Sex Isn’t Binary Either

CW: Transphobia

When you engage in trans issues you have to deal with transphobes. Actually if you’re trans you don’t even need to engage in trans issues, they’ll seek you out and let you know all the ways they hate you regardless. One of the things I see being yelled most frequently, is that “trans people want to deny biological facts”. That we’re “delusional snowflakes who don’t understand the world we live in”. Typically the response to this is to explain the difference between gender and sex, and argue that gender is purely a social construct distinct from biological sex. While this is true, it doesn’t address another issue with this statement. Sex isn’t binary either.

Our understanding of sex is a social construct. A set of labels created to simplify the world and place bodies into binary categories. When a baby is born they don’t come out of the womb with an M or F marked on their skin. The clouds don’t part to allow for a divine proclamation that “THIS ONE’S A BOY”. Instead a doctor (or midwife) will take a look at the genitals and guess. See which of these manmade categories they best fit into. And sometimes they get it wrong.

The intersex community is too often overlooked in this conversation. Around 1.7% of people (statistics on this are unreliable) are born outside this binary. People often refer to intersex as a singular thing, but it covers a wide range of different chromosomal, anatomical, and hormonal configurations. I’m by no means an expert on this topic, if you want to know more this is a good starting point.

Sex (like gender, and sexuality, and race) is a social construct. It simplifies things, in ways which are sometimes helpful. But issues arise if we force everyone into simple categories, rather than accepting the diversity of experiences which make up the real world. We treat these artificial categories as “the way things should be” rather than imperfect descriptive tools. And that’s when intersex characteristics start being viewed as something which needs to be corrected.

It is in our nature to construct narratives which simplify the world. These categories are superficially obvious, and useful in limited circumstances. But the closer you look the more the boundaries blur and the distinct categories break down into a multitude of complexities and exceptions.

The world is complicated. Our attempts to describe and understand it are, by their nature, simplistic. Accept these explanations at face value and people end up getting excluded, marginalised and harmed. Instead lets marvel together at the majestic complexity and diversity that we live within.

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