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Biological Sex and Transgender People

  • Posted on January 12, 2019 at 5:29 pm

I’ve nothing against trans people, but they are not …

It’s fun to work out how many ways you can say a trans person is either of no gender or definitely the ‘oppposite’ of what they say they are. Isn’t it?

This is a particular form of protectionism that can be very hard to understand. A justified fear of male violence leads to assumptions that all trans people (no, let’s be honest, trans women) are a potential danger.

  • There is no evidence that this is true.
  • Trans women are much more likely to be attacked violently than non-trans women.
  • No man intending harm to women is protected by trans rights, and trans rights do not better enable him.
  • Policing people by their outward appearance harms androgynous people everywhere.
  • Presenting gender identification documentation at every venue will never be a requirement.
  • Gender documentation is no defence for criminal behaviour or intent.

Anyone with antipathy against patriarchy wants equal and fair treatment. Destroying patriarchy is not destroying men or maleness, nor is it creating a matriarchy (though I often feel that might be better and safer). By putting trans and/or intersex people into a category or categories of their own may not seem harmful, but is a distinct way of othering them, and originates primarily from a lack of understanding that intersex people and those with what has become described as gender dysphoria, are what they are as a result of their pre-natal development. Being trans is not a behaviour and is not a psychological disorder, and trans people are everywhere and always have been. This attitude of trans people as other helps no-one, solves nothing and undermines the principles of equal and fair treatment. You do not know or notice most of us, but by othering trans people as a class, you attack that anonymity – and everyone has a right to that kind of anonymity.

Trans people aren’t weird, do not behave uniquely or distinguishably, and their gender or sex has nothing to do with their equally innate sexuality. Why do trans people make you uncomfortable?

  • They dress strangely. (Well, you never notice the ones who don’t.)
  • I don’t like talking to a woman with a deep voice or a man with a high one.
  • I used to know this person as the ‘opposite’ of what they are now.
  • God doesn’t make mistakes; this is just wrong behaviour.
  • I like to know where I stand when I meet someone and people who don’t match my stereotypes mean I don’t.
  • It’s all about sex isn’t it? (You mean sexual behaviour, which surely must be odd, perverted or strange.)

Why are we happy to acknowledge intersex conditions as ‘what can happen during prenatal development’, as an effect of in utero hormones and developmental triggers, and yet not acknowledge the same for trans people? This article sets out some comparisons, if you will excuse the term ‘transsexualism’:

I am not saying that intersex conditions and transgender are the same, just pointing out both have underlying causes that may be very similar.

Sex is absolute, gender is a social construct

It depends on your language and your culture even whether sex and gender are different words. Some languages do not distinguish, and you could examine the history and past use of the two words in English, but it wouldn’t help. Words convey concepts, they have their own definitions for shared understanding, but they define nothing.

Many ancient cultures and traditions have more than two sexes and/or more than two genders. Naturally, because that’s the way we find human beings. And yet certain modern western feminist ideologies, borrowing from western religious ideologies and culture, insist there are only two ‘biological’ sexes and only offer minor and unhelpful reference to intersex people as exceptions. More people are intersex than have red hair.

As of October 2018, the Trump administration in the USA has tried to move to binary determinism: that every person is irreversibly the sex given to them at birth. And yet many cases of intersex are not identified at birth, maybe only late into puberty. And so the US HHS (Health and Human Services) has proceeded to delete all references to ‘gender’ from their website, the US Department of Justice has ruled that transgender people (presumably because they no longer are supposed to exist) can be discriminated against in any way from health to rights of property or services, or to employment, and the USA is reported to be urging the United Nations to eleiminate all reference to ‘gender’ in favour of only referring to ‘sex’. (See above about different languages and terms.)

Understanding sex is the business of scientists and clinicians, not religion or politics

There is plenty of material from a clinical point of view that explains the complexities of sex determination. Everything that follows from the argument that ‘biological sex’ is a clear and binary thing has no real foundations.

So you still think that sex or gender is a clear binary thing? What do you intend to do with every person who does not fit within a certain median percent that matches all your criteria? You don’t know who they are, and quite often they do not know themselves. Are you right in the middle, having tested your chromosomes, checked your physiology and come to a researched conclusion? Or might you be like a deeply racist person who discovers from their DNA that they are 30 per cent what they hate? What would you do if you discovered that you have mosaic chromosomes, for example (where you have both XX and XY  combinations in different cells)?

Or do you simply find it simpler to go on believing it is a clear binary? You will have to run counter to science, to medicine and to honest human endeavour in pursuit of knowledge – but then plenty of people do run counter. Welcome to conspiracy theory, flat-earth, climate change denying society, you are not alone.

I have nothing against trans people, but …

I think what you really mean is that, like any group of people by any characteristic, some people who identify as trans are really quite marginal. There are strident feminists, there are strident trans people. There are criminal red-heads, there are criminal trans people. There are lovely kind policemen, and there are those who shoot with racial bias. And some are trans. Treating individuals based on a presumption of class characteristics is almost always unfair and wrong. And dangerous to some fellow human beings.

I would urge you simply to let the flock run away a while, stop and do your own Internet research about what determines sex determination, and prevalence of intersex and trans people in the world. Maybe you will come to realise that we do not choose this, we are this. And we are not to be feared, excluded, mistrusted or discriminated against. Every day, after all, you meet, are served by and interact with both intersex and trans people without knowing it. You may not even yourself be as 100 per cent as binary in biological terms as you think.