“I’m Not a Bigot, It’s Just Science”

You might have already heard of Grace Pokela’s pointed facebook post that dismantles the “science” of transphobia. But just in case you haven’t—and chances are you haven’t, because I myself only learned about it through my brother—you should totally check it out.

It’s important to remind ourselves that “science” can be used quite easily to essentialize socio-economic injustice and culturally specific stereotypes. But it’s not only the misrepresentation of scientific “facts” that is the problem (e.g., denying that there’s more than XX and XY). Sometimes it is the bare attempt of scientifically classifying individuals that is already problematic. Typing humans secures the basis for discrimination, regardless of how fine-grained the categories are.

And I’m not only talking about sex/gender. My dissertation traces the 150-year-old obsession with the classification and etiology of handedness (yes, left- or right-hand preference). We find the same awful story here that we have witnessed—and continue to witness—for classifications of sex/gender, sexual orientation, race, and intelligence: fine and finer measures, and theories of the allegedly innate roots of these characteristics that oscillate between anatomy, genetics, and endocrinology.

Just like there is no “male” or “female,” there is no “left-handed” or “right-handed.” Lucky me, researchers since Broca have regarded handedness an unpolitical topic, so they were not very guarded in their publications about the topic. Stereotypes in my sources abound, and “the” left-hander is frequently associated with things inferior and deviant.

The history of handedness research is sexed/gendered, sexualized, racialized, class-ized, able-ized, and you-name-it-ized. It’s a very sad story. But one from which we can learn a lot. Stay tuned.

2 thoughts on ““I’m Not a Bigot, It’s Just Science”

  1. Really interesting. My research is on the impact of brain sex theories on legal and medical attitudes to transgender and intersex kids. I am dimly aware of the bizarre emphasis on handedness in much of the brain sex research, but I did not realised how important it was in these regressive schema. I’d love to read an article on this. Can you recommend anything in particular?

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