J. Edgar Bauer
Visiting Professor, Jain Vishva Bharati University, Ladnun, Rajasthan, India



Reproduced here by permission of the author.
Originally published in: Past and Present of Radical Sexual Politics.  Editor: Gert Hekma. Amsterdam:
Mosse Foundation for the Promotion of Gay and Lesbian Studies at The University of Amsterdam, 2004, pp.  41-55.


 "[...] we think, but we keep secret [that] whoever thinks dissolves, causes disasters, demolishes, disintegrates, for thought is, in its consequence, the uncompromising dissolution of all concepts [...]"

                 (Bernhard 1972: 216)[1]

"[...] I suggest constituting transsexuals not as a class or problematic 'third gender', but rather as a genre—a set of embodied texts whose potential for productive disruption of structured sexualities and spectra of desire has yet to be explored."

                                                                                  (Stone 1991: 296)

1.  From its biblical origins, Western culture conceptualized sexual difference according to a binomial scheme.  Since, within this scheme, only the male/female combinatory was considered to correspond to the pre-established divine or natural order, the two other combinatories (i.e. male/male and female/female) were mostly associated with the disruptive forces of sin, crime or illness.  In time, the West developed an alternative sexual conceptualization based on Galen's one sex model.  While the two-sex scheme posits a hierarchical structure in which the female sex is subordinated to its complementary opposite, the Galenic one-sex model establishes a bi-polar hierarchy, which results from the way individuals actualize in their bodies the unique sexual nature of maleness (cf. Laqueur 1992, especially chapter 3: 63-113).  On this account, "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.  Not surprisingly, as the representatives of the early homosexual emancipation movement in Germany began to articulate their theoretical coordinates in the late 19th century, their conceptualization of sexual difference assumed the existence of two distinct sexes in nature.  Their contention regarding the "third sex" was meant, first and foremost, as an "addition" or "supplement" to the traditional binomial scheme of sexual distribution.  


2.  Against the double backdrop of a first, paternal, ruling sex, and a second, maternal, subordinate sex, the third sex was supposed to surpass their mutual exclusion and reconcile them in one and the same individual.  For its modern advocates, the third sexual mode was an indispensable accretion to binary sexuality designed to closure the possibilities of what is conceivable as "sex".  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.  Both the "suppletive" and the "serial" conceptions of the third sex acknowledged the intrinsic precariousness and instability of the male/female disjunction.  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.


3.  From a semantic perspective, the third sex concept intended something more encompassing and fundamental than the mere enlargement of the sexual combinatory as implied by the nineteenth century coinage of the term "homosexuality".  While the homosexual combinatory can be subsumed, in principle, under the male/female scheme of sexuality without questioning the validity of sexual binarism, the third sex constitutes a destabilizing factor of the disjunctive alternative itself.  In the last resort, the same-sex alternative presupposes the binomial distribution in men and women in order to warrant the postulation of male/male and female/female sexual configurations.  Distinct from the corroborative strategy implicit in the homosexual category, third sex—in its suppletive and serial meanings—call to question the cogency of binomial sexuality from the liminal perspective of the excluded.  While the suppletive model adds a third alternative without necessarily transforming the binomial self-understanding of the alleged majority, the open-ended model challenges from the outset the very existence of such a majority by questioning the theoretical validity of its cohesion. 


4.  Without doubt, the most eminent representative of the suppletive understanding of the third sex in the nineteenth century was Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825-1895).  In a letter to his sister dated September 22, 1862, he redefined sexuality within a triadic scheme of sexual modes and concluded:  "We constitute a third sex." (Ulrichs [1899] 1994: 47)[2]  Basically, Ulrichs viewed male Uranians as female souls trapped in male bodies.[3] Further, he regarded them as well as their female counterparts as appertaining to a separate, third sexual class clearly distinguishable from normal men and women (cf. Ulrichs [1864]: 5)[4].  From its inception, however, Ulrichs' third sex category was marked by a specific instability.  In the letter quoted, Ulrichs asserted that "sexual dualism" is present embryonically in every human individual, but that it manifests itself in a greater degree in hermaphrodites and Uranians than in normal men and women.(Cf. Ulrichs [1899]: 68)[5]  Despite his intuitive awareness that all humans are to a greater or lesser extent bisexual, Ulrichs obviously decided to disregard his insight for reasons of argumentative strategy, and declared programmatically:  "We are not concerned by any intermediary degrees." (Ulrichs [1899]: 46)[6]  Thus, Ulrichs' construction of a separate third sex was determined by his conscious neglect of other sexual intermediary degrees capable of revealing the subjacent natural continuum of sexual variability.   


5.  Within the sexual emancipation movement, Ulrichs was not the only theoretician to neglect his own insights regarding the sexual natural continuum.  Philosophical writer and poet John Henry Mackay (1864-1933), who had a considerable influence on the pederastic-oriented group of "Die Gemeinschaft der Eigenen" ("The Community of the Self-Owners"), contended that "[i]n nature there [are] only transitions […] of the most diverse kinds" (Mackay 1979: 263)[7] and even went on to assert that gradual stages (Stufen) lead from one sex to another (cf. Mackay 1979: 263).  Consequently, Mackay emphasized the "enormous variety of love" (Mackay 1979: 223)[8] and "how infinitely diverse [are] not just only the love inclinations of human beings" (Mackay 1982: 186)[9].  As a libertarian anarchist, Mackay viewed future salvation as dependant on the liberation of the individual (cf. Mackay 1979: 77)[10] and depicted the aim of history as a  "development of man toward difference" (Mackay 1979: 77)[11].  Despite his far-reaching insights, however, he made no effort to present a consistent account of the inexhaustible diversity of sexual forms.  Similar to Ulrichs's fixation on the "third sex", Mackay rather focused on the pederastic "nameless love", a sexual configuration essentially different from the effeminate "third love" propagated, according tp Mackay, by Magnus Hirschfeld and his circle.  While avoiding to draw general implications from his insights on sexual diversity, Mackay concentrated on the poetical apologetics of his amatory preferences (cf. Bauer 2000).   


6.  Like Ulrichs and Mackay, Sigmund Freud was also aware of the pervasiveness in nature of the intermediary sexual degrees.  In the very first pages of "Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality" (1905), Freud unequivocally acknowledged that all sexual intermediaries can be found in abundance, and even remarked that the "formation of a series" (Reihenbildung) of these intermediaries "suggests itself so to speak automatically." (Freud [1905]: 49)[12]  However, Freud was not prepared to assess the possible systematic consequences of these facts for his general psychoanalytical theory. Tellingly, Freud made it clear in "The Psychogenesis of a Case of Homosexuality in a Woman" (1920) that psychoanalysis is not capable of explaining the essence of what is called "male" and "female", and that it contents itself with adopting both concepts in the conventional or biological sense as basis of its work (cf. Freud [1920]: 280)[13].  Freud's uncritical adoption of binomial sexuality within the groundwork of psychoanalysis was a momentous theoretical decision.  For it led, among other things, to the unwarranted acceptance of heterosexual teleology and to the psychoanalytical sanction of the patriarchal distributions of sexuality and power.


7.  Freud's neglect of the the serial formation of sexual intermediaries is all the more significant as Austrian philosopher Otto Weininger (1880-1903) had stated, as early as 1903,  the implications of assuming such intermediary stages.  In the first part of his classic study "Sex and Charakter. A fundamental investigation"[14], Weininger asserts that, in accordance with the universal principle of transition in nature, there are innumerable degrees of "sexual intermediary forms" (sexuelle Zwischenformen) between the male and the female (cf. Weininger 1980: 9)[15].  Since the completely male man and the completely female woman are abstract ideals that as such do not exist in nature, concrete human beings are, without exception, sexual intermediaries (cf. Weininger 1980: 10).[16]  According to Weininger, such a sexual condition should not be understood as a mere "bisexual disposition", but as a "permanent double sexuality" (Weininger 1980: 10)[17].  However, despite his initial rejection of binomial sexuality, Weininger contended in the second part of the book that, notwithstanding all sexual intermediary forms, human beings are lastly men or women (cf. Weininger 1980: 98)[18].  The reason for this rather surprising re-establishment of the previously deconstructed sexual binomium does not depend on scientific arguments, but on the overall metaphysical design of Geschlecht und Charakter itself.  For the sake of a logic of overcoming, in which spiritual "character" supersedes corporeal "sex", Weininger re-instates and corroborates the "ideal" validity not only of the traditional dichotomy of man and woman, but also the hierarchical organization of their ethical and societal relations.  Despite his metaphysical constrictions, Weininger, under the influence of Magnus Hirschfeld's work, has the merit of being one of the first theoreticians to have acknowledged and assessed the relevancy of conceptualising biological sexuality within a serial framework.           


8.  To avoid calling into question the sexual binomium, Freud had to ignore Weininger's innumerable sexual forms and misrepresent Magnus Hirschfeld's most fundamental theoretical endeavours as conveyed in his "doctrine of sexual intermediaries" (Zwischenstufenlehre).  Conflating Ulrichs' and Hirschfeld's conception of the third sex, Freud incorrectly attributed to Magnus Hirschfeld Ulrichs's thesis of a suppletive third sex distinct from that of males and females and then proceeded to emphasize that psychoanalytical research opposes categorically the attempt to consider homosexuals as a separate group of people on account of their specific sexual disposition (cf. Freud [1905]: 56)[19].  In "Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of his Childhood" (1910) Freud  took against the acquiescence of homosexual men in being portrayed by "their theoretical spokespersons" as "a separate sexual variety, sexual intermediaries, as a 'third sex'" (Freud [1910]: 124)[20].  In 1916, he reiterated that male and female homosexuals are depicted by their "scientific spokespersons" as a "special variety of the human species, [as] a 'third sex'" (Freud 1916-1917: 301)[21].  Although Freud seems to refer to an indefinite number of spokespersons, his target was first and foremost Magnus Hirschfeld, at the time the most prominent spokesman of the homosexual rights movement in Germany.  By so doing, Freud revealed a fundamental misapprehension of the actual tenets at stake in Hirschfeld's claims.  Having neglected the fact that Hirschfeld never pleaded for Ulrichs' suppletive understanding of a separate third sex, Freud was incapable to acknowledge that Hirschfeld's use of the third sex concept marks the theoretical inception of an open-ended series of sexual variability.


9.  Although Magnus Hirschfeld made the concept third sex popular in the twentieth-century, he did not use it very often in his own work.  Despite favouring the term "third sex" over "homosexuality" with its usual connotation of concomitant sexual acts (cf.  Hirschfeld 1991: 10 and 14), Hirschfeld underscored that he did not employ the term in his scientific publications, where he preferred to use either "sexual intermediaries" or "sexual transitions" (Hirschfeld 1919: 22-23)[22].  Significantly, the term appears unqualified only in two titles of the more than 500 items Hirschfeld published in his lifetime.[23]  In his popular writings, third sex designated a whole range of intermediate forms of sexuality that could not be readily classified using the male/female scheme.  This heuristic advantage notwithstanding, Hirschfeld was well aware of the fact that recurring to a third sexual alternative meant the addition of a further "fiction" to the equally fictional categories of man and woman.  Consequently, Hirschfeld never regarded the third sex alternative as "something complete and closed in itself", but as an indispensable "makeshift" (Notbehelf)designed to overcome the "extremely superficial scheme of classification into man or woman" (Hirschfeld 1923: 23)[24].  More importantly, the provisional postulation of the concept never led Hirschfeld to revoke his fundamental insight that "all human beings are intersexual variants […]" (Hirschfeld 1986: 49)[25].  


10.  One of the central assumptions of Hirschfeld's doctrine of sexual intermediaries is that, strictly speaking, there are no men and women, but only human beings that are "to a large extent male or to a large extent female." (Hirschfeld 1913: 4)[26]  As early as 1896, Hirschfeld elaborated on essential traits of his encompassing Zwischenstudenlehre. In Sappho und Sokrates (1896), his first sexological treatise, Hirschfeld does not only recur to the theory of recapitulation of phylogenesis by ontogenesis, but also to the reality of a bisexual primary disposition, whose traces or "remainders" can be readily perceived at the physiological level:  "Every man keeps his stunted womb, the uterus masculinus and the superfluous nipples until death; likewise, every woman [keeps] her useless epididymis and her spermatic cord" (Ramien 1896: 10)[27].   Arguing analogically, Hirschfeld pointed out that, with regard to the psychic centre of sexual sensibility, "one can definitely assume that, here also, residues of the drive subsist that on the whole are eventually destined to disappear" (Ramien 1896:  11)[28].  Since "in their primary disposition all human beings are with respect to their bodies and souls bisexual" (Ramien 1896: 10-11),[29] the inexhaustible diversity of sexualities results not from qualitative, but from quantitative differences that are determined by the way the primary sexual disposition reacts to processes that hinder or advance its development.  Hirschfeld underlines that the later a particular sexual difference is developed, the more significant the influence the "residual" sex has on it (cf. Hirschfeld 1907:  22).  Whereas gradual deviations occur less frequently with regard to the primary sexual characteristics, and more frequently with regard to the secondary ones, in the case of tertiary characteristics such deviations occur even more frequently, as is shown by the high incidence of sexual orientations at variance with the supposed norm.  Against this backdrop, all artificially separated sexual varieties prove to be transitions within the pervading continuity of nature.  Not surprisingly, Hirschfeld chose as motto for his treatise Geschlechtsübergänge a quote from Leibniz' Nouveaux essais:  "Tout va par degrées dans la nature et rien par sauts" (Hirschfeld 1913:  cover of the book and 1)[30].   


11.  In light of Leibniz' principle, all artificially separated sexual varieties prove to be only transitions within the pervasive continuity of nature.  Instead of assuming a limited number of sexualities, Hirschfeld's natural continuum of sexual gradation allows, in principle, for infinite varieties of sexual constitutions depending on the way the poles of the masculine and the feminine combine at the different levels of sexual description, which include:  (1) the sexual organs, (2) the so-called secondary sexual characteristics, (3) the sexual drive, and (4) other psychological traits (cf. Hirschfeld 1984: 357 and Hirschfeld 1926-1930: Volume I, 547-548).  Since in this scheme sexual difference is not determined in relation to one single excluded alternative (male or female), but in relation to an open ended system of as yet only partially realised combinations of the masculine and the feminine at the different descriptive layers, the sexuality of each and every individual[31] is characterized by a unique complexity.  In the last resort, Hirschfeld transforms the act of determining the sexuality of an individual into a task that precludes final closure.


12.  Hirschfeld´s sexological work develops two essentially different levels of discursivity without trying to elucidate their problematic relationship.  While, on one level, the complex issues related to the concrete study of anormative sexualities clearly dominate his writings, on another, meta-theoretical premises connected with the potentially infinite diversity of sexualities are broached on several occasions, but never properly developed.  Given this disproportion, it is all the more important to keep in mind the overall design of Hirschfeld's work in order to assess the true dimensions of his critical achievements.  In this connection, Hirschfeld's life motto per scientiam ad justitiam offers a hermeneutical key that enables to understand his sexological program as an encompassing deployment from lucid acknowledgment of the biological facts of human sexuality to visions of a libertarian culture capable of coping with endless sexual diversity.  Hirschfeld's insights --at once natural and utopical-- give rise to an emancipatory agenda that does not involve regression to or a revitalisation of an idealised cultural past, like the one envisaged by the philhellenic, pederastic Gemeinschaft der Eigenen.  As an evolutionary monist with a keen sense of justice in history, Hirschfeld does not conceive nature as something that can be realized in culture once and for all, but as a dynamic process striving to create the conditions for an ever more demanding freedom.  By dismantling sexual dimorphism, its restricted combinatories and also the "makeshift" of the third sex, Hirschfeld's texts not only open up the possibility of a deeper understanding of the universal perplexities inherent in being intersexually variant, but also sets the paradigms for realizing a sexually libertarian culture.


13. Hirschfeld´s critical procedures seek to liberate the individual from the conceptual fictions that hinder the full deployment of his or her sexuality.  Since, by principle, this sexuality cannot be adequately subsumed under a pre-established category, the doctrine of sexual intermediaries sensu stricto dismisses the issue of sexual identity as ideological, and transforms the question of sexual self-identification into an endless task, in which categorisations can be, at most, provisory approximations that must be constantly readjusted in order to fit the metamorphoses of multi-level sexual complexity.  Thus, the determination and expression of an individual's sexuality becomes a narrative of changing sexual differences as determined against the background of latencies and possibilities that underlie the sexual continuum of nature.  Even though Hirschfeld did not deal in detail with specific theoreticalconsequences, his interest in the sexological aspect of biographies along with his tireless efforts to refine his theoretical instrumentality make it apparent that he was ultimately guided by a concept of sexuality that focused on diachronical differences.  Such a conception calls for an understanding of sexual alterity in which the alter,i.e. the heteron, is not determined within a binary pattern, but is defined within the framework of potentially infinite sexual varieties, all differing in gradually diversified aspects from one another.  Sexuality in this new understanding is without exception a sexuality of difference, and therefore always a sexuality of the "other":  "Hetero-sexuality". 


14.  Since the beginnings of the sexual emancipation movement and the emergence of sexual science, the processes of sexual taxonomy (including sexual assignation and sexual self-identification) were determined by an ever-growing complexity of classificatory criteria.  While in the 1860s Karl Heinrich Ulrichs took recourse to a two-level scheme (consisting of body and soul) to explain the discordant composition of "uranians" as a third sexual alternative, some decades later, Hirschfeld used a fourfold scheme of sexual description (cf. § 11 above).  In the present, as Judith Shapiro has pointed out, biology and medicine differentiate alone at the bodily level between chromosomal (or genetic) sex, anatomical (or morphological) sex, genital (or gonadal) sex, germinal sex and hormonal sex (cf. Shapiro 1991: 250).  Since Robert J. Stoller's conceptual distinction between sex and gender (cf. Stoller 1968), the descriptive levels referring to mental and behavioural aspects have been profusely diversified.  Against the background of these developments, the relevancy of Hirschfeld's meta-theoretical scheme of sexual diversity consists in offering the instrumentality for dissolving the traditional binomial scheme of sexuality without positing any closed sexual modes. On his account, the "third sex" makeshift constitutes a conceptual bridge leading from sexual binarism to the encompassing serial scheme of his own doctrine of sexual intermediaries.  While having a dissolvent effect on the fictions and fixations of sexual dimorphism, Hirschfeld's concept of the third sex also functioned as a provisional identificatory category for those deprived of their sexual rights in a society organized according to traditional sexual patterns.  Thus, in spite of its fictionality and provisoriness, Hirschfeld's serial understanding of third sex connects his basic scientific outlook with his emancipatory  activism on behalf of the oppressed.  Being aware of the historical urgency of liberation from sexual fictions, Hirschfeld sought to offer a meta-theoretical framework for understanding sexual difference, whose decisive consequence is the insight that the number of sexualities is co-extensive with the amount of existing human beings.


15.  It is significant that the radical individualization of sexuality implied by Hirschfeld's Zwischenstufenlehre coincides with the core preoccupations of some of the most articulate activists and theoreticians of transgenderism.  On the basis of their immediate experience of sexual transformations, these transgenderists tend to be especially sensible to their multi-layered sexual complexity and the resulting uniqueness of their sexual constitution.  This perceptiveness is all the more relevant in this context, as the reception of Magnus Hirschfeld's work in American queer and transgender circles is almost non-existant, or at best very superficial.  Indicatively, Pat Califia, without referring to the German sexologist, critiqued the cogency of the traditional two-sex scheme in her seminal essay "Genderbending:  Playing with Roles and Reversals" (1983), and pointed out: "In fact, human beings come in more models than xx or xy.  There is variation in gender, even at the most basic, genetic level.  And once you start considering anatomical anomalies, hormonal balances and imbalances, self images, and desire, you get a host of possibilities." (Califia 1994: 178)  On this assumption, Califia then proceeds to ask:  "Why does our society allow only two genders and keep them polarized?  Why don't we have a social role for hermaphrodites?  Berdaches?  Why do transsexuals have to become 'real women' or 'real men' instead of just being transsexuals?  After all, aren't there some advantages to being a man with a vagina or a woman with a penis, if only because of the unique perspective it would give?  And why can't people go back and forth if they want to?" (Califia 1994: 178)   Surprising answers to the questions formulated by Califia in 1983 began to be articulated a decade later by female-to-male transgenderist Leslie Feinberg and male-to-female transgenderist Kate Bornstein.  


16.  With precision, Leslie Feinberg names in Transgender Warriors (1996) the terms of the paradox that determines her self-understanding:  "It's not my sex that defines me, and it's not my gender expression.  It's the fact that my gender expression appears to be at odds with my sex […] It's the social contradiction between the two that defines me." (Feinberg 1996:  101)  Some years earlier, in her autobiographical novel Stone Butch Blues (1993), Feinberg had alredy depicted the quandaries related to the sexual identity of a transgender person.  Confronted with people who ask themselves:  "Is it animal, mineral, or vegetable?" (Feinberg 1993: 24. My italics), the protagonist of the novel is aware, from early on, that "I didn't fit any of their categories." (Feinberg 1993: 24)[32]  Despite its melancholy tone, the novel hints with subtlety at a possible resolution of the protagonist's quest for identity beyond current classificatory schemes.  Thus, as a child asks: "Is that a girl or a man?", his mother, who happens to be a friendly acquaintance of the "stone butch" replies:  "That's Jess" (Feinberg 1993: 226).   Similarly, when, in another passage, the protagonist herself asks a lover about her sexual "label", the answer is also encapsulated in a proper name:  "I just am what I am.  I call myself Ruth." (Feinberg 1993: 254)  A similar strategy of avoiding identity labels can be found in the essay volume Trans Liberation (1998), where the portrait of a transsexual is titled:  "I am taking it to a different level, beyond categorization." (Feinberg 1998: 110)  Correspondingly, while portraying her own marital life with the poetess Minnie Bruce Pratt, Feinberg declares:  "Our relationship is Teflon to which no classification of sexuality sticks." (Feinberg 1996: 92)


17.  Kate Bornstein's views on sexual emancipation are also based on the overcoming of sexual categories and labels.  In her book Transgender Outlaw, she describes from the start the individual configuration of her sexual complexity:  "My identity as a transsexual lesbian whose female lover is becoming a man is manifest in my fashion statement; both my identity and fashion are based on collage." (Bornstein 1995: 3)  Further, she points out:  "I identify as neither male nor female, and now that my lover is going through his gender change, it turns out I'm neither straight nor gay." (Bornstein 1995: 4)  In light of her biography, it is not surprising that Bornstein's libertarian endeavours aim at deconstructing the sexual binary system for the sake of a fluid diversity of genders, which challenges the traditional constraint to a permanent sexual identification and pleads for dealing playfully with the sexual form one has chosen.[33]  In this context, "transgender" is understood in the sense of "transgressively gendered" (Bornstein 1995: 250), whereby the transgression is directed against the arbitrary restrictions and fixations imposed by the two-sex ideology.[34]  As "one the dictionary has trouble naming" (Bornstein 1995: 238), Bornstein not only elaborates on the reason why no categorization scheme of sexuality can do justice to her own individuality, but also draws attention to the alienation implicit in regarding oneself as "belonging" to a category.  Contending that "we rarely think about the concept of belonging to something as being owned by something" (Bornstein 1995: 125), Bornstein subverts the idea of "being an identity" (Bornstein 1995: 243) and concludes that only those who are not an identity are capable of dealing playfully with the identities of their choice.    


18.  Feinberg and Bornstein intend to dissolve not merely specific sexual labels, but the very principle of individual subsumptions under sexual categories.  While Feinberg recurs to the deictic capacity of proper names to avoid such subsumptions, Bornstein pleads for a radical de-categorization of sexuality conducive to what she terms "no-gender", a Zen-Buddhistic inspired idea of freedom from fictitious sexual compartmentation (cf. Bornstein 1998: 208 and 233)[35].  As Minnie Bruce Pratt points out in her poetical meditations published under the title "S/HE", what is at stake is the incapacity of language to grasp sex and gender fluidity with discrete categories (cf. Pratt 1995: 20-21).  Accordingly, liberation means for Pratt "crossing all arbitrary gender boundaries, to place ourselves anywhere we chose on the continuum of maleness and femaleness, in any aspect of our lives." (Pratt 1995: 17)  Clearly, these contentions are remindful of Hirschfeld's elaborations on sexuality and race against the backdrop of Jean Baptiste de Lamarck's philosophy of nature.  As reported by Hirschfeld, the great French taxonomist asserted, on view of the "infinite abundance of inherited characteristics and forms", that all classifications are, lastly, just "artificial means", since "Nature herself […] ignores classes and species." (Hirschfeld 1935)[36]  Keeping in mind this approach of nature, Hirschfeld readily acknowledged the limits of his own sexual discourse.  Not surprisingly, the first part of Hirschfeld's groundbreaking treatise on Die Transvestiten is preceded by the motto:  "There are more perceptions and phenomena than words." (Hirschfeld 1910: 3)[37]  On account of his keen awareness of the limits of language, Hirschfeld understood the scientific discourse of sexual identities, basically, as an asymptotic approximation to the sexed individual, who, as such, escapes every classificatory scheme.  The recognition of these dimensions in Hirschfeld's thought does not imply negation or neglect of his scientific and medical achievements.  Rather, it purports the acknowledgement that Hirschfeld's Zwischenstufenlehre, in the last resort, leads to the assertion of the radical uniqueness of every sexual constitution.  From this perspective, the ancient philosophical premise concerning the individuum ineffabile constitutes the common ground of the radical sexual liberation envisaged by Hirschfeld and the most articulate representatives of contemporary transgenderism.


19.  In his book The Genealogy of Queer Theory, William B. Turner contends that the actual philosophical relevancy of queerness is not that it merely challenges the contents of specific categories, but rather that it raises the question of the epistemological status of categories per se (cf. Turner 2000: 8)[38].  Assuming that "the characteristic intellectual and political impulse of the late twentieth century has been to complain—not to say whine—about the inadequacy of categories, especially identity categories" (Turner 2000: 8), Turner contextualizes queer intellectual endeavours within the current philosophical skepticism toward "universals".  Despite this illuminating perspective, however, Turner neglects the "genealogical" fact that, at the beginning of the twentieth century, Hirschfeld's Zwischenstufenlehre had clearly questioned the categorization procedures of Sexualwissenschaft in the name of the sexed individual and against the backdrop of Friedrich Nietzsche's anti-idealistic deconstructions.  In understanding Hirschfeld's oeuvre as the most eminent antecedent of queer studies, a text by Gilles Deleuze titled Sur la mort de l'homme et le surhomme offers an indispensable historical contextualization.  Deleuze's explicit intention in this text is to outline the main traits of the historical formations since the seventeenth century that eventually led to Michel Foucaults antihumanism.  Taking as point of departure the thesis that "l'Homme n'a pas toujours existé, et n'existira pas toujours" (Deleuze 1986: 131), Deleuze focuses on the play of internal and external forces that, in Modernity, resulted in the emergence of the "forme-Homme".   Within the context of the classical historical formation, human forces relate to forces of infinite development and eventually lead to an explanatory scheme in which God is conceived as "supreme deployment", and his "dépli" (i.e., his un-folding) constitutes the theological paradigm of man.  Later on, within the historicist formation of the nineteenth century, the relation between human forces and external finite forces (such as life, work or language) gives rise to what Deleuze terms the "pli" (i.e., the fold).  This non-theological, purely human paradigm of man coincides with the discovery, in language and biological evolution, of finite, discrete entities, which interrupt the continuities established in the classical formation.  Finally, during the "formation of the future", both God and Man are superseded, and their overcoming is expressed in the philosophical symbol of Nietzsche's "Übermensch".  In this third formation, both the deployment to infinity and the persistence in finitude are rejected for the sake of a "fini-illimité" (i.e., a finite-unlimited), in which a finite number of components brings about a virtually unlimited diversity of combinations.  In analogy to Nietzsche's Zarathustrian "Übermensch", Deleuze coined the term "sur-pli" for designating the specific "fold" of the post-theological and post-humanistic formation.  Clearly, this formation is at the basis of Hirschfeld's Zwischenstufenlehre,inasmuch as it leads from contrasting proportions in the combination of male and female components at the different descriptive levels of the sexual to the postulation of a potentially inexhaustible diversity of sexualities.  From this perspective, Hirschfeld's endeavours purport not only the "death of God", but also the "death of Adam", i.e., of Man conceived as a "non-Eve" (cf. Bauer 1998: 15-45).     


20.  While the Zwischenstufenlehre foresees, on a theoretical level, the consequent deconstruction of categorial subsumptions and the postulation of an open-ended diversity of sexualities, Hirschfeld carefully avoided formulating the radical implications for sexual politics of his groundbreaking insights. Thus, he limited himself to plead for tolerance for sexual minorities, without trying to alter the sexual self-understanding of the supposedly "normal" majority, whose sympathies he expected to win over.  Despite his awareness of the intermediary sexual condition of all human beings, Hirschfeld never addressed explicitly the issue of the concrete emancipation of humanity at large from the ideology of sexual binarism.  The modesty of Hirschfeld's political program has contributed to the fixation of the narrow libertarian scope of later sexual emancipation movements.  Thus, despite the early recognition of the inherent failures of the sexual regime prevalent in the twentieth century, only the nascent transgenderist movement has succeeded in placing the issue of sexual identity per se on the agenda of political liberation.  On the assumption that sexual categories are incapable of grasping the sexual complexities of any human being, the transgender politics of identity reveals itself as a politics of "no-identity", in which narratives supersede categories.  With this move, the transgender activists aforementioned corroborate Hirschfeld's theoretical contention regarding the inexhaustible variety of sexualities.  Going far beyond the timid pleas of cultural analysts like Gilbert Herdt for "possible combinations that transcend dimorphism" (Herdt 1994: 29)[39], transgenderists refute, in the last resort, the very possibility of assuming a closed set of sexualities that would do justice to the Proteic essence of sex.  From this perspective, "true sexual liberation" is, in the words of Lawrence Schimel, "freedom from all identity politics" (Schimel 1997: 171).                         





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[1]  The text runs in German:  "[...]wir denken, verschweigen aber:  wer denkt, löst auf, katastrophiert, demoliert, zersetzt, denn Denken ist folgerichtig die konsequente Auflösung aller Begriffe [...]"  Note:  The English rendering of all texts quoted in the endnotes is by the author.


[2] "Wir bilden ein drittes Geschlecht."


[3]  The Latin formulation is mentioned in the long German subtitle of the seventh part of "Forschungen":  "Anima muliebris virili corpore inclusa."(Ulrichs [1868]: I )


[4] "Wir Urninge bilden eine zwitterähnliche besondere geschlechtlicheMenschenklasse, ein eigenes Geschlecht, dem der Männer und dem der Weiber als drittes Geschlecht coordiniert."


[5] "Der geschlechtliche Dualismus, welcher ausnahmslos in jedem menschlichen Individuum im Keim vorhanden ist, kommt in Zwittern und Uraniern nur in höherem Grade zum Ausdruck als im gewöhnlichen Mann und im gewöhnlichen Weib.  Im Uranier kommt er ferner nur in einer anderen Weise zum Ausdruck als im Zwitter." 


[6] "Uns gehen die etwaigen Zwischenstufen nichts an."


[7] "In der Natur gab es nur Uebergänge.  Uebergänge der wechselndsten Art."


[8] "[...] ungeheure[] Verschiedenheit der Liebe [...]"


[9] "Wie unendlich verschieden waren nicht allein schon die Liebesneigungen der Menschen!"


[10] "[...] alles Heil der Zukunft [liegt] in der Befreiung des Einzelnen, jedes Einzelnen [...]"


[11] "[...] Entwicklung des Menschen zur Verschiedenheit [...]"


[12] The relevant passage runs:  "Allein so berechtigt Sonderungen sein mögen, so ist doch nicht zu verkennen, daß alle Zwischenstufen reichlich aufzufinden sind, so daß die Reihenbildung sich gleichsam von selbst aufdrängt."


[13] Freud's wording runs:  "Aber das Wesen dessen, was man im konventionellen oder im biologischen Sinne 'männlich' und 'weiblich' nennt, kann die Psychoanalyse nicht aufklären, sie übernimmt die beiden Begriffe und legt sie ihren Arbeiten zugrunde."


[14] This is the literal translation of the title.  The English edition does not mention the subtitle.  Since Freud claimed to have preceded Weininger in the discovery of human bisexuality even decades after his passing, it is not surprising that Freud characterized Weininger's book as "non-judicious" [unbesonnen] and avoided any serious reference to its contents (cf. Freud [1905]: 55).  For an overview on the complex issue,  cf. Porge 1994.


[15] "Es gibt unzählige Abstufungen zwischen Mann und Weib, 'sexuelle Zwischenformen'."


[16] "Und ebenso gibt es nur alle möglichen vermittelnden Stufen zwischen dem vollkommenen Manne und dem vollkommenen Weibe, Annäherungen an beide, die selbst nie von der Anschauung erreicht werden."


[17] "bisexuelle() Anlage";  "dauernde() Doppelgeschlechtlichkeit".


[18] "Trotz allen sexuellen Zwischenformen ist der Mensch am Ende doch eines von beiden, entweder Mann oder Weib."


[19] "Die psychoanalytische Forschung widersetzt sich mit aller Entschiedenheit dem Versuch, die Homosexuellen als eine besonders geartete Gruppe von den anderen Menschen abzutrennen."  The sentence is part of an addendum of 1915.


[20] "Die homosexuellen Männer [...] lieben es, sich durch ihre theoretischen Wortführer als eine von Anfang an gesonderte geschlechtliche Abart, als sexuelle Zwischenstufen, als ein 'drittes Geschlecht' hinstellen zu lassen."


[21] "Sie [= die homosexuellen Männer und Frauen] geben sich durch den Mund ihrer wissenschaftlichen Wortführer für eine besondere Varietät der Menschenart, für ein 'drittes Geschlecht' aus, welches gleichberechtigt neben den beiden anderen steht."


[22] "sexuelle Zwischenstufen"; "Geschlechtsübergänge".


[23] The two titles are:  "Was soll das Volk vom dritten Geschlecht wissen?  Eine Aufklärungsschrift über gleichgeschlechtlich (homosexuell) empfindende Menschen." (1902) ["What should people know about the third sex?  An educational pamphlet on same-sex (homosexual) oriented people "] and "Berlins drittes Geschlecht" (1904) ["Berlin's Third Sex"].  In the title of a much later publication, "Das angeblich dritte Geschlecht des Menschen.  Eine Erwiderung [auf G. Fritsch]" (1919) ["The Alleged Third Sex of Human Beings. A Reply [to G. Fritsch.]"], Hirschfeld suggests an even more cautious usage of the term.


[24] "Wer sich über das Wesen der Geschlechtsübergänge klar ist, wird sofort einsehen, daß eine solche Gruppierung von Typen nur ein Notbehelf, wenn auch meines Erachtens ein unentbehrlicher ist, der niemals als etwas Vollständiges oder auch nur nahezu Abgeschlossenes dastehen kann.  Das würde mit dem Gesetz der absoluten Variabilität im Widerspruch stehen, das die gesamte Natur beherrscht.  Hinsichtlich der Sexualkonstitution bedeutet dies, daß jeder Mensch seine Natur und sein Gesetz hat und daß die Heraushebung einiger besonders charakteristischer intersexueller Varianten theoretisch nur einen kleinen Schritt, wenn auch praktisch einen um so größeren Fortschritt darstellt über das übliche, aber leider nur allzu oberflächliche Einteilungsschema der Sexualkonstitutionen in Mann und Weib hinaus."


[25] "Alle Menschen sind intersexuelle Varianten […]."


[26] "Sehr streng wissenschaftlich genommen, dürfte man in diesem Sinne gar nicht von Mann und Weib sprechen, sondern nur von Menschen, die größtenteils männlich oder größtenteils weiblich sind." The passage is included in the foreword to the first edition of 1905.


[27] "Jeder Mann behält seine verkümmerte Gebärmutter, den Uterus masculinus, die überflüssigen Brustwarzen, jede Frau ihre zwecklosen Nebenhoden und Samenstränge bis zum Tode."


[28] "Wir dürfen aber mit aller Bestimmtheit annehmen, daß auch hier Residuen des zum Untergang bestimmten Triebes zurückbleiben […]"


[29] "In der Uranlage sind alle Menschen körperlich und seelisch Zwitter.".


[30] The quotation is taken from:  Leibniz 1978: 155 [=Nouveaux essais sur l’entendement (IV, 16,12)]


[31]The issues concerning the uniqueness of sexual constitutions and a potentially infinite number of sexualities have been dealt with in: Bauer 2002: 23-30. 


[32]At the end of the narrative, the protagonist sums up her life experience:  "I felt my whole life coming full circle.  Growing up so different, coming out as a butch, passing as a man, and then back to the same question that had shaped my life:  woman or man?" (Feinberg 1993: 301)


[33] A similar position is contended by:  Treut 2000: 196-205, when she emphasizes:  "Gendernauts invites us  'to see ourselves as a boat in an ocean of different identities, and all we have to do is to pull up our anchor and let the current take us.'" (Treut 2000: 200)     


[34]Cf.  Bornstein 1998: 154:  "If we buck the gender system, we´re going to buck what the world´s currently built on:  power."


[35]Another characteristic passage runs:  "In the Western world, the concepts of nothing and no gender are conspicuously invisibilized.  Getting to that point of nothing is what takes the work." (Bornstein 1998: 166)


[36] Title of the paragraph:  "Menschliche Varianten und Typen."


[37] "Es gibt mehr Empfindungen und Erscheinungen als Worte."


[38] Interestingly, for Turner "Queerness indicates merely the failure to fit precisely within a category, and surely all persons at some time or other find themselves discomfited by the bounds of the categories that ostensibly contain their identities." (Turner 2000: 8)


[39] Cf. also his considerations regarding "an open ended construction of a third sex and/or gender" (Herdt 1994: 38).