The idea of androgyny has hounded humanity from its very beginning, whether you consider "the beginning" as a creationist, an evolutionist or through some other hybrid of standard mythology and spirituality. While the "creator" of the world, either God, Zeus or some other figure has been consistently portrayed as male, the immediate progeny of these creators have experienced some of the closest encounters with androgyny of all figures throughout history. God's Adam, an archetypal man, was originally something more than, or daresay, other than a man. He was originally both man and woman, a creature from whom woman, Eve, was created. Adam became the first man only after Eve was taken from his rib. As a man, he was the remainder of a more complete organic and sexual being whose sexuality was not distinctly male or female.
Zeus, the ruler of all Greek Gods on Mt. Olympus, according to standard mythology, first created humans as asexual beings, neither men nor women. As the story goes, these creatures, recognizing their asexuality not as any weakness or imbalance but rather as an innate, even Godlike strength, staged an attack on the Gods of Olympus. In defense, Zeus smote each of them in two, cleaving the feminine from the masculine, reducing them from self-contained, self-reproducing entities to halves of their original selves. The common ancestry of all contemporary human kind then, is found in a state of original genderlessness, at least according to standard Judeo-Christian and pagan creationist theories.
Evolutionists, in opposition to creationists, propose a system in which the appearance of modern man relies on theories of natural selection, survival instinct and differentiation of sex and species. Despite its reliance on efficient procreation to explain the progression of species, androgyny has made significant appearances within this gender differentiated system. In fact the very first living creatures on earth were androgynous. Just as the "original" Adam begot both the first man and the first woman Eve, the first single cell creatures alive on earth were capable of self-reproduction. Evolutionists argue that somewhere in the course of this self-duplication, a series of random genetic mutations caused not only the differentiation among species, but also the division into male and female. This division has remained distinct throughout the course of evolution with a few notable exceptions. Females of certain species have been known to reproduce without any apparent sexual intercourse with the opposite gender of the same species.
Until all people are created through the means of science, if that ever happens to be the case, humans are left to grapple with only one recourse to assure their survival, sexual procreation. Zeus's act of quelling the rebellion of his androgynous children by dividing them in half, forcing them to seek each other in order to survive, was astute. In so doing, he assured that the vast majority of all resources available to humans were devoted to sorting out, negotiating and even killing for the right to join with the opposite sex instead of waging war against the Gods on Olympus.
Hedwig, one of the great contemporary androgynous characters recognized the magnitude of this struggle keenly:
But I could swear by your expression
That the pain down in your soul
Was the same as the one down in mine
That's the pain
That cuts a straight line down through the heart
We call it love
Being half of more complete, single entities, humans suffer inherent and deep complications. On one hand, we strive for progress, perfection, knowledge, enlightenment, salvation, isolation and self-perpetuation, even immortality. We seek to be whole beings, safe from the vagaries of the constant search for another to complete ourselves. On the other hand, we seek to join with our opposite, procreate, exclude, claim, destroy and amass. At times, we may seek only one or the other of these states, but for the most part, we feel and act upon both at all times, dividing our energies between inherently inconsistent goals.
There have been many grand inventions throughout history intended as emollients for the pain and inconvenience caused by this conflict. Most are of a religious or scientific nature. They claim to provide an escape, on a sort of continuum, from our own natures. Religion provides forgiveness, either from within or from some kind of fatherly or other spiritual figure when we transgress, or act upon our base desires. Catholicism, specifically condones partnering in only one way, between men and women, with the exception only of those who "marry" God and vow celibacy. Same sex partnering is prohibited as are certain sexual practices even between men and women. Those who deviate from these practices are tagged with assuming an aberrant, even indeterminate sexuality. Oddly however, this sexual "deviance" bears at least a small resemblance to the self-enforced celibacy of priests, nuns and monks, at least in their adoption of practices which don't result in procreation. While Catholicism serves mostly as a rigid shield against transgression, there is a degree of sexual ambivalence at both extremes of belief and non-belief within Catholic dogma.
Other cultural devices have been invented as a means of allowing and encouraging the practice of base desires and instincts which are seen as repressed by predominant religious beliefs. Dinonysian or Satanic cults are two such examples. By promoting festivals involving mind alteration and debauchery they satisfy the human urge to procreate without complication. Despite their encouragement of such gender specific activities, however, these cults often adopt androgynous symbolism or practices as a way to distinguish their beliefs from those of mainstream society.
Modern science has taken great pains to ease the suffering resulting from the inner conflict between gender specific and non-gender specific impulses. Psychology provides ways to shape our behavior and lives to ease the time and energy spent searching for, living with, and departing from our other halves, our partners. Medicinal science has invented psychotropic drugs to ease mental problems whose onset is related to relationships. Other medical options now include the means to regulate, prolong or terminate the bodily functions responsible for procreation itself, allowing each of us to control how much we wish to subject ourselves, or not, to the base human desire to procreate.
Other examples of sexual indeterminacy, or androgyny, can be found throughout all passes of human convention, in as many unexpected, as expected points. Androgyny, in its visual manifestation, is rampant throughout the normal human life cycle. Newborn babies, and for that matter, pre-birth embryonic and fetal stages all carry some gender indeterminacy in appearance. Thus the prevalence of pink or blue gender identifying clothing and decoration for infant girls and boys. The fashion industry serves the purpose of both creating and obfuscating traditional gender roles by either promoting clothing that will enhance manliness and womanliness or clothing that flaunts standard gender identity for those who wish to defy such tradition. Androgyny also bears its head at the very end of the human lifecycle as the extremely aged take on a kind of visual gender indeterminacy, their bodies becoming either gaunt or corpulent to the point of effacing sexual identity at life's end. Various gnostics and supernaturalists also speculate that the spiritual incarnations of humans which exist both before and after life are genderless despite having specific sexuality during their worldly journeys.
Gender indeterminacy also appears in its visual form on the fringes of human morphological normalcy. Many birth defects or diseases carried later in life can render one visually genderless. Likewise, extreme trauma such as a burn can lead to indistinct gender. The category of people spectacularly referred to as "freaks" is rife with androgynous characters including the famous "wolf boy" as well as several "giants" whose bones grew so unnaturally fast and large that their figures became neither male nor female.
Visual examples of androgyny are common and expected in instances involving those whose sexual preference includes both male and female or who prefer partners only of the same sex. Those who choose and indeed, are born into these sexual preferences often adopt habits of dressing, grooming or behaving like those of the opposite sex, or of neither in particular. This may be done as a way to identify their sexuality to others, to seek or demand acceptance on a par with other more common or conventional sexual orientations, or simply to mock or flaunt the intolerance of their marginalized, even illegal status. One or the other partner in same sex relationships may even adopt characteristics of the opposite sex in order to conform to societal expectations of how a woman, in the case of a relationship between two men, or a man, in the case of a relationship between two women, should typically appear and behave.
While the theory of evolution is not something to be witnessed in action, as it is thought to have taken place over millions of years, it appears that the most evolved species produced by this multi-million year process, the homo sapiens, is determined to hasten or at least leave some unnatural mark on this natural process. Notable early attempts at affecting this natural order were crude and diabolical in nature and included such incidents as the Armenian genocide and the Nazi Holocaust in the 20th century.
More refined attempts at influencing the progress of natural evolution which now take place under the guise of beneficial medical research and science include efforts at creating artificial intelligence and genetic research, specifically, cloning. These efforts which seek to alter and even create life itself incorporate notions of androgyny as it existed in the earliest life forms, both those posited by creationists and evolutionists. The highest form of artificial intelligence proposed by research teams at advanced research institutions will be able to learn, grow, sustain and even propagate itself without recourse to meddling with members of any opposite sex. Cloned plants and animals and some day, humans, will be created from only the most advanced materials and techniques, able to overcome all emotional, spiritual and physical limitations which now hamper the march of human progress. These ultimate beings will reproduce on their own, perhaps with the push of a button and will become immortal, ultimately doing away with the need to procreate at all.
The earliest visions of our future have almost always included either some genderless creature from beyond earth or an androgynous robot made in some mad scientist’s basement. Perhaps the imagined creatures from beyond earth are of no specific sexuality because they represent an idealized version of our original, uncompromised state. They are the Adam who has not been robbed of his inner woman and the children of Zeus who have either won their war with their maker or realized its futility and never waged it to begin with. Likewise, the cyborgs of our popular culture need no union with any artificial counterpart to procreate. They are "perfect" unlike their creators.