SOC 603: Rethinking Sex & Gender: Trans- Identities & Experiences
Two sexes: Female & Male?
How do we uphold the idea of two sexes?
• Fetal sex determination
• Language: very difficult to talk about someone without identifying
someone’s sex. When trying to be gender neutral people often use “they”
• Public washrooms, locker rooms, prisons, etc.
• Education: women write admission exams (1877), attend lectures (1884)
• Legal rights
• Women become ‘persons’ in 1929
• Voting rights (women won the right to vote in 1918, in 1948 Canadian
women of Japanese orientation got the right to vote, some women didn’t get
the right to vote until 1960: first nation and aboriginal women)
• Employment: married women weren’t allowed to find work in a public
sector job until 1955. Women had to hide wedding rings, etc.
- Idea that married women should not be employed because of the
idea of male breadwinner; no economic need because the husbands
would take care of them.
• Same sex marriage wasn’t illegal until 2005
• Sexual expression
• Homosexuality illegal in 70/195 countries; homosexual activity wasn’t
decriminalized in Canada until 1967
• Sports/athletics: Canada’s Olympic team accepts females in 1928
Why does this matter?
• We rely on gender stereotypes (fixed sex categories) as tools to help us take
mental short cues: selective processing
~ Women’s and men’s height: study of photographs
~ Study of job title & Gender: “Katherine” & “Kenneth” Anderson
Case of Caster Semenya
• Young runner from South Africa
• Won world 800 metre championship race in Berlin
• Appearance ambiguous: muscles, short hair, facial features had many confused
whether she was a male or female
• She has internal testes (male sexual organs) which produce more testosterone &
generate muscle mass, body hair, and deep voice
Intersexual Bodies 2, 5 or more Biological Sexes?
• Biologically, many gradations from male to female: a continuum
• Intersexual bodies: mixture of female and male traits
• Lack of “fit” among genitals, gonads, and/or chromosomes • Standard medical treatment (to a male that is intersexed): correction (often
Old Definitions of Intersexual Bodies
• True hermaphrodites (“herms”): possess one testis & one ovary
• Male pseudo hermaphrodites (“merms”): testes and some aspects of female
genitalia but no ovaries
• Female pseudo hermaphrodites (“ferms”): ovaries and some aspects of male
genitalia but no testes
Transgenderism & Transsexualism
• Transgenderism: umbrella term that encompasses variety of identities including
transsexual, cross-dresser, drag queen- individuals who do not conform to the
dominant sex/ gendered system
• Transsexualism: individuals with unambiguous