Bigender

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Bigender, bi-gender or bi+gender is a gender identity where the person moves between feminine and masculine gender identities and behaviors, possibly depending on context. Some bigender individuals express two distinct "female" and "male" personas, feminine and masculine respectively; others find that they identify as two genders simultaneously. It is recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA) as a subset of the transgender group. A 1999 survey conducted by the San Francisco Department of Public Health observed that, among the transgender community, less than 3% of those who were assigned male at birth and less than 8% of those who were assigned female at birth identified as bigender.[1]

Description

A bigender gender-identity has been described as varying from over time between two extremes.[2] A student at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, described the back and forth shift, saying

Bigender is a type of genderqueer identification which essentially means that a person’s gender identity varies over periods of time. These periods can be anywhere from a few hours to a few years and there is no limit to the number of times that it may change.[4] Additionally, identifying as bigender is typically understood to mean that one identifies as both male and female and/or moves between a masculine gender expression and feminine gender expression with little middle ground. This is different from identifying as genderfluid, as those who identify as gender fluid may not go back and forth between any fixed gender identities and may experience an entire range or spectrum of identities over time.[5]

Major Theories

Bigender is a gender identity that is recognized by the APA as a subset of the transgender group. On a broad level, the modern theory is that gender identity exists on a scale rather than in strict dichotomized groups, and evidence has been found of a neurological distinction between gender identity and biological sex. Bigender individuals show consistency and inconsistency of brain-based body sex with their external anatomy. Bigenderism specifically is a very under-researched topic and not many people have studied it. In 2012, Cace and Ramachandran conducted one of the few studies and theorized that the alternation of gender states is not just explained by the socially constructed nature of gender and that transsexual and androgynous people prefer to explore both masculine and feminine areas of their personalities. However, individuals have reported that switches in gender are typically involuntary and occur when the individual would rather remain in the other gender. The majority of bigender individuals also experience phantom breasts or genitalia. When individuals are in a gender state incongruent with their anatomy, they often experience phantom body parts. Because this is generally involuntary, it suggests that there is a neurological explanation for it. Additionally, decreased lateralization of handedness was found in the bigender community. Handedness seems to be associated with gender, similarly to how it is associated with psychopathology. For instance, a higher incidence of left and mixed handedness is seen in individuals with schizophrenia, while those with bipolar disorder show more lateralization of handedness. Handedness has also been linked to performance on cognitive tasks that show sex differences, and to homosexuality in which there seems to be a higher rate of left-handedness. Research on handedness in bigender individuals shows that ambidextrous handedness occurs at a higher rate in bigender respondents. These various findings suggest that there is a biological basis of bigenderism. Researchers coined this condition alternating gender incongruity (AGI) and hypothesized that this may correspond to an unusual degree of hemispheric switching, or when dominance switches from one hemisphere to the other during a single behavior, and callosal suppression of sex appropriate body maps in the parietal cortex and its reciprocal connections with the insula and hypothalamus. They propose that "coordination between shifts in brain connectivity, autonomic response, hormone release, and dynamic representation of body gender might together create the sense of gender alternation experiencing by many bigender individuals." These researchers also disagree with the separation between neurological and psychological conditions and instead predict that AGI is a neuropsychiatric condition, but more research is necessary to confirm this.[6]

Major Experimental Findings

The identity of bigender has been recognized by the American Psychological Association.[7] A Public Health study found that 3% of transgendered people assigned male at birth and 8% of trangendered people assigned female at birth identify themselves as bigender,[8] but almost no research has gone into the biological causes or effects of this identity. A study done by Case and Ramachandran coined the gender term “alternating gender incongruity” (AGI) to describe when multiple gendered components including gender identity (either self or outside identification), sexual morphology, “sexual body image,” and sexual orientation will circulate in a single individual. More than half of the bigendered people studied reported having “phantom limb” experiences—such as experiencing phantom erections when the body itself did not have a penis. Those that reported feeling these phantom parts rated them as moderate in strength (mean- 2.9 out of a 5 point scale). The study also revealed a high number of bigendered people with bipolar disorder (9 out of 32). Similarly to those with bipolar, those who identify as bigender are thought to be more susceptible to atypical brain hemispheric switching. The atypical brain function allows for switching brain functions over hemispheres. This evidence could support that if a person is able to switch between hemispheres then it could be possible for different gendered selves to be hidden in each different switch. “Coordination between shifts in brain connectivity, autonomic response, hormone release, and dynamic representation of body gender might together create the sense of gender alternation experiencing by many bigender individuals.”[9] Another study done in Austria and the Netherlands found that the white matter in male and female transsexuals falls halfway between that of cisgender males and females. Their findings also support the theory that development is influenced by the hormonal environment in prenatal and early postnatal brain development in determining gender identity.[10]

Nature/Nurture

“Bigenderism” is a term that has been used to refer to the gender binary[11] and should not be confused with and used as a name for those individuals who identify as bigender. Some researchers claim that all of our interactions with individuals are based on our own categorization of them on this gender binary and these researchers disapprove of this bigenderism as they argue that it causes a learned transphobia towards those individuals who do not fall into one category or the other; they argue that emphasis on a gender spectrum in children would reduce this transphobia towards those outside of the binary.[12] Bigender people are viewed as a subset of transgendered people and thus often face adversity due to society’s reaction to things viewed as different and outside of the traditional binary. The nurture and upbringing within the concept of bigenderism can cause individuals to feel a dissonance towards bigender individuals. While no extensive brain imaging studies have been conducted on bigendered samples yet, research on involuntary gender switching dubbed alternative gender incongruity (AGI) suggests that it “may be related to an unusual degree or depth of hemispheric switching”.[13] This has been hypothesized based on self-report survey results having significantly positive correlations with reported rates of bipolar disorder, which has been linked in past research to slowed hemispheric switching. Further research is necessary in order to determine whether individuals are more heavily influenced to identify as bigender due to their biology or their surrounding environments—the classic argument of nature versus nurture. However, society’s reaction to bigender people is heavily influenced by nurtured social norms.

Controversies

One controversy related to bigenderism is that much research is focused on finding biological factors that contribute to gender diversity. Jordan-Young describes this focus as:

The dominant scientific tale about sex differences goes like this: because of early exposure to different sex hormones, males and females have different brains. Moreover, the same process that makes men and women fundamentally different is also responsible for within-sex differences in sexual orientation.[14]

In other words, many researchers study gender and queer identities as a result of biological factors like hormone exposure. Researchers like Case and Ramachadran offer such biological explanations for bigenderism as “an unusual degree or depth of hemispheric switching and corresponding callosal suppression of sex appropriate body maps in parietal cortex” and they base their theories on “ancient and modern associations between the left and right hemispheres and the male and female genders.”[15]

The biological essentialist view is supported by John Money’s experimentation with David (a.k.a. “John” or “Joan”) Reimer, who was assigned male at birth, but raised as a woman after an accident destroyed the child’s penis. “Money cited ‘Joan’s’ successful transition as especially compelling evidence for the importance of rearing in gender development”.[16] After it was discovered that Reimer identified as man despite being raised as a woman, researchers argued that Reimer’s male identity was fixed in his brain due to exposure to perinatal testosterone. However, much research calls for more of an emphasis on the impact of environment on gender. Focusing exclusively on biology raises three main concerns: (a) that the research contributes to the pervasive conflation of sex and gender, which are separate concepts, (b) that one’s experience of bigenderism is not associated with corporeal factors, and (c) researchers and physicians might attempt to “fix” bigenderism through medication, surgery, or eugenics should a biological origin be implicated by research that does not account for socialization.

Another controversy is that bigender identities are considered part of the transgender community by many large organizations and researchers, however many bigender people may not identify as transgender, due to personal reasons, exclusion from the community, or a divergence of points of interest.[17] While bigender and transgender individuals may share some of the same interests and needs in terms of safety,[18] activism around workplace[19][20] and housing[21] discrimination, legal name change processes,[22] pronoun education, access to medical care, and more issues,[23] many bigender concerns are unique due to the fluidity of their gender identities and expressions.

See also

References

  1. ^ Clements, K. San Francisco Department of Public Health, 1999
  2. ^ Jackson-Edwards, Phoebe (2014-10-31). "It hit me that I was two genders: Bizarre life of bi-gender Ryan (or Ria)". Mirror.co.uk. 
  3. ^ Schulman, Michael (2013-01-02). "Generation LGBTQIA" (PDF). The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Jackson-Edwards, Phoebe (2014-10-31). "It hit me that I was two genders: Bizarre life of bi-gender Ryan (or Ria)". Mirror.co.uk. 
  5. ^ Roxie, Marilyn (2011-07-01). "How do you know if you're genderfluid or just bigender?". "Genderqueer and Non-Binary Identities". 
  6. ^ Case, K.L., & Ramachandran, S.V. (2012). Alternating gender incongruity: a new neuropsychiatric syndrome providing insight into the dynamic plasticity of brain-sex [1]
  7. ^ http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/transgender.aspx
  8. ^ http://hivinsite.ucsf.edu/InSite?page=cftg-02-02
  9. ^ http://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2012.01.041
  10. ^ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25392513
  11. ^ Gilbert, M. A. (2009). Defeating bigenderism: Changing gender assumptions in the twenty-first century [2]
  12. ^ Gilbert, M. A. (2009). Defeating bigenderism: Changing gender assumptions in the twenty-first century [3]
  13. ^ Case, K.L., & Ramachandran, S.V. (2012). Alternating gender incongruity: a new neuropsychiatric syndrome providing insight into the dynamic plasticity of brain-sex [4]
  14. ^ Jordan-Young, R. (2010). Brain storm: The flaws in the science of sex differences. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  15. ^ Case, K.L., & Ramachandran, S.V. (2012). Alternating gender incongruity: a new neuropsychiatric syndrome providing insight into the dynamic plasticity of brain-sex [5]
  16. ^ Jordan-Young, R. (2010). Brain storm: The flaws in the science of sex differences. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  17. ^ http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/transgender.aspx
  18. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans_bashing
  19. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_employment_discrimination_in_the_United_States
  20. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_the_United_States
  21. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_the_United_States
  22. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_aspects_of_transsexualism_in_the_United_States
  23. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transgender