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Is Gender a Social Construct?

About once every generation, it becomes intellectually fashionable to believe that gender or gender identity is a malleable trait, largely devoid of biological imperatives and at the mercy of parental initiatives or other social forces. Within time, these narratives meet an inevitable backlash from the natural sciences and the furor dies down, only to repeat itself twenty or so years later. We appear to be in the grip of another such cycle, with some individuals declaring that “Gender is a social construct!” and others pronouncing such ideas to be hogwash.

This debate suffers from three problems. First, the terms involved—sex, gender, gender identity, and gender role—are often poorly defined, which causes a good deal of confusion. Second, and related, in many cases participants in this debate may be using the term gender to mean two different things, which causes them to talk past one another. And third, these debates are often dominated by the loudest and most inflexible voices on either side, reducing opportunities for dialogue about how nature and nurture interact to produce behavioral outcomes.

For the purposes of what follows, let me start by clarifying the terms as I understand them. Others may disagree with my definitions of course, but at least this will provide a clear basis on which to proceed here:

  • Sex: Biological sex is usually determined by one of two features. First, a genetic profile typically resulting in the production of either ova or spermatozoa and, second, the development in utero of male or female primary sexual characteristics (penis and testes or vagina and uterus, respectively). For the vast majority, the genetic profile and genitalia correspond, but for intersex individuals they may not. Most often a mismatch between external genitalia and chromosomes is due to issues influencing hormone exposure in utero.
  • Gender or Gender Identity: This is the term that causes the most confusion. Here, I will use it to mean one’s internal perception of being male or female or, for a small percentage of individuals, non-binary (those who express a gender identity that doesn’t fit neatly into either category). For most individuals, biological sex and gender identity correspond. However, for a very small number of individuals, they may not, which produces a distressing condition known as gender dysphoria, which can be mitigated by transitioning.
  • Gender Role: There are nuances in the way this term is used, but here I’ll use it to refer to societal expectations of how individuals are likely to behave based on either their sex (most likely) or gender.

I am familiar with the psychological literature relating to this topic, but I also consulted my friend and colleague Marcus Ynalvez, a sociologist at Texas A&M International University to get his view (however, all opinions and any errors in the essay are mine alone).

Gender Identity

Part of the confusion regarding gender identity likely comes from the preference among some scholars to characterize gender as an external, behavioral performance “negotiated with” or perhaps enforced by social structures. If we think of gender as the internalized perception of maleness or femaleness (e.g. “I am a man/woman/non-binary”), the evidence suggests it is biological in origin. Specifically, a region of the brain called the hypothalamus appears to differ between males and females so that having a structure that is similar to typical female brains makes one feel female. Testosterone exposure in utero appears to be a critical factor in these developing brain differences, which means that male and female brains are essentially different from birth.

In transsexual/transgendered individuals, irregular degrees of hormone exposure appear to create what is, quite literally, a woman’s brain in a man’s body or vice versa. There are certainly still nuances and ongoing research into the process by which this occurs, but as one scholarly group put it, “There is no evidence that one’s postnatal social environment plays a crucial role in gender identity or sexual orientation.” It should be noted that it isn’t possible to conduct ethical randomly controlled experiments on human fetuses, but the confluence of animal experiments and correlational studies in humans comes as close to a causal model as we can get. For most individuals a sense of gender constancy begins in early childhood and remains stable for the lifespan.

So, our internal perception of maleness or femaleness is largely innate. Although there is research on transsexual/transgendered individuals that also supports this, unfortunately there is less research on non-trans non-binary individuals. One possibility is that the hypothalamus of such individuals is neither fully female nor male, but that hypothesis is speculative absent further research.

In the past, attempts to foist gender identities onto people have been recognized as potentially dangerous. This is part of the ongoing and heated debate about how to treat children exhibiting symptoms of gender dysphoria. Should they be immediately provided with hormones or even surgery, however young they are? Or should they wait until they reach an age at which they are sure how they identify their gender, but which may complicate the process of transition? Probably the most notorious case of forced gender reassignment was that of David Reimer, whose penis was amputated in a botched circumcision when he was an infant. Based on popular socialization theories of the mid-twentieth century, particularly those of psychologist John Money, Reimer was raised as a girl.  The experiment failed spectacularly, causing Reimer significant distress. He returned to his male identity as a teen and later committed suicide (due, it should be added, to multiple issues). This tragic case and others like it indicate that gender identity cannot be shaped at will through social manipulation. The perception that it can is dangerous and likely to do significant harm.

Gender Role

If our perception of maleness or femaleness is largely innate, a function of the hypothalamus, what about how we express our gender? Some men are very masculine in the traditional sense—stoical, assertive, protecting, and commanding, whereas other men may be comfortable expressing more traditionally feminine qualities such as nurturance, emotional expressiveness, sociability, and collaboration. The same, of course, applies to women.

Do we express gender-specific behaviors because of our biology or due to societal expectations?  Probably both. The available evidence strongly suggests that biology and environment work together in complex and nuanced ways that lead to how men and women express their respective gender roles. Studies of twins indicate that genetics still play a powerful part in gendered behavior, with genetics explaining a significant proportion of the variance in masculinity, femininity, and cross-gendered behavior in both boys and girls. Likewise, fetal testosterone plays a crucial role—exposure to higher levels of testosterone in utero is predictive of stereotypical masculine play in both young boys and girls. Nonetheless, a significant proportion of gendered behavior isn’t explained by biological factors and this is where social factors come in.

A long line of research suggests that parents play and interact with boy and girl children, even from infancy, in gender stereotypical ways. Teasing this out as a causal factor in the emergence of gender roles can be tricky, however. Are parents merely predicting foreseeable biological differences, or do they have a modeling role in shaping gendered behavior? Some studies do correlate parenting practices with later gender-specific behaviors such as aggression, although effect sizes tend to be small. In twin studies, shared environment (e.g. parenting) tends to be fairly weak as a predictor. Considerable evidence indicates that peers are likely to be a more powerful socialization agent, particularly among boys, given how boys and girls tend to gender segregate during the elementary school years. While many blame the media, media effects research is going through a full-blown crisis of replicability and credibility so it’s hard to say anything definite there. Teens tend to feel differential pressure from parents, peers, and themselves, with peer and self-pressure particularly powerful in the development of gendered norms.

Most of the evidence is correlational, so it’s difficult to establish causal paths. That’s the trick, for instance, with parenting practices. It’s pretty clear that parents treat boy and girl children, even infants, differently. This is typically assumed to have a causal influence, and the assumption may be correct. But whether or not that influence is also decisive and just how powerful it is remains uncertain. As libertarian journalist John Stossel has gleefully pointed out for decades, attempts at gender neutral parenting tend to have little impact on stereotypical play, with boys making guns out of dolls and carrots. Apparently even young chimpanzees engage in gender-stereotypical play, such as the use of rudimentary stick dolls among females.

It appears that biology plays a powerful role in our internalized sense of gender as well as our preference for gendered behaviors (allowing for non-trivial social influences, particular for the latter). However, this still results in heterogenous outcomes for both males, females, and non-binary individuals. In a society in which people are offered the freedom to express themselves in non-traditional ways, this may all be fine. But we can see the damage caused by the coercive imposition of gender norms in repressive societies. At the extremes, women may be prevented from working altogether, or excluded from high-status careers. Men who do not conform to traditional masculine traits may be bullied or ostracized. Such forced conformity can cause significant trauma, depression, and anxiety for people who do not conform to traditional gender expectations. Advocating for greater freedom of gender expression is therefore a worthy cause in the pursuit of individual wellbeing.

However, advocates are confronted with at least two difficulties. First, they must be cautious not to simply replace a rigidly conservative conception of gender roles with an equally rigid progressive one wherein those who do express more traditional gender traits that match their biological sex are ostracized or condemned. This error is what likely produced, for instance, a recent Gillette commercial which some felt denigrated traditional masculinity, as well as a widely panned set of guidelines from the American Psychological Association for therapy with men and boys. The APA guidelines were not only criticized for their lack of scientific rigor, but also raised concerns that the negative portrayal of traditional masculinity might discourage many men from seeking therapy.

The second pitfall comes from setting impossible goals. Put simply, if biology causes some aggregate gender differences in predisposition, then equal opportunity and egalitarianism may not necessarily lead to equal outcomes in terms of life choices. Women and men, as well as non-binary individuals, may ultimately tend to gravitate toward different life paths. For instance, there’s little question that historical sexism made it extremely difficult for women to become titans of industry. Working diligently to remove barriers for women’s success is obviously important for its own sake. But it’s also entirely possible that, even in a fully egalitarian world, fewer women than men might be inclined to make the soul-sucking sacrifices necessary to get to become a Fortune 500 CEO, and that’s not necessarily bad. Making equal parity in life outcomes the goal as opposed to equality in opportunity could actually pressure people into a life-path to which they are unsuited.

Furthermore, setting rigid societal goals risks entrenching a perpetual state of resentment and grievance even when, hypothetically, there are no actual barriers left to remove. Lack of parity can also be found in male-dominated careers such as construction, sanitation, and coal mining, yet there appears to be little interest in encouraging greater female participation in these professions. By contrast, in my own field, psychology majors are presently overwhelmingly female and this is not because anyone is actively discouraging male students from applying. Achieving parity is probably impossible without refusing many well-qualified female majors, or forcibly compelling potential male students to enter a discipline they may not wish to study. Naturally occurring differences in proclivities may always result in divergent life paths for men and women. Our goal should be to ensure that no individual is forced into or discouraged from a life path on account of their biological sex or identified gender. And we should take care to value the societal contributions of men, women, and non-binary individuals equally.

Ultimately, the mantra that “gender is a social construct” is misleading and may cause significant confusion and unnecessary acrimony. It is more reasonable to suggest that gender is an internalized sense of masculinity/femininity that is shaped by a complex interaction of genetic, hormonal and social forces. Granted, that’s probably harder to fit on a coffee mug. But I remain optimistic that if we are realistic about the complex interplay of biology and environment, we can work toward an egalitarian and open society that allows individuals to express their individuality whether or not they conform to traditional (or progressive) gender role norms.

 

Christopher J. Ferguson is a professor of psychology at Stetson University in Florida. He is author of Moral Combat: Why the War on Violent Video Games is Wrong and the Renaissance mystery novel Suicide KingsHis forthcoming book How Madness Shaped History will be out in January 2020You can follow him on Twitter @CJFerguson1111

Comments

  1. It would appear that the incredibly potent political forces in relation to the transgender movement, are in the process of corrupting even the sciences. There is no evidence to suggest that in utero exposure to testosterone causes men to be born in women’s bodies, or vice versa. The brain differences mentioned in the section under Gender Identity can be accounted for by the fact that transgender individuals are almost always LGB, biologically speaking. Indeed, it well be some maladaptic process during early socialisation which accounts for the trangender phenomena. Whilst it is certainly true to say that there are some individuals who find it intolerable to remain in the body of their biological sex who should be treated with compassion and the best options medical science can provide.

    If such is not the case, then why is that the heterosexual populations have largely remained intact, then why have homosexual populations been decimated by the growth in the transgender movement. When one accounts for the misdiagnosis due to autism, rapid onset gender dysphoria and the tragically misinformed yet pathologically insistent actions of over-insistent parents pushing simply gender nonconforming children into irremediable action, then the percentage of transgender individuals of heterosexual origin effectively shrinks to zero. Are we then to simply assume that all adult homosexual, lesbian and bisexual individuals have simply been mistaken in pursuing same sex relationships and equality under the law for all these years, and should instead have sought out hormones and surgical treatment at their nearest clinic? But like so many of the pathologically ideological assertions made by intersectional feminism, perceived oppressions stand in direct opposition and conflict with one another, rather than mutual support…

    In related news, a recent Emerson poll shows support for Trump has risen to 34.5% amongst African American voters:

  2. Agreed. The goal behind the Leftist drive to overthrow capitalism, at least as far as it’s unwitting followers are concerned, is the desire to eliminate ‘privilege’. It’s the new original sin- and unlike with it’s Christian forbear- there is no possibility or concept of forgiveness. One must constantly apologise for ones whiteness, maleness or straightness. This ignores the fact that once one accounts for innate talent around 50% of privilege is socio-economic and 40% based on having a stable two parent family, with benign paternal influences- either through the immediate family, or on an extended basis. In the most extensive data-mining study of its kind, Dr Raj Chetty has proven this to be the case- although interestingly a child from a single parent family in a neighbourhood with a high proportion of fathers, fares better than a child from a two parent family in a neighbourhood with a low proportion of fathers- so either peer group or the social enforcement of fathers deterring gang-grooming influences could be factors.

    I’ve been thinking recently about Naill Ferguson’s nodes and networks of influence. On an individual level, I think it comes in two forms- embedded knowledge and wisdom (or a phone a friend) and the more pernicious diagonal job referral. We can never eliminate the latter fully, but the former might be balanced by mentoring networks for young people from underprivileged backgrounds, comprised of highly proficient individuals- it might also cut down on crime and prevent nuisance suits by disgruntled employees- as mentors explain ways to get round instances of perceived injustice and reach better working arrangements with bosses. As a younger man, I found the concept of managing expectations highly useful in finding ways to put forward my visions for company improvements.

    In terms of education, many schools or school networks seem to have achieved near miraculous results with strict low-level discipline policies such as detentions, especially when paired with active support from the home. Examples include Success Academy in New York, and the Michaela Community School and Brampton Manor Academy in London. It also significantly boosts candidacy for Oxbridge, on purely meritocratic, rather than arbitrary grounds, for kids from black or brown ethnicities- which is surely a good thing, given it deflates the Left’s grievances. It also ties in with the relative success of the non-selective catholic grammar in Northern Ireland, versus its state-run Protestant counterparts, remarkable indeed, given the historically higher socio-economic backgrounds of Protestants in Northern Ireland.

    The only way to eliminate privilege completely, would be to remove all children at birth from their parents, and remand them to the tender mercies of state-run orphanages. I don’t think that is a solution anyone wants…

  3. One interesting thing, that pops up time and time again, is how ‘disadvantaged’ transgendered individuals are. Recently I was on the receiving end of a litany of woe from the father of a ‘trans-woman’. Something along the lines of how trans-women were frequent ‘victims of assault’ with ‘high levels of suicide’ facing ‘discrimination in hiring’. I argued that the high levels of ‘sex trade work’ among trans-women made assaults inevitable, that mental illness and regrets made suicide more likely, and that the kind of work his ‘daughter’ sought, like modeling, high-end retail, etc. were more likely to go to attractive women, whereas ‘she’ wasn’t particularily attractive, or convincing, and had his dad’s peculiar Marxist attitudes to work anyway. (Dad is on welfare) AND, I added, if he was so concerned about these disadvantages, why didn’t he say something? He responded that it was his duty as a parent to let children grow ‘unfettered’ and able to choose their own path.

    I pointed out, that in the social circles he was part of, his son went from zero, or close to it - a gay white male with an equally white father who wrote ‘hetero-positive’ erotic poetry, to a Trans-Woman several stations ABOVE his old grade, equal to blacks and natives, and a priority for subsidized social housing, additional therapy, and some kind of high-paying, undemanding, government job in the diversity industry! In other words, this kid had hit a ‘BUM HOME-RUN!’ (I didn’t say that to him, I probably didn’t need to) And really, isn’t what it (transgenderism) is, an illness of the left?

  4. “non-binary” = desperately seeking attention in a world that will give it to them.

    First there was gay.Then that was conventional
    Then there was trans. Then that was conventional.
    Then there was gender-queer.
    What’s next - doubleplusgood genderfluid?
    This is a classic movement. And as Hannah Arendt pointed out, when a movement stops moving, it dies. That’s why we have the ever-more-radical identitarians. They know that when they run out of new victim-classes, they’ll melt like the Wicked Witch of the West.

  5. It’s recommended to change your gender fluid every 3,000 miles.

  6. My problem with a piece like this is that it takes for granted that the only world view is the reality experienced by the educated gentry. In this world view, each person is expected to create for themselves a life adventure. They are supposed to live a creative life, and the easiest way to get creative is with sex. Or gender.

    But there are other people in the world. There are modestly educated commoners that do not have creative dreams and that do not see a world beyond getting a job, getting married, saving up for a home, and having a family. All this “gender as a social construction” stuff is completely out of their universe.

    Then there are people that are the modern equivalent of subordinate serfs. These days they live disorganized lives that are influenced from time to time by their interactions with government and law enforcement and the social welfare community that is heavily influenced by left-wing culture. Retired prison doctor Theodore Dalrymple writes that these people often use modern psychology as an excuse for bad behavior.

    Most of the people in the world, even in developed countries, are not educated gentry. What about them and their lives?

  7. We’ve had many articles on Quillette debunking the male-female brain idea, and I’m skeptical of the in utero testosterone idea. Could we get a focused article on these questions that presents the available research? And perhaps prospective contributors should be directed to earlier Quillette articles, so they could respond to claims contrary to their own. Transgender ideology is head-spinning enough, we need to clarify these points as much as possible.

  8. The issue that corrupts discourse around sex is that as an idea it has become so hopelessly mythologized, there is almost no way of avoiding the descent into a blancmange of ideologically structured pseudoscience, speculation and wishful thinking.

    Sex has become entangled in the totalitarian propaganda machinery of an indulgence saturated society that runs off fantasies of desire and satiating them immediately at any price…and deregulates anything that gets in the way of that, to the point that critical thought itself literally turns to mush…which is what is happening in the postmodernist trash cans that we were once proud to call university humanities departments.

    There is biological sex that determines our reproductive function, the physical layout necessary for that, and the hormonal drivers that determine secondary sexual characteristics and activate sexual arousal. There is psychological sex which determines our desires, fantasies, fetishes and delusions, which may or may not align with reproductive function, or for that matter, reality at all. And finally, there is political sex, which determines the social roles, divisions of labour, power and authority we commonly associate with ‘gender’.

    The only sexual ambiguity is to be found is in people with a genetic intersex disorder. Anything else is an ideological/psychological disorder. People seeing themselves as being ‘in the wrong body’ and those who indulge them are playing a modern version of voodoo, replete with the potions, mutilative surgical pastiche and identity fudging you would expect to produce an ersatz woman or man.

    If someone thinks they were Napoleon and expects to be bowed to and called ‘your majesty’, we would regard them as delusional, but not if they think they are the opposite sex…

    The LGBwhatevers, their acolytes and public relations and marketing arms have systematically fudged, cribbed and bluffed their way through this very slippery arena, conflating everything in sight, until voila, they come up with a biologized fantasy construct replete with all the sexual political toppings that suit their purposes. And it is all the kind of pure unadulterated mystificatory pseudoscientific psychobiobabble worthy of a toothpaste commercial.

    And assembling this monstrosity was as simple as ABC. The propagandists got into psychiatric peak organizations and did a bit of rebranding of ‘gender identity disorder’ into ‘gender dysphoria’ which in effect magically turned a delusion into a discomfort, which then enabled the bastards to transfer the problem of reality dissonance from the delusionist onto everyone they come into contact with…in the manner of the emperor’s new clothes. And then, in the great tradition of the toothpaste commercial, they simply chopped ‘dysphoria’ off the end of gender dysphoria and substituted ‘fluidity,’ and voila, a thoroughly manipulable propaganda construct that could turn sex into anything that you like.

    In the end, the pricks are going to find more genders to populate their hallucinatory worldview than the angels medieval scholastics imagined might fit on the end of a pin.

    See https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2188652-Transgender-Inc-Kafkas-Children

  9. It’s (D)ifferent.

    Given the tendency for trans kids to just be gay, you could make the comparison more direct by saying “social justice parents suspect their child is gay.” It’s only if the parents (or school, or internet) have convinced the child that engaging in behaviour stereotypically belonging to the opposite sex means the kid actually is the opposite sex that the kid will go there. Ironically, it means the SJ parents have quite the regressive, traditional view of gender roles, in line with what Iranian Islamic clerics believe.

  10. Why are sane people tying themselves in knots over something so simple?
    There is no such thing as gender. People are either men or women, based upon their chromsones. That means there are two sexes and you are either male or female.
    There are roles and characteristics that biology and society impose upon the sexes, but these are not binary. If we accept that fact, then this whole transgender rubbish becomes moot.
    Can we just accept that there are some people who have a fetish about being physically altered to become the opposite sex? They cannot become the opposite sex, but only a facsimile of it. We all need to just accept this and move on. There needs to be no change of birth certificates no men in women’s sports, no obvious men in female changing tooms and public lavatories.

  11. “A phenomenon that transmits collective of threats, whether real or imaginary, through a population in society as a result of rumors and fear (memory acknowledgement). A common type occurs when a group of people believe they are suffering from a similar or ailment.”

    Partial definition of mass hysteria.

    Recent cases of mass hysteria:

    • North Carolina (2002) - Ten girls developed seizures and other symptoms at a rural high school in North Carolina. Symptoms persisted for five months across various grade levels. Incidents tended to happen outside of class, with half of all incidents estimated to have occurred around lunch hour. Half of the affected were cheerleaders or former cheerleaders.
    • “Strawberries with Sugarvirus” (2006) - In May 2006, an outbreak of the so-dubbed [Morangos com Açúcar Virus]was reported in Portuguese schools, named after the popular teen girl’s show [Morangos com Açúcar] 300 or more students at 14 schools reported similar symptoms to those experienced by the characters in a then recent episode where a life-threatening virus affected the school depicted in the show. Symptoms included rashes, difficulty breathing, and dizziness. The belief that there was a medical outbreak forced some schools to temporarily close. The Portuguese National Institute for Medical Emergency eventually dismissed the illness as mass hysteria.
    • Mexico City (2007) - In 2007 near Chalco, a working-class suburb of Mexico City, mass hysteria resulted in a massive outbreak of unusual symptoms suffered by adolescent female students (600) at Children’s Village School, a Catholic boarding-school. The afflicted students had difficulty walking and were feverish and nauseated.
    • Vinton, Virginia (2007) - An outbreak of twitching, headaches and dizziness affected at least nine girls and one teacher at William Byrd High School. The episode lasted for months amid other local public health scares. LeRoy, New York (2011–12) - In late 2011, 12 high school girls developed [Tourette-like symptoms]. Their school was tested for toxins, and all other factors for their symptoms were ruled out. The case, and some of the girls and their parents, gained national media attention. In January 2012, several more students and a 36-year-old adult female came forward with similar symptoms. They were all diagnosed with [conversion disorder]. “Transgender identity is now reported among young natal females at rates that clearly exceed all known statistics to date.”

    “The view adopted by trans youth, as summed up by one parent, seemed to be that: In general, cis-gendered people are considered evil and unsupportive, regardless of their actual views on the topic. To be heterosexual, comfortable with the gender you were assigned at birth, and non-minority places you in the ‘most evil’ of categories with this group of friends. Statement of opinions by the evil cis-gendered population are consider phobic and discriminatory and are generally discounted as unenlightened. Parents further reported being derogatorily called “breeders” by their children, or being routinely harassed by children who played “pronoun-police." The observation that they no longer recognized their child’s voice came up time and again in parental reports. In turn, the eerie similarity between the youth’s discourse and trans-positive online content was repeatedly emphasized. Youth were described as “sounding scripted," “reading from a script,” “wooden,” “like a form letter,” “verbatim,” “word for word," or “practically copy and paste."

    Gender Dysphoria in Children: summary points

    The American College of Pediatricians urges health professionals, educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to accept a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex as normal and healthful. Facts – not ideology – determine reality. All references are found within the text of the full statement.

    1. Gender dysphoria (GD) of childhood describes a psychological condition in which children experience a marked incongruence between their experienced gender and the gender associated with their biological sex. They often state that they are the opposite sex. Prevalence rates among children are estimated to be less than 1%.

    2. It is false that brain differences observed in some studies between transgender adults and non-transgender adults prove that GD is innate. If differences do exist in brain structures of transgender adults, these differences are more likely to be the result of transgender identification and behavior, not the cause of transgender identification and behavior. This is because thinking and behavior is known to shape brain microstructure through a process called neuroplasticity.

    3. When GD occurs in the pre-pubertal child, it resolves in 80-95 percent of patients by late adolescence after they naturally pass through puberty. This is consistent with studies of identical twins that prove no one is born hard-wired to develop GD.

    For more see: https://www.acpeds.org/gender-dysphoria-in-children-summary-points

    One day this disproportionate gender dysphoria fad will be regarded as an instance of mass hysteria.

  12. Are you a philosophy major, by any chance?

    I think your objections can be addressed by just using more careful wording like “who will produce eggs/sperm during some stage of their natural life, and will at no stage produce sperm/eggs.” Or something similar.

  13. I agree. As someone who read philosophy at university,and then went on to read and practise law I can spot the signs of the quibbler a mile off.
    A man is a human who was born with male genitalia, a female is a human born with female genitalia. Men have XY chromosones and women don’t. It’s quite simple really. But unfortunately in the last 50 years or so we seem to have educated a lot of people who think that arguing against simple truths is a sign of intellectual sophistication when it is in fact a sign of superficiality.

  14. A biologist broke it down in laymen’s terms for me once.

    Males are those capable of insemination.

    Females are those capable of gestation.

    Any discrepancy that falls outside this binary can be chalked up to injury or illness.

    Edit: It’s helpful when addressing quibblers (thanks peter. love that word) and idiots that believe “intersex” is actually a third sex.

  15. You’re in software? I recognize that in software each category/type that need to be handled is as important as every other category. Quite often you spend most of your time programming the exceptional cases.

    However, in the real world quantities are relevant. Your ‘mother without a womb’ is a one-off where the doctors were tinkering. I’m flummoxed how you seem to quibbling that the human species is dimorph; the sad few cases that do not clearly fall in these categories have been caused by reproductive errors. These unfortunate people have the same rights as anyone else and I could not care less how they want to represent themselves but treating each construction error as a unique category with special rules does not scale very well in the real world.

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