Hello all, and welcome to Best in Moderation’s lessons for conservatives! In these courses I will go through many topics that conservatives seem to have trouble grasping or make easy mistakes on and explain them in an easy to find, easy to reference manner for future discussions on BNR. My hope is that this provides not only a learning opportunity for conservatives but also gives BNR fresh life by dispensing of the same old myths and talking points. Given how thoroughly we are going to dismantle the myths and arguments, only a complete fool would continue using them.
And nobody wants to be a fool, right?
Lesson The First: Sex Is Not Simple
Now I am not referring to “sex” as what people do between special sheets with holes cut in them here, nor of the 2 minutes of obligatory missionary that many of you may be used to. I am referring to “sex” as in the biological distinction. It is there that most conservative arguments begin, so we too will start there, with a bit of history.
In 1890, the X and Y chromosomes were discovered. It was found that the men who were tested had 46 chromosomes, including an X and a Y, while women who were tested also had 46 chromosomes, including 2 X chromosomes. So obviously the conclusion was that the Y chromosome defined being male. A reasonable conclusion. Males were XY & Females were XX
Fast forward 50 years… and it was found that some men had 47 chromosomes, including 2 X’s and a Y, while some women had 45, including only one X. Still no problem with the “Y chromosome defines being male” idea, but sex was no longer binary, with multiple variations inside each category we’d defined as Male or Female. Now we had XXY, XY Males and XX, X Females. Our categorization was weaker (not absolute) but still worked for the definition.
Then it was found that fully 1 in 300 “men” weren’t 46,XY. And some “women” were.
After DNA was discovered in the 50s, it was found that the SrY gene, usually found on the Y chromosome, sometimes was missing. And sometimes had been translocated to another chromosome, hence 46,XX men and 46,XY women. So we decided that SrY defined being male. Now we had XXSrY, XYSrY, XXYSrY Males and XX, XY-nonSrY, X Females. Here things got complicated, as we had absolutes (X was always Female, XXY was always Male) and we had variants (XX and XY could be either Male of Female).
And then it was found out that some men didn’t have an SrY chromosome, not anywhere. Some women did. Other genes were involved. Worse, other factors, such as Androgen Insensitivity made 46,XY people female, and Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia masculinised 46,XX people. So now we had XXSrY, XXnonSrY, XYSrY, XY-nonSrY, XXYSrY, XXYnonSrY Males and XSrY, XnonSrY, XXSrY, XXnonSrY, XYSrY, XYnonSyR Females.
At this point is was clear that sex was not binary. Genetically, both people who presented as Male and Female could have almost any set of chromosome combinations. Many were shared in both categories and aside from an in depth genetic test, no one could really tell.
Then in the 70s, other syndromes, such as 5alpha-reductase-2 deficiency were identified, which caused babies to look like one sex at birth, then the other at puberty. In some places 1 in 50 infants had this natural “sex change.”
In an isolated village of the southwestern Dominican Republic, 2% of the live births in the 1970s were “guevedoces.” These children appeared to be girls at birth, but at puberty these ‘girls’ sprout muscles, testes, and a penis. For the rest of their lives they are men in nearly all respects.
In the 90s, researchers found that cases where hormonal hiccups in the womb caused some parts of the body to develop as one sex, others as the other, regardless of genetics.
Even more interesting, transgender people showcase these physical types associated with their chosen gender. Male–to–female transsexuals have female neuron numbers in a limbic nucleus, for example. One could even go so far as to say that this person, while born “biologically male,” is in fact born with multiple biological factors associated with “biological females.”
That was 30 years ago. We have known for over 30 years scientifically that genetics do not determine gender presentation, either physically, mentally or culturally. Sex is not binary. Sex does not determine gender. Sex does not determine physical presentation.
We still teach kids XY is male, XX is female. That’s scientifically incorrect. It leads to many adults being woefully uneducated about sex and gender and it makes ignorant people make terrible policy decisions. It leads to discrimination and false expectations based on assumptions.
At the same time, we do not teach the Theory of General Relativity in 3rd grade. We do not teach advanced linear algebra in kindergarten. Simplifying information for easy digestion is a key part of education, and advocating for pure scientific accuracy in all aspects of education is foolish. Even more foolish however is pretending that a kindergartener’s understanding of sex and gender is sufficient for adults to make policy about, or even to judge others on.
So my lesson to you, my fine conservative audience, is that sex isn’t simple, genetics do not determine gender presentation, and maybe you should think some more about the differences between gender and sex when engaging in further conversations about either.
I hope this helps clear up confusion. Feel free to ask clarifying questions in the comments, so that we can consolidate the talking points in one place for later use. And I hope you took my ribbing in the good humor it was intended in.
Until the next topic!
– Best in Moderation