Genderqueer Literature Review #1: Alternating Gender Incongruity

As you know, I’ll be speaking at this year’s American Humanist Association conference about what it means to be genderqueer/nonbinary. I’m currently doing research for my talk, and since most of the scientific papers I’m using aren’t available for the general public (or at least not for free), I’ve decided to do a literature review series for my blog summarizing these articles.

The first is a 2012 paper by Laura K. Case and Vilayanur S. Ramachandran published in Medical Hypotheses called “Alternative gender incongruity: A new neuropsychiatric syndrome providing insight into the dynamic plasticity of brain-sex.” In the study, Case and Ramachandran created an online survey posted in a group for people who identify as bigender. The study had a total of 39 participants, although they had to eliminate one participant for having Multiple Personality Disorder, and three for having Dissociative Identity Disorder. This was done, I assume, in order to rule out the possibility of confusing gender fluidity with something completely different.

According to the survey, 14 participants reporting involuntarily “switching” their gender identities daily, 9 said weekly, 6 said monthly, and 4 said several times a year. The study also reveals “21/32 bigender respondents reported experiencing phantom body parts and rated them as moderate in strength (mean = 2.9 on a scale of 1 = weak and 5 = very strong)” (627). Case and Ramachandran reiterate that these cases of gender fluidity and phantom body parts happen involuntarily, so it’s not just “wishful thinking” (628).

In conclusion, Case and Ramachandran theorize that being bigender–or as they refer to it in the report, “alternating gender incongruity (AIG)”–“to be a neuropsychiatric condition; we reject false dichotomies between so-called ‘‘neurological’’ and ‘‘psychological’’ conditions” (629). They also believe that studying bigender people can help us better understand the complexities of gender.

I should point out that, according to Gary Stix of Scientific America points out, Medical Hypotheses is a “controversial journal” that “only adopted a peer-review system in 2010.” Nevertheless, the article sheds a little bit of light on the Big Question that drive skeptics bananas: Is there a scientific cause for non-binary gender identities? We know there’s plenty of evidence suggesting one for binary transgender people, but so far (that I know of) none for non-binaries, hence the reason why so many skeptics scream, “There are only two genders, you special snowflake!” While this particular article doesn’t say either way, it speculates that there might be a scientific basis for non-binary gender identities.

What do you think?


  1. says

    Sounds interesting! When people say that they alternate genders I did not have any idea how frequently they might switch. On average it is more frequent than I had imagined.

    TBH I do not know what is meant by a “scientific cause” for non-binary gender identities.

    • says

      I meant biological/neurological basis for non-binary gender identities, but for some reason I couldn’t think of the word “basis,” so I wrote “cause” instead.

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