Who has the power to characterize, classify, and name the more uncommon forms of sex, gender, and sexual orientation in humans—and should they hold this power? In what ways are people with relatively uncommon sex, gender, and erotic variations helped or hurt by being categorized and "treated" by psychologists, surgeons, and other medical practitioners—or, for that matter, by "expert" members of their own communities? Is it dehumanizing or empowering to label sex, gender, and sexual variation as if it is separable from persons themselves, or to label persons as if their "variations" represent the core essence of their beings? Is sex so wrapped up with gender, and gender so wrapped up with sexual orientation—and, in turn, sexual orientation so wrapped up with identity—that splitting these phenomena into distinct concepts constitutes an artificial understanding of human nature? What are the real-world consequences individuals face for deliberately or inadvertently transgressing culturally accepted sex, gender, and erotic boundaries? Should political considerations be taken into account in—or even drive—sexology and medicine? Or do political considerations pollute those fields?
These are only some of the questions raised by the six articles contained in this special issue on sex, gender, and sexuality diversity in humans. These articles [End Page 479] are not meant to represent a careful sampling of scholarly perspectives on the range of human variation. Rather, they offer a look at some of the possibilities and politics of sex/gender identity issues in our world today. Readers who have different perspectives on these controversial issues are encouraged to submit articles to Perspectives in Biology and Medicine; human sexuality has long been and continues to be a strong interest of the journal's editors and readers.
We are grateful to the diverse roster of authors for the substantial work they put into researching, producing, and refining these papers. It has been our privilege to guest edit this volume with the invaluable help of the journal's editor, Robert Perlman.