Gender: Societal Construct or “Biological Fact”?
Mr. Williamson, I just read your article claiming that Laverne Cox cannot be a woman based on “biological fact”, yet your understanding of biological fact is somewhat outdated, or even completely wrong.
The Myth of Binary Biological Sex
Human beings do not have only two possible biological sexes, in fact, like most traits, these things lie across a continuum or spectrum. Much has been done in the fields of genetics and epigenetics to prove that it’s not “all in our heads” – I personally spent years thinking I was some run-of-the-mill trans woman, with all that went along, until I was almost 40, and some health problems cropped up, and I was tested and found to be XXY (Klinefelter’s syndrome). Some ex-sex partners also agree my phenotype isn’t quite male, but it’s not quite female either. It’s just closer to male than female, so it was labeled as such.
I am not claiming Laverne Cox is intersex, but I am deconstructing and refuting your idea that only two sexes are available to humanity. That your so-called “biological fact” is quite outdated regarding genetics and phenotype.
You would be surprised at how many people are born with a different sex or sex chromosome difference. Leaving aside the question of “trans” for a second (which we’ll come back to, I promise) … let’s just examine your complete misunderstanding of the facts here.
The Intersex Society of North America has a great section on how common IS conditions are:
|Not XX and not XY||one in 1,666 births|
|Klinefelter (XXY)||one in 1,000 births|
|Androgen insensitivity syndrome||one in 13,000 births|
|Partial androgen insensitivity syndrome||one in 130,000 births|
|Classical congenital adrenal hyperplasia||one in 13,000 births|
|Late onset adrenal hyperplasia||one in 66 individuals|
|Vaginal agenesis||one in 6,000 births|
|Ovotestes||one in 83,000 births|
|Idiopathic (no discernable medical cause)||one in 110,000 births|
|Iatrogenic (caused by medical treatment, for instance, progestin administered to pregnant mother)||no estimate|
|5 alpha reductase deficiency||no estimate|
|Mixed gonadal dysgenesis||no estimate|
|Complete gonadal dysgenesis||one in 150,000 births|
|Hypospadias (urethral opening in perineum or along penile shaft)||one in 2,000 births|
|Hypospadias (urethral opening between corona and tip of glans penis)||one in 770 births|
|Total number of people whose bodies differ from standard male or female||one in 100 births|
|Total number of people receiving surgery to “normalize” genital appearance||one or two in 1,000 births|
This clearly shows that intersex conditions are not as rare as one thinks. Therefore, your “human beings fall into man/woman categories based on physical sex” argument is quite outdated. In fact, it’s a societal construct much like the one you are arguing that gives trans people the ability to identify as a different gender than assigned at birth is.
What makes your construct any more “right” than ours is?
The History of Alternate Gender and Cross-Sex identities
In Egypt, there were three genders, though modern society claims they were castrati or eunuchs, there was very little evidence to actually suggest they were castrated.
In Vedic (South Asia) cultures, there were also three genders, and they even suggested that the third gender was made up of both male and female bodied individuals
In the US itself, there are many stories within Native American cultures that talk of “two-spirited” individuals.
Worldwide, Western Judeo-Christian Culture has erased the cultural norms of other cultures, my own ancestors, both Irish and Italian/Roman had different views of gender and sexuality. The Celts had a very amorphous view of such, and the Romans had the Gallí – priests of the Goddess Cybele, who were male-bodied but female identified. Interestingly enough, its theorized that the word Gallí came from the Celtic tribes in Galatia, now part of modern France.
Essentially, the idea of people who are transgender, and take on traditional female or male roles is ancient.
Even in modern times, Albanian female bodied people (sworn virgins) who take on traditional male roles as head of household exist, and become socially “male”. These cultures are traditionally so patriarchal, yet they allow such.
So how is my, and Laverne Cox’s experience of this gender identity expression any different from those throughout time who expressed themselves and identified as a gender opposite to the sex assigned at birth? Other than we have more understanding of the body and brain than we did in ancient times, and it lends a little more medical fact to those identifying as another gender, there is not much change in the reality of how we may see or interact with our own bodies as being different. Its not about you, Mr. Williamson. Its about me. My experience, my reality, my body. How does it hurt for you to humor me, even if you don’t agree and your worldview is based upon a Judeo-Christian one that has erased the allowances for non-binary genders and sexes. Even when there was no medical proof, these societies made allowances for such.
Our Rights within our society, or “Why does this bother you so much”?
So now that I’ve beaten your societal construct into submission, as you tried to beat ours into submission with no actual facts whatsoever. I want to bring you back to 1851 – Slavery was still quite common in the US. Black women, especially slaves were not afforded the same rights as white women (who were definitely not given the same rights as men… sound familiar?)
A woman named Sojourner Truth, a black woman from New York State, born into slavery, spoke at a woman’s convention in Ohio.
She said, “You need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much, – for we can’t take more than our pint’ll hold. The poor men seems to be all in confusion, and don’t know what to do. Why children, if you have woman’s rights, give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they won’t be so much trouble.”
Does the idea of trans people being treated as equals really offend you that much? That you have to claim your world view as truth to keep people from being protected as human beings? All we want is the freedom that our little pint holds. As a white cis-gender male, you have your quart of privilege. You can have it, I don’t see why you see this so-called “societal construct” that you call attention to as such a threat to yourself. However combatting a societal construct with another, calling it “biological fact” is quite a stretch, especially since your “biological fact” is anything but fact.