What is Natural?

When discussing the concepts of gender and sex, many of our readings and class talks have raised the question of whether or not something is “natural.” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, there seem to be two groups of definitions for natural. One is “usual or expected,” and the other is “existing in nature and not made or caused by people : coming from nature.” I think that often the authors and we as students employ the first definition – for instance, when discussing if it is “natural” for a child to be born intersex.

However, this intersex case especially perplexes me. In As Nature Made Him, many figures consider it “unnatural” for a child to be born with ambiguous genitalia. But to me, looking at the second definition of natural, it seems that the very fact the child was born with it makes it natural. What is unnatural is the construction of new, unambiguous genitalia.

Though perhaps not explicitly framed in these terms, I think that As Nature Made Him also delves into the debate of whether gender is “natural” or constructed. While I tend to think of gender as largely socially constructed, David’s experience as Brenda has convinced me that gender is at least partly natural – meaning one is born with an inherent inclining toward a certain gender identity. So I consider “natural” to be something one is born with, or something internal in origin.

Colapinto, John. As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl. New York: HarperCollins, 2000. Print.

“natural.” Merriam-Webster.com. 2013. http://www.merriam-webster.com (17 September 2013).

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One thought on “What is Natural?

  1. Pingback: [UGANDA] Born With Ambiguous Genital Organs | Transitioning Africa Blog

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