Your brain is neither male nor female. Discuss.

December 9, 2015 Originally published on SFGate

Bad news, bro. You have the same brain as a girl. Bad news, girlfriend. You have the same brain as a bro. Bad news, sexists, gender demagogues, binary enthusiast, homophobes and genderphobes and panicky religious demagogues of any sort whatsoever – when it comes to gender, the human brain is nowhere near the clear-cut, easily pigeonholed hunk of gray matter we thought it was. And it never was.

Can you deal? With the news that, according to new research involving a comprehensive analysis of 1,400 brain scans, there is simply no evidence to suggest that a human brain is predominantly male nor female, boy or girl, dog or cat, salt or pepper? True. But you probably sensed that already. Or rather, your brain did. The cool part of it, anyway.

What the brain actually is, scientists have concluded, is a “mash-up,” a “mosaic” of gender-ish features that defy easy categorization and upend beloved stereotypes, thereby making life, human sexuality and your infuriating arguments with your Catholic parents much more interesting and wry and impossible to pin down with any certainty whatsoever. You know, just like (androgynous, asexual, mash-up genius) God/dess intended.

This will not go down well. At least, not for the lesser educated, the devout chauvinists and religious zealots of the world, who will surely ignore, deny or decry this news with impassioned fervor (science being a liberal gay communist conspiracy, after all).


And really, can you blame them? What sort of karmic horror might rain down on society and the nervous patriarchy that runs it if you eliminate a whole category of convenient gender labels? What sort of chaos will be unleashed if everyone realizes that, when it comes to gender, the human brain doesn’t merely go either way – it can go all ways? It’s complete anarchy. Unless it’s total bliss. Your choice.

There might be a bit of panic. A bit of… resistance. Especially when you realize that, what you truly “mash-up” maleness and femaleness, you don’t get a simple see-saw, a monochromatic back and forth, this chunk is male and this response is female and it’s just a matter of discerning – via more laws, constrictions, dogma, labels – which is which.

What you get, of course, is a perfectly messy, divinely sparked, radically indivisible cocktail of human consciousness, a perfectly imperfect bouquet that cross-breeds strength with compassion, power with softness, kindness with clarity, lightness with depth, god with goddess.

You get maternal instinct fused with the paternal. You get logical and emotional in feral embrace. You get lunar and solar in constant consort, each illuminating the other and good luck telling which is which. You get Shiva and Shakti, Sita and Ram, Jesus and Mary in mad, orgiastic love, to the degree that they are not merely inseparable, but entirely vital to the others’ existence. Remove one and the other has no meaning whatsoever. But mash them more together, with grace and real reverence? Now you’re talking enlightenment.

Generic! Can barely tell them apart.

Generic! Can barely tell them apart.

It will not be easy. We love labels. We love binary, easy categories, boxes. Religions insist on them. Politics exists because of them. Capitalism thrives on drilling them into your shaky ideology until we’re numbly convinced they’re absolutely true.

But of course, it’s all a trick. A massive lie, an artifact of the brain itself that’s trained to parse and sift the swirling chaos of life into digestible formulas, countries, tribes, likes and dislikes, good and evil, sacred and profane, lest we go mad with the unknowability of it all.

But deep down, we get it: Life, love, nature, brains do not exist in binary. Human existence annihilates all labels in an instant, with a shrug and a wink, all the time, endlessly, as fast as we can create them.

And then comes the real kicker: If the brain can’t be as easily parsed as we’d hoped, just imagine what sort of incomprehensible ball of divine, extraterrestrial fire that other, far more powerful, far more sacred organ of human consciousness – the one we call the heart – must be made of? The mind, naturally, can only reel.

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Mark Morford

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