“Is It a Boy or a Girl?”
a review of Omnigender: A Trans-religious Approach by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott
Cleveland, Ohio: The Pilgrim Press, 2001
192 pages, plus preface and index. Hardcover.
A review essay by Elizabeth Bowman, M.D.
One winter day when I was about age eight, I was ice skating outdoors near some other children who I did not know. I was dressed in a rather bulky “masculine” hand-me-down coat with the hood pulled tightly about my face so that only my central facial features were visible. A grade school boy broke away from a group of boys clustered in discussion. He approached me and timidly asked “Are you a boy or a girl?” I realized he couldn’t tell my gender because of my “sexless” attire, but that he and his friends needed to know my gender so they would know how or if to interact with me. Of the myriad ice skating incidents of my childhood, that one stayed with me, probably because it laid bare underlying assumptions about the world in which I lived — that how I was treated depended on my sex.
Virginia Ramey Mollenkott’s new book Omnigender: a Trans-Religious Approach (2001, Pilgrim Press, Cleveland, Ohio) is about the destructive effects of our human need to categorize people only as male or female. It is about our need to know the answer to the first question we ask about most newborn children: “Is it a boy or a girl?” This book posits that there should be more than two answers to the multiple choice question of “Sex?” and that “both” or “neither” should be on the list of responses. This book compassionately explores the dilemma faced daily by “both”, “neither” and “other” categories of humans and proposes that Christ and the Jewish and Christian scriptures demand compassionate acceptance of all people, regardless of their genital or sex chromosome configuration.
Imagine for a moment that you have just given birth to a child and you ask the doctor, “Is it a boy or girl?” The doctor pauses, then tells you she isn’t sure. The baby’s genitals resemble both sexes and more testing is needed to determine the “true” sex. How are you going to name the child without knowing its gender? What do you put on the birth announcement (if you can even find an appropriate one)? What do you do if further testing shows XY sex chromosomes, mostly female external genitalia, but no uterus or ovaries. How do you feel when friends ask the sex of the child? What do you tell them? How will you interact with your baby without knowing if it is male or female? How do you figure out the role of God in this event?
Imagine that you are a transvestite or a transsexual with partially complete genital change surgery. You face two public restrooms, each designed to be shared with other people. Which one would you be arrested for entering? Which sex should you emulate in your attire? What happens when you fill out a government form or a job application that asks for your sex? There are only two choices and you feel you fit neither of them. Checking the wrong box on the government form is a felony. If you are hermaphrodite or transsexual, what do you do? Most of us fit into the dimorphic sexual division found in higher animals and some plant species — we look like males or females and feel mostly feminine or masculine. But those who are inside the dominant gender paradigm live our lives largely unconscious of the dilemmas posed in the above vignettes. We are rarely conscious of intersexuals or transsexuals and the painful dilemmas they encounter daily. Dr. Mollenkott strives in this 192- page volume to end our naive lack of awareness of the impact of the bipolar gender construct. This construct is the idea that God decreed only two pure sexes who are meant to be solely heterosexual and whose gender traits are set in stone (and that is the end of the discussion). All else is pathological and to be rejected as concrete evidence of the fall of humanity. She also strives to enlighten us about the suffering of those who fall outside of this construct and how this construct undergirds the devaluation of women as inferior to men. She teaches us that rigid gender and sex differentiation inevitably become hierarchical, with women consigned to the lower rung of the hierarchy.
It is in the gender discrimination arena that issues of the bipolar gender construct hit home for all EEWC members, because we all suffer the effects of religious discrimination based on human notions that males and females are very different and very unequal. For readers who have little interest in the struggle for sexual orientation equality (a major thrust of this book), the link between gender discrimination and the bipolar gender construct should be enough to recommend that you read this book. Like me, you may not come away from this book agreeing with all Dr. Mollenkott says, but you will not finish it unchanged in your awareness of those who fall outside the rigid categories of heterosexual “feminine” women and “masculine” men.
Mollenkott deals with a variety of issues in this compact volume. She addresses biological uncertainties about sex assignment, the utter subjectivity of social definitions of gender characteristics, the existence of inter-sexual conditions (hermaphrodites and other two-sex people, transssexuals, transvestites, cross-dressers, bisexual and homosexual persons, etc.) that challenge the neat female-male dichotomy that the religious right decrees is “God’s perfect plan.”
Dr. Mollenkott’s primary argument is that the binary gender construct has outlived it usefulness because it is resulting in massive damage to human lives. As a self-described masculine female lesbian reared in a very conservative Protestant denomination, Mollenkott makes it clear via vivid personal vignettes that she is one of the lives oppressed and hurt by it. This book is her plea to people of faith to abandon essentialist ideas of an eternal male-female / masculine-feminine polarization as either God’s will or nature’s perpetual norm. On theological, biological and sociological grounds, she asks us to move beyond the binary gender construct to an omnigender (or gender continuum) construct that accepts all people, regardless of what combination of sex chromosomes, genital configuration, sexual orientation, and gender identification they embody.
Her chapter on the injustices of the bi-gender system is a painful recap of the all-too-familiar effects of gender and sex discrimination, providing the details of how socially defined and enforced gender roles force women into social, psychological, legal, economic, and physical subjugation. Mollenkott is at her most convincing in this chapter. I, as a woman who grew up in utterly male-dominated fundamentalism and as a life-long medical school professor who has experienced gender-based salary discrimination, certainly needed no convincing about the injustices of the religious and secular bi-gender system. The psychological consequences of rigid gender roles are apparent to me every day as a psychiatrist treating both women and men afflicted with psychosomatic and psychological symptoms because of sexual abuse and the pressures of gender socialization that forces women into helpless roles and men into ignoring and stifling their emotions.
Moving beyond “generic” sexual oppression, Mollenkott explores the implications of the binary gender construct for those who lie outside it. She quotes Leslie Feinberg’s book Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue: “In a society in which heterosexuality and male/female dress and behavior are decreed by law, gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people are all gender transgressors…. guilty of the same crime: `queerness.’ ” Mollenkott points out how anti-gay laws have been used to target and jail heterosexual cross-dressers who have been accused of being gay. Despite this, she finds that gay, lesbian and bisexual people of faith have been lukewarm to the idea of including transsexuals or trans-gendered people in their fight for respect and gender justice. This was newer territory for me and I emerged with new awareness of the legal, emotional, and physical risks (sexual assault and murder) of living as a transsexual or cross-dresser.
In some of her most convincing logic about transsexuals, Dr. Mollenkott refutes the position of critics who claim that cross-dressing and other trans-gender behaviors are merely conscious life choices. Noting that transgender behaviors are not rewarded by society and often lead to severe discrimination, she questions the assumption that these behaviors are willful choices rather than intrinsic states of existence. Since it is not logical to assume that transgender people are willfully seeking out discrimination and suffering, she suggests that compassion is a more appropriate response than judgmentalism. Implicitly, she shames those who call themselves followers of Jesus but who reject or ostracize trans-gendered people. As a psychiatrist, I find her argument against the “choice” position convincing. Animals (people included) do not continue behaviors that are repeatedly punished unless those behaviors are strongly driven by moral, survival, instinctual, or other biological factors.
One of Mollenkott’s core arguments for the “normality” of persons outside the obvious binary sexual categories is the existence of intersexual persons — persons who she says have been persecuted by society because their biological existence is an unacceptable challenge to the male-female dichotomy. Amongst them she includes the obvious hermaphrodites who have both male and female physical or hormonal attributes, persons with statistically unusual or ambiguous genitalia (such as an enlarged clitoris or a micropenis), and persons with a variety of medical or chromosomal anomalies that combine male and female attributes.
Dr. Mollenkott’s partial list of the 70 different intersex syndromes is very impressive. Clearly, she went to a great deal of trouble to research these conditions and provide references. Disappointingly, the references tend to be from non-medical books, web sites, or from the lay press, but this may be a reflection of the unwillingness of the medical profession to adequately study intersexual syndromes.
Dr. Mollenkott posits that the genital surgery forced on many intersexuals in early childhood is a form of transgender inequity in the form of surgical assault on someone too young to give informed consent. She points out that some survivors of this surgery regard it as cruel because it caused them to lose their “natural” bodies and sexual function. She suggests that genital surgery to create stereotypical male or female appearances is primarily designed to “treat” the discomfort of society and the medical establishment over the challenge that intersexuals pose to the binary gender construct. Dr. Mollenkott advocates for Christians and society to reconsider sexual surgery for hermaphrodites. As a physician, I agree with her that such surgery is ethically wrong when the only motivation is cosmetic — to render the child in line with stereotypic male or female appearance. I also agree that such surgeries should be chosen by patients who are old enough to give informed consent. Intersex conditions that are not health hazards or life threatening should be left alone because medical ethics charges physicians to first “Do no harm.”
Mollenkott points out that a motivation to change intersex children’s genitals is to prevent them from being harassed during childhood because of their appearance and to maximize their chances of “normal” adult sexual adjustment. She disregards the avoidance of harassment as adequate motivation. As a psychiatrist, I believe she should re-think her position. The suffering that I have seen in adults who were mercilessly taunted in childhood for some kind of perceived medical, physical or social difference is almost indescribable. Such children sustain severe psychological damages (ranging from permanently deformed self esteem to suicide to rageful armed attacks on their schoolmates). Avoidance of such suffering is not something I take lightly.
I agree that a more Christian response than surgery for intersexuals is to actively advocate religiously and socially for love and tolerance of persons who appear different. I believe that advocating social change is superior to surgical alteration of genitals, partly on medical grounds (teaching tolerance is less dangerous than surgery) and partly on ethical and theological ones. Outcome studies on intersexual people who did and did not undergo genital surgery are too sparse to ethically say that surgery is strongly indicated or contraindicated. On theological grounds, I say that if God allowed a child to be born intersexual, it is arrogant and idolatrous of us to think we need to change that situation to conform to our pre-conceived norms of maleness and femaleness. I am similarly skeptical that gender-reassignment surgery of transsexuals should be encouraged.
Dr. Mollenkott provides striking examples of oppression of transsexuals, including refusals of emergency medical help to seriously injured transsexuals or transvestites, verbal and sexual assaults, or arrests for not conforming to social norms of gender appearance. These horrifying descriptions of outright cruelty leave me no doubt about their divergence from a Christian response. Jesus defined “our neighbor” as a social pariah (the Samaritans who were despised by the Jews as half-breeds) and made clear that compassionate response to their needs is what God expects of us. Dr. Mollenkott chides the gay community for failing to stand in solidarity with transsexuals and intersexuals in advocating they be treated with respect and justice. I think she is right in suspecting that the gay community fears its gains in social acceptance would be threatened by advocating for acceptance of intersexual and transsexuals. Such loss of tentative social acceptance likely would occur. She is equally right in decrying this failure of compassion as not Christ-like. Jesus chose to socialize with social pariahs (IRS agent Matthew, sexually suspect women, and other “sinners”), setting an example for us.
I was disappointed that in Mollenkott’s discussion on transsexuals, transvestites and other cross-dressers, she merely hints at neurobiological theories about conditions in which people own a body with one set of genitals but feel strongly that they belong to the other sex. This book could have been strengthened by even one paragraph on recent neuro-developmental studies that show that the “wiring” of the brain is profoundly affected by sex hormones during fetal development. This evidence lends more credence to “inborn” gender identification, gender characteristics, and sexual orientation than the genetic intersex syndromes to which she devoted more than 12 pages.
To her credit, Dr. Mollenkott takes on “Christian Doublespeak” and confronts the logical contradictions of scriptural interpretation offered by the religious right in trying to crush homosexual and other transgendered people. These sections of her book in which she argues scriptural interpretations and theology are the most powerful portions.
A strength of this book is the graphic glimpse into the injustices and oppression (including murder) of transgendered persons, especially cross-dressers, transsexuals, and people whose gender characteristics don’t fit their physical sex (butch women and effeminate men). Even readers who do not agree with other aspects of Mollenkott’s thesis can benefit from heightened awareness of the difficulties and danger of living as a gender “queer” (i.e., different) person. This book functioned for me as a consciousness-raising course. In addition, Dr. Mollenkott’s provision of numerous definitions of varieties of sex and gender conditions is helpful education.
A shortcoming of this book is the identification of gender flexibility as fluidity. In her eagerness to present all forms of gender expressions as normative and acceptable, Dr. Mollenkott overstates the flexibility of some aspects of gender. From the existence of intersex and transsexual people, she deduces that gender orientation is not rigidly fixed, and thus must be fluid. At the same time she argues that people of homosexual, transsexual and bisexual orientations should be allowed to express their “true nature” as if this nature is something fairly fixed. I found this a type of double-speak. If various gender expressions, identities and sexual orientations are really inborn intrinsic aspects of people, how can they be so fluid and changeable? I don’t think we can have it both ways. I feel that advocating for the normality of gender flexibility is scientifically reasonable, but the term fluidity goes too far.
In her final chapter, Dr. Mollenkott quotes Martine Rothblatt’s description of a society that encourages freedom of gender. My response to such a society is “sign me up!” To me, this gender-free society would be a safer, more just, and more happy place for women. It would be nirvana; heaven on earth. In it , the salary discrimination I suffered at Indiana University and the religious sexual discrimination of my childhood would be unknown. Jesus would be comfortable in such a society but conservative religion, the church included, would either be non-existent or would be horrified beyond words.
Although this book has some significant shortcomings (see accompanying sidebar, which sums up strengths and weaknesses), I recommend it as a consciousness-raising book for EEWC readers. This book affected my view of gender, so Dr. Mollenkott accomplished her task even though she did not convince me with all her arguments. She is to be commended for having the courage to stick her neck out and proclaim an unpopular viewpoint as part of her attempt to follow the example of Jesus. For that, and for her meticulous research and fine writing style, I heartily commend her.
Elizabeth Bowman, M.D. is a board-certified psychiatrist who specializes in treatment of trauma, including childhood and adult sexual assault. She is a Clinical Professor in the Indiana University School of Medicine Department of Neurology in Indianapolis, Indiana. Dr. Bowman also received a Master of Sacred Theology degree from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis and has extensive experience teaching and writing on spirituality in mental health, on dissociative disorders, and on psychosomatic types of seizures. She is currently Co-Editor in Chief of the Journal of Trauma and Dissociation. She is actively involved in a mainline Protestant congregation and has been an EEWC member so long that she can’t remember when she joined!
Review initially published in EEWC Update, Vol. 25, No. 1 Spring (April–June) 2001. © 2001 Evangelical & Ecumenical Women’s Caucus.
“Is It a Boy or a Girl?”
A review essay by Elizabeth Bowman, M.D.
– The Basic Theses of the Book
Dr. Mollenkott’s basic theses (as summarized by reviewer Elizabeth Bowman, M.D.) are:
- The binary gender construct is the assumption that there are only two types of normal (i.e., acceptable) humans: heterosexual females with typical “feminine” characteristics, and heterosexual males with typical “masculine” characteristics. This construct assumes that the two-gender system is the biologically decreed norm –the equivalent of God’s Will for humanity and creation.
- The binary gender construct is a bipolar construct in which female = feminine, male = masculine, and heterosexual = normal. It leaves no middle ground and seems accurate because so many people have been intimidated into silently trying to conform to it by hiding their true selves.
- The binary gender assumption renders all “others” as “queer”, defining them as gender transgressors and causing them to endure ostracism, hatred, assaults (physical, sexual and surgical), self-hatred, suppression of their true selves, and even murder. “Others” include homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, transvestites, intersex/hermaphrodite persons, “masculine” women, “feminine” men, and any other person who does not fit into the female-male categories of the binary gender construct. The author subsumes all “others” under the term transpeople [meaning they trans (or cross) the carefully delineated social gender boundaries].
- Gender is socially constructed. It is a set of behaviors, interests, and characteristics culturally defined as masculine or feminine rather than being decreed by biological sex. Societies vary radically in their understandings of what is defined as masculine or feminine, so there is clearly no “natural” or (Platonic) universal masculinity or femininity decreed by nature or God.
- The binary social construction of gender has resulted in inequities that have oppressed females and non-heterosexuals. It is the fundamental reason for gender injustices.
- Challenges to the binary gender construct are extremely socially threatening because they threaten the basis for male privilege and power. Intersexual children(hermaphrodites) are forced to undergo genital surgery because their existence poses such a challenge to this construct. Such surgery is legalized genital mutilation that should be banned so children can choose how they want their genitals to look.
- Gender is not truly binary, but is a continuum whose ends are occupied by heterosexual “feminine” women and “masculine” men. A considerable middle ground exists, inhabited by “transpeople” who are more common than is generally known because they are forced to surgically alter their genitals or to hide their personal characteristics to avoid persecution.
- Gender “normality” is a myth. The binary gender construct ignores the reality that not all bodies fit into clear male or female sexual or gender categories.
- The Genesis creation stories do not support the binary gender construct as God’s original plan. Instead they support creation of a sexual hermaphrodite prior to this creature’s being split into female and male humans. Other biblical passages that appear to forbid homosexuality, cross-dressing, or the involvement of intersexuals in religious rituals should be interpreted as attempts by early Judaism and Christianity to differentiate themselves from competing pagan religions. Biblical presentations of homosexuality and cross-dressing are not all negative.
- Transpeople (especially intersexuals) are persecuted by those who are threatened by the implicit challenge that their existence poses to the bipolar gender construct. The Gospel demands that Christians oppose the ostracism and persecution of transpeople and advocate for their acceptance as part of God’s diverse creation. This means that homosexual persons of faith need to include intersexuals and transsexuals in the fight for justice.
- Numerous other religions world-wide across millennia have carefully broken gender norms by holding gender-blended persons as sacred and special. These religions stand in stark contrast to rigid Christian sexual categories.
- Since gender is socially constructed, it can be de-constructed and reconstructed. Christian faith demands that we de-construct it to address the oppression of females and of transpeople, all of whom suffer because of the dominant paradigm of “heteropatriarchy.”
- A world free of the binary gender construct would be a world in which all persons (but not all behaviors) would be accepted as they are. Oppression based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender characteristics would be unknown. Variety in gender behaviors and genital anatomy would be embraced without stigma. In short, there would be sexual and gender justice.
“Is It a Boy or a Girl?”
A review essay by Elizabeth Bowman, M.D.
– The Strengths and Weaknesses of the Book
This is an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of Virginia Ramey Mollenkott’s argument presented in her book, Omnigender.
This book’s strengths
- It points out one of the deepest most invisible sources of gender oppression and discrimination — the assumption that there are only two sexes and that one is then automatically better than the other.
- It raises consciousness about the oppression and abuse endured by `gender outlaws’ such as homosexual, transsexual, intersexual, and cross-dressing persons.
- It provides helpful consciousness-raising education on the existence of intersexual syndromes and conditions. This is not information that is easily accessible. The author went to great lengths to research, describe and reference intersexual syndromes,
- It provides references for support organizations for intersexual persons.
- It provides definitions for numerous terms for gender-related and sex-related conditions other than simple male or female, or the three most common sexual orientations.
- This book provides some delightful examples of the utter subjectivity of “proper” gender characteristics by demonstrating how different cultures adopt opposite gender ideals.
- The theological call for unity in advocating justice for all people is a spiritual highlight of this book. The gay and straight religious communities are chided equally for abandoning transpeople in their fight for dignity and justice. This struggle is placed on firm grounds in the teachings of Jesus.
- Dr. Mollenkott provides numerous well-referenced interpretations of the passages of scripture that have been used most frequently to oppress gay, cross-dressing and intersexual persons. These interpretations are a precious resource for people dealing with religious gender intolerance.
- The hermeneutical discussion of scripture passages used to condemn transpeople is enlightening and filled with references. Here, English professor Mollenkott is in her element — interpretation of literature — and it shows in her skilled handling of these passages.
- This book’s rich catalogue of transgendered persons in historical and contemporary world religions is fascinating and highly educational. It serves as a powerful antidote to the poison of parochial American conservative religious thinking.
- The most powerful parts of this book are the theological positions, the detailed examples of how gender is socially constructed, and the fine overview of scriptural hermeneutics on this topic.
- This author is to be commended for her incredible courage in writing this book. Her ideas are on the cutting edge of a new paradigm and will likely reap scorn and disbelief. Like Jesus, she has had the courage to stand up and renounce evil in a way that is not likely to win friends in the Christian community.
This book’s weaknesses
- While denigrating the medical pathological viewpoint, it fails to address the powerful and commonly used argument (indeed the fact) that most intersexual conditions represent genetic errors of some sort. This book treats anomalies of sex chromosomes as variants along a normal continuum but ignores the fact that similar abnormalities on the other 22 chromosome pairs are invariably recognized as pathological if not fatal conditions. Ignoring logical contradictions is a kind of double-speak that is this book’s greatest weakness. Unfortunately, it weakens the overall impact of this author’s magnificent theological and hermeneutical arguments for the Christian mandate to accept all transgendered people as people of worth and dignity.
- This book focuses on the social construction of gender, by downplaying biological arguments about sexual bipolarity. The author then turns to biology (genetic intersex conditions) to bolster the argument against rejection of intersexuals. This apparent contradiction is not addressed.
- The author dismisses the common argument that bipolar sexuality is normative because it is the overwhelmingly most common human condition. Her focus is exclusively on the existence of intersexual or other conditions in about 1 in 200 people, but fails to grapple with the significance of the other side of these statistics: that 199 of 200 people do not have these conditions. Scientific and Christian honesty demands taking into account the other side of the argument. If 1 in 200 proves gender diversity, what does 199 of 200 say about norms of human sexes?
- Dr. Mollenkott tacitly conflates arguments for the normality of developmental pathways (such as heterosexuality or homosexuality or relatively “masculine” or “feminine” personality traits) with arguments for the normality of chromosomal or physiological anomalies (such as XXY, XYY, or androgen insensitivity syndrome). This is understandable in light of her desire to counter vicious hate-filled attacks upon homosexual, intersexual or bisexual persons who are labeled as biologically abnormal persons. However, the biological normality of developmental pathways that depend partly on post-natal events is not the same issue as the normality of anomalous chromosomal configurations (a strictly genetic process). Confusing the two issues weakens her argument.
- The term omnigender is somewhat unfortunate because it is more confusing than easily understood alternatives such as gender continuum.
- This book barely mentions recent work that links variations of gender development with the timing of the brain’s exposure to various sex hormones during fetal development. This scientific information is too important to be ignored in this debate since hormonal effects on brain organization and behavior are more likely than chromosomal anomalies to be used in the future to argue for or against the “normality” of cross-dressers, homosexuals, bisexuals, or transsexual persons. This is one of a number of issues that are potentially damaging to Dr. Mollenkott’s thesis that are ignored in this book.
- The author overstates the flexibility of human gender in calling it fluidity,a term that I find overstated. If gender is really so fluid, bisexual or gay people could become heterosexual, couldn’t they? This is exactly opposite the author’s position but is a corollary of her terminology.
© 2001 Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus
Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott’s Response
to Elizabeth Bowman’s review of her book Omnigender.
To the Editor:
Thank you for sending me just-off-the-press copies of the Spring EEWC Update containing Dr. Bowman’s review of Omnigender. I very much appreciate your giving so much attention to the book, and Dr. Bowman’s spending so much time and energy evaluating it.
At the same time, I want to respond to several of Dr. Bowman’s critiques, the ones that seem to me to do injustice to what I actually said in Omnigender. Concerning my sources, I think that Alice Dreger, Suzanne Kesler, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Donald E Tarver II, Susan Menking, Louise Kaplan, Ralph Blair, and other holders of earned doctorates would be surprised to be dismissed as “nonmedical” or “lay press” sources.
I do not believe I “disregard” childhood harassment as a reason for early operations on intersexual children. I myself was mercilessly taunted for other reasons as a child–not just by other children, but by my older brother and even certain adults in my family and in the schools I attended. I know the severe psychological damage that results from taunting, having struggled to transcend it for most of my 69 years on this planet. But I still say avoiding possible harassment is not an adequate motive for performing cosmetic surgeries on babies and children. They will be harassed for being different anyway; such harassment will be a fact of life until our society ceases to permit it. Apparently Dr. Bowman agrees with me that “intersex conditions that are not health hazards or life threatening should be left alone” until the patient is old enough to decide for him/herself. Why then does she ask that I re-think my position?
Clearly, Dr. Bowman wishes I had written Omnigender as a specialist in neurobiology or at least from a psychiatrist’s perspective. As I explained, and more than once, I was addressing a general audience and supplying only enough medical detail to establish the social justice and theological points that are my chief concern. Even so, although I quoted an M.D. concerning prenatal influences on the developing brain as being the basis for transsexual feelings, and quoted a highly scientific transsexual on the same topic (p. 56), Bowman still wants “even one paragraph” on the subject. Sigh.
As for flexibility versus fluidity, I think I made clear that like many other people, I find my own gender identity to be fairly fixed but also respect others who claim that theirs is more subject to change. I used the term gender fluiditynot so much concerning individuals as concerning social constructions of gender, as witness my entire chapter concerning “Precedents for Increased Gender Fluidity.” The fluidity under discussion is a society’s ability to accept or even affirm a sex and gender continuum, not an individual’s constantly changing orientation or gender expression. The latter is, I think, relatively rare in mature adults.
As for Dr. Bowman’s third listed weakness of my book, I flatly deny that my focus is “exclusively on the existence of intersexual or other conditions in about 1 in 200 people,” failing to grapple with the fact that “199 of 200 people do not have these conditions.” Absolutely untrue! Again and again in Omnigender, I pointed out that to one degree or another, almost everybody violates some aspect of bipolar genderednes and suffers for it. I stressed that many heterosexuals, and “feminine” women, and “masculine” men are gender-violators in one way or another. Dr. Bowman herself admits that she has suffered gender discrimination both at church and in the academy. Why? Because, according to the binary gender construct, women are not supposed to be leaders in the public spheres of religion and medicine. As I thought I made clear in what Bowman calls my “most convincing” chapter, everybody loses from the bi-gender construct: not just one person out of 200, but everybody!
I rest my case.
And again, I express my gratitude for being taken seriously by my sisters. Omnigender is my labor of love, the book I was born to write. Anything anyone can do to help get it into the hands of the folks who need it, I will deeply appreciate.
Virginia Ramey Mollenkott