March 20, 2008

Postgenderism: Beyond the Gender Binary

A number of years ago I became frustrated with both modern feminism and the utter dearth of a sensical male approach to gender issues. I began to speculate about how transhumanism could contribute to the discussion and offer a perspective that could meet the needs of both genders.

And given the prospect of a posthuman condition, I also wondered what relevance 'gender' would continue to have for a technologically advanced species.

I was inspired by Donna Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto, but felt that it was incomplete, unimaginative and far too female-centric. That's when I started to think of 'postgenderism,' the idea that both men and women should use advanced biotechnologies to reduce the gender gap and create entirely new opportunities for sexual expression.

I've never fully articulated these ideas into anything formal, aside from an early Wikipedia article and the odd blog posting.

This has finally changed. James Hughes and I have collaborated on an essay that is set to appear in a forthcoming book on gender and reproductive technologies. Dr. J has released a shorter version of the essay on the IEET site and we're hoping to get some feedback so that we may improve the final version for the book.

Here's the abstract:
Postgenderism is an extrapolation of ways that technology is eroding the biological, psychological and social role of gender, and an argument for why the erosion of binary gender will be liberatory. Postgenderists argue that gender is an arbitrary and unnecessary limitation on human potential, and foresee the elimination of involuntary biological and psychological gendering in the human species through the application of neurotechnology, biotechnology and reproductive technologies. Postgenderists contend that dyadic gender roles and sexual dimorphisms are generally to the detriment of individuals and society. Assisted reproduction will make it possible for individuals of any sex to reproduce in any combinations they choose, with or without “mothers” and “fathers,” and artificial wombs will make biological wombs unnecessary for reproduction. Greater biological fluidity and psychological androgyny will allow future persons to explore both masculine and feminine aspects of personality. Postgenderists do not call for the end of all gender traits, or universal androgyny, but rather that those traits become a matter of choice. Bodies and personalities in our postgender future will no longer be constrained and circumscribed by gendered traits, but enriched by their use in the palette of diverse self-expression.

Download the Complete Document (PDF)


Anonymous said...

Maybe the whole technology angle is new, but queer theory has been talking about moving beyond the binary for quite a while already. Until we see how technology can 'de-binarize' us, so to speak, and theorize from there, isn't the distinction between postgenderism and good old queer theory superficial?

George said...

No, I don't think so. Queer theory is rooted in postmodernism and deconstructionism, so its focus is almost exclusively based around the re-engineering of social constructs and the labels we give people.

In other words, it's really limited to how we 'think' about people and how we need to broaden our conceptions of sexual and gender orientation.

Postgenderists, on the other hand, take it a *significant* step further than mere semantics and reframing. They recognize the strong *biological* underpinnings that work to re-enforce gender, and work to find solutions that address those issues.

There are a number of technologies already in existence that are postgenderist in nature -- things like birth control, IVF, menstruation suppression and gender reassignment. These are very real interventions that address the root of the issue -- so postgenderism is in effect and not a mere 'what if?'

Roko said...

I share your sentiments here, George. But, of course, gender and especially sexuality (for which gender is necessary) are so deeply ingrained into our perception of what is valuable about life that I think that only a few pioneers will give up their gender when the technology comes.

The issue of gender and sexuality is perhaps the one transhumanist issue which even I get squeemish about. I'm fine with prosthetics, implants, I'd upload tomorrow if I could, but moving away from the gender binary is something that I instinctively don't want to do. I know this is an irrational stance, but I just can't make myself want to not be a man any more... I may be able to talk myself around at some point...

Anonymous said...

Very well written. Just one more example - humans genetically engineered as hermaphrodite appear in volume 4 of "Foundation and Earth" (solarians).

Also I have read about another German scholar - Karl-Heinrich Ulrichs - a pioneer of GLBT studies.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't the detachment of mothers from there womb increase the separation of the family construct?

Many of my friends have expressed to me the sense of euphoria over carrying a life inside them for the duration of there pregnancy. I believe this may be a biologically tied psychological mechanism that helps bind the mother to the child, which therefore increase the life expectancy of the child simply by the care and attachment of the child.

I ask these questions and make my statements fully understanding that posthuman values would be radically different than our values, which concerns me.

Theres no reboot switch on the singularity therefore its important that the best possible outcome is derived for all sentient beings.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Sneak peak of our postgenderism video rebuttal

link was broken so I had to fix it.

Anonymous said...

Our video response to your paper

Invisible Inc said...

you might be interested in this article:

When Nothing is Produced
By Marcel Stoetzler

Bourgeois society’s reduction of sexuality to the logic of (re)production results in a series of rigid dichotomies. Drawing on a rich history of radical theory, Marcel Stoetzler rejects sexual dimorphism and the gay/straight split to imagine a sexuality that is free to recreate itself

Unknown said...

This is very interesting! And very hard for me to take in as well. I am currently struggling with the idea of gender, and I am beginning to think what is the point of worrying about it.
I do think having an identity is extremely important, even gender identity, though of course not everyone fits in typical roles. Though I do not know very much about this subject, I am wondering what is its ultimate goal. What I have interpretted is the goal of postgenderism is allowing gender fluidity and full self expression by using technology to 'equal' every aspect of ourselves. Though I am not sure this is even necessary... I would like to ask anyone why this should be justified, I am not trying to be abrasive or rude, I just want to hear another perspective.