Or, "on the genders" if you prefer, since the two terms seem to be used interchangeably these days. In my time, "sex" referred to immutable biological realities (male or female), whereas "gender" referenced disposition (feminine or masculine-demeanored).
No matter: the topic of "trans-genderism" came up twice in one day-- first, with this
article, then again via a brief conversation with a co-worker. I'd done quite a bit of research about this subject in the past, but never cared enough to turn it into a post. Why not today? Let's start by defining some terms.
Male or Female, Man or Woman
To what do these terms refer? In other words, is a human being with male genitalia and XY chromosomes, who is wearing a dress and lipstick, a man (male) or a woman (female)? Fortunately, dictionaries plus thousands of years of taxonomical scientific work, dating from the Ancient Greeks to present day, already have the answers.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a male
is "an individual of the sex that is typically capable of producing small, usually motile gametes (such as sperm or spermatozoa) which fertilize the eggs of a female". A female
is "of, relating to, or being the sex that typically has the capacity to bear young or produce eggs".
Correspondingly, Wikipedia also describes
the difference between human males and females according to their reproductive organs (bold emphasis is mine):
"The human male reproductive system is a series of organs located outside of the body and around the pelvic region of a male that contribute towards the reproduction process. The primary direct function of the male reproductive system is to provide the male sperm for fertilization of the ovum.
The human female reproductive system is a series of organs primarily located inside of the body and around the pelvic region of a female that contribute towards the reproductive process. The human female reproductive system contains three main parts: the vulva, which leads to the vagina, the vaginal opening, to the uterus; the uterus, which holds the developing fetus; and the ovaries, which produce the female's ova."
Meanwhile, Wikihow discusses
the taxonomical criteria for categorizing male-versus-female humans, where two individuals of the opposite
gender need to be able to biologically reproduce. In their words: "Any male-female pair of healthy humans can produce viable offspring."
The same reasoning is applied to non-human species as well. For instance, here
we find that the "difference between a male and female is that a male's sex or reproductive organs are located outside of the body, whereas the female's sex organs are located inside the body." Even to flowers
: "male plants have stamens coated with pollen, while female plants have pistils that contain the ovaries."
Along with the observable, objective realities of reproductive systems, long-time science writer Regina Bailey explains
how chromosomes determine a human's gender:
"The male gametes, or sperm cells, in humans and other mammals are heterogametic and contain one of two types of sex chromosomes. Sperm cells carry either an X or Y sex chromosome.
Female gametes, or eggs, however, contain only the X sex chromosome and are homogametic. The sperm cell determines the sex of an individual in this case. If a sperm cell containing an X chromosome fertilizes an egg, the resulting zygote will be XX, or female. If the sperm cell contains a Y chromosome, then the resulting zygote will be XY, or male."
I could easily
reinforce this section ten-fold, but I don't want to belabor the point: it should now be obvious that "male" or "female" are not clerically "assigned" on a whim "at birth", like how someone is assigned a name on their birth certificate by their parents, nor can they be merely "chosen" on a day-to-day basis: sex is a purely biological feature set, defined by a combination of genitalia, chromosomes, and reproductive functionality, which have been "figured out" and taxonomized for centuries.
Or, to answer our previous question: a human with XY chromosomes and a male reproductive system-- predominantly or otherwise-- who happens to be wearing a dress and lipstick, is a man
. They may have higher-than-average feminine propensities (what used to be called "gender") such as fondnesses for blouses and hair estensions-- but they are still unequivocally male
He or She
Merriam-Webster dictionary describes he
as "a male person or animal", and she
as "a female person or animal". Thankfully, we have already successfully defined "male" (man) and "female" (woman) in the previous section: thusly, men should be referred to as "he", and women as "she".
So far, we have waded knee-deep into an apparently controversial subject, totally unscathed: the reality is crystal clear. So from where does the debate emerge?
The answer: proponents of the so-called "gender construct" family of theories use fringe cases
to try to support their case via "gotcha" moments. Let's start with a hypothetical, to illustrate the point of confusion: dogs are four-legged mammals, right?
Nope! Did you know a scientist once found a dog with five
legs? They also once found one which could not regulate its own body temperature. Therefore, objective physical characteristics like "leg count" and "warm-bloodedness" can no longer be applied to dog-taxonomy; and since objective criteria are now irrelevant, all that's left is each person's subjective opinion
about whether a given specimen is in fact a dog.
Clearly, any scientist worth his salt would laugh at such exposition, least of which because the syllogism simply does not follow, but also because: a five-legged or cold-blooded dog is an outlier:
it is suffering from genetic defects. Taxonomically, it is still a dog according to other
criteria, such as the rest of its DNA. The field of taxonomy unambiguously solved this problem of "outliers" thousands of years ago.
Applied to the issue of "trans-genderism" then:
It is pointed out
, using the buzz-phrase "science of trans-genderism", that some tiny percentages of "women"-- note how the author describes them thusly, fast-and-loose-- have "long clitorises", which "look like penises" (again, according to the author), due to an enzyme deficiency. Or, small percentages of "men" who have malfunctioning receptor genes for testosterone, causing them to endure imbalanced hormone ratios.
Or what about people who have only one chromosome? Or who have three? There are entire families
of chromosome-related disorders which produce irregularities, such as Down Syndrome.
Of course, it's obvious that the discovery of an outlying individual suffering an unfortunate medical issue does not logically invalidate a specific taxonomical criterion: a dog is still a four-legged mammal even if there is a dog with five legs; "males" and "females" are still objective, knowable things even in the presence of fringe cases.
One final observance before we proceed: the most pedantic of this crowd-- the fringes within the fringe-- will stop me here, and finger wave: "don't you know the difference between trans and inter, you numbskull?" Well, good luck trying to make sense of that
humorously inconsistent wording: clear as mud. Besides, so few "trans" people themselves
wade there, that it's for all intents a "distinction without a difference".
In the end, where does this leave us?
To People Not Suffering
Live and let live.
Be supportive and positive like you would with anyone else. Remember, these people are much more prone to depression and even suicide: they need compassion, not stigma. Be friendly and engaging, by all means don't refuse them jobs on this basis or discriminate in a sexist kind of way-- just generally treat them like you would anyone else, who you want to be happy, and to feel included.
Simultaneously though, don't bow over no matter how much verbal and physical intimidation is applied: a man is still "he", and a woman is still "she". It would be mean to pretend that someone with a 50 IQ and Down Syndrome is actually a genius; similarly, enabling a man to pretend that he's actually a real woman
, or vice-versa, is exceedingly cruel and despicable, because it's just not true. Ignorance is not
To People Suffering
Live and let live.
Either go get medical treatment or at least a diagnosis
into the underlying cause of your issues-- or
simply choose to stop placing other peoples' approval of you on a pedestal, and live your life how you please. I've always been an outcast too (for other reasons, probably Asperger's Syndrome-- which is another disorder incidentally), but I don't choose to let other people define my happiness. Go your own way, and let the haters be damned.
There is a rub though: you do not have a monopoly on "understanding". If you "identify" as a man, a woman, a loaf of bread, or even a hippopotamus
, it is highly unreasonable
to ask other people to "play along"; that would be like me getting angry for people not reinforcing that I have an elephant's trunk hanging from my face. If your happiness is dependent on people mirroring back unrealities, then you are going to be miserable (and depressed and suicidal: don't be a statistic). That's a fact: take it to the bank.
Finally, Wrap Up
I was raised Catholic. My elementary school teachers: "The catechism is Christ's flesh and blood." "Um", I would peep, "not really
though, right? I mean, it's a symbol
, correct?" "No!", they would thunder back: "Lutherans
believe it's just a symbol, but we
believe it's actually real."
Little kid me, still baffled: "But... but it's not literally
skin and blood plasma, right? Like, you know it's actually just bread and wine?" "No! It's actually
flesh and blood!" "But... not really
... you could put it under a microscope..." and back and forth we'd go, until I was threatened with the principal's office.
That sums up every conversation I've had, or seen had, with "trans-gendered" people: "Excuse me, I am a woman." Other party, in response: "Uh, I get that you feel
like a woman, but... you know you're not literally
a woman, right?" "No! I am actually
a woman, and I will punch you in the face if you do not refer to me as 'she'!" Sputtering in reply: "But... but...!"