[…] no individual is limited to the modes of reaction of a single sex but always finds some room for those of the opposite one, just as hid body bears, alongside of the fully developed organs of one sex, atrophied and often useless rudiments of those of the other. For distinguishing between male and female in mental life we make use of what is obviously an inadequate empirical and conventional equation: we call everything that is strong and active male, and everything that is weak and passive female. This fact of psychological bisexuality, too, embarrasses all our enquires into the subject and makes them harder to describe.
It’s certainly interesting to read a passage like this from Freud’s 1940 Outline of Psycho-Analysis today. Despite the vast number of Freudian principles that have, often undetectably, permeated our cultural lexicon, Freud’s aforementioned “fact of psychological bisexuality” has not seemed to stick. How many years has it been since Freud’s death? Yet we still need theorists like Michel Foucault and Judith Butler to remind us that gender and sexuality are more fluid things than we can purport to understand through simple dichotomies.
What will it take for our culture to experience a true sexual enlightenment? Despite our society’s superficial openness about sexuality, the public still remains very much entrenched in Victorian principles of sexual morality. We may be able to identify metrosexuals as heterosexual, effeminate men, but this fleeting trend, skirting the issues of ambiguous sexuality and mainstream androgyny, seems to be the queerest element to have cropped up in mainstream culture within the last several years. Even television gay-themed television programs such as Queer Eye and Will & Grace have done little to bridge the considerable gaps between male and female, hetero and homo, straight and queer.
And yet we still come back to this same “fact of psychological bisexuality.” We all share the same brains, albeit with slightly different chemistry, yet human experience varies dramatically across lines of gender and sexuality. Although we share modes of interpretation with the opposite sex, many of us still find it culturally and socially impossible to empathize and sympathize with one another. Men continue to dominate through patriarchal modes of oppression, yet we share many of the same characteristics as females. There is no rhyme or reason to it.
We ought to face and embrace this fact of bisexuality. Certainly we are not all equally proportioned in our masculine and feminine dispositions; if this were so, we would all be a race of perfectly androgynous humans. This is simply not the case with organisms of higher complexity within the animal kingdom, and thus should not be expected to apply to us. Those differences we exhibit which are labeled “essential” often do not become important until we are placed within a social environment.
Certainly there are some essential differences between genders. We cannot ignore our biological chemistry or the facts of evolutionary development, but for the same reason we should celebrate our essential differences, we should celebrate our essential samenesses. These old simple dichotomies of male and female ought to be eroded. There is a certain essential truth that shall remain, I am sure, and these essential differences between the sexes are perfectly natural, but the human mind is a far more complex thing than we can understand. We are not made to be either one type of person or another, but rather we are masked in shades of complexities between the two.
This article also appears at Les Faits de la Fiction.