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Prof. Milton Diamond Writes to Greer

Prof. Milton Diamond (see Research Studies) emailed Germaine Greer as follows (reproduced here with his permission):

Dear Professor Greer,

A portion of your current book "The Whole Woman" dealing with androgen insensitivity (AIS) has been brought to my attention. While you write with conviction, you unfortunately also write with ignorance of the condition other than what you might have picked up from some lay magazines. It is as if one were writing of Shakespeare having only read of his work from the daily comics. You have lost the heart of your subject.

In a peculiar way you claim to be writing from the vantage point of a feminist. While you might readily admit that feminists can differ in their views toward their own femininity or identification with their woman-ness (whatever that might mean) you deny that right to others and see it as some sort of charade. You see it as a weakness that other women accept AIS individuals (and male to female transsexuals) as bone fide women.

Indeed individuals with AIS are biologically male. That derives from the anatomical consideration of their chromosomes and gonads. Male or female refer to biological sexual characteristics. Gender is a social-psychological-cultural characteristic. Sex and gender might or might not coincide. Yes, for the majority of persons the similarity exists. For intersexuals -- and AIS individuals are intersexed-- their biological variant sexuality disturbs your view of the conventional. Educated to think in binary terms, you are slow to recognize that there are common medical conditions that move human beings away from the typical male and female. AIS is just one such condition. CAH (congenital adrenal hyperplasia), hermaphroditism and many orders of pseudohermaphroditism are other such.

For the majority of AIS persons their gender identity is that of women; it is not a selection made of failure of character nor of failure to compete as men. It is due to the biological/medical condition which leads to the AIS features predisposing them to see themselves as women, to resonate with the ways and attitudes of the majority of other women in society who aspire to fit in as best they can, aware of certain features they lack. While in most of your writings you seem willing to expand on the potential of each gender, it seems for AIS, transsexuals and others you prefer, instead, a limited focus. It is as if you see these individuals making some sort of easy choice in life: "red dress this morning and blue business suit this evening".

AIS women are not "incomplete males." They do not, as you describe develop , "in a masculine figure ... with progressive baldness and heavy facial hair." Their gender resonates with their feminine upbringing and lack of androgen receptors decreasing their ability to respond as other males to male hormones.

But, and most significantly, you deny these individuals their psychological rights, needs and insights to follow their gender calling as women. You have some narrow view of what it is to be a women and obviously only those that meet your stilted criteria seem to measure up. Would you deny infertile XX females that they are women? According to your definition they are incomplete females. Would you rant against women with mastectomies? According to your definition they are incomplete females.

AIS women are doing the best they can to follow their hearts and head in the face of a natural, although relatively rare, medical condition. It is a pity that you miss the forest for the trees when all you look at is an individual's chromosomes and gonads and ignore the most central part of a person which makes them human, their brain and mind.

Might I suggest you meet some AIS women and talk with them. It should prove as enlightening as going to a good Shakespearean play.

Yours,

Milton Diamond, Ph.D.
Professor


(Milton Diamond, Ph.D., Dept. Anatomy & Reproductive Biology, Pacific Center for Sex & Society, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawai`i - Manoa, 1951 East-West Rd., Honolulu, Hawai`i, 96822 U.S.A. Phone: (808) 956-7400, Fax: (808) 956-9481, E-mail: diamond@hawaii.edu)


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