Different Sexual Orientation (Justice Verma Committee Report)

March 7, 2013 | Jayna Kothari

The Justice Verma Committee has attempted to explain how different sexual orientations have been historically perceived in order to better understand the problems related to sexuality. In light of the lack of scientific understanding of the different variations of sexual orientation, even advanced societies have had to first declassify ‘homosexuality’ from being a mental disorder and now it is understood as a triangular development occasioned by evolution, partial conditioning and neurological underpinnings owing to genetic reasons. Further, it’s clear that Article 15(1) of the constitution of India uses the word sex as including sexual orientation.

In the issues of different sexual orientation the Committee refers to Magnus Hirschfeld’s Doctrine of Sexual Intermediaries and the Transgender Politics of (No-)Identity of Bauer1. In his work Bauer traces the origins of the western conceptualization of sexual differences:

– originally was the “binomial scheme” within which, only the male/female combinatory was given a divine sanction and considered a natural order. Any other combination (male/male and female/female) were largely understood as a sin, crime or illness.

 – over the years, the West developed an “alternative sexual conceptualization” based on Galen’s2 one sex model. For Galen “all the parts that the men have, the women have it too”, female genitilia are the imperfect version of male genital so “fe-males” are only imperfect instantiations of the single existing sex and they must therefore be subordinated to “males” as the superior realization of mankind’s sexual nature. Although the one-sex model became a determinant factor in Renaissance anatomical
studies and its traces are observable even in Sigmund Freud‘s theory of a unique male libido, it never challenged seriously the pervasive influence of sexual binarism, whose ideological prestige was supported by biblical revelation and allegedly observable factuality.

The categorizations of “a first, paternal, ruling sex,” and “a second, maternal, subordinate sex,” the third sex was meant to reconcile their characteristics as one individual.

Bauer refers to “uranian” definition: originally, someone with female psyche in a male body, who is sexually attracted to men. The word was first published by activist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825-1895). Ulrich was proud to constituted the third sex, he asserted that sexual dualism is present embrionically in every human individual. Despite this he was not concerned by any intermediary degrees.

“Later on, the third sex was conceived as an emblematic sexual variety that, besides superseding binomial sexuality, initiates a sexual series, which excludes the idea of its own final completion… While the proposal of a “suppletive” third sex sought to overcome the limitations of the sexual binomium by adding a collective category that included all previously rejected or ignored sexual alternatives, the postulation of a “serial” third sex reflected the insight that no final sexual category can do justice to the inexhaustible variability of human sexuality.”

Now, a primary assumption of Hirschfield’s doctrine of sexual intermediaries is that there are no men and women, but only human beings that are to a large extent male or to a large extent female. Nancy Fraser3 said: the point is not to dissolve all sexual differences in a single but it is to sustain a sexual field of multiple, debinarized, fluid ever-shifting differences.

1 J. Edgar Bauer, Magnus Hirschfeld’s Doctrine Of Sexual Intermediaries And The Transgender Politics Of (No-) Identity’

2 ancient greek physician (Pergamo 129 d.C. – Rome 216 d.C.)

3 born 20 May 1947, american critical theorist, professor of philosophy at The New School in New York

Jayna Kothari

Executive Director

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