In an article from the (somewhat) controversial journal Medical Hypotheses, researchers claim to have found a new neuropsychiatric syndrome called Alternating Gender Incongruity. A reporter from Scientific American commented on the article a few weeks ago, and the blog Neuroskeptic carried a short synopsis of the study the week before that. However, neither has commented on what I think are the two most fascinating (and perhaps troubling) aspects of this study.
First, we have the way the researchers define sexuality. They say it is comprised of four facets: “gender identity (which sex you categorize yourself or see as others see you), sexual morphology, brain-based “sexual body image,” and sexual orientation (who you are attracted to).” It is clear immediately that the term “sexuality” is used here to describe not sexual practice or identity, as it is generally used in my field, but to describe a large portion of what we call the sex/gender system. What stands out to me, though, is aspect number four: sexual orientation. Once again, it seems to be a case of sexuality researchers relying on the concept of inversion, where it is assumed that sex/gender is linked to sexual orientation through a mixing, or a mistake, of internal sex/ gender identity. (I commented on this in a previous blog). The reasoning behind this particular study, however, has the potential to be more nuanced: although the researchers assume that sex/gender identity includes sexual orientation as a matter of course (and at one point say that your sexual orientation might be incongruous with your sex/gender, thus implying that there is a congruent sexual orientation for each sex/gender), the way they phrase the question allows that sexual orientation may be a function of same/difference to self rather than fixed on a specific sexed/gendered object.