Some days I feel like I’ve spent one quarter of my life learning oversimplifications, and the remaining three quarters trying to encompass all the wonderful complexity out there. And then I have to deal with all the people who have turned the beginning stuff they learned in grade school into rigid dogma, rather than the first step in learning. I appreciate learning I’m not alone, like from this Stanford blog from a few years ago.
The simple scenario many of us learned in school is that two X chromosomes make someone female, and an X and a Y chromosome make someone male. These are simplistic ways of thinking about what is scientifically very complex. Anatomy, hormones, cells, and chromosomes (not to mention personal identity convictions) are actually not usually aligned with one binary classification.
The Nature feature collects research that has changed the way biologists understand sex. New technologies in DNA sequencing and cell biology are revealing that chromosomal sex is a process, not an assignation.
As quoted in the article, Eric Vilain, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Gender-Based Biology at UCLA, explains that sex determination is a contest between two opposing networks of gene activity. Changes in the activity or amounts of molecules in the networks can sway the embryo towards or away from the sex seemingly spelled out by the chromosomes. “It has been, in a sense, a philosophical change in our way of looking at sex; that it’s a balance.”
Two very nice words: process and balance. Those are so much more accurate than bang, your sexual identity was determined by a collision of two gametes in your Mom’s fallopian tubes, and don’t you argue with me. Or this: a fascinatingly perverse video from a guy who has been banned from playing the card game, Magic: The Gathering for harassment.
Just to explain the context a little bit: the banned player is quite irate, and has discovered a horrible thing that the makers of his favorite card game have done that is ruining the game. You only have to listen to the first 30 seconds of this excerpt, but you can continue if you enjoy listen to a growed man ranting about SJWs wrecking his fantasy game.
“Magic has adopted “they” as the preferred third-person-singular pronoun for a player, replacing “he or she”.”
This on the 25th anniversary of the world’s most popular card game is a fucking disgrace. Gender is real.
Then he goes on to whine about the low frequency of transgender people in the US, as if the number makes any difference, and is if the only possible reason to make this change is to satisfy transgender men and women (hint: there’s a larger spectrum of individuals who don’t identify by those pronouns). It’s a 12 minute video. All that’s in it is this guy complaining about how a card game company wasted all this effort making a grammatical change via one sentence in an internal document about some upcoming card releases, listed in a section titled “various nonfunctional changes”. The sad thing is that over 20,000 people have watched this performance.
I don’t know about you, but I think I’m going to pay more attention to the views of experts in reproductive and developmental biology, published in Nature and by Stanford, than the angry ravings of a bigoted game player who doesn’t like these new people sneaking into his gaming community. But what do I know? That whiny gamer has been invited to speak at an atheist convention in Milwaukee. Remember when atheism used to try to associate itself with science?