A memo circulating through the Trump Administration proposes that several government agencies should define sex as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” according to the New York Times. This definition is a blunt instrument that, along with its cruel dismissal of the transgender population, fundamentally misunderstands the scientific nature of a person’s sex.
Sex is not so binary as we have assumed. A small but substantial portion of the population is born with intersex traits, including atypical sex development and sometimes genital and chromosomal ambiguity. This has been the case from the dawn of humanity, as some religious traditions have recognized; for instance, the Talmud, an ancient body of Jewish law and commentary, established rules for how to handle such ambiguity.
Consider this example: Some babies are born with female genitals but have XY (typically male) chromosomes. Since we don’t commonly test chromosomes at birth, such children are raised as girls, and in fact they develop female secondary characteristics at puberty. Many happily identify as women and are surprised when they find out their XY genetic make-up. Would these women now be forced to change their gender identity and become men? Clearly, this ill-considered proposal would confound science and human experience.
Read the rest at TIME →
“a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” is as it should be, male and female are reproductive categories, consistent for all mammal species which are objectively assessed and defined in biology by what gametes a person produces. Female is of course large immobile gametes and they have the anatomy which allows them to give birth and lactate, male small mobile gametes. The chromosomes come with this, a functioning SRY gene on the Y chromosome will mean development along the male pathway, if this isn’t present the development is along the female pathway.
That’s even if a person has a chromosomal, endocrine or congenital defect that affects them, those people should not be used as an argument point because their condition has zero to do with any claims of subjective undefined gender identity in what are typical males and females. None of this has anything to do with sex-stereotypes about what a person may wear or how they live their lives either, in fact none of us truly conform and those stereotype have changed over time and through different cultures. Women (adult human females) have historically suffered oppression, not because of how they feel or identify but because they are female and were denied rights, the whole idea of this is addressing that and ensuring no person is denied opportunity because of their sex. Seems there are only two paths that can be seen here, either sex goes or the other but how about we keep the definition of sex and just allow people to live their lives how they like without forcing them to adhere to one or other of the stereotypes we have for men and women depending on sex. Women are not dresses and lipstick, nor men denims and trucks. That doesn’t erase anything or anyone and still supports addressing the historical oppression of women for being women.