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

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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby 2stepz » 24 Jun 2015, 21:20

Let me start by saying this is a very educational thread and a well-reasoned debate. I do appreciate that very much.

However, the teacher part of my brain is picturing one of my 50-some year old lady coworkers sorting her 2nd grade students by saying "Vaginas in this line, Penii over there." Its ridiculously humorous to me... but brings up a point in my head.

I love the discussion, and see the need for it to happen. However... it is very idealistic in nature. This topic will take several generations for change to occur on any substantial basis. There will, for the entirety of my life time, be sex-based "girls" and "boys" restrooms in school systems... and until that changes, culture will continue to embrace the default construct of bio-male and bio-female.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby JustAName » 24 Jun 2015, 21:29

I dunno about the entirety of your lifetime... I guess it depends on where. I've already seen a lot of change around here, but I know California's better for that than the midwest. I can see a lot of bathrooms around here being any gender in ten years, though.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Amake » 25 Jun 2015, 02:51

Well, the future is inevitable. It's just a question of how many people will try to push it back, how many will sit and wait for it to come to us and how many will drag it kicking and screaming into the here and now. We need to work to make it happen, I believe. Ideally before any more people have to suffer and die for being born at the wrong time than already have.

How does one make the future happen, you ask? With discussions like this one, educating and blowing minds all over the floor. For a start.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Kortanios » 25 Jun 2015, 06:31

This is why we need more people to go into science communication. I did not want to get involved in this because people are going to be offended by what I say, but after bringing science into it I have to comment. This is the same issue that comes up with theory as used by most people and a scientific theory, the fact that it is the same word doesn't mean it has the same meaning. The following is purely scientific, removing all emotions and any notion that humans are anything more than smart animals.

First things first, some definitions:
Wild Type - the fully functional version consensus version (i.e. not mutated) of a gene, group of genes, or general genetic make-up, and the phenotype resulting from the presence of said genetic traits.
Genotype - which copy of one or more genes are present (e.g. the genotype BRCA2+/- means the person has one wild type and one non-functional version of the cancer suppressing gene BRCA2)
Phenotype - what is expressed by genes - effectively what we see
Mutation - a change in one or more base pairs in DNA (it can mess with phenotypes even if it's outside of genes in some cases)

The definitions of male and female are functional, they define individuals that fulfil a biological roles. Definitions for male and female, biologically speaking, are constant across biology, despite the specific genetic make-up of what constitutes each sex is different for individual species (typically within a class the defining genetic characteristics tend to be similar while within a phylum they can already vary significantly):

Female - Ovum (or equivalent) producing
Male - Sperm (or equivalent) producing

This holds for all sexually reproducing organisms, in the case of organisms the produce both, the organs that they are produced in are still classified as male or female because of their function (it gets somewhat more ambiguous once you get to organisms in the 10^4 - 10^2 cells range).

How sexes come about varies between species, most have genetic markers, some use things as obscure as incubation temperature, the common theme is that (non-zwitter) sexually reproducing organisms always end up with some variation of pollinating-pollinated i.e. male/female. In the case of humans the wild type ovum producing individuals have XX as their 23rd chromosome pair and sperm producing individuals XY. Given that all other genes related to gamete production and hormone sensitivity are wild type or have non-knockout mutations individuals will develop to express female and male external and internal characteristics in tissues, hormones, and gamete production. As a result, because the wild type (in all relevant genes) XX individual is female, XX is considered female in humans, and because the wild type (in all relevant genes) XY individual is male, XY is considered male in humans.

There is no complete consensus when it comes to classifying individuals who are not wild type or a close approximation thereof because each of these conditions has a unique genetic or cell-mechanic cause. Someone not being wild type in this regard doesn't make them less of a person, it just means that the variation and randomness that allows evolution to occur is happening all the time. That is all I am going to say about that part of the discussion because identity politics gets messy really fast.

All genotypes carry medically and scientifically relevant hormonal, physiological, and genetic characteristics. Just like people of different ethnicities are under different risks for genetically inherited diseases, or conditions/diseases that their genotype makes them more susceptible towards. If you say that race is just something we make up people of East Asian origin don't just start having lower rates of lactose intolerance, caucasians don't suddenly have lower rates of cystic fibrosis, and people of sub-Saharan African origin don't suddenly have a lower rate of sickle-cell anemia. For crying out loud there is a huge difference in MHC gene-frequency distribution depending on your ethnicity. The notion that your genetics and the type of tissue formed during your development are irrelevant when it comes particularly to your health is bordering on denialism and a self-destructive form at that.



On the issue of brains, a large portion of the research points to the hormonal levels in utero in the weeks where the basic architecture of the brain is determined as the defining feature. Variations in these levels can cause different parts of the brain to develop and link to other parts of the brain differently. The areas where this has been found to play an effect are e.g. in spacial awareness, spacial thinking, empathy, communication skills, reading of facial expression etc. There is no conclusive evidence for either site as to whether this plays a role in matters of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Denying the experiences that individuals go through is something that should not happen. It is also clear and obvious that bigoted people are using a term that they pervert and twist to do harm to the transgender and intersex communities. That does not mean that there is no such thing as male and female and zwitter and asexually reproducing in biology. These are terms invented to describe something observed throughout nature.



Also, Memo, the kind of surgery you suggested really early in the thread would be highly impractical. It would be far easier to genetically change dividing iPS cells from one sex to the other and grow entire organs or and entire new body than it would be to replace all copies of one chromosome in all cells in the body. The problem would even in that case be the brain, we don't know how exactly memories are formed (some rough ideas and patterns have been identified) and the preservation of memories and identity would be paramount when doing this kind of surgery to begin with.

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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Volafortis » 25 Jun 2015, 08:17

I don't believe anyone in the thread is trying to claim that chromosomes don't exist, because obviously they do.

The issue is the ambiguity of the term "Biological" because there are multiple biological determining factors of gender and sex. Most people who try to pin down "biological" to refer to "assigned at birth sex" are simplifying sex biology to genitalia/chromosomes which is considerably oversimplifying, as well as trying to deny a biological cause to being transgender, which while they may not be a scientific consensus as to what that biological cause is, the scientific consensus still overwhelmingly supports the notion that there is a biological determining factor that causes transgender identity.

There's a reason why science uses latin terminology. Using an evolving language means that terminology that may be accurate or concise now will no longer be accurate or concise in a few decades time.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Alex Steacy » 25 Jun 2015, 14:42

This thread has been fascinating to read. I have one burning question:

If "biological sex" and related labels & terminology are problematic (as the cases have been made in this thread) what terms could be used instead that are more accurate, useful and sensitive?

I'm asking for a quick reference cheat sheet here. Thanks!
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby JustAName » 25 Jun 2015, 14:43

As mentioned before, I think, "Assigned [male/female] at birth".
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Alex Steacy » 25 Jun 2015, 14:46

Is there any diff between 'assigned' and 'designated' in this context?
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby JustAName » 25 Jun 2015, 14:49

Not really, assigned is just used more widely I think. Probably because of the implications that it was active? I feel like designated has some sort of more passive, technical feel in current usage. *shrug*
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Alex Steacy » 25 Jun 2015, 15:11

So, by my reckoning using DMAB/DFAB or AMAB/AFAB referencing trans people in the context of something like a doctor's office answers most of the relevant questions that might arise without their identity being denied.

Do I have that right?
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Ree » 25 Jun 2015, 15:33

Alex Steacy wrote:So, by my reckoning using DMAB/DFAB or AMAB/AFAB referencing trans people in the context of something like a doctor's office answers most of the relevant questions that might arise without their identity being denied.

Do I have that right?


Sort of! My doctor knowing I was CAMAB doesn't actually tell him very much. It doesn't speak to my genitals or anatomy, and it doesn't really speak to my chromosomes (or hormone levels, or really anything else that's medically relevant). If my doctor actually needs any of that information (and not all doctors will, of course), then it's way easier/more accurate to just talk about that specifics (eg. "I have a penis/vagina/whatever" or "these are my hormone levels, as of my last blood tests.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Volafortis » 25 Jun 2015, 16:16

Yep, AMAB/AFAB are the most common terms used within the trans community to refer to assigned at birth sex, and it's really only relevant in some situations, for instance a trans woman needing her prostate examined. In casual conversation, however, it's best to just avoid saying unless it's somehow actually relevant to discussion. It's a personal detail off someone's private life and should be treated as such.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Alex Steacy » 25 Jun 2015, 20:09

Okay. Good. That makes sense to me.

So.

Here's where I think some of peoples' confusion is coming from. When a trans person makes a statement like "biological sex isn't real", the average layperson's response will likely be some variety of "What are you talking about, I have a penis and my wife has a vagina. You're denying reality"

My understanding now is that what's actually being said by that statement is: "No, no, genitals and chromosomes and hormones and all that shit all most definitely exist - what we object to is that information being used as a model that denies us our identity."

Nobody is denying that people have junk. But when someone presents and lives as a woman (or man), bringing up their possession of a penis (or vagina) to assert that that is who they really are and are somehow masquerading... Is crap. It's cruel, it's rude, it's untrue and none of anyone's business save for where it very specifically applies.

So my understanding now is that "biological sex isn't real" doesn't mean "nobody has sex characteristics" - it means "our way of referring to people based on sex characteristics is flawed and needs new language." Language which doesn't seem very difficult to use, if you ask me.

Anyway, I hope I'm on point with this assessment.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby korvys » 25 Jun 2015, 21:05

I'm pretty sure you've got it. It's also kinda complicated that for a significant majority of people, your genitals, chromosomes, hormones, etc, are highly correlated, and mostly fall into one of two big buckets, typically referred to as male and female. And then on top of that, those buckets also highly correlate with gender identity and gender expression. But those correlations aren't absolute.

So then people start making assumptions about those combinations of factors, probably spend most of their lives having never been confronted with another person who doesn't fall into one of those buckets (or, more likely, have met someone, but don't know it), so they build a model of reality that only includes male and female, have it confirmed constantly, and can't deal with that being challenged.

And of course in that model, the phrase "Biological sex isn't real" makes almost no sense. Since it's those people who need to hear it the most, I do wonder if there's a better way to say the same thing (without getting too verbose).
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Moussefilledkitten » 26 Jun 2015, 06:28

So, I'm coming to this forum late, but I'm trying to get myself educated. Please correct me if I say anything ignorant.

So, my understanding of gender is this. There is the gender that's assigned at birth which almost always corresponds to the possession physical characteristics associated with that gender and is problematic because the gender you are assigned is not necessarily the gender you are, there's the gender you personally identify as, and there are the genes which determine physical characteristics and whether or not testosterone is introduced at a certain time in pregnancy to cause the physical changes such as causing proto-ovaries to become testicles, etc.

No one is denying that these genes exist, but to use them to say that they determine your biological gender or even using the term biological gender implies that there is no biological reason for being trans. That's not even getting into the fact that not everyone has just xy and xx and you can be one of those genotypes and still have the physical characteristics typically associated with the other genotype.

If suppose, in my mind, then there are three pieces of data. There's someone's genotype which determines your physical characteristics such as hair color, height, whether or not they have breasts, etc., the gender they were assigned at birth, and the gender they identify as. As Alex said, no one is denying that people have junk and some men are born with a vagina and some women with a penis. Of course there are the physical characteristics someone is born with, but they don't determine their gender and no one is denying they have them as that would be silly if only for medical reasons (everyone with ovaries should probably be screened for ovarian cancer and same with testicles, etc., no matter the gender)

Sorry for being rambly, just trying to wrap my head around the discussion. I've found that I identify with my assigned gender. However, I also have tried to have the thought exorcise of imagining having been born into a body that was assigned male at birth (with the physical characteristics associated with that assignment) and I believe I would have been content to be male in that case. Granted it's hard to truly say how I would react in a hypothetical. So, for me personally, my gender identity is tightly associated with my physical characteristics, but I understand that is not the case for a lot of people not am I implying it should be.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby JustAName » 26 Jun 2015, 06:36

That sounds about right, Moussefilledkitten. The big sticking point for a lot of people is they'll say, "But what are you REALLY" or "But what are you biologically?" And both of those are jerk moves and the second one had no bearing. What they're really asking is "what junk do you have" but that's rude, and also isn't the basis for "biological sex". Or they're trying to say that you're "biological sex" is what you are. Which is ridic. because you can't know that until you get a chromosome test, and then you'd have to go around saying "I'm these chromosomes, with this expression of them, and this as my identified gender." And it's still none of their business.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby kiwijelly » 26 Jun 2015, 17:10

Jondare wrote:While i really don't like the race analogi, it does provide in this case: I'm pretty sure that the blacks felt Race was an unequivical evil as well, but as we push the racists further and further out into the fringes, race can now instead be used for good, by giving people a way to talk about vertain demographics, and make sure that no demographics are being left in the dirt.

Please don't refer to people of color as 'the blacks' ever again. We're not a band.
Also, could you clarify that statement? It's a little confusing
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby korvys » 26 Jun 2015, 17:57

I think they're trying to say that since we're able to identify that black people are, statistically more likely to be arrested, or in poverty, etc, that we can then use those statistics to help people. Which is true.

But, those things that might be causing them to be, as they said "left in the dirt" are not inherent to a person's race. They exist only because of other people, and how they react to a person's skin colour, etc.

Or to put it another way, "Race" isn't real. The inherent difference between a white person and a black person is trivial. "Racism" on the other hand, is very real, and that is what is being fought. If a person is black, they have a highly likelihood of being in poverty, but that isn't because they're black, it's because they're black and society is (systemically) racist.

To bring it back to gender, what gender you were assigned as is irrelevant unless you're talking to your doctor. What matters for most societal interactions is how you present. For race, what race you appear as matters more when it comes to discrimination than your genetics.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby JustAName » 29 Jun 2015, 15:57

Alja-Markir wrote:Andy is the LRR Heart-throb.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Volafortis » 29 Jun 2015, 18:03

Yeah, John Oliver TOTALLY nailed everything there. He brought up a lot of serious issues the trans community faces, didn't focus exclusively on trans women/celebrities, just an overall spectacular segment on the state of trans rights.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Avistew » 30 Jun 2015, 00:19

2stepz wrote:There will, for the entirety of my life time, be sex-based "girls" and "boys" restrooms in school systems... and until that changes, culture will continue to embrace the default construct of bio-male and bio-female.


Just wanted to point out that I started going to school when I was less than 2 years old, and university is the earliest that I experienced gendered bathrooms in the school system. Up till then, the bathrooms at my schools were not gendered or separate at all. So I disagree with that statement of yours :P (University was more than 10 years ago so this is not super recent either).
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Deedles » 30 Jun 2015, 12:09

I don't think any of the schools I've gone to have separate bathrooms for guys and girls.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby My pseudonym is Ix » 30 Jun 2015, 13:53

Throwing my hat into the ring, every school, university and workplace I've ever been to has had separate bathrooms for men and women. Including the all-boys secondary school I attended for seven years.

(To be fair, only the staff bathrooms were segregated)
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Hekla » 30 Jun 2015, 14:13

Here in the UK, I don't think I experienced non-gendered toilets until I was in university, although my last high school that I attended had non-gendered toilets for the exclusive use of the year 7s (10-11 years olds).

If I remember correctly, all four primary schools, and two of the three secondary schools I went to had gender separated toilets.

And that's not a good thing and causes more complications than benefits, although there some arguments for doing so. The big thing is that it re-enforces a gender binary from an early age and can lead to horrible situation for transgender children.
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Re: Let's Chat About Gender and How Biological Sex Isn't Rea

Postby Master Gunner » 30 Jun 2015, 14:43

Other than a handful of unisex washrooms at uni, I've only seen segregated public toilets.
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