Society assigns a sex to people according to several physical characteristics: the genes that we inherit, and which in turn determin how our hormones and sexual organs develop.
Biologically, there is actually not only a female or male sex, but also a continuum between these two binaries. Many societies, including ours, have no space for that continuum and try to assign fixed male or female genders/sex to individuals. This creates problems for trans* and intersex people in particular.
Human Biology, sex and science:
Human biological characteristics according to science:
Some people believe genitals determine sex, with males having penises and females having vaginas. However, human biology is actually far more complicated. The above definition excludes many people with an intersex condition. It can also invalidate trans people who are non-operative — those who don’t want to have bottom surgery — or pre-operative. For example, a transgender man — a person who was assigned female at birth and identifies as a man — may have a vagina but still identifies as male.
We’re typically taught that people with XX chromosomes are female and people with XY chromosomes are male. Again, human biology is actually far more complicated than that. The above defintion excludes people with an intersex condition who may have different chromosomal configurations or other differences in sexual development. They may for example have XY chromosomes but nevertheless have been born with a vagina. Or they may have XXY chromosomes. The above definition also doesn’t account for the fact that trans people often have chromosomes that don’t “match” their sex. A transgender woman, for example, can be female but still have XY chromosomes.
We tend to associate a predominance of estrogen with females and a predominance of testosterone with males. But it’s important to understand that every person has both of these hormones. In fact, estradiol, the predominant form of estrogen, is critical to sexual function for people who were assigned male at birth as well. Estradiol plays a significant role in sexual arousal, sperm production, and erectile function. Although hormone replacement therapy is an option for trans and gender non-conforming people, a trans man who isn’t on hormones, for example, isn’t any less male than one who is.
Secondary Characteristics of Sex:
Many secondary characteristics of sex are easily identifiable. This includes facial hair, breast tissue, and vocal range. Because of this, they’re often used to make quick assessments about the sex and gender of a person. But secondary sex characteristics vary greatly, regardless of whether someone identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth or not. Take facial hair, for example. Some people who were assigned female at birth may go on to develop facial hair, and some who were assigned male at birth may not grow any at all.
Intersexuality refers to a condition in which physical sex characteristics of a person may not all be identified as clearly female or male. This can become apparent at birth or later in life. Children who are identified as intersexual as birth often undergo surgery that is enforced by doctors and parents and are medically treated in order to make their physical sex more clearly female or male.
Many of these medical procedures have side effects and the "created sex" often does not correspond to the child`s gender identity. Intersexual people often suffer very much from the medical procedures imposed on them without them having any choice in that.
Last updated: 01/28/2021 - 19:11