Those of you who know me on Facebook know that I occasionally post expletive-filled angry scientist rants on topics people are rather stupid about. I don’t blame you (okay, maybe not ONLY you), I blame our pathetic science education here in the US. So, here’s another angry scientist rant for you. This one is going to be about sex and gender, so listen up. This one got too long for just Facebook, so I decided to turn it into a blog post.
All you people who think that sex and gender are the same have another think coming. All you people who think that there are only two sexes (or genders) also have another think coming. And no, this does not come from some social justice thing, this comes from SCIENCE.
*Edit: apologies for any of the apparent gender essentialism in here; I used “female” and “male” for describing traits as they are more generally known for clarity and brevity*
Most of you probably paid attention at least somewhat in high school biology, so you know that sex is determined by genetics (XY = male, XX = female). Thus, the ever boring argument that sex is immutable and therefore transgender people are kidding themselves and are jerks for forcing their “fantasies” onto good, God-fearing Christians.
Clearly, you haven’t checked what science has to say about that in, oh, say 20 years or so. Right? Also, the irony of fundamentalists Christians pulling out “science” as an argument is hilarious.
Did you not see see Jurassic Park? Did you miss the part where all female dinos started reproducing? Yes, yes, this is a movie. But there are actually animals that can do this in real life. A few kinds of fish are able to actually switch sexes, or even carry the genitals of both sexes.
Not to mention that all embryos start out as female, regardless of their genetics. Scientists have actually recently discovered the (potential) switch that flips in order to turn XY embryos into male babies, a protein called Gadd45g. When mice were bred without this gene, all mice appeared female, genitally speaking. They didn’t even know they had any male mice at all until they did a genetic test on them.
I’m sure you’re now thinking that’s great and all, but mice aren’t humans. True, however, you must never have heard of androgen insensitivity syndrome. This condition, which can vary in severity, causes XY carrying humans to appear completely female. In some cases, it’s not a complete insensitivity, and the genitals of the person in question are ambiguous.
Other chromosomal abnormalities are documented. People who have XXY chromosomes have Klinefelter syndrome and are male, but often have more feminine or asexual body types.
This isn’t even to mention all the strange and wacky things that no one hears about, but doctors know about their patients. One man, who had lived his whole life as a man, was flabbergasted to discover he actually had a uterus, ovaries, and a cervix (all functional at that!). Or the women who discover that they have none. Go on, look them up. I’m sure you know how to use Google now. The point is, human embryonic development is often a crap shoot. A lot of times the fetus is fine, since we don’t actually need our reproductive system to survive, and these babies are born with “unusual” genitals.
If you’re interested, look up intersex people to see the interesting variation of sex and gender there is in humans. We don’t hear about it a lot because people tend to get squicky about variations in genitalia. No one wants to admit intersex people exist, because they fall out of the completely false and artificial, but comfortable, sex binary.
But wait, you’re thinking, what does this have to do with trans people, who “choose” to have a different gender than they were born with?
While possibly only a few trans people can claim to be intersex, it’s worth noting that the main argument against trans people using the bathrooms according to their gender is that their sex is immutable and they should go with what’s in their chromosomes.
So what about those XY people, who look (genitals and all) and probably think they are women? What bathroom should they use? Do we really want to get into having to undergo a chromosomal test to pee somewhere? Do you really think a person who has the genitals of a woman, who has lived as a woman, but has the chromosomes of a man, should pee in the men’s bathroom?
Do you see how stupid, ridiculous, and harmful these bathroom bills are yet?
No? Okay, let’s go on with more science.
People keep claiming that trans people are unnatural because they are going against some sort of natural law that claims if you are male you do this, female you do that.
Come back when you’ve watched the National Geographic special on spotted hyenas. Oh, don’t have that kind of time? I’ll sum it up. Female spotted hyenas have enlarged clitorises that are called mock penises. They dominate males with them, have sex with them, and give birth through them. They even have fake scrotums so that it’s difficult to tell males from females.
Not to mention all the other animals that fake their gender for one reason or another. Usually it’s survival. Sometimes it’s to keep from being stabbed by overenthusiastic males with their weaponized penises.
So changing gender isn’t unnatural. Besides, gender presentation is cultural. You only *think* men have to behave a certain way because that’s the culture you were raised in. What if I told you that in other cultures, it’s the men who dress up nice, wear makeup, and participate in a kind of beauty pageant? Even in our own culture (Western) the presentations of men and women have changed. Men used to wear high heels and wigs. So what, exactly, is feminine now?
So, again, let’s visit the transgender question. What is so unnatural about being trans? Other animals can switch their sex (meaning their genetics are irrelevant to their sex), and other animals switch their gender (or gender roles, compared to Western humans), so genetics and genitals are irrelevant to gender. We also learned that a person’s genetics don’t necessarily predict what their genitals will look like.
Sex and gender are mutable, and a spectrum. Always have been, always will be. Presentation of gender is culturally decided, and so breaking roles is not unnatural, just unusual.
So can we shut up now about how trans people have to use the bathroom based on their sex? What the fuck does that even mean, now that we know what we know? Will it come down to having to genotype ourselves every time we want to pee? Geez, and I thought Republicans were supposed to be all about small government…
In other words, if you haven’t caught up to what science says about sex, gender, and chromosomes since you took high school biology, shut the fuck up.