Gazing at the ravishing photos of Andrej Pejic, I’m stirred with envious confusion. Why does this tall skinny XY like me get to be so much prettier? Does his effeminate success - inflaming catwalks in both men and women’s high fashion - predict a fusion of two polarized genders, or a third construct? What does the androgynous Bosnian represent in post-genderism?
According to IEET readers, what were the most stimulating stories of 2012? This month we’re answering that question by posting a countdown of the top 16 articles published this year on our blog (out of more than 600 in all), based on how many total hits each one received.
The following piece was first published here on Jun 1, 2012 and is the #12 most viewed of the year.
It’s vertiginous to see Andrej portrayed as a beautiful woman wearing beautiful women’s clothes. A mere 20-year-old - self-described as “atheist,” “materialist,” “promiscuous” - Andrej’s photos have been plastered in French Vogue, Italian Vogue, Arena Homme+, Japanese Vogue Hommes, i-D, Numero, W, and the covers of Dossier, Fashion, and New York (the latter praised him as “The Prettiest Boy in the World” and Viva! Moda dubbed him, “Mr. Unisex.”)
I wonder, what if every man was an “Andrej”? With arched eyebrows, nipple-length hair, pouty lips, a feminine wardrobe, and poses of complex sensitivities? Would humanity resemble the residents of “Terra” in Ursela K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness - one-gendered, genetically-engineered for hermaphroditism? Or is Andre just one option type in Martine Rothblatt’s anticipated future of “Billions of Sexes” - where gender, redefined, is as infinitely variable as individuality?
What do post-genderists want, and what does Andrej’s presence indicate?
Seeking answers, I queried associates whose familiarity with gender issues far exceeds my paltry exposure. The questions I sent them were about 50% mine, with the remaining half supplied by James Hughes, IEET’s Executive Director. Simultaneously, via email, I interviewed:
Khannea Suntzu - Bi-Gendered future trend analyst, techno-progressive, artist, coolhunter, blogger
Dan Massey - VenusPlusX co-founder, activist, fundraiser
David Pearce - British philosopher of The Hedonistic Imperative
Valkyrie Ice - radical progressive, transsexual, Future Succubus, transhumanist writer for hplusmagazine.com and Acceler8or.com
Benjamin Abbot, aka Summerspeaker - queer anarchist transhuman, blogger at Queering the Singularity
Here’s the IEET questions, and their varied responses:
QUESTION: Andrej Pejic - is he an anomaly, or will there be more and more androgynous people in fashion, plus transgenders? Is gender-blurring increasingly acceptable?
Benjamin Abbott, aka Summerspeaker: I get the impression that androgynous folks are becoming somewhat more fashionable and acceptable. I certainly hope so.
Dan Massey: It is pretty clear that youth are headed towards greater androgyny in civilized places. That doesn’t mean everyone is rushing in that direction. There is a lot of pushback.
QUESTION: Besides Andrej, who else do you see in pop culture as androgynous or post-gender? What about that weird rumor that Lady Gaga had a penis? Does that fit in?
Dan Massey: Before Andrej, there was [transsexual model] Lea T. Many popular stage performers have cultivated an androgynous image, such as David Bowie.
Khannea Suntzu: If Lady Gaga had a penis, I’d fit it right in.
QUESTION: If there was a one-gendered world with Andrej regarded as the epitome of beauty, would you be comfortable with that? Or do you want a multi-gendered future world?
Khannea Suntzu: More genders, please. I want there to be genders I am not currently “in to” so as to allow me to explore new frontiers later on. New sexual modalities, flavors, nuances and fads faster than I’d be able to keep up. The Andrej archetype is one I could get really into… but I want the freedom “to change my mind.”
Benjamin Abbott, aka Summerpeaker: I wouldn’t be comfortable with a singular epitome of beauty. I want to abolish gender as a relevant social category… Beauty ideals should fracture and multiply rather than coalescing into one figure.
Valkyrie Ice: Every single study on gender reveals that there is a range of genders, a continuum that goes from totally male to totally female… Society has neither a right nor an obligation to “least common denominator” human behavior in any manner. Any loss of diversity is a dead end road to extinction.
Dan Massey: I don’t find Andrej uniquely beautiful. More to the point, he represents one extraordinary kind of beauty, but there are so many more… I think there will always be varieties of form and, in time, we will have beautiful and perfect examples of each form. But I don’t see everyone looking alike at all. As for a one gendered world, I offer you the following image, an exemplary bit of futanari from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Futanari.png
QUESTION: Is society pushing males in a more feminine, less aggressive, and more civilized direction?
Khannea Suntzu: No. And I don’t see those qualities linked. I can envision a highly aggressive and uncivil feminine being… I want the diversity of cosplay to invade the transhuman, cosmetic, genders, psychological and existential. In [my] perfect world [Andre] would just be an optional modality - in [my] perfect world perfectly straight guys might want to pop a pill “that makes them thoroughly homo for 3 hours” - just as an experience.
Dan Massey: As a society inches towards civilization, you see initially the acceptance and full social practice of male-female equality, which lays the foundation for diminishing sex sterotyping of gender. I think society is being led/pushed, with some of its members kicking and screaming, as we move more definitively in this direction. I do not consider any society that does not provide full equality in all areas regardless of sex and gender to be truly civilized.
QUESTION: What does the term “post-gender” mean to you?
Dan Massey: To me, post-gender means no longer bound in behavior by one’s gender. I prefer the term “androgyny” because it clearly does not mean to exclude the “middle ground.”
QUESTION: Is post-genderism really about making male monkeys behave more like female monkeys?
Khannea Suntzu: In some degree yes. But… I can see exceptions, and that’s the point - you seem to envision that post-genderism implies a funneling evolutionary teleology where the male is conquered and the end result [is] a meshing of either. I do not agree, and I label my preference “Pandorism” - “more variation and experimentation.”
Dan Massey: Not to me. Post-genderism is a growing social recognition that the qualities of masculinity and femininity are culturally determined categories that are actually a fiction of poor observation and abyssal ignorance, combined with a good dose of bigotry and self-doubt about personal sexual characteristics. The pressure is all about forcing xy and xx to be different species that happen to be able to reproduce. Since such speciation is driven primarily by dress and lifestyle choices, rather than by biological reality, It is clear that bi-genderism is an unworthy meme that has no place in a modern civilization.
Valkyrie Ice: I don’t see “post-genderism” as being about making anyone behave in any fashion whatever. It’s not about MAKING, it’s about CHOOSING. I have no more wish to be “androgynous” than I wish to be forced to act like a male just because I was cursed with a genetic glitch…. I’m for letting everyone choose for themselves what gender they wish to be, regardless of what their “original” DNA [is]… And if that changes from moment to moment or week to week, so f**king what? Equality is about NOT penalizing people…
QUESTION: Is it practical to erase distinctions of gender? Genderless bathrooms? Genderless workplace policies that treat Moms and Dads the same? Etc.?
Dan Massey: Unqualified YES. Martine had a lot to say about this in Apartheid of Sex; one place is pp. 57-59 of the current printed edition. I agree that most things should be genderless…. I think Martine went a bit overboard in specifying exactly how to solve the problem, but that’s Martine’s style.
Benjamin Abbott, aka Summerspeaker: Yes to all of the above, though this should come in conjunction with a queer feminist revolution that smashes the hetero-patriarchy.
Khannea Suntzu: Right now this would not be an option, since we inhabit a profusely aggressive and phobic Sexual Luddite world.
QUESTION: Is there really a gendered brain, and if so, what can be done about it? Should we change our brains so that gender distinctions are eliminated? Or are the innate differences in brains over-hyped; the result of early and repeated reinforcements?
Valkyrie Ice: Yes, there is a gendered brain. It’s been proven. But no, we should DO nothing about it. It’s no-ones right to FORCE anyone to act or behave in a certain manner… Asking if we need to “De-Gender” the brain is making the assumption that gender is a problem, when it is not. It is how PEOPLE have been taught to view gender that is the problem. Don’t raise kids to believe that one sex is “superior” or “inferior.” Don’t force them to behave in stereotypical “sex differentiated” manners. And when they are old enough to be curious, let them be whatever sex they want to be until they eventually decide for themselves what they feel most comfortable as.
Benjamin Abbott, aka Summerspeaker: While I consider the current research inconclusive, I’m skeptical that human brain differs significantly by sex. Cordelia Fine’s book Delusions of Gender makes a compelling case against the bulk of sex-difference neuroscience.
Dan Massey: Yes. It is clear that there are differences in the brain…
QUESTION: Can culture and education de-gender the brain, or does that require H+ technology in the future?
David Pearce: Degendering the mind/brain may prove vital for the future of civilisation. No doubt it’s simplistic to say that evolution “designed” male human primates to be hunters / warriors. Likewise, it’s simplistic to say evolution “designed” women to be attracted to competitive alpha males. But for reasons you discuss in Women-Only Leadership, the consequences of retaining gendered brains in an era of WMD are potentially catastrophic.
However, here I’ll focus just on one potential pitfall of de-gendering. A wildly disproportionate number of Nobel laureates… have been male. Much of Western civilisation - and progress in mathematics, physics and computer science - depends on a high-AQ, hyper-masculine, systematizing cognitive style. Thus Newton and probably Einstein were Aspergers. (cf. Simon Baron-Cohen’s “extreme male brain” theory of autism spectrum disorders) The ethnic group with the highest prevalence of Aspergers also records IQ scores almost a standard deviation above the mean. (cf.http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/03/science/03gene.html) For sure, genes and culture have co-evolved. But a convergence of evolutionary, genetic and experimental evidence confirms that differences in typical male and typical female cognitive style across cultures have deep biological roots. (cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathizing%E2%80%93systemizing_theory)
So a question arises. When we can choose the dial settings for testosterone function in our brains - and the genetic default-settings for our future children before they can make choices of their own - what kind of calibration is ethically, socially, and intellectually optimal?
Creating a seamless fusion of empathetic intelligence and autistic intelligence will be a challenge because - for poorly understood reasons - there seems to be a tradeoff between the archetypally empathizing and the archetypally systematizing cognitive style in the human brain. (cf. Simon Baron-Cohen’s The Essential Difference: men, women and the extreme male brain.” 2003)
It’s easy to speak of “testosterone poisoning”. Yet high testosterone function is associated with optimism and vitality, not just competitive-status seeking, a propensity to violence, and a lack of empathy. How can we enhance what is most valuable - and shed what is most toxic - in the biology of the archetypally male and female human mind?
Benjamin Abbott: I don’t want to completely dismiss the application of H+ technologies, but viewing gender hierarchy as a biological problem with technological solutions has profoundly pernicious political implications in the present. As the data do not unequivocally support neurological sex difference and we know through the phenomenon of stereotype threat that assertions of essential difference can have harmful effects, I reject any focus on fixing biology. There are so many ways to unravel hetero-patriarchy with the cultural and political tools we have available right here and right now.
Dan Massey: No. They can influence gender expression greatly, and do, but they do not re-gender the brain. I find your comment about “H+ technologies” to be rather strange… You are assuming anyone would want to have their brain “de-gendered” or “re-gendered”…. anyone who would want “H+ technology” for this purpose probably needs counseling. I think H+ efforts should be focused on general societal acceptance for all forms of LGB/TG/TS expression, as well as varieties you may not have thought of, such as BDSM. In short, why on earth would you WANT to de-gender the brain? That’s not quite like living your life longer, or building a mindfile, or regrowing a lost leg.
Khannea Suntzu: I think we need transhumance technologies to get into the really good stuff.
QUESTION: What does it mean to be free of the gender binary, but still able to play with it creatively? E.g., do drag queens reinforce or undermine the gender binary?
Khannea Suntzu: Depends on motive of the drag queens (kings). In some cases (motives), yes most certainly, and in a few others, most certainly not. There are drag queens that want to be completely female tomorrow dammit (like me) and and not bisexual (unlike me). Those purely ‘othergendered’ (wanting to be distinctly of the other gender) would take great pains reinforcing the gender binary. Because that’s what they feel they missed out on.
Dan Massey: Some explore it more deeply than just drag. For example, look at Genesis P-Orridge… [but] There is so much overheated political commentary on this subject, I hesitate to get into the discussion. In general, second-wave radical feminists hate drag and transfolk generally (check out Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival for a particularly extreme take on this subject). Most others are less fixed in their attitudes.
QUESTION: What might the advantages of genderlessness and asexuality be in the future?
Valkyrie Ice: I have to reject the entire notion of genderlessness. Just because a tiny percentage of the population is asexual, what gives them the right to FORCE everyone to be? Asexuals have no more right to force me to be sexless than I have to force them to be sexual.
Dan Massey: Asexuals simply don’t get the erotic at all as far as I can tell. In many cases this is a result of past psychological trauma or having given up on sex after years of dissatisfaction. But some seem either “born this way” or “grew into it”.
I firmly believe (for no really good objective reason) that the future will increasingly trend towards fully androgynous sexual and erotic behaviors, though this is obviously a continuum and there WILL BE OUTLIERS.
We named our web presence venusplusx in recognition and homage to Theodore Sturgeon’s 1960 Sci-Fi sex classic “Venus Plus X”. There is a section, known as “Philo’s Manifesto”, which clearly and passionately lays out a case for universal androgyny in a very transhumanist form. The relevant excerpt can be real on our web site. At the end of the novel it is revealed that the Ledom people (who are perfectly complete androgynes with male and female genitalia and able to both impregnate and be pregnant) have only human DNA. Their special status results from interactions with the “medical machines” who supervise every aspect of pregnancy and fetal growth, assuring that, even with human DNA, they are born as androgynes…
My personal preference for major H+ style intervention is for the elimination of pregnancy - stainless steel wombs. If xx bodies were not committed to child bearing, a lot of things would get simpler socially and we could focus better on the personal and psychological.
My deep thanks to everyone I interviewed on this topic.
To conclude, Andrej Pejic’s agent, Sarah Doukas of Storm Model Management, suggests, “…it is possible he’s in the vanguard of a cultural trend…”
#1: (portrait on IEET home page) from http://www.fanpop.com/spots/andrej-pejic/images/19935357/title/andrej-photo
#2: from Viva! Moda
#4: by Juergen Teller for Zeit Magazine
#5: by Sebastian Micke