The Science Behind Sexuality and Gender

Human sexuality and gender expression is a continuum, much in the same way that height and weight are. Not everyone fits into the categories of strictly straight, strictly gay, male or female. Dichotomising sexuality and gender ignores the continuum or clusters of individuals who don’t fall into one of two (and only two) categories and we can fall prey to thinking that one is “normal”. While people may find comfort in the “born this way” argument, looking for a “gay gene” can indicate a level of non-acceptance. If the variation between individuals is collapsed to a binary then the focus becomes on asking why one end of the spectrum exists, when the better question would be to ask how variation in sexuality evolved and came about.

Exploding Binaries: Stars and Genders

Exploding white dwarfs make the calcium in our bones. Dying massive stars release the iron that makes our blood red. Smaller dying stars and red giants produce the essential elements of life: carbon and oxygen. As someone who began their science journey immersed in science fiction, theoretical astronomer A/Professor JJ Eldridge has certainly learned that there is life among the stars, as we are all made of stardust. At the first RSV lecture held with Queers in Science to celebrate the 2020 Midsumma Festival, JJ shared their personal story in breaking the gender binary, reflecting that while they are personally a non-binary individual, their research focuses on the evolution of binary stars.

Testosterone Rex – An Evening with Cordelia Fine

It has long been a popular perception that risk-taking and status-seeking have evolved as masculine traits, as there is less selective pressure for women to develop a “competitive edge” and to take risks. Professor Cordelia Fine discussed the roles of men and women in society, particularly how their behaviour contributes towards “reproductive return” – their passing on genes to offspring and continuing their ancestral line. Scholars have previously reported on links between testosterone levels and risk-taking, their argument being that where men evolved a promiscuous streak to be competitive in order to acquire or defend their status and sexual opportunities, the female strategy has been more focused on ensuring they have enough resources to care for their offspring. As Professor Fine points out, however, women can be big risk-takers in their own right.