Criticism of the Sex Binary

Disclaimer: I do not hold these views. Therefore, in order to preserve fairness of representation, I have summarized, quoted and referenced those who do. These arguments are not my own and can be explored in more detail at the links provided or by internet searching with terms such as transgender and sex binary.

“While it is true that gender and sex are different things, and that gender is indeed a social construct, sex isn’t the Ultimate Biological Reality.”

  1. Sex is a construct that varies, e.g. intersex conditions
  2. Sex is a construct of language
    1. “There’s nothing intrinsically male about XY chromosomes, testosterone, body hair, muscle mass or penises”
  3. Some species have more than 2 sexes, e.g. papayas
  4. Genetics alone may not be enough to determine biological sex, e.g. intersex
  5. Sex as a binary is scientifically incorrect, e.g. intersex conditions
    1. “sex is a spectrum”
    2. Related: intersex is more common than we think: rates are 1 in 100, or about 70 million people worldwide
  6. Some cultures have 3 words for 3 sexes, e.g. Sambia of Papua New Guinea
  7. The belief in a sex binary is biological essentialism (women and men each have a natural essence)
  8. There may be a biological explanation for transgender identities
    1. Hormone differences, e.g. androgen exposure
    2. Brain differences, e.g. brain sex
  9. Sex is assigned at birth and may be assigned incorrectly, e.g. intersex conditions
  10. The vast majority of people do not actually know their sex chromosomes because genetic testing is not performed
  11. Sex specific socialization is unnecessary for understanding of what it is like to be female or male
  12. Sex is complex and includes genetics, hormones, brain composition and other variables
  13. Sex, like gender, is socially constructed and can be changed
  14. The terms female and male can refer to gender
  15. Female/male, women/men are not distinct groups of people
    1. “a woman is anyone who identifies as a women”
  16. Recognizing female sex based distinctions and protections marginalizes transwomen
  17. Sex segregated protections are unnecessary, e.g. the bathroom debate

“A kindergarten understanding of biology is great for kindergarteners, but we’re adults,” says Melissa A. Wilson Sayres, a geneticist who studies sex chromosome evolution. “We teach children rules, and as adults we learn the exceptions.”


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