Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Messy Business of Gender and Our Kids

If you're like "lol caitlyn is bruce still because birth" you should probably read this - I took the time to write it and everyone can use some interesting science knowledge that's written so simply Dahlia could teach it to Escher. And it's pretty hilarious in parts, so that's the hook.


Let's have a talk about sex determination. In mammals (that's us, dudes), there are two processes (sequential in nature) that determine the overall sex/gender of a developing fetus. Primary sex determination starts vaguely happening after approximately four weeks of fetal development. Rudimentary structures that will form gonads start to form. At week 7 of fetal development, XYs start to sprout two different sex parts: the testicular cord and interstitial region. XXs don't develop distinguished ladyjunk until later. This shit is all determined by genes, though the introduction of serious doses of endocrine disruptors can totally override the sequence of events that make Boys and Girls, per se. So that's one step, and it can be altered. There are things OTHER than XX ("girl") and XY ("boy"). In fact, there's XXX, XXXX, XXXXX, XXXXY, XXY (Klinefelter), Non-Klinefelter XXY, Turner syndrome (X without Y, but considered female), XX male syndrome (considered male but very small significance of male sex characteristics), XXXY, XXYY, XYY, and Y chromosome microdeletion.

Secondary sex determination is a far more messy experience: Early in development, the effects of testosterone and AMH (a hormone) cause Wolffian ducts to develop into a vas deferens and other boyparts. If there isn't a whole lotta testosterone or AMH, the Wolffian ducts shrivel up, causing Müllerian ducts to develop into the female fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, and upper vagina. But as we all should know from taking ANY SCIENCE WHATSOEVER, that doesn't always happen perfectly. Some males lack a pee-tube, balls, or sperm creation. Some females lack any one of the ladyparts required for babymaking. Some have both. Some have neither. COMPLETELY FUCKING SEPARATE FROM THIS, there is the idea of gender identity. No matter how supremely uncomfortable it may make you... every individual - because we're living in 20-fucking-15, has the ability to shape and put forth their own goddamn gender identity. At birth we are not granted a special crown that tells us For The Rest of Your Life, You Have to do All Boy Things (or All Girl Things). We all have intersex brains, most of us produce BOTH estrogen and testosterone (unless you have a genetic mutation that prevents it), and we are all capable of doing everything each other does, in the physical realm (except baby things, but not everyone has kids anyway). We can even fashion new genitals with surgery. So to sit there and say SEX IS STATIC CHROMOSOMES DETERMINE IT THE END is like saying "okay everyone named Kristi has to be a stripper and can do nothing else in life. Everyone named Ashley has to..." blah blah blah. It's archaic, shortsighted, ridiculous, and it should probably bring shame on your family.

So how does this relate to the upbringing of children? Entirely. No child should be forced to fit in a gender box, especially when it's the last thing they want. Phrases like "ugh, you're such a tomboy, can't you be more girlie?" and "stop being a girl and crying so much, be a man, son!" have NO place in raising children. People who use religion to uphold these ridiculous ideals are hugely at fault for many problems foisted unnecessarily on young people navigating puberty. In an already difficult and ever-changing world, let your child develop without gender expectations. They will fully realize their own gender at some point in their life, and respect their decision. I saw the show Sense8 the other day, and the character Nomi (who is trans) was repeatedly berated and called Michael against her wishes by her overbearing and frankly SHITTY mother. Don't be that person. If you need help, ask. I am personally living with the same gender identity as my corresponding sex at birth - but I have plenty of friends who aren't, and that's okay. For the most part, though I cannot speak for the entire community as I am not a member, trans people are sick of the concept that they should be treated as lesser-than by the morally superior (in their mind) segment of society that believes you cannot change your sex or gender - so forcing the idea won't make it more comfortable or lovely for us to all coexist peacefully and respectfully.

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