Tuesday, September 22, 2009

There is No Connection Between Sex and Gender

This is a post I was meaning to write when I first started this blog, but didn't get around to it.

Back then I visited the website of the Intersex Society of North America and read something that I thought was very interesting.  But first, I'll quote the first paragraph of their definition of "intersex":
“Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. Or a person may be born with genitals that seem to be in-between the usual male and female types—for example, a girl may be born with a noticeably large clitoris, or lacking a vaginal opening, or a boy may be born with a notably small penis, or with a scrotum that is divided so that it has formed more like labia. Or a person may be born with mosaic genetics, so that some of her cells have XX chromosomes and some of them have XY.
 So, an intersex person has some kind of ambiguity about their biological sex.  This is the bit that really struck me though, where they compare intersex and transgender.  They state, in part:
The truth is that the vast majority of people with intersex conditions identify as male or female rather than transgender or transsexual. Thus, where all people who identify as transgender or transsexual experience problems with their gender identity, only a small portion of intersex people experience these problems.
Now, if that's true, it makes me wonder:  what are these people basing their gender identity on?  Supposedly one's gender is the same as one's biological sex.  Of course, that assumes that biological sex is always perfectly obvious.  If anybody has a "right" to be confused about their gender, it would be someone whose biological sex is unclear.   But here we have an association of intersex people which states that they are not unclear about their gender.  So it must be based on something other than sex.

 In other words:  sex is not binary.  Gender is not binary.  Things are a lot more complicated than that.

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