Let’s pretend humans are single-celled organisms

I’ve noticed a strange new dogma: sex is defined by the size of your gametes. You’re either making big ones or little ones (or none at all, but let’s ignore that, because we’re trying to invent a binary distinction), and some people plop down some simplistic claim, like that “women produce large gametes,” as if it is definitive and absolute. Other people are noticing this phenomenon.

There are those, politicians, pundits and even a few scientists, who maintain that whether our bodies make ova or sperm are all we need to know about sex. They assert that men and women are defined by their production of these gamete cells, making them a distinct biological binary pair, and that our legal rights and social possibilities should flow from this divide. Men are men. Women are women. Simple.

It’s stupid. It’s the new arbitrary definition to replace the Y chromosome excuse, and it’s got all the failings of any attempt to reduce a complex biological process to a single phrase.

For humans, sex is dynamic, biological, cultural and enmeshed in feedback cycles with our environments, ecologies and multiple physiological and social processes.

So when someone states that “An organism’s sex is defined by the type of gamete (sperm or ova) it has the function of producing” and argues that legal and social policy should be “rooted in properties of bodies,” they are not really talking about gametes and sex biology. They are arguing for a specific political, and discriminatory, definition of what is “natural” and “right” for humans based on a false representation of biology. Over the past few centuries this process of misrepresentation of biology was, and still is, used to deny women rights and to justify legal and societal misogyny and inequity, to justify slavery, racialization, racism and to enforce multiple forms of discrimination and bias. Today dishonest ascriptions of what biology is are being deployed to restrict women’s bodily autonomy, target LGBTQIA+ individuals broadly and, most recently, attack the rights of transexual and transgender people.

It’s embarrassing that there are actual scientists, biologists even, who dismiss all the complexity of post-zygotic development to shrink people down to nothing more than their gametes. It’s the new fad, though. We’re just going to have to wait this out as the bigots adopt yet another arbitrary definition to rationalize their weird-ass idiotic biases.

Let’s see the logical conclusion of this nonsense.

You may say that’s incredibly stupid, but mark my words: the people who want to control women’s reproduction and legislate sexuality are nodding along and thinking that’s a really useful point.


  1. johnson catman says

    So if a man has a vasectomy because he does not want children but still wants to enjoy sex, even though he still produces sperm but just does not ejaculate it, he has become trans? That is some incredible logic. If it was not so offensive, I would say that the term Isabella Riley Moody used should apply to her and her ilk.

  2. moonslicer says

    It never ceases to amaze me how hard haters are willing to work in order to hurt those they hate. They never stop looking for arguments that might potentially hurt their enemies. And if they can’t seem to find any at a given moment, they’re always willing to manufacture them.

  3. birgerjohansson says

    If we were a society of lanternfish maybe they would have a case…

  4. Ada Christine says

    by this critera i am no longer male. even if they wouldn’t consider me female, they’ve accidentally half-validated my gender identity

  5. Silentbob says

    @ augustpamplona
    *ahem* It’s not the size of the gamete, it’s what you do with it. :-/

  6. raven says

    So when someone states that “An organism’s sex is defined by the type of gamete (sperm or ova) it has the function of producing” and argues that legal and social policy should be

    “rooted in properties of bodies,” they are not really talking about gametes and sex biology.

    Cthulhu, this is very stupid.

    Your brain and mind are “properties of bodies”!!!

    The whole point of Trans is that they have a mismatch between their assignment at birth and their actual gender identity.

    Defining people by the size of their gametes or their chromosomal makeup is very reductionist and pointless.
    It is saying that humans are no more complicated than sponges or yeast cells.
    Our laws and policies should be and are based on the fact that we are thinking, self aware, people who live in organized socities.

    We are far more than gametes or chromosomes and we do a whole lot more than reproduce. As intelligent, long lived tool users, we are way more complex and dynamic than that.


    A transgender person is someone whose gender identity or gender expression does not correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth. Many experience gender dysphoria, which they may seek to alleviate through transitioning, often adopting a different name and set of pronouns in the process.

  7. raven says

    PZ Myers:

    It’s stupid. It’s the new arbitrary definition to replace the Y chromosome excuse,…

    As PZ notes, there is nothing new here.

    The haters have just replaced “Y chromosome” with “small gametes that swim”. They could have chosen fallopian tubes, corpus luterum, uterus, or vas deferens and had the same result.

    It ignores the whole point of Trans, which is that sex and gender are two different things.


    And if they can’t seem to find any at a given moment, they’re always willing to manufacture them.

    They lie a lot.

    I still can’t get over how false, the Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria syndrome claim is. It was something made up by a quack MD with no data behind it and isn’t accepted by anyone who actually works in the relevant scientific and medical fields.
    It’s also widely quoted by Trans haters.

    If you have to lie to support your assertions, then they aren’t very convincing.

  8. says

    We need a DSM paraphilia classification for “worries too much about other people’s genitalia”

    Cuz there’s too much of that going on.

  9. says

    a vasectomy is a trans surgery

    Pardon the metaphor, but it’s like they ran out of bullets and just threw the gun.

  10. Ed Seedhouse says

    I am confused. Eggs are hugely larger than sperms, so if size matters shouldn’t people who produce eggs logically have far more rights than people who can only produce those teeny tiny little sperms? I for one welcome our huge gamete producing overlords…

  11. robro says

    If vasectomies are “trans surgery” then hysterectomies are “trans surgery”? And if “trans surgeries” become illegal, which I suspect is where they are headed, then we’ll have even more dead women than those killed by not being able to get medical necessary abortions.

  12. whywhywhy says

    #9 The hatemongers don’t care if their lies are believable or even convincing. The just need to hate something.

    (The reasons for the hate are many: it feels good in the short term, to feel superior, to gain economic advantage, to feel like you belong, to hate a stranger rather than the family member who is making your life hell, to provide meaning for your life, to gain prestige in one’s social circle, to distract from real problems, to fill the need to blame someone for the crap life sends, etc.)

  13. larpar says

    @Autobot Silverwynde #16
    Now, she will probably get a free blue checkmark.

  14. Jazzlet says

    Ada Christine @#5
    And I am some way to being a man, though the total hysterectomy was done for medical reasons.

  15. timmyson says

    “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. ”

    I’ve found this quote to be evergreen.

  16. birgerjohansson says

    Are eels male or female? To the best of my knowledge they only develop genitals during the journey to the Sargasso sea.
    Regarding Isabella Moody, I am reminded of the hate mail Ed Brayton sometimes received, and published.
    Reactions to the content was usually a mixture of surprise, horror and amusement. The Moody tweet is an outlier in that I do not see any spelling errors.

  17. moonslicer says

    @ raven #9

    I remember the first time I heard of ROGD. My reaction was a despairing “What now?” You get used to the idea that every so often are enemies are going to come up with some new lie about us.

    In this case they didn’t realize that the very name of the supposed phenomenon, “Rapid Onset” Gender Dysphoria, betrayed it as BS. When you’re trans, gender dysphoria is something that is always present within you. True, it can vary greatly from one individual to another. In some people it might be more intense or more frequent, e.g. But what I call “my transgender memories” go back to my earliest years. There was never a time when I was free from gender dysphoria. And when you hang out on transgender forums, you’ll never hear anybody say, “I never experienced gender dysphoria until all of a sudden one day when I was 15 . . .” It doesn’t work like that.

    Furthermore, the position adopted by the partisans of ROGD was that a young person who had never shown any sign of being gender non-conforming in any way suddenly starts experiencing gender dysphoria by virtue of having started hanging out with transgender people, either on line or in person. The notion is that gender dysphoria, like a virus perhaps, can be communicated from one person to another. That’s when you want to start crying. “How can they believe stuff like that?” It’s because they don’t like us and so they’ll believe anything that promises to hurt us.

    What we could tell them (if they could possibly listen) is that I cannot possibly pass on gender dysphoria to anybody else. It’s my gender identity that produces dysphoria, and my gender identity is mine and mine alone. It’s a fundamental part of me that I cannot pass on to someone else. And if I cannot lend them my gender identity, I can’t create gender dysphoria within them.

    I compare it to an aptitude for math. A math genius cannot pass his genius on to somebody else. He can give them lessons (which would be miles over their head), but they’re just going to have to slog it out as far as their own native ability will take them. There’s never going to be any sudden flash of understanding in their mind. Their mind wasn’t made for that kind of thing.

  18. raven says

    The notion is that gender dysphoria, like a virus perhaps, can be communicated from one person to another.

    Yeah, I know.

    They say that Trans is caused by social contagion and peer pressure.
    Which is absurd.

    They never say that being cis and/or heterosexual is due to social contagion and peer pressure. This is despite the fact that there are enormous pressures both legal and social in our society to be…cis and heterosexual.

    It’s the same thing they say about being gay.
    Being gay is a choice, not an orientation.
    When you tell them OK, choose to be gay for a while and tell us how it
    works out, they never have an answer.

  19. says

    @17: Probably.
    @18: I have been trying to get suspended by outright insulting Chief Twit himself but so far, no luck. Maybe this will get me suspended…?

  20. Jazzlet says

    Dunc @25
    C’mon you know the answer to that, “old” and therefore irrelevant.

  21. wzrd1 says

    Dunc @25, obviously post-menopausal women are men, by their daffynition.
    And male fruit flies are actually female, since the sperm is larger than the fly and hence, ovum.

  22. moonslicer says

    @ raven #23

    We’re talking about the different standard that always applies to LGBT people. If you’re gay or transgender, you’re somehow required to prove, with hard scientific evidence, that you are in fact gay or transgender. Whereas straight, cisgender people are never challenged to produce scientific evidence to back up what they claim to be. If you fit the norm, you’re cool, nobody bothers you. If you’re outside the norm, you’re assumed to be twisted, all messed up, and you’re going to have to work hard to establish that it is OK to be what you are.

    This demand for scientific proof is a red herring anyway. If we could hand them clear, unequivocal proof of why we are what we are, they’d just ignore it and move on to something else. After all, science can clearly show why POC are POC, but racists are never impressed by scientic evidence in that case. They just go on hating. And science can clearly explain why intersex people are intersex, but that has never induced anybody to treat intersex people with respect.

    Our enemies will use the science argument for as long as they can. When they no longer have it at their disposal, they won’t miss it. They’ll find plenty of other reasons for their continuing hostility.

    One point about ROGD that its proponents never seem to consider: all my life, wherever I go, I’m outnumbered by at least 99-1. All my life I’ve lived amidst a sea of cisgender people and influence. Yet that fact has never changed me. I’m as trans now as when I started decades ago. Yet our enemies assume that just a bit of contact with a transperson or two would be enough to turn a cisgender person into a transgender person. They assume that we have some sort of sinister power that they must always beware. If we had that sort of power, good old Margarine Taters Greens, e.g., would have been trans long, long ago.

  23. birgerjohansson says

    DeSantis -one of the most hateful politicians- has screwed himself over as Disney is able to use passages of his book to show the court his actions were intended as retaliations after Disney did something conservatives thought was “woke”.

    I love it when evil people are stupid.

  24. birgerjohansson says

    Moonslicer @ 22
    “…enemies are going to come up with a new lie about us” .

    I expect they might use the muslim claim that earthquakes are triggered by immodest clothing. Also, the plague is caused by trans persons poisoning the wells. Let us not ignore that the phenomenon of trans people was invented by the international Jew, likely to reduce the number of gentiles reproducing.

  25. raven says

    Just so you know, Isabella Riley Moody is an obscure far rightwing hater and internet troll.
    She is generic and hasn’t had an original thought in her life. Sample gibberish.

    Tweets with replies by Isabella Riley Moody …
    https://twitter.com › isabellarileyus › with_replies

    Isabella Riley Moody · @isabellarileyus. ·. Apr 29. Women need to stop trying to be men and embrace their proper role to serve their husbands and raise a …

    OK, Isabella, why are you wasting time on twitter when you could be mopping the floor or mowing the lawn?

  26. raven says

    Right wing watch.

    April 24, 2023
    Josiah David Moody predicts that he and his wife Isabella Riley Moody will “probably end up picking up our things and moving to Russia” to escape “the gay agenda”: “Eventually they’re going to start raping your children. … So, buy a gun.”

    Bye Josiah and Isabella. If you ever told the truth once in your sick life, we could raise the money for one way tickets for your family to Russia in 10 minutes. It’s a win-win.
    We get rid of two mindless haters and Russia gets two dysfunctional losers.

    May 3, 2023

    If Isabella Riley Moody had to rank herself on how racist she is on scale of 1 to 10, she confidently declares that “I’m a 10.”

    No surprise.
    We can predict easily that Isabella is a good xian and hates everyone and everything.
    She is so simple minded and predictable that she is also very boring.

  27. raven says

    Right wing watch March 30, 2023

    Isabella Riley Moody says “the 19th Amendment is a horrible thing” and that “one of the worst things to ever happen for America was women getting the right to vote.”

    OK, we’ve seen enough. This is just a loon who can’t cross the street without her minder’s help.

  28. chrislawson says

    Gamete size is an overly simplistic model of sex determination even in single celled organisms. Not that it undercuts PZ’s argument at all. If anything it strengthens it.

    This model was created after the invention of the microscope, as part of the human urge to classify everything as discretely as possible. As a system, it was known to have glaring flaws almost immediately (plenty of organisms are isogametic, for instance). It is pretty much a legacy model that has been completely blown apart by lots of lines of evidence, especially modern genetic analysis and cladistics. This makes it much like the three kingdoms model (Animal, Plant, Protist) that was standard in Haeckel’s time. And why would anyone stick with a broken legacy model that has been known to be flawed for well over a century now? The only reason is because it supports their regressive values. No biologist today would think of defending Haeckel’s Tree of Life outside its historical context or insisting that fungi are really plants because ‘the science says they are’ (never noting that the ‘science’ they refer to is from the 1880s). And yet here we are today seeing some professional biologists claim that gamete size is ‘just science’. Disgraceful.

  29. Silentbob says

    @ 34 chrislawson

    All you say is true – but also it’s so fucking disingenuous of them. For example TERF Emna Hilton has been insisting for years that she isn’t bigoted against trans people, she’s just an objective scientist. And, when asked about cis women who are genetically male, all of a sudden obliterated every anti-trans argument she’d ever made by admitting “womanhood” is something she “grants” to cis women but not trans women.


    In other words all the biological arguments were bogus all along.

    (Also saying trans women are “jealous” of intersex cis women is like saying Rosa Parks was “jealous” of black women who passed for white. Like what a fucked up bigoted thing to say. Transphobes are so repulsive.)

  30. Silentbob says

    Hilton’s allegedly a biologist BTW at the University of Manchester.

    So no, nothing about being a biologist prevents one being a bigot.

  31. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    I’ve been trying to come up with a good “Gamete of Thrones” joke, but…

  32. says

    If gametes are the only reliable way to determine sex, then I don’t know the sex of anyone I’ve ever met.
    Including myself.
    I’ve been pregnant, but then there’s seahorses, so…

  33. wzrd1 says

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  34. StevoR says

    @22. moonslicer : “And if I cannot lend them my gender identity, I can’t create gender dysphoria within them…”

    “Friends, Romans, Countryman, lend me your ..gender identities!”

    .- With apologies to Mark Anthony, ‘Julius Caesar’ Act III, scene II & The Bard.

    Admittedly, you can’t really lend ears around very well either..

    Of course, these willfully ignorant people not only lack understanding but also the desire to understand and to empathise. They are set on everything being what they think is “normal” – whatever that is & despite the fact that there’snot reallysucha thing & if they’re was it would always be changing – that they simply cannot tolerate anything different or other even if it has nothing to do with them and doesn’t hurt them in anyway whatsoever. The reichwingers keep making this plain all the time.

    @36 Silentbob : “So no, nothing about being a biologist prevents one being a bigot.”

    Yup. Science is done by people and sadly, probly inevitably given our culture, there’s a lot of racists and racism out there even now when you might hope we’d have learnt better.. See among other things :


    @35. Silentbob : “.. when asked about cis women who are genetically male, all of a sudden obliterated every anti-trans argument she’d ever made by admitting “womanhood” is something she “grants” to cis women but not trans women.”

    I guess its the point you are making but ye non-existent gawds, the sheer arrogance of this idea that any indivdual can just “grant” someone’s (whole groups of someone’s!) existence / identity / nature in this way. Just FFS!


    Let’s pretend humans are single-celled organisms

    Let’s not!

    Although it would make housing problems much easier to solve and reduce our environmental impact quite a bit..

  35. Acolyte of Sagan says

    Sheila #38:
    “If gametes are the only reliable way to determine sex, then I don’t know the sex of anyone I’ve ever met.
    Including myself.
    I’ve been pregnant, but then there’s seahorses, so…”

    What do seahorses have to do with anything? The eggs are still produced by the female and fertilized by sperm from the male. That the eggs are then transferred to the male”s brood pouch until they hatch does not mean what you seem to think it means.

    (yes, I know….go away, bigot, etc. etc.)

  36. says

    My “favorite” part about the gamete obsession is that it directly contradicts another of the most popular transphobe talking-point: namely, the assertion that biological sex is present at birth and impossible to change. AMAB babies are not born producing sperm: they gain it later in life. Does that mean they changed sex? I used to produce sperm but I don’t any more: am I no longer male?

    Of course, if you point this out to transphobes, then they immediately move the goalposts, usually to one of two much more abstract and absurd definitions:

    1)Intelligent design gametes: Sure, you may not produce gametes, but your body was “designed” to produce ova, therefore you are biologically female.

    2)Hypothetical alternate universe time travel gametes: If had been born and were allowed to grow up until puberty with no medical treatments, and if you lived in an alternate universe where most humans can survive early childhood without medicine or surgery, then in this hypothetical alternate universe you would produce sperm. Therefore, you are biologically male.

    Of course, transphobes don’t like to admit it, because it makes their actual policy positions seem all the more absurd. Hypothetical alternate universe time travel gametes are not relevant to medical treatment for a real person in the real world, so if we accept the transphobes’ definition of “biological sex,” then there would be no reason for medical doctors to know your sex or take it into account when prescribing medicine.

    Likewise, Hypothetical alternate universe time travel gametes are not used when playing soccer. Neither are real gametes, for that matter. So by transphobes’ definition no one has any reason to care about a “biological male” person playing on the same sports team as “biological female” people.

  37. crimsonsage says

    Honestly I see it as even more pernicious. Really what they are doing is taking the fact that many of us suppress and hide ourselves extremely well, but then kind of shatter and transition all at once. This leads to the perception that there “were no signs,” something my now incredibly supportive mother said when I first came out. What this does is use our own socially induced repression as a justification for further transphobia. Because yeah transition often seems to come super rapidly once we interact with other trans people, not because it’s a contagion but because for the first time we experience genuine love and support which gives us strength. There is no arguing with these people, only political force.