Alternator in an Alternating Land
May 5, 2012 10:41 AM   Subscribe

Oh, so psychology's discovered bi-gender people?
posted by Dysk at 10:46 AM on May 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Dysk: "Oh, so psychology's discovered bi-gender people?"

Explicitly so: "A related term, bigender, defined as blending or alternating gender states, precedes AGI." (From the Scientific American article reposted at HuffPo.)

Part of me wonders when gender "professionals" are going to get ahead of the community and actually discover things about us that we didn't already know ourselves. Another part of me hopes that doesn't happen. Hmm...
posted by jiawen at 11:13 AM on May 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

AGI aren't bi-gender. They alternate between conflicting gender identities. Feeling like a man on Tuesday and like a woman in a man's body on Wednesday is completely different than being attracted to both men and women.
posted by localroger at 11:21 AM on May 5, 2012

AGI isn't "bi-gender" but, hey, it's always easier to be flippant than actually measure stuff:
"Case presented preliminary research that one nominal AGI subject who was anatomically male performed differently on cognitive tests depending on his gender state: when male, he did better at a targeting task (throwing darts) and he had a superior score on a verbal fluency test after a switch to the female state."
That is absolutely fascinating and hints at a future where "gender professionals", whatever that means, can actually tell you something about yourself, from the results of a battery of tests, that you might not know, and may find valuable. Psychometrics ho!
posted by mhoye at 11:26 AM on May 5, 2012

Can't we just call them ShapeShifters? It's a much cooler name.
posted by jonmc at 11:36 AM on May 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can't we just call them ShapeShifters? It's a much cooler name.

How about we just call them "people" instead of trying to label them with anything at all?
posted by loquacious at 11:50 AM on May 5, 2012 [14 favorites]

Low, I agree. I was just attempting to use some humor to de-volatize the debate a bit maybe.
posted by jonmc at 11:54 AM on May 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

Loq, I mean. Fuckin' autocorrect.
posted by jonmc at 11:54 AM on May 5, 2012

"Person" is a label. So is "bi-gender." These labels are useful.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:56 AM on May 5, 2012 [5 favorites]

So gender's no longer a social construct? My phantom genitals really are strobing? Phew.
posted by de at 12:03 PM on May 5, 2012

"Person" is a label. So is "bi-gender." These labels are useful.

They are, but sometimes labels can also be used to dehumanize, marginalize and oppress people. So, it's important to be somewhat careful when applying them. I think that's what loquacious was getting at.
posted by kylej at 12:07 PM on May 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

a new neuropsychiatric syndrome

What is this, 1965?

Biological sex and gender identity are not isomorphic. Neither is securely correlated with sexual preference. None of this is pathological. It's just people being people.

That these variables might fluctuate for a single person over even a short period of time doesn't change any of that. All it suggests to me is that fluid gender identity has become sufficiently mainstream that people who fall on the queer end of the spectrum now feel free to vocalize the granular nuances of their fluid identities. Maybe the social feedback loops that help to stabilize gender identity even within subgroups ("Welcome fellow queer person: here is the way that you behave in order to mark yourself as recognizably queer.") are breaking down.

This strikes me as a sign of society's increasing maturity with regard to gender fluidity, not the emergence of "a new neuropsychiatric syndrome." To claim otherwise seems bizarrely atavistic.
posted by R. Schlock at 12:08 PM on May 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

I didn't take that they meant "new" as in the sense of "new iPad" but more in the sense of "New World", i.e. it's always been there, but now we know it's there.

I think your penultimate sentence is about the shape of things, and it's important that you used the word society. Gender and orientation are both sufficiently social concepts that it may just have taken the last several decades for even those who fit the definition to have realized enough about themselves to have a conversation with the similarly gradually enlightened researchers to have a conversation about it.
posted by dhartung at 12:24 PM on May 5, 2012

Low, I agree. I was just attempting to use some humor to de-volatize the debate a bit maybe.

As someone who strongly identifies and resonates with the issues presented in the post - I don't think that that is accomplishing your goal as well as you think it is.

It reads as subhuman, mutant, freaky or whatever.

Though I know you mean well, I just don't think you really thought this one through.
posted by loquacious at 1:26 PM on May 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

subject who was anatomically male performed differently on cognitive tests depending on his gender state

This subject who is anatomically male performs differently on cognitive tests depending on the time of day. I call it Alternating Sobriety Incongruity. Now if you'll excuse me I need to medicate.
posted by mek at 1:34 PM on May 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Fair enough, point taken, carry on.
posted by jonmc at 1:36 PM on May 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Before we go too far down this road, its worth pointing out that the origin of this theory, Medical Hypotheses, is the National Enquirer of scientific journals. While their stated mission is to publish unconventional ideas, their interpretation of 'unconventional' has included AIDS denialism and an argument that the term 'mongoloid' is an accurate description of people with Down's syndrome because, like Asians, they enjoy handicrafts, sitting cross-legged, and eating foods with MSG. I wouldn't take anything published there very seriously at all.
posted by googly at 1:53 PM on May 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

It reads as subhuman, mutant, freaky or whatever.

I read it more like superhero.
posted by nzero at 1:59 PM on May 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

I tend to agree with googly, this needs a bit more time and study before speculation soars, conclusions are drawn, and self definitions are assigned.
posted by rmhsinc at 2:05 PM on May 5, 2012

Do these people schedule their cisgender days and transgender days, or do they just go with what feels right when they wake up? I guess they could pop home for lunch for the ole switcheroo if they get the urge mid-day?
posted by jayder at 2:07 PM on May 5, 2012

Phone booths are few and far between.
posted by de at 2:09 PM on May 5, 2012

Despite the mocking way in which jayder just formed that question, I do actually wonder about that sort of thing.

Do people who identify as bi-gender tend as a group to have certain patterns around when they feel more masculine and when they feel more feminine? Is it context-dependent, as in it varies based on one's company, surroundings, or activities? Is it time-dependent or cycling in any predictable way? Is the switching controllable at all, and does it tend to be a binary switch or more of a drifting back and forth along the continuum between masculine and feminine?

I imagine the answer is some variation on "it's complicated", but if anybody can shed any insight on the matter, even (especially) personal anecdote, I'd be fascinated. This is a mode of identity that I had not known existed until now, but which frankly makes perfect sense to me as something that ought to exist, now that I think about it.

I mean, everyone feels a little differently about themselves at different times, right? Mono-gender (terminology?) people never totally 100% conform to the stereotypes of the gender that they identify with, right? Everyone's somewhere on a continuum even if they're right near one end or the other, and everyone probably drifts around a little bit on that continuum over time. Would I be wrong in surmising that bi-gender people just drift around a lot more than the average?

So many questions! I hope I'm not coming off as horribly ignorant or prejudiced, though I'm definitely ignorant on this subject and I'm sure I've got a lot of misconceptions that will need to be worked out as I explore it.
posted by Scientist at 2:45 PM on May 5, 2012

the origin of this theory, Medical Hypotheses, is the National Enquirer of scientific journals.

Yes, but V. S. Ramachandran is pretty hot shit in terms of neurology, so it's unlikely that a graduate student in his lab isn't someone with a decent level of expertise. Of course, people with strong expertise can also be wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:14 PM on May 5, 2012

Seriously. Laura Case (the student responsible for the preliminary study) needs to do a bridging course or two in gender studies and get back to us. Meanwhile bizzarrely atavistic seems so succinct.

Scientist, perhaps join the forum at

I'm left wondering if bigender people are feeling more betrayed than validated by Case's preliminary.
posted by de at 4:09 PM on May 5, 2012

I love this stuff. Everybody knows the elephant.




Two of these relate to reproductive schemes in some flora and fauna. Four are social fictions, and two are incorrectly paired, because one refers to noun declensions in several languages, and the other is the base concept for a whole bunch of euphemisms you can't say on most television programs. Two of them refer to reciprocal cosmic notions that govern the universe and all that it contains. Four of them are always conceived, if not used, in opposition to each other, and two are seldom considered in the same sentence. All these have inspired sublime truth, outrageous lies, superb fiction, and pathetic injustices. All of them are hooks upon which we hang the notion that we are perceptive, even subtle, even in the face of screaming examples that try to tell us otherwise.

What's left is a shrug, an admission that nobody can account for taste...let the chemists and the surgeons do what they will. Lost in translation is that polemics create energy. We just don't know how to use it.
posted by mule98J at 4:11 PM on May 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

It seems entirely possible that AGI is a real sexual alignment, but equally possible that this small demographic is comprised of individuals who have internalized gender norms so completely that this is the way they respond when they have an outlying trait.

In what sense does that imply that they aren't AGI?
posted by LogicalDash at 4:36 PM on May 5, 2012

Separate thought, phantom limbs on amputees sort of make sense as all the wiring was in place. For someone to think they have something they've never had is sort of like thinking you have wings or a tail? Nothing wrong with imagining you have wings, each to their own and such, but would anyone who knows about science and cat scans and suchlike know if it would be possible to put one of these subject into said machine and monitor during the male and female phase to see are they bits of the brain that are activated during one mode compared to the other.

And could this not just be hormone levels. I certainly feel less inclined to look at kittens after doing weights, eating steaks etc. Basically its a BS study based on 29 people they found on the internet.
posted by Damienmce at 7:32 PM on May 5, 2012

And could this not just be hormone levels.

(I assume you mean sex hormones - testosterone and oestrogen.)

You'd expect a rigorous scientific study to control for that, really. More than that, you'd expect something akin to AGI to be much more common in the trans community if hormones were the cause, given the large fluctuations inherent in Hormone Replacement Therapy...
posted by Dysk at 12:15 AM on May 6, 2012

[Comment deleted; if you are making jokes because you don't want people to talk about this subject, please go find another thread to participate in. If you are making jokes because you don't think the research is valid, please articulate that instead of being sarcastic.]
posted by taz (staff) at 1:08 AM on May 6, 2012

Fascinating stuff. I often wonder how things are different for younger people these days in regard to these issues than when i was younger. I am in agreement that gender and sexuality are on continuums though.

Also, the white/black contrast on the neuroethics blog made my eyes quiver, and when i closed the tab all i could see where lines of black and white. kinda ironic really.
posted by marienbad at 3:45 AM on May 6, 2012

Of all the sexual variations I have heard about, this one sounds the most inconvenient.

If you're straight-up transsexual, you can transition, and for all practical purposes resolve your sense of dysmorphia. (Not a simple thing, but an attainable one.) But if you're bi-gender, it seems like there's not much you can do to feel comfortable lastingly. I guess you can present yourself as male in the morning and then female in the afternoon and then male for the last thirty minutes of the workday, but that sounds exhausting and socially convoluted. (Not to mention romantically convoluted -- at a rough pass, I would guess a bi-gender person can only date a bi-sexual person if there is going to be constant attraction between them?)

Therefore I'm curious: do most people with this sexuality embrace it as an identity they are glad to have, in the same way that gay people began to do en masse a couple decades ago, and that transsexual people began to do en masse more recently? Or do they view it as an unwelcome complication rather than a group identity?
posted by foursentences at 8:20 AM on May 6, 2012

This is interesting and provocative and complicated, and I don't mean to cherry-pick, but from the first link:
Some quotes from the paper:

—“I still have the same values and beliefs, but a change in gender is really a change in the filter through which I interact with the world and through which it interacts with me.”

—“If I’m in male mode and I see someone crying, I’ll think more along the lines of ‘Man up… while if I’m in girl mode I’ll think more long the lines of ‘Oh sweety!’”

This is offensively stupid in its characterization of gender roles and orientation. Look at recent history and you'll find plenty of capital M men who don't have issues expressing compassion and empathy. Talk to a couple of female athletes and tell me they aren't physically and psychologically equipped to be hard-asses.

To conflate biological gender ambiguity (or incongruity, as this is suggesting) with gender confusion is detrimental to the conversation. EVERYONE experiences gender confusion as they endeavor to understand their orientation (or simply their personal social preference) in the context of societal gender norms. This is very different from a minority of people experiencing full-on psychological or physiological disassociation from either/both sexes or from a variety of genders.

or to make it pithy: Don't tell me you're crying 'cause you're a woman. Don't tell me I'm not a man when I cry. I won't tell you you're not transgendered when you are.
posted by es_de_bah at 11:48 AM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm curious about this, but the underlying research seems incredibly weak. I'm totally willing to stipulate to the existence of people who have these experiences, I'd just like a little more rigor in my science.
posted by klangklangston at 12:26 PM on May 6, 2012

How about we just call them "people" instead of trying to label them with anything at all?

loquacious, your comment may be well-intended, but it's a ridiculously useless suggestion.

How on earth is any research into human psychology going to proceed without definable technical terms to describe that psychology? It can't.

Labels are needed, and precise ones at that, in order to study and hypothesize scientifically. The fact that these labels can be misused to further hatred, bigotry, or ignorance is not the fault of science.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:33 AM on May 7, 2012

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