Friday, 14 April 2006

What is a Man?

While researching the previous post, I came across an article in the Age on the programme.
In 2000, John Colapinto's book, As Nature Made Him, revealed the painful extent of the experiment's failure. The Horizon program includes interviews with David conducted in 2000 for a film about intersex babies. By 2004, both brothers were dead.

Scientists are still trying to determine what makes us male or female. Associate Professor Vincent Harley, head of human molecular genetics at Melbourne's Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research is at the forefront of research into the genetics of sex. "We're tackling (the question) at a number of levels. It depends on what kind of sex you mean, whether you're talking about their brains, their gonads or their role in the world," he says.

Some genes have already been identified as involved in controlling the development of testes or ovaries. Genes expressed differently in male and female brains, well before birth and before hormones come into play, are "a starting point to look for differences in gender identity".

Forty years after Brian became Brenda, Professor Harley says that "the search continues", adding that "people's gender identity is unlikely to be as malleable as was thought then".

A case like Brian Reimer's would be handled very differently today, says Louise Newman. "It's a terribly outmoded assumption, that being a castrated male means being a female," she says.

Gender identification would also be measured against different yardsticks. "What we have now are less rigid definitions of what's gender-appropriate behaviour," Newman says. "It wouldn't be a matter of 'You like Barbies, therefore you're a girl. You like trucks therefore you're a boy.' Children aren't like that. But in Money's day that wouldn't have been acknowledged."

David Reimer had his own theory about masculinity.

"What makes you a man is you treat your wife well, you put a roof over your family's head, you're a good father. Things like that add up much more to being a man than just 'Bang! Bang! Bang! Sex!'," he told author John Colapinto.

Well, on a personal note, I fell into a logical fallacy here. I believed that because I treated my female partner well, put a roof over my family's head, and was a good father to my child, I had to be a Man, no matter how I felt. Well, it's necessary, but not sufficient. I tried.

Now so I don't burst into tears, here's something else. Putting the Camp into Campari. See the Shockwave Flash Movie then read the Explanatory Notes in PDF.

Funnily enough, and again one of those hilarious, confusing and improbable things that sometimes happen in Transition, I know of a case which bore a feint resemblance to that advert. You see, an MtoF just starting her transition, still unsure about it and presenting as an adrogenous male, became attracted to a longtime friend of hers who was lesbian. Except the friend wasn't, (lesbian that is), he started his own FtoM transition shortly afterwards, when they realised the mutual attraction was heterosexual, not lesbian after all. An outside observer would have seen a guy hugging a girl, when it was actually a girl hugging a guy. And both bursting out laughing at the sheer absurdity of the Universe when they realised it. I can believe it, I know them both. Oh yes, it turns out, as it so often does, (!) that they were both borderline intersexed too, and each giving off and responding to both sets of pheremones.

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