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Sex and Gender

People are people

Our society is polarized. Duh.
Let's label the extremes of that polarity as 'Lleft' and 'Rright' (to invent a couple of unambiguous terms. Last week we encountered Roderick Stackelberg's concept of that divide "The more a person deems absolute equality among all people to be a desirable condition, the further Lleft he or she will be on the ideological spectrum. The more a person considers inequality to be unavoidable or even desirable, the further to the Rright he or she will be". I kind of like this usage because it lets the left/right distinction in political economics to stand forth more clearly.

I've always been on the Lleft but not on the extreme by any means. I've thought about the consequences of absolute equality and read fiction about it, and it's not pretty or even possible. We are all unique and different and that is the opposite of being equal.
It's as absurd as saying that 1 and 2 and 3 are equal numbers. They just aren't. But we can say that 1 and 2 and 3 are equally numbers. That is, each fits the requirements of a number. So it is with people. It's not that all people are equal; it's that all people are equally people and an important aspect of people is that they are each unique. That's the problem with absolute equality - if attempted it has to stifle everyone's uniqueness and that is bad and doesn't work. People push through that kind of stifle like a growing thistle will push through asphalt to get to the sunlight.

In Sapiens, Yuval Harari discusses the distinction between sex and gender.
He thinks sex is a thing that is determined by biology - the distinction found throughout nature where a male and a female interact to produce another male or female. Biological evolution depends on sex (among other things).

The evolutionary algorithm which posits replicators, variation, and selection pressure has sex at it's core (the replication bit). So I take sex to be a fact found in reality.

When I was a kid, sex and gender seemed to be synonyms. After all, I encountered sex (as in male female) very early in my life. Much later I encountered the term 'gender' and was told that male was a gender and female was another. Then I encountered the idea of homosexuality - people who were sexually attracted to people of the same sex. This didn't shock me as an affront to nature. I didn't think of nature as something that would care one way or another.

Slowly, being gay, emerged as another gender, and that actually meant there were now 4 genders: Male, female, lesbians and gays.
And then b-sexual emerged.
And then transgender.
And then a bunch of other genders that I don't really understand at all - but that's fine with me. When I was about 20 our Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, famously said (I paraphrase) that what consenting adults do in private is nobody's business but their own. This is very compatible with a Lleft perspective that more equality is a good thing.

I've seen that the Rright has a different idea. Remember that for the Rright inequality is either inescapable or a good thing. For instance: rather than embrace a diversity of genders, gender is reduced back to just 2 sexes. And 'males' are deemed to be superior to women. When I was young it was just taken as natural that men were superior to women. Banks typically thought of women as so inferior that they couldn't be trusted with bank loans and required male co-signers (deemed more trustworthy because they were male).

I'm a Lleftish sort of person. I guess I could be categorized as a straight male. I recognize that lots of people place themselves in other categories. As long as the 'consenting adult' rule applies then I think people should act in the way that makes them the most comfortable in their own skin. Once you start categorizing people though you get stuck in a sort of super complicated phase space. I'm an old hippie who doesn't like fancy clothes sort of straight male. You can add to that celibate, pot smoking . . . . . (insert qualifiers here without end)

So just like the idea of absolute equality is oppressive of individuals and we need to find a middle ground of equality that lets us be happy as individuals, we need to not let our categorization of ourselves get too fine grained - there gets to be a point of diminishing returns

But it seems to me that the Lleft is growing because fewer and fewer people actually want to face the opprobrium that comes from that comes with oppressing fellow citizens and most people are content with Trudeau's dictum - that the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.

What do you think?

Star I present regular philosophy discussions in a virtual reality called Second Life. I set a topic and people come as avatars and sit around a virtual table to discuss it. Each week I write a short essay to set the topic. I show a selection of them here.

I've been thinking and reading about philosophy for a long time but I'm mostly self taught. That is I've had the good fortune to read what interests me rather than follow a course of study. That has it's limits of course but advantages. It doesn't cost as much and is fun too.

My interests are things like evolution and cognition and social issues and economics and science in general.