What is a spectrum anyway? On colors, sexuality and gender.

A place to talk about how to understand and explain 'crossdreaming' and related forms of 'gender variance'

What is a spectrum anyway? On colors, sexuality and gender.

jackmolay
Joined: 16 Nov 2015, 19:24

22 Oct 2017, 13:23 #1

I find myself using terms like spectrum and continuum a lot. 

Indeed, I do believe the color spectrum may serve as a metaphor for what we see in the realm of sexuality and gender.

Take a look at this presentation of the color spectrum of visible light. Scientifically this is just a presentation of varying wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. 

The colors we see are our interpretation of those wavelengths.

spectrum2.jpg

I see five distinct bands of color in this image: Violet, blue, green, yellow and red. These bands cannot be read out of the different wavelengths themselves. There are no jumps in the color spectrum out there, in nature.

Back to sexuality and gender. We se patterns in the spectrum of sexuality: Straight, gay, bi. But if we follow this metaphor, the colors of sexuality are just our way of making sense of it all. In the real world of human sexuality there is a smooth continuum. There is no absolute border between straight and bi, bi and homosexual.

The metaphor could also be used for experienced gender identity. All "red" people may feel themselves safely anchored in womanhood, but there is no clear divide between red and yellow.

What makes the metaphor even more useful to me is the fact that we know that our perception and classification of color is to a large degree cultural. The reason for this is that different cultures have a varying number of colors. Some have only words for two colors: black and white, some three: black, white and red, and so on and so forth. Others (like the people who make wall paint) have thousands. 

https://www.wired.com/2012/06/the-crayo ... ns-part-i/

The following figure presents the distribution of color terms in different cultures. The number of distinct colors represent the number of words they have for different colors.
F2.large.jpg http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/ ... 8/20123073

The color spectrum metaphor is also useful because it tells us that there are colors we do not see. Visible light is just a small part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Yet, other parts of it affects us in various ways (including the wifi signal that helps me post this post). 

EM_spectrum_compare_level1_lg.jpg You could say that until recently crossdreaming or pansexuality were not visible on the spectrums of sexulaity and gender. At least not for most people.

Thinking of the visible as the only thing that is real, causes a lot of suffering among people.

The main problem with the color spectrum metaphor is that it does not capture the fact that both sexuality and gender grows out of a biology that has two separate biological sexes. Yes, I know that we see continums in genitals and other sex characteristics as well. Intersex people attest to that, but the difference between a penis and a vagina is too distinct to be considered a continuum.  There are at least clear bumps in the distribution of genital morphology.

What I find hard to ascrtain is in what way these bumps influence our sexuality or our gender identty. Are we facing a strong polarity with variants in between, or are we looking at a real continuum with an even distribution of sexualities and gender identities along the scale.

I am still not sure what I believe about that.

What do you think?
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Barbara Haskell
Joined: 14 Sep 2016, 12:12

22 Oct 2017, 22:34 #2

Sexuality (or gender) is for sure not one-dimensional, not even two or three-dimensional. There are so many personal turn-ons and turn-offs, likes and dislikes, there are lots of dimensions, so calling it a spectrum (which clearly implies only one dimension) is not exactly correct.

But there are more or less stable figures of speech, like "asexuality spectrum", and they are ok to me.

In my opinion, two "centers" in gender is kind of cultural construct, we have a real continuum here. Let's conduct a thought experiment.

Imagine an utopian (future?) society, where people can pick their legal gender independently from biological sex; from the big list of legally recognized genders. Parliament is debating inclusion of the third flavor of "macho" gender into the legal list, and there are good arguments pro and contra...

In this society, children are encouraged to play together, without segregation. There would be some natural segregation, of course -- some boys and girls are more likely to play football, some are more likely to look for flowers, and some are spending lots of time in the library. Scientists observed, that such groups are good predictors of gender choice.

But gender binary is not a completely arbitrary, completely unreasonable system. There is a rationale behind it -- it's about sexual signals. "If a person wears this kind of clothings and have ... hair, then they would have body type, to which I'm attracted, and ...". And this system is good enough even for drunk people :)

This is why some people hate transwomen so much -- transwomen sends the wrong signal by their appearance, and it will make such people gay. No way I'm justifying violence against transwomen, but I want to point to the important thing: gender presentation have some purpose, this purpose is real and rational, even if it's so often rooted in fear.

This brings me to the next question: would be this issue important, if all people will be able to explore limits of their sexuality without any fear, without the toxic shame? I do not know. There are some indicators, that all people are bisexual, deep inside. Personally, I doubt it. There are gays, who are not sexually attracted to women at all, as there are lesbians who are not attracted to men, even if social conditioning (and sometimes their own desires) encourages such attraction.

There always would be outliers.

In another thought experiment, about society then bi/pan sexuality is heavily encouraged, and attraction to one sex makes you "half of the human", how many people would be unable to conform to this standard? I think, that a lot of people.

So, I think that in both continuums, about gender and sexuality, there would be two "centers", let me estimate them as 15% of people both (this is very rough estimation), and all other people would be somewhere in between, at sides, or far from both centers, in any possible direction. Sometimes we would see people with "impossible" coordinates, and it would be a signal to update you knowledge about gender and sexuality.
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oreb
Joined: 14 May 2017, 21:32

22 Oct 2017, 22:43 #3

Barbara Haskell wrote:In this society, children are encouraged to play together, without segregation. There would be some natural segregation, of course -- some boys and girls are more likely to play football, some are more likely to look for flowers, and some are spending lots of time in the library. 
Things are already like that in many contexts. 
I didn't break the words! I am the words!!
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Lain
Joined: 19 Nov 2015, 12:39

24 Oct 2017, 10:32 #4

jackmolay wrote:I find myself using terms like spectrum and continuum a lot. 

Indeed, I do believe the color spectrum may serve as a metaphor for what we see in the realm of sexuality and gender.

Take a look at this presentation of the color spectrum of visible light. Scientifically this is just a presentation of varying wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. 

The colors we see are our interpretation of those wavelengths.

spectrum2.jpg

I see five distinct bands of color in this image: Violet, blue, green, yellow and red. These bands cannot be read out of the different wavelengths themselves. There are no jumps in the color spectrum out there, in nature.

Back to sexuality and gender. We se patterns in the spectrum of sexuality: Straight, gay, bi. But if we follow this metaphor, the colors of sexuality are just our way of making sense of it all. In the real world of human sexuality there is a smooth continuum. There is no absolute border between straight and bi, bi and homosexual.

The metaphor could also be used for experienced gender identity. All "red" people may feel themselves safely anchored in womanhood, but there is no clear divide between red and yellow.

What makes the metaphor even more useful to me is the fact that we know that our perception and classification of color is to a large degree cultural. The reason for this is that different cultures have a varying number of colors. Some have only words for two colors: black and white, some three: black, white and red, and so on and so forth. Others (like the people who make wall paint) have thousands. 

https://www.wired.com/2012/06/the-crayo ... ns-part-i/

The following figure presents the distribution of color terms in different cultures. The number of distinct colors represent the number of words they have for different colors.
F2.large.jpghttp://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/ ... 8/20123073

The color spectrum metaphor is also useful because it tells us that there are colors we do not see. Visible light is just a small part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Yet, other parts of it affects us in various ways (including the wifi signal that helps me post this post). 

EM_spectrum_compare_level1_lg.jpgYou could say that until recently crossdreaming or pansexuality were not visible on the spectrums of sexulaity and gender. At least not for most people.

Thinking of the visible as the only thing that is real, causes a lot of suffering among people.

The main problem with the color spectrum metaphor is that it does not capture the fact that both sexuality and gender grows out of a biology that has two separate biological sexes. Yes, I know that we see continums in genitals and other sex characteristics as well. Intersex people attest to that, but the difference between a penis and a vagina is too distinct to be considered a continuum.  There are at least clear bumps in the distribution of genital morphology.

What I find hard to ascrtain is in what way these bumps influence our sexuality or our gender identty. Are we facing a strong polarity with variants in between, or are we looking at a real continuum with an even distribution of sexualities and gender identities along the scale.

I am still not sure what I believe about that.

What do you think?
Not sure if I have understood you at all...
Your mind is software. Program it.
Your body is a shell. Change it.
Death is a disease. Cure it.
Extinction is approaching. Fight it!

© "Eclipse Phase" by Posthuman Studios
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birdy
Joined: 30 Aug 2016, 21:10

24 Oct 2017, 18:50 #5

well here i go, mental gymnast that i have been accused of being... to me Jack you say it right when you state that the limits of language are the key to this mystery... we are stuck in attempting to make a thing the same as the representation of a thing, or of making "things" of the cosmos at all... this is problematic and always leaves us with a circle whose ends just miss connecting... infinity is always implied, paradox is always what's left. dealing with this as a practical way of living is something i have no idea how to do really... as Barbara says there are real world uses and practices and the forms of social behaviors we've created serve contextually necessary functions... but as a matter of how i understand reality, i think i have much more peace with accepting that no system of symbols IS what i, the cosmos am. a maturing of Human social development might be able to integrate these seemingly impossibly divided worlds, one in which symbols claim to be "real" and pose as "things" and one in which the Whole is understood and felt and lived as effortlessly as the shade that falls on a summer lawn...
Image
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jackmolay
Joined: 16 Nov 2015, 19:24

25 Oct 2017, 06:14 #6

But gender binary is not a completely arbitrary, completely unreasonable system. There is a rationale behind it -- it's about sexual signals. "If a person wears this kind of clothings and have ... hair, then they would have body type, to which I'm attracted, and ...". And this system is good enough even for drunk people :)

This is why some people hate transwomen so much -- transwomen sends the wrong signal by their appearance, and it will make such people gay. No way I'm justifying violence against transwomen, but I want to point to the important thing: gender presentation have some purpose, this purpose is real and rational, even if it's so often rooted in fear.
This makes sense to me. In a given social context people need signals that tells them if this person would be a relevant partner. Even within subcultures you will find a lot of symbols like these. In many gay communities words like "top" and "bottom" help people navigate, as do clothes, scarfs etc.  Within a community, people who "speak another language" so to speak, may be seen as a threat, because they challenge the way a person look at themselves. This is obviously why passing is important for many transgender people.


Not sure if I have understood you at all...
I am sorry about that. I was planning to write a blog post, but decided that I would need some input from my CDL friends first, and you are the victim of that.

Basically what I am trying to do here is to put two mental maps of sexuality and gender up against each other and see if it is possible to combine them in some way:

1. The idea that sexuality and genders are continuums with no fixed points.
2. The idea that sexuality and gender are binary, anchored in two distinct biological sexes, and that any variation you see is aberrations from the norm.
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Lain
Joined: 19 Nov 2015, 12:39

25 Oct 2017, 06:58 #7

Well. The sexuality and gender are not just that.

They're directly tied to survival, procreation, evolutionary race, status, etc.

It depends on your priorities, I guess.

From the point of procreation, it's not aberration, but some.. uh.. combinations doesn't work.

The problem is that marriage and family is next best thing for many, even if the child is from surrogate mother or adopted.

For those, who can have all the things, it's all more tied up: pride, status, worldview, ideals, beliefs, religion, sex, gender, children, birthing, family, marriage. Sort of cosmic order of things, intertwining everything. And because untying this knot may be paticularly hard, people might see remapping one aspect as an attack on entire system.

For me, it's simple yet might be seen as paradox.

In many situations sexuality, gender and sex are a spectrum, and it's even possible to move on that spectrum one way or another through-out life. Within a set of very particular circumstances, sexuality and gender and sex are very distinct and definite things with some immutable properties and consequences.

I won't go in to detail, I hope it is self-evident. But generally have a meaningful conversation, you have to acknowledge both and figure out the particular understanding of each of those aspects all the conversationalists have.

Excluding appearance of trolls, bigots, angry people and people with agenda many debates are derailed by this fundamental semantic misunderstanding. And sadly, bad semantics can destroy discussions or debates very fast.
Your mind is software. Program it.
Your body is a shell. Change it.
Death is a disease. Cure it.
Extinction is approaching. Fight it!

© "Eclipse Phase" by Posthuman Studios
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