And some people find this androgynous exploration and experimentation very sexually attractive.”
“But here I am getting into areas that I really don't have much experience, or knowledge, so I'll leave it there.”
“But what happens to the binaries here?”
R: ‘‘‘Bi-nary’’’ becomes ‘multi-ary’, of a multiplicity greater than two, as the steps of the dialectic proceed.
We have hinted, in the final section of our blog-entry on the HSO dialectic, as to ways in which the solution of our ‘meta-model meta-equation’ can be extended -- by means of its further ‘self-iteration’, to Step 3 and beyond -- to encompass new ‘‘‘antithesis categories’’’ which present a progression of qualitative opposition to all earlier-presented categories in each further step.
Thus for example, our dialectical, systematic order of presentation might call for the category described ideographically as qnn, the next category of expected all-previously-presented-categories oppositeness, to stand for a kind of ‘omni-sexuality’, qnn |-.= o, associated with the uninterpreted, generic ‘dialectical meta-number’ q8 = q4+4, whereas all previously-evoked/-presented sexual orientation categories had been founded upon highly discriminatory kinds of sexual attraction -- orientation toward some categories, orientation away from others.
Next, our dialectical, systematic order of presentation might call for the category described ideographically as qoo, the next category of expected all-previously-presented-categories oppositeness, to stand for the various sub-species of ‘asexuality’, including voluntary celibacy, qoo |-.= qa= a, associated with the uninterpreted, generic ‘dialectical meta-number’ q16 = q8+8, whereas all previously-evoked/-presented sexual orientation categories had been founded upon a sexual orientation favorable to at least one sexual orientation category.
Next, our dialectical, systematic order of presentation might call for the category described ideographically as qaa, the next category of expected all-previously-presented-categories oppositeness, to stand for the various sub-species ‘‘‘zoophilia’’’, or of ‘bestiality’, qaa |-.= qz = z, one associated with the uninterpreted, generic ‘dialectical meta-number’ q32 = q16+16. Whereas all previously-evoked/-presented sexual orientation categories had been founded upon a sexual orientation toward or away from other human beings, this category is founded upon a sexual orientation toward earthly, but non-human, animals.
Next, in a predictive mode that belongs only to the final phases of a systematic-dialectical presentation [cf. Marx], we might present a category described ideographically as qzz, a next category of expected all-previously-presented-categories oppositeness, to stand for the various sub-species ‘xenophilia’, qzz |-.= qx = x, one associated with the uninterpreted, generic ‘dialectical meta-number’ q64 = q32+32. Whereas all previously-evoked/-presented sexual orientation categories had been founded upon a sexual orientation toward or away from Terran biological entities, this category is founded upon a sexual orientation toward or away from non-Terran biological entities, e.g., toward or away from non-Terran, extraterrestrial human[oid]s.
This category might be instantiated, and become present, if, in the future, Terran human[oid]s encounter human[oid]s created by Nature on other planets than planet Earth.
On a more mundane scale, we note that there are categories that are generated by the step 3 ‘self-iteration’ of our ‘meta-model’, such as category six, whose ideogramic description is qnm, which would describe a “making/converting to ‘objectively homosexual’ of the behavior of a ‘‘‘trans-sexual’’’ individual whose sexual orientation was initially ‘objectively heterosexual’, but ‘subjectively homosexual’, e.g., who was born with female genitalia, but subjectively male, and attracted sexually to other males, and whose body was later converted, technologically, to one at least simulating male embodiment, including male genitalia. We are presently unclear as to whether or not this category is actually instantiated in present human society.
It may be a case of “the empty category”.
Likewise, category seven, whose ideogramic description is qnb, would describe a “making/converting to ‘objectively bisexual’ of the behavior of a ‘‘‘trans-sexual’’’ individual whose sexual orientation was initially ‘objectively heterosexual’, but ‘subjectively bisexual’, e.g., who was born with female genitalia, but subjectively male, and attracted sexually both to other males and to females, and whose body was later converted, technologically, to one at least simulating male embodiment, including male genitalia. Again, we are presently unclear as to whether or not this category is actually instantiated in present human society.
Again, It may be an instance of “the empty category”.
Again, It may be an instance of “the empty category”.
Q: “So those are some thoughts and questions.”
“Thank you for the stimulating schema that provoked my writing these responses.”
R: You are most welcome!
It is responses such as yours that we always hope for when we present a domain to our readers via the ‘Seldonian Systematic-Dialectical Method of Presentation’.
And, for our part, we thank you for your queries and critiques, which have catalyzed several improvements in our understanding of the HSO domain, and which will also, in the future, we believe, improve our communication of its dialectical presentation.
Q: “I hope you accept my thoughts in the open-ended, questioning, comradely way in which they are intended.”
“If I have misunderstood what you are trying to do here, my apologies.”
“Sometimes I interpret too quickly, and later realize what I thought was being said really wasn't being said at all.”
“Anyway I hope you find my comments useful in some way...”
R: We have found your comments to be tremendously useful -- thank you again!