March 28, 2016

Gender is so much more than chromosomes and genitalia

Trans man James P. Sheffield tweeted the perfect comment
to the North Carolina governor on the consequences of a
new chromosome-based law targeting transgender people.
North Carolina will force trans people to use bathrooms on
the basis of their assigned gender at birth, not their true
These days trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) are actively invalidating transgender people, arguing that gender equals chromosomes and genitalia.  

In this guest blog post J takes a closer look at the chromosome argument.

By guest writer J.

The insistence of TERFs to categorize trans people's gender on the basis of genitalia runs deep. They insist that "a biological man" cannot be a woman.

Some of them stick to this belief even after proclaiming that they have stopped being TERFs. They may still be transphobic. They may still be very TERF.

Here is one ex-TERF claiming that "penis = male" is a "fact", adding no citations to prove her point.

Click on image text to read.

TERF defined

Now what is a TERF?

Here is a quick definition from the Rational Wiki:
"Trans-exclusionary radical feminism (or TERF; also Trans women exclusionary feminism, or TWEF) is a subgroup of radical feminism characterized by transphobia, especially transmisogyny, and hostility to the third wave of feminism. They believe that the only real women™ are those born with a vagina and XX chromosomes.  They wish to completely enforce the classic gender binary, supporting gender essentialism."
The idea that genitals defines sex is heavily entwined with TERF ideology.

Indeed, society at large seems to have somehow accepted the idea that a woman's cell must all be XX chromosomes and that she went through puberty with sex hormones produced by the ovaries. This idea now forms the basis of social laws.

Intersex people

This definition does not take into account the existence of intersex people (people who display distinct variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, or genitals "that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies").

Science knows that the insistence that all cells of a women are XX as an illusion and assumption made by society.

It is possible for people to have both XX and XY chromosomes at the same time.

One woman  in her forties discovered that her body was largely made of XY cellsPeople can have XY chromosomes and yet have what appears to be an vagina.

But then again, what is biological? Brain scans have shown that the even before sex realignment treatment that the brains of transsexuals match more those of people sharing their gender identity and not their assigned sex.

This suggests that being transgender may well be biological in nature, and not "all-in-the-head". We should keep in mind that brains actually are biological.

Wide gender variation

Moreover, most people's brains aren't even completelty female nor male (if you base your analysis on features or abilities that are traditionally considered masculine or feminine, male or female).

Women with two X chromosomes should be known as a "typical women"at best, because the idea of a "biological woman" is unclear and contradictory.

Zinnia Jones has more on why what society defines as biological sex does not equal gender. 

What am I?

Let me use myself as an example:
Cassandra's presentation of gender dysphoria. Click on image to enlarge!
(Originally found on Cassandra's blog).
Do I suffer from gender dysphoria?
  • Social dysphoria: This depends on the situation; very mild case in my opinion; usually none; I don't really care if I am treated as a female unless the person is transphobic like not letting me into the toilet of my choice.
  • Mind dysphoria: I have no idea.
  • Body dysphoria: I used to suffer from body dysphoria, but not anymore.
I do not currently have a case of gender dysphoria; the symptoms of gender dysphoria do not match my experience right now.

What I know about my biological sex:
  • XX, and therefore "typically female".
  • Puberty is typically female.
  • I am not intersex.
  • I have had no brain scans.
Chromosomes, hormones and genitals

Cisnormativity defines biological sex on the basis of chromosomes, puberty changes, and genitals. Because of this my biological sex is considered female.  This way of thinking ignores that other extremely important biological factor known as the brain.

We have decided to arbitrarily define biological sex on three biological features (chromosomes, hormones, genitals). Someone with XX-chromosomes, a vagina and a estrogen puberty is therefore considered biologically female.

We made up the gender and sex binaries; they are social constructs. They do not exist in nature. There is no such thing as a biological female and biological male -- not really.  We made up this "fact", and now we  push people who do not fit these definitions into the categories of trans and intersex.

We decided to attach social roles  to what we perceive as a biological sex; these are called gender roles. Gender roles are not determined by biological sex. If they were gender roles throughout history and across cultures would be the same. They are not.

The biological reality is not binary. Biological sex looks more like the table included below.

Click on image to enlarge!
Taken from an article in Nature.

This is the beautiful spectrum of sex. It ranges from typical female to trans to intersex to typical male. This spectrum does not run from biological male to biological female.

So when you call me a biological female, you are making some assumptions about my biology a (XX, estrogen sex hormones); you ignore any possible intersex status and deny that my gender has even the possibly of being biological at heart. You cannot know that.

Related posts:

Genes, hormones, sex and gender identity
What brain science says about MTF transsexuals
The story about Viktor and Viktoria and the inborn sex identity
On the statistical difference between men and women
Transinclusive feminism vs. radfem transphobia
How radical feminists are using the autogynephilia theory to persecute trangender
What Drives Transphobia?


  1. Correction: I am not MtF. I plan on starting a type of website that type of website is not a blog.


  2. I am not FtM either BTW.


  3. My head is still reeling from destruction of the cisnormative concept of biological sex.
    It's hard to undo society's programming.


  4. //It's hard to undo society's programming.//

    Yes it is very hard, and especially concepts with such a long history and which run so deep. Still, it is possible. The increasing tolerance for homosexuality is amazing and tells us that it is possible to shift deep held ideas. New studies show that more than 40% of the youngest generation (Gen Z) think of themselves as some shade of bisexual!

    And sometimes attitudes change extremely fast, like in the shifting attitudes towards women.

    So let's keep on working!


Click here for this blog's Code of Conduct!

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!