Prof. Barres is transgendered, having completed the treatments that made him fully male 10 years ago. The Whitehead talk was his first as a man, so the research he was presenting was done as Barbara.Notice the phrase "made him fully male". Now, I've read the basics of what sex change treatments involve, and it seems odd to talk about how such treatments "made him fully male". Certainly, the treatments may have made him look about as male as he can be made to look. But if we take "male" to be a biological category, it's silly to talk about someone being "made fully male". Either you're male, or you're not.
Being first a female scientist and then a male scientist has given Prof. Barres a unique perspective on the debate over why women are so rare at the highest levels of academic science and math: He has experienced personally how each is treated by colleagues, mentors and rivals.
Now, I have enough acquaintances who are into such issues that I know the standard argument goes: "Well, physical gender is really not nearly as clear cut as you imagine. What about hermaphrodites? Close examination suggests that gender isn't a binary attribute, it's a spectrum."
Obviously, how you answer this contention with whether you think there is any kind of teleology implicit in biological structures. I'm not necessarily talking teleology in the sense that ID advocates use the term, but rather the more basic concept of certain biological attributes having a defined function, regardless of how that function got there. In the case of gender, the male/female attributes clearly exist, in the biological sense, in order to allow sexual reproduction, an innovation which first appeared (according to standard interpretations of the fossil record) about 1.2 billion years ago, which has allowed more rapid genetic diversification and endless fodder for the cheaper sort of fiction.
For sexual reproduction to occur, a functional male and function female of the species are required. In this sense, while it's undeniable that various genetic defects can effect the appearance and/or function of human gender attributes, it seems to me clear that the textbook definitions of male and female represent not merely points on a spectrum, but what (at least for the perpetuation of our species -- something I'm generally in favor of) male and female "ought" to be. This doesn't mean that people with physically malformed gender attributes are less human -- unless you accept the idea that one's humanity is a matter of degree rather than identity (something which I unquestionably reject) -- but it does mean that gender is indeed binary by nature, even if some instantiations of that nature are imperfectly formed. It also means that talking about a female undergoing treatments to become "fully male" currently not only impossible, but unimaginable -- since it's not possible to make a female function as a male in any biologically meaningful sense.
Which leaves one to ask, why is it that our culture's ways of discussing gender of drifted so far from what gender actually is?