Examining The Gender Spectrum With A Reproductive Biologist

"Sex" Chromosomes, X and Y. 
"Sex" Chromosomes, X and Y. 

We live in a “gender binary” with a prevailing female/male paradigm. For many people, the terms “gender” and “sex” are used interchangeably, which is, actually, incorrect!! This idea has become so common, particularly in western societies, that it is rarely questioned. We are born, assigned a sex, and for some, that’s that. But for others… well, that’s NOT that.

 Biological sex and gender are different; gender is not inherently nor solely connected to one’s physical anatomy.

Most people believe that our gender identity (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and sexual orientation (who we are sexually attracted to) should be programmed into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. This is basically true but….

During pregnancy, the fetal brain develops in the male direction through the direct action of testosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hormone. Sexual differentiation of the genitals takes place in the first two months of pregnancy BUT sexual differentiation of the brain starts in the second half of pregnancy, therefore, these two processes are not LINKED to each other. They occur independently. Every animal starts off with two sets of organs, one that can become a male reproductive tract and one that can become a female. EVERY SINGLE person at one point in their life was a hermaphrodite.

The accepted medical treatment for an individual with gender dysphoria is NOT to change the brain, but to help the individual bring their physical body in line with the way they feel. There is no medically acceptable way to convince someone that they should feel a certain gender, even the gender they “are” genetically. Hence, gender reassignment surgeries or other any other method people please to bring their body in line about their gender feeling.

I put “ARE” in quotes because there are many many common genetic differences from the norm- ie XY chromosome set. And many people do not even know that they have a genetic difference. In fact, genetic differences are so common that I refuse to call “XY” normal, and differences from that abnormal.
Some Examples: (by far.. not even all of them..)

-A genetically XY male’s testicles may not descend. At birth it would be assumed in the absence of a genetic test, that this is a girl.
-XXY individuals are infertile males who have two X chromosomes.
-XY males can be born with a mutation in the cell receptor, ie. the lock for the key testosterone. This disorder can be full or partial, and it is called androgen insensitivity syndrome.

“Male” and “Female” Hormones are rather unfortunate terms. Testosterone and Estrogen are made from the SAME molecule, which you might be surprised to learn is cholesterol. This follows a pathway, the same molecule is whittled down and added to, each step removes or adds a piece: cortisol the “stress” hormone comes first, then testosterone is made, then estrogen. ALL FROM THE SAME MOLECULE all of which are present in both males and females.

Cholesterol is the starting molecule for many hormones.

Ecologists have long recognized that pharmaceuticals are polluting our water supply including MANY hormone disruptors, which are known to affect sexual development and reproduction. For example, in the USA there are over 76 MILLION metformin prescriptions a year to control blood sugar in diabetics. Seems innocuous, right? However, this drug is peed out and not removed from our water supply. Researchers have found that male minnows exposed to metformin at concentrations comparable to those of wastewater treatment plants, produce proteins typically found only in female fish, develop feminized gonads, weigh less, and have fewer offspring. There are dozens and dozens of these pharmaceutical examples.

All gender restroom signage

When someone is “typically gendered,” they benefit from gender privilege. For individuals whose biological sex, gender expression, and gender identity neatly align, every day things cause no problems. Examples range from forms they fill out, clothing stores in which they shop, the restroom they use, or identification documents they carry.

Gender privilege extends into every aspect of our lives, including medical research and studies. Most studies use male “model” organisms (cohorts of all male mice or rats for instance..) and clinical trials do not even properly accommodate the gender binary, never mind the gender spectrum….

Doctors preferentially study diseases and test drugs in males!!!

But, a new journal is aiming to change that, and fill a large unmet need. A peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary journal focusing on scientific and clinical studies to advance understanding of the health issues faced by transgender people will be launched this fall.

Transgender Health, published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., will be an open access journal and will cover topics such as disparities in treatment and barriers to care, sexually transmitted infections and preventive measures, and best practices, protocols, and guidelines to ensure optimal care.

With this new era of acceptance, equality and public celebrity disclosures, I hope this information was helpful to you! Please leave me a message with any questions or comments!

This article appears on Medium