The 86th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2017)

Queer developments: LGBTQIA perspectives on ontogeny, growth and development, and ranges of variation in human and nonhuman primates


1Department of Anthropology, Boston University, 2Department of Anthropology, The Graduate School and University Center, The City University of New York, 3New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology, 4Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of La Verne

April 21, 2017 4:30, Riverview 1 Add to calendar

Most people’s physical and behavioral phenotypes fit comfortably within societal norms absent special thought or effort. Being LGBTQIA is, in many ways, a persistent act of self-awareness and revision in relation to those norms. Our particular positionalities outside societal norms during development fundamentally shaped our interests in and academic approaches to human and non-human primate growth, development, and variation. CAS’s constant process of interrogating whether, how, and why he came to live outside accepted male gender norms as a child eventually translated into a deep curiosity about and multifaceted approach to understanding primate development. CMA, an intersex person – someone born with a combination of traits considered traditionally male, female, and/or atypical for either in the same body – knew she was different from a young age, sparking her interest in ranges of biological variation and the causes of such diversity. SLM’s gender atypicality drove her curiosity about the consistent canalization of typicality itself—why and how do so many individuals become gender-typical? Our lack of intuitive understanding of the norm generates fewer (or different) implicit assumptions about the norm, constant critique of biological categorization that does not fully describe the data, and appreciation of the need to understand all aspects of biological variation. Through our experiential knowledge of the inadequacy of sex and gender categories, the interactive effects of intrinsic and extrinsic forces on developmental outcomes, and the production of “normality” as an active process requiring scrutiny, our otherness has shaped the way we interrogate the world and practice science.