In many other teachings on sex and intimacy, there are a host of rules for how men and women should behave and feel, based on a binary understanding of gender. My queer soul rebelled. In all my years of sacred intimacy practice, and in my teaching, I’ve tried to welcome each person in their gender complexity. In spaces where gender complexity is welcome, it can delight us, and inform our play.
However did we wind up with a binary, either-or choice in the realm of gender? There are so many factors that contribute to our experience of gender, and our gender expression. Components of gender include chromosomes, hormones, genitals, reproductive organs, personal identity, social identity, culture, environment and partner choice. In each of these complex components, there are many variations. Gender is the ever-emerging property of different systems that interact with each other, in ways that are ever-changing throughout our lives.
On the subject of Chromosomes…
It is true that most people have either two X chromosomes (XX), or an X and a Y chromosome (XY), but viable variations in the number of sex chromosomes are ordinary. They include X, XXX, XXY or XYY. In addition, in the process of sexual reproduction, genetic information on chromosomes gets recombined in ways that ensure we each are individual. There is a chromosomal uniqueness we each are born with, and epigenetic changes that unfold throughout our lives.
On the subject of Hormones….
Hormones are regulatory molecules that affect body systems, including our genital morphology and our capacity for pleasure. Every human naturally produces estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and other hormones that impact feeling states and flesh. Hormone biosynthesis, and hormone receptors, change with time of life, activity, diet, the experience of stress, and many other factors. Small shifts in hormonal expression can activate cascades of physiological and behavioural changes. Synthetic hormone supplements are widely used: in agriculture, medicine, sports, and by people who want to affirm or transform gender.
On the subject of Genitals….
Surely the most interesting thing about genitals is their diversity. Genitals are as different as faces. There is incredible variety in the size, shape and structure of our genitals and reproductive organs. And we are all innervated differently. Some people readily experience pleasure through internal stimulation, whereas others readily enjoy external touch. Our nervous systems are continually changing, in response to experiences of trauma, neglect, pleasure and socialization. Pleasure preferences and pleasurable experiences, along with traumas, impact our experience of gender. Surgical alterations of genitals are common, and they happen for many reasons, including gender affirmation and controlling masturbation.
I’ve lightly touched on just three of the many variables that contribute to our experience of gender, and our gender expression. When there are so many complex contributing factors, all interacting with each other, possibilities don’t just add up; they multiply. Your gender is unique to you. Arbitrary delineations of either male or female are preposterous. It is far more accurate – and certainly more interesting – to simply stay curious. What is your experience of your gender? How is it changing? How is gender emerging as an inquiry, within and between us?