Monday, August 1, 2011

Step Right Up

Via BBC:

"A half-male, half-female butterfly has hatched at London's Natural History Museum....

Only 0.01% of hatching butterflies are gynandromorphs; the technical term for these strange asymmetrical creatures....

The dual-sex butterfly is an example of a Great Mormon, Papilio memnon - a species that is native to Asia. With a shortage of butterfly-specific gender neutral pronouns, the butterfly is being referred to as 'it', and is already middle-aged at three and a half week's old."

Would "ze" or "hir" not work, for some reason, with butterflies?

Upon reflection, I realized that until I know the sex of an animal, I tend to refer to the animal as "it" and don't beging calling it "him" or "her" until I know the sex of the animal. This, I realize is different than many people's default assumption that an animal is male until proven otherwise (or, even if the animal is, like, suckling baby animals).

When a pronoun isn't available, or used, to refer to beings with intersex conditions, I wonder how that affects how we think about that being. Androgyny in humans, by which I mean the inability to ascertain whether a person is strictly male or strictly female, generally makes people very uncomfortable. Some people don't know how to treat a person or think about a person if they don't know which "half" of humanity a person belongs to.

But beyond that, I wonder if there might be a bit of "it-ing" going on. When our only pronouns are "he" and "she," is an androgynous person conceived of as an "it" until the exact point on the binary that person falls on becomes known to others?

Anyway, the article is interesting and it does a decent job of explaining the nature of this gynandromorphic butterfly. That being said, I think the headline is a little unnecessary and over-the-top given how the pronoun below is used as a derogatory, mocking term for some humans.

It reads:

"A rare he-she butterfly is born in London's NHM"


Bonus Hint: Pronouns aren't adjectives.

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