Fuzzy Categories with Alice Dreger

Nature doesn’t care about our desire to have these clean political categories for legal purposes.” — Alice Dreger

Today I’m really excited to have Dr. Alice Dreger on the podcast. Dr. Dreger is a historian, bioethicist, author, and former professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Dreger is widely known for her academic work and activism in support of people at the edge of anatomy, such as conjoined twins and those with atypical sex characteristics. In her observations, it’s often a fuzzy line between “male” and “female”, among other anatomical distinctions. A key question guiding a lot of Dr. Dreger’s work (and which was the topic of her TEDx talk) is “Why do we let our anatomy determine our fate?” Dr. Dreger is the author of multiple books, including “One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal” and “Galieleo’s Middle Finger Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science.”

In this episode, we discuss a wide range of topics, including:

  • How Dr. Dreger got involved in the “Intersex Rights Movement” in the mid-90s
  • The difference between anatomy and gender identity
  • The relationship between our bodies and our personal and social identities and the role of science and medicine in determining this relationship
  • Who gets to tell your body what it means
  • How the mind isn’t the only place where identity exists, and how our identities also exist in the minds of others
  • The future of gender pronouns
  • How we should treat those who do not fit traditional notions of sex, such as the fascinating cases of “androgen sensitivity syndrome” and “congenital adrenal hyperplasia”
  • How we can see more value in variation in anatomy
  • The need for a more reality-based government
  • Why the phrase “identity politics” is distracting and only part of a larger problem
  • The benefits and disadvantages of the “Intellectual Dark Web”
  • The increasing difficulty of being able to tell what is true and what is false in the media
  • Why we spend so much of our energy on tribal politics and avoid the real humanitarian problems in the world
  • Why tribal life is so compelling
  • The need to balance male and female ways of being
  • What an “Intellectual Light Web” might look like


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