Pink Talks

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Biological Sex

– History

The concept of biological sex varies across cultures and while it is often seen as a binary distinction between male and female, this perspective overlooks the diverse range of experiences and identities that exist in different cultures.

The strict binary notion of biological sex is challenged by the idea of intersexuality.  Intersex individuals are born with differences in their sex traits that do not fall neatly into the male or female classifications.

There are societies that do not identify with masculine or feminine categories, some that have bipolar constructs but with different boundaries, cultures in which individuals can transcend gender through specific circumstances and also examples of constructs that do not neatly fit into any bipolar or multipolar system.

Alternative categories that contradict the binary conception of biological sex are acknowledged in a number of cultures. For example, in South Asia, we can find the hijra group, which includes individuals who identify as intersex, transgender, or eunuchs. Similar to this, people who identify as a third gender in Thailand are known as kathoey.

(Author: Mariachiara Pacchetti)

See more resources

Nanda, S. (1984). The hijras of India: A preliminary report. Med. & L., 3, 59.

Winter, S. (2006). Thai transgenders in focus: Demographics, transitions and identities. International Journal of Transgenderism, 9(1), 15-27.

Lang, C., & Kuhnle, U. (2008, January 21). Intersexuality and alternative gender categories in Non-Western Cultures. Karger Publishers.

Hopkins, S., & Richardson, L. (2021). Gender identity: from Biological Essentialism Binaries to a nonbinary gender spectrum. Gender Equality, 534-543.

Segal, E. S. (2003). Cultural constructions of gender. Encyclopedia of sex and gender, 3-10.