The Klein-Demsky Matrix of Sex and Gender

Kenneth Demsky, PhD

Presented at the First Annual Women of the Beaumont Society Conference Cambridge, 15 March 2009


Issue 48
Winter 2009

Once upon a time, and for a very long time thereafter, one's life was regarded as determined in large part by the appearance to others of one's genitalia at the moment of birth. That may sound strange, but it's true.

Thus, if one's infant genitalia were perceived as an 'outie', many assumptions were immediately made about who one was: male gender identity, attracted to women, fond of physical activity, with your favourite colour being brown. On the other hand, if one's infant genitalia were slightly smaller and we are dealing with measurements of centimetres here one was presumed to have a female gender identity, to be attracted to men, fond of knitting and babies, and that your favourite colour was pink.

Luckily, society has learned by now that there are men who are couch potatoes and women who like to play sports, just as there are men who like to wear purple and women who don't want to do flower arrangements.

I would like to offer here what I consider the most comprehensive and realistic theory of sexuality and gender currently available to us, based on the groundbreaking work of American psychologist Fritz Klein. I believe it is a theory that can help us to navigate our own (and our partner's) map of gender and sexuality.

In his 1978 volume, The Bisexual Option, Dr. Klein suggested a three-dimensional grid consisting of present, past and ideal descriptions of several aspects of sex. In his view the human expression of sexuality is not static and clearcut but temporal and fluid, capable of varying across our lifetimes due to circumstances (e.g., being imprisoned), experience (e.g., having suffered rape), and so on.

To Dr. Klein's grid of sexuality, I have added two variables related to gender i.e., both psychological (gender identity) and physiological ones (anatomical) to make the model more inclusive of and relevant to transgendered and intersex conditions.

Klein enumerated seven variables on his grid, with each considered relative to male and female, calculated up to 100% on each. Thus, about each variable one might ask oneself, How much is it men and how much is it women? The variables themselves are:

  1. Sexual attraction (what turns you on);
  2. Sexual behaviour (who are your sex partners);
  3. Sexual fantasies (which do you fantasise about);
  4. Emotional preference (with which one do you fall in love with);
  5. Social preference (who are your close friends);
  6. Your lifestyle (either 'straight', and presumably mostly focussed on family-and-kids, or 'gay', and presumably mostly focussed on friendships and dating);
  7. and Self-identification (how do you label yourself).

Furthermore, each of these variables can be plotted in terms of past, present and ideal (Klein's term for what is, in effect, future) enactment.

My contribution has been to add two more variables: (1) gender identity(how much do you feel like a male or a female); and (2) anatomy (how much is your body female and how much is it male). Again, the dimension of past, present and future is considered. By these additions, the experiences of such individuals as a pre-operative trans-woman and a man with Klinefelter's Syndrome can be plotted.

The resulting three-dimensional Klein-Demsky Matrix accounts for individual differences over time, the multi-faceted nature of sexual orientation, as well as the full range of variance in gender identity and anatomical genderedness. Ultimately, each of us has an experience of sexuality and gender which changes across time and experience and circumstances which is much more individual, personal and unique than how the delivery room staff perceive our genitals at birth.

Kenneth Demsky, PhD
Flat 2, 10 Langland Gardens
Hampstead, London NW3 6PR
Tel. 020 7435 6116

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