Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Real

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Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Real

Postby Ree » 22 Apr 2015, 12:15

So, I'm not great at organizing the topic posts for stuff like that, so here's a bunch of facts:

Gender is socially constructed and not binary. Lots of people are neither men nor women, and what "man" and "woman" (or "male" and "female") means varies from cultural context to cultural context.

Well-meaning people like to talk about how "sex is different from gender," but that's fundamentally wrong-headed. Sex isn't a property of a person; it's not a real thing.

"Biological sex" isn't a real thing, and it certainly isn't binary. Stuff like chromosomes are not only insufficient to describe "biological sex," they're also not even used to. After all, when was the last time you had a karotype test done?

Constructions like "biological sex" (which is, obviously, socially constructed) serve no useful purpose. Stuff like medical care can't be meaningfully based on "biological sex" alone. Like, any doctor treating me (a trans woman) wouldn't be able to just essentially treat me as "biologically male" -- my hormones, body chemistry, and anatomy are significantly different than a cis man's are likely to be. The only real "use" that kind of construction serves is as a way to say that trans women aren't really women or similar gross bullshit.

Here's a thing you should read about biological sex: http://www.autostraddle.com/its-time-for-people-to-stop-using-the-social-construct-of-biological-sex-to-defend-their-transmisogyny-240284/

Oh, also, this is all specific to humans. I'm not interested in tangents about non-human animals and the assignment of "sex" or "gender" to them.

EDIT: fixed the link
EDIT EDIT: Just to head this off at the pass, please stick to "trans" or "transgender" to describe trans people (similarly, "cis" or "cisgender"). Let's not with the "-ed" thing. Also, please refrain from using any word other than intersex to describe intersex people (please don't say the "h-word").
Last edited by Ree on 22 Apr 2015, 12:23, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby JustAName » 22 Apr 2015, 12:16

Yes, these topics have come up in the Feminist and Gay threads.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby AdmiralMemo » 22 Apr 2015, 12:21

Fayili wrote:Yes, these topics have come up in the Feminist and Gay threads.
Which I tried to mention in Twitch chat, but apparently, it was "a monster thread that is only tangentially related"... :|
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Ree » 22 Apr 2015, 12:24

AdmiralMemo wrote:
Fayili wrote:Yes, these topics have come up in the Feminist and Gay threads.
Which I tried to mention in Twitch chat, but apparently, it was "a monster thread that is only tangentially related"... :|

I don't want to derail a big general thread with this specific discussion is all.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby JustAName » 22 Apr 2015, 12:27

It's not derailing, it's very pertinent. And, like I said, it is stuff we have discussed there.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Psyclone » 22 Apr 2015, 12:28

I can easily see this thread going horribly wrong.

(That's not to say that YOU'RE wrong, Ree, but that there are members on this forum who would disagree with you quite vocally and it could get ugly pretty quickly.)
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Jondare » 22 Apr 2015, 12:33

(I tried to be as neutral in my wording as possible, so i hope i haven't offended anyone)

Just because 1% or so of the population doesn't fit into the binary system, doesn't mean that its totally wonrg. After all, ignoring that 1% of people who have XXY or XXX or whatever non-standard chromosome combination, people with a Y chromosome will have certain primary and secondary sexual characteristics, while people with XX chromosomes will have another set of sexual characteristics.

Can these be changed later on, through hormone therapy and surgery? To some degree yes, but no matter how many hormones you take, or how many surgeries you go through, if you were born with XY chromosomes, you will always have (or not have) that Y chromosome,

Does that make you less of a man? Biologically, i suppose so, but for the large majority of cases that shouldn't matter one bit. If you feel like a man, i will gladly recognize that, and to the best of my ability treat you like one, but it doesn not change the fact that you either have an Y chromosome or do not.

Now, if you are one of those 1% of people with non-standard chromosome configerations? Congratulations, you're neither male nor female, biologically. Far as i know the primary and secondary characteristics for peple with non-standard chromosome pairs vary greatly, from where they are pretty much impossible to discern from people with a standard XX or XY package, to people having none, and more or less any combination inbetween.

In those cases, the doctors and parents will genrally look for sexual characteristics, and if they find one, make that the persons offical gender, and in that case YES, gender is a construct. But in the other 99% of cases? No, its very much a biological thing.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Amake » 22 Apr 2015, 12:41

Well, I'm all for eliminating sexes as a divisive factor between people. I don't think it should matter, for any given interaction with a person. (It might matter in some specific circumstances like if you're going to make babies, but mostly no.) I don't think it's some innate quality of your body, mind or soul that you should be required to live with. And I know it's not related to gender.

But I imagine people are going to want to know how to classify these physiological differences between our various reproductive systems. For instance, how should I introduce myself, as the owner of a functional penis who's working to overcome the expectations society and myself has placed on me to define myself by that characteristic, to people who by and large are working under the same expectations? Does "cisgender man" still work? I'm all for developing new, more inclusive terminology, but if sex is out what do we use instead?
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby AdmiralMemo » 22 Apr 2015, 12:43

Jondare wrote:people with a Y chromosome will have certain primary and secondary sexual characteristics, while people with XX chromosomes will have another set of sexual characteristics.
What about things like this, then?

Edit:
Amake wrote:I'm all for developing new, more inclusive terminology
Yeah, that's always going to be a problem, because, as history shows, many arguments are started due to the fact that people who are using the same words, while meaning different things, will clash. We'll come up with new terms, and then several decades down the road, people will come to some issue where people don't conform to the new terms, and it's all over again, back to square one.
Last edited by AdmiralMemo on 22 Apr 2015, 13:16, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Ree » 22 Apr 2015, 12:44

Jondare wrote:(I tried to be as neutral in my wording as possible, so i hope i haven't offended anyone)

Just because 1% or so of the population doesn't fit into the binary system, doesn't mean that its totally wonrg. *snip* ...in that case YES, gender is a construct. But in the other 99% of cases? No, its very much a biological thing.


But that goes to show that gender is NOT biological or binary, because that's clearly insufficient. I know that most people are cis and dyadic, but that doesn't mean it's acceptable to just ignore the existence of trans and intersex people, or to write us off as footnotes.

(Since someone is going to ask, "dyadic" means "not intersex" in this context)

Jondare wrote:(buncha stuff about chromosomes)

Have you ever had your chromosomes tested? I haven't, and basically nobody I know has. Certainly, when we coercively assign sex to infants, we don't karotype them. Like, we're not actually using chromosomes to determine "sex" or gender, it's just used to just justify that practice.

Did you read that article I linked? If not, go do that.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Ree » 22 Apr 2015, 12:49

Amake wrote:For instance, how should I introduce myself, as the owner of a functional penis who's working to overcome the expectations society and myself has placed on me to define myself by that characteristic, to people who by and large are working under the same expectations? Does "cisgender man" still work? I'm all for developing new, more inclusive terminology, but if sex is out what do we use instead?


If you're a cis dude, introduce yourself as such. If you want to specify stuff about your cock to people you meet, that's fine, but that's not gender, that's just your junk. Like, you can talk about genitals by just talking about genitals, there's no need to tie that to "sex" or anything used as a cudgel against trans, intersex, and NB folx.

AdmiralMemo wrote:What about things like [androgen insensitivity], then?

Many people with androgen insensitivity are cisgender intersex women. Intersex folks are a pretty excellent "case-in-point" for biological sex not being meaningful.

EDIT: corrected a "most" to a "many"
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Jondare » 22 Apr 2015, 12:54

I did read it, still disagree.

The reason we don't test the chromosome of everyone is that, in 99% of cases, it's pretty clear what sex we are: If there's eomthing between the legs, person probably has a Y chromosome, if there isn't (Or at least a far less dangly bit) person probably has two X chromosomes.

And just because not everyone has a biological sex, doesn't mean its not a thing. I don't have a vagina, but it's still a thing. And more impartantly, there are certain characteristics that are more or less based on that biological sex, some of which are changeable, but a bunch of which are not.

I can however agree that having sex be binary might be a mistake, seeing as though it does kind of imply that intersex people aren't "proper" people, which is clearly wrong.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby austriamann » 22 Apr 2015, 12:55

Gender is inherent to human beings and every other creature in class mammalia. It exists in human cultures which have been isolated from each other for thousands of years in a nearly identical way. The fact that it is uniformly pervasive proves it is in fact, a fundamental truth to our existence.
If you do not find fulfillment as your biological gender, you are free to assume the identity and roles of the other, but this does not require the elimination of such a fundamental truth to our existence simply to privilege a tiny minority over the rest of humanity.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Ree » 22 Apr 2015, 13:01

Jondare wrote:And just because not everyone has a biological sex, doesn't mean its not a thing. I don't have a vagina, but it's still a thing.


The conception behind biological sex isn't that only some people have it (otherwise it becomes essentially meangingless) - it's that everyone has a biological sex. Which is clearly wrong, which makes "biological sex" a bad way to talk about people and their bodies. Is the word you're looking at "cisgender" or "dyadic"?

austriamann wrote:Gender is inherent to human beings and every other creature in class mammalia. It exists in human cultures which have been isolated from each other for thousands of years in a nearly identical way. The fact that it is uniformly pervasive proves it is in fact, a fundamental truth to our existence.

Uh, gender is NOT consistent between cultures and societies. A 100-level anthropology course would teach you that. Go read up on two-spirit people among American Indian/First Nations cultures or the hijra or any of a number of other examples of different gender systems.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Jondare » 22 Apr 2015, 13:01

Austriamann Careful about your woordings: Gender varies GREATLY from culture to culture, and most people agree that its a societal construct. What we're discussing here is the existence of a biological SEX, which i think is what you mean.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Amake » 22 Apr 2015, 13:06

Like, you can talk about genitals by just talking about genitals, there's no need to tie that to "sex" or anything used as a cudgel against trans, intersex, and NB folx.

Yeah, I'm trying to figure out how to do that. The question should have been, how do you classify genitals without resorting to sexes? As much as I'd like it not to matter, people are going to look at me and say I'm "male". If I'm going to tell them that's wrong, I need to know what to tell them to use instead. I don't think I can convince anyone to get over the delusion of sexes in less than 25 words.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Ree » 22 Apr 2015, 13:11

Amake wrote:Yeah, I'm trying to figure out how to do that. The question should have been, how do you classify genitals without resorting to sexes? As much as I'd like it not to matter, people are going to look at me and say I'm "male". If I'm going to tell them that's wrong, I need to know what to tell them to use instead.

Oh, I think I see what you mean. You can talk about your genitals by literally talking about your genitals. Like, you can say "Alice has a penis" or "Bob has a vagina" or something like that, without using words like "male" or "female."
If you're male (the gender), then people aren't wrong to call you male (although they probably oughtn't be guessing gender based on appearances, and should just ask). If you aren't male (eg. if you're genderqueer), you can just tell them that.
Gender is real (although not everyone has gender). Biological sex isn't.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby AdmiralMemo » 22 Apr 2015, 13:12

Ree wrote:
AdmiralMemo wrote:What about things like [androgen insensitivity], then?
Many people with androgen insensitivity are cisgender intersex women. Intersex folks are a pretty excellent "case-in-point" for biological sex not being meaningful.

EDIT: corrected a "most" to a "many"
*facepalms* I wasn't trying to get an answer out of that out of you specifically, since I know that's exactly what you'd say. I was trying to get an answer from Jondare, who I was directly replying to (before Amake jumped in while I was typing), since Jondare was the one who said:
Jondare wrote:people with a Y chromosome will have certain primary and secondary sexual characteristics, while people with XX chromosomes will have another set of sexual characteristics.
Androgen insensitive people have normal XY chromosones, and it is a different part of their genetics that causes the differing characteristics.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Ree » 22 Apr 2015, 13:14

AdmiralMemo wrote:I wasn't trying to get an answer out of that out of you specifically, since I know that's exactly what you'd say.

Oops! That's why I quote :p
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby AdmiralMemo » 22 Apr 2015, 13:16

And I would've quoted if it wasn't the last post when I was typing. I didn't expect Amake to jump in the middle, which is why I had to edit.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Jondare » 22 Apr 2015, 13:17

Let me rephrase that then: Just because we do not have words for every compination of chromosomes and sexual characteristics doesnt mean that sex isn't a thing at all, it just means that we haven't really given it much thought up until now. Should this change? Sure. It's not fair to intersex people to just lump them into one big group marked "Not part of the binary sex club" and call it a day. But it does not mean that the idea of a biological sex per se is useless or a societal construct. What we call the various permutations of biological sex, sure, its language, languages are constructed. But 99% of people fall into one of 2 buckets.

Cause again, no matter how much a person might want it, if they were born as a male, with Y chromosomes, then they will always have those Y chromosomes, no matter how much surgery that person goes through.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby AdmiralMemo » 22 Apr 2015, 13:19

Jondare wrote:Cause again, no matter how much a person might want it, if they were born as a male, with Y chromosomes, then they will always have those Y chromosomes, no matter how much surgery that person goes through.
Until nano-surgery becomes a thing... Maybe in a couple hundred years...
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Ree » 22 Apr 2015, 13:22

Jondare wrote:Let me rephrase that then: Just because we do not have words for every compination of chromosomes and sexual characteristics doesnt mean that sex isn't a thing at all, it just means that we haven't really given it much thought up until now. Should this change? Sure. It's not fair to intersex people to just lump them into one big group marked "Not part of the binary sex club" and call it a day. But it does not mean that the idea of a biological sex per se is useless or a societal construct. What we call the various permutations of biological sex, sure, its language, languages are constructed. But 99% of people fall into one of 2 buckets.

Cause again, no matter how much a person might want it, if they were born as a male, with Y chromosomes, then they will always have those Y chromosomes, no matter how much surgery that person goes through.


Why are you so okay with throwing so many people under the bus here, just to preserve some deeply-flawed conception of "biological sex"? I'm not biologically male - every part of me is female, from my (presumable) Y chromosome to my penis. Like, sure, chromosomes are immutable, but chromosomes clearly don't determine maleness or femaleness.

"Just because [this system of classification that is forced upon everyone] doesn't have the capacity to meaningful describe everyone doesn't mean it's not useful" Yes. Yes it does.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Jondare » 22 Apr 2015, 13:24

Admiralmemo: Had a feeling that was probably directed at me, but wasn't sure :P

Anyway, The part you were quoting was talking about the 99% of people who do not have non-standard chromosome pairings, or various genetic disorders and so on.

I have already admitted that having sex be binary isn't a good idea, and that there are edge cases and exceptions, but that doesn't mean that there isn't any biologival sex at all, just that it's a more nuanced thing than our current binary+"others" interpretation
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby My pseudonym is Ix » 22 Apr 2015, 13:26

I'm with Jondare on this. Gender is neither binary nor biological, and that's fine. Sex isn't as binary as it often seems either, and that's fine. But sex is most certainly biological, and having two binary terms to describe the majority of the population's sex is also fine. It's incomplete, and the fact that there's nothing to cover the cases where it is deficient is the opposite of fine, but the concept of biological sex is still fine for most cases. Excluding it as a definition is not going to help matters, it's just going to make things more inconvenient for a lot of people. Ultimately, it's all fine. Except the idea that these things aren't fine. That isn't fine.

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