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Transgenderism is a social movement seeking transgender rights and affirming transgender pride. More recently, the term has also been used as a synonym for postgenderism, a social philosophy which seeks the voluntary elimination of gender in the human species through the application of advanced biotechnology and assisted reproductive technologies.
In her 1995 book Apartheid of Sex, biopolitical lawyer and writer Martine Rothblatt describes "transgenderism" as a grassroots political movement seeking transgender rights and affirming transgender pride. For many in the transgender - or "trans" - movement, the label transgender encompasses not only transsexual and transgender people but also transvestites, drag queens, drag kings, intersex individuals, and anyone non-conventionally gendered (i.e., anyone identifying or behaving in a manner that runs counter to expected societal norms concerning the gender assigned them after birth) or sexed (if one includes transsexual people).
Transgenderism, however, was previously and continues to be occasionally used as a general label for people with gender identity disorder, as in the International Journal of Transgenderism. Another, older and increasingly deprecated use sees transgenderism as explicitly different from "transsexualism".
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According to futurist George Dvorsky, postgenderism is a diverse social, political and cultural movement whose adherents affirm the voluntary elimination of gender in the human species through the application of advanced biotechnology and assisted reproductive technologies.
Advocates of postgenderism argue that the presence of gender roles, social stratification, and sexual dimorphisms are generally to the detriment of individuals and society. Given the potential for advanced assistive reproductive options, postgenderists believe that sex for reproductive purposes will eventually either become entirely unnecessary or that all human beings will have the ability, if they so choose, to both carry a pregnancy to term and father a child, placing the entire need for gender distinctions and gender differences into question. The ultimate ethos of postgenderism, however, is the desire for a world in which gender is optional for all people, and in which reproduction itself fully becomes a matter of individual choice and convenience.
Postgenderism as a cultural phenomenon has roots in feminism, masculism, along with the androgyny, metrosexual/technosexual and transgender movements. However, it has been through the application of transhumanist philosophy that postgenderists have conceived of the potential for actual morphological changes to the human species and in how future humans will reproduce. In this sense, it is an offshoot of futurism in general and transhumanism in particular.
An important and influential work in this regard was socialist feminist Donna Haraway's essay, "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century," in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York; Routledge, 1991), pp.149-181. In this work, Haraway is interpreted as arguing that women would only be freed from their biological restraints when their reproductive obligations were dispensed with. In other words, women will only achieve true liberation once they become postbiological organisms, or postgendered. However, Haraway has publicly stated that her use of the word "post-gender" has been grossly misinterpreted.
Types of postgenderism
Postgenderists are not exclusively advocates of androgyny, although most believe that a “mixing” of both masculine and feminine traits is desirable – essentially the creation of androgynous individuals who exhibit the best of what males and females have to offer in terms of physical and psychological abilities and proclivities. Just what these traits are exactly is a matter of great debate and conjecture.
Androgyny aside, radical feminism advocates the elimination of gender altogether (arguing that masculinity and femininity are oppressive social constructs), which can be construed as a type of postgenderism.
In regard to potential assistive reproductive technologies, it is believed that reproduction can continue to happen outside of conventional methods, namely sexual intercourse and artificial insemination. Advances such as human cloning, parthenogenesis and artificial wombs may significantly extend the potential for human reproduction.
It is also thought that posthuman space will be more virtual than real. Individuals may consist of uploaded minds living as data patterns on supercomputers or users engaged in completely immersive virtual realities. Postgenderists contend that these types of existences are not gender-specific thus allowing individuals to morph their virtual appearances and sexuality at will.
Postgenderists maintain that a genderless society does not imply the existence of a species uninterested in sex and sexuality. It is thought that sexual relations and interpersonal intimacy can and will exist in a postgendered future, but that those activities will take on different form.
For example, the act of sex may be "performed" in virtual reality, while one-to-one communication may be enhanced by such potentials as technologically-enabled telepathy. Physicality and gender-specificity as a prerequisite for sexual relations, argue postgenderists, will become less relevant with the advent and maturation of pending technologies.
For those who wish to continue engaging in physical intercourse, the possibility may exist for sexual reassignment. Surgery that allow transgendered individuals to alter their gender may also be used for those who wish to change their morphology as they see fit and not have to remain fixed to one particular gender.
The possibility also exists that some postgendered individuals will choose not to engage in any kind of sexual activity whatsoever. Posthumans, or the postgendered, may be involved in different activities altogether or have a mind-space that is beyond sex and gender.
Novels with postgenderist themes
- Distress by Greg Egan
- Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Raptor by Gary Jennings