There were other tweets in this chain of similar crap. These are the ones that are most relevant about what I want to talk about today. What is male? and are trans women male?
When we use the word male (or female) in relation to humans – we’re talking about the body of a person and how it develops and presents in terms of sexed characteristics. In humans we have two distinct sexes and typically all people will fall into one of these two categories very neatly. Though in some small cases people are what we call intersex, where their sex characteristics don’t align perfectly with one sex or the other.
Our sexed characteristics include every single cell of our bodies, as well as what those cells add up to make, shapes, sizes, gonads, hormones etc. With so many variables all working to add up to a sex – its not surprising that sometimes there are deviations from what is typical or that you can be male with female sexed characteristics ie gynecomastia. That’s why sex isn’t any of these individual features, or that not having X feature means you’re not X sex. For example females born without ovaries are still female.
So if it isn’t based on any individual part of yourself, what is it that makes you the sex you are?
That would be the developmental path that you’re on – which is very predictable as in 98% of all cases the same few patterns happen. Your mum gives you an X your dad gives you an X or a Y. If you get a Y from your dad then you will go on to develop a penis and testicles. Then at puberty you will start being flooded with lots of testosterone, which will create secondary sex characteristics such as body hair, growing tall and muscular, broad shoulders, deep voices etc.
The five things there are chromosomes, gonads, genitals, hormones and secondary sex characteristics. As I outlined above, its very easy to have a deviation from the norm in any one of these 5 areas – especially the last one, its for this reason that we don’t tend to look at the individual parts when we’re deciding what the whole thing is. Kinda like how we don’t say “well this chair doesn’t have legs, and chairs have legs, so this isn’t a chair.”
Instead we look at the whole of the object or person and decide what they are based on the patterns we can see. In the case of the chair we can see its chair shaped at the top, and is used for sitting on – this is very clearly a chair despite having a minor deviation from typical chairs.
In the case of people we do the same, a male who has gynecomastia (enlarged breast tissue, typically as a result of low testosterone or high oestrogen) is not suddenly a female because he has the tiddies. Especially when he still follows the same developmental path as other males – chromosomes -> gonads and genitals -> hormones -> secondary sex characteristics. You can make the argument he has a female hormonal range as a result of an issue (diet is usually to blame for gyno) – but if he didn’t have that issue he would totally align with what male is used to describe, a specific developmental path.
The developmental pathway is also how we can have intersex males and intersex females too – just to complicate things a little more. Such as XX male syndrome – which despite having female chromosomes, is still a male who follows the typical male developmental pathway. Male isn’t about whether you believe yourself to be a man or not, its about which way your body develops and objectively, both mine and Riley’s bodies have developed male as a result of the path our bodies were put on at conception.
You aren’t female Riley, you’re male. It’s not a bad thing and it doesn’t mean we aren’t women. There are many women who are male, its not difficult at all to uncouple these things. For example, CAIS XY males who cannot process andorgen hormones – and are in fact on the male developmental pathway too as they will never be able to develop ovaries and a uterus – but would have developed a penis and testicles if they could process androgen hormones. These women are still women and are male.
I’d much rather challenge the social understanding of what being male means than outright deny science because it hurts my feelings. But that’s just me.
it makes very little sense to call someone trans who hasn’t decided to or began transitioning. Though it is fair to say they suffer with the condition, absolutely.
no, it just implies you’ve transitioned your sex characteristics from male to female – not that you’ve some how hopped onto the female sexual development pathway. Which you haven’t, and I’m not sure it would ever be possible to. Its a developmental pathway – if you need to have surgeries etc to achieve it, you hardly developed – nor would you have had the developmental potential to ever achieve it without outside intervention.
“assigned male at birth”
nobody is assigned a sex – its just observed. In the vast majority of cases its very clear which developmental pathway you’re on.