No, Science Does Not Say There Are Only Two Genders

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This sign is wrong.

One of the Conservative criticisms of the generally left-leaning March for Science is the refusal of many modern scientists to embrace the so-called fact that “there are only two genders”. The problem with this criticism is that it is not based on fact at all.

While used interchangeably in casual speech, sex and gender are not really the same thing. Sex refers to an organism’s reproductive structures, which are determined by hormones and chromosomes. Gender refers to a role that a human[1] takes in their society, which is often, but not always, determined by sex. While modern Conservatives may prefer a society that has only two genders that are always determined by a person’s sex[2], not all human societies agree with that (this can be explored at http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/content/two-spirits_map-html/ ). Science generally and anthropology specifically therefore says that “there are as many genders as society says there are.”

The question then moves from “how many genders are there?” to “how many genders should society allow?” and “who is allowed to identify as what gender?”. While Conservatives have made their preferences quite clear on that subject, they have not presented convincing arguments for why society should conform to their preferences. Thus far two arguments have been advanced. The first is the vicious lie that allowing transgender people to use bathrooms designated for the opposite sex puts children or cis-women in danger of sexual assault by trans-people (Brady 2016). The second argument is the fact that it can be confusing to keep track of the seemingly ever-expanding number genders other than masculine/male and feminine/female and the pronouns that people in those genders may prefer.

The idea that transgender people represent a threat to cis-gender people has already been disproven (Brady 2016) so there is no need to engage with it further. The fact that keeping track of people’s gender and pronoun preferences can be confusing, is not a good reason to fail to accommodate them within reason. Our society already accommodates dietary preferences, both religious and otherwise, even if we do not find veganism or the idea that pork is “unclean” ethically or theologically compelling. We have also learned to accept the occasional turban, hijab, or yarmulke in an otherwise “no-hats” workplace. Referring to someone by their preferred gender and pronoun really is not any more difficult.

While most humans belong to one of two sexes, gender is socially variable and there does not seem to be any social disadvantage to multiple genders or people identifying as a gender that does not “match” their sex. As a result, from this scientist’s perspective the answer to “how many genders should society allow?” is “as many as people want to have” and the answer to “who is allowed to identify as what gender?” is “every person can decide for themself[3]”. While not a scientific principle per se, “live and let live” is a highly rational philosophy.

References:

Anonymous. “A Map of Gender Diverse Cultures” PBS http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/content/two-spirits_map-html/ Accessed 24-Apr-2017

Brady, J. 15-May-2016. “When A Transgender Person Uses A Public Bathroom, Who Is At Risk?” NPR. http://www.npr.org/2016/05/15/477954537/when-a-transgender-person-uses-a-public-bathroom-who-is-at-risk Accessed 24-Apr-2017

Gruber, K. 23-Sep-2016. “Five wild lionesses grow a mane and start acting like males”. New Scientist https://www.newscientist.com/article/2106866-five-wild-lionesses-grow-a-mane-and-start-acting-like-males/ Accessed 24-Apr-2017

Marshall, M. 9-Nov-2011. “Zoologger: The only cross-dressing bird of prey”. New Scientist. https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21138-zoologger-the-only-cross-dressing-bird-of-prey/ Accessed 24-Apr-2017

[1] Although there are reports of female lions that act like males (Gruber 2016) and male harriers that act like females (Marshall 2011).

[2] They seem to ignore the fact that not all humans are XX females or XY males.

[3] This seems like a good time for the singular “they”.

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8 thoughts on “No, Science Does Not Say There Are Only Two Genders

  1. The idea that transgender bathrooms posing risks to women being debunked is a bold-fa ied lie or simply a statement of blatant ignorance — there are multiple reported cases of ‘transgenders’ taking advantage of their identification to either harass or film women in their bathrooms. So, that can be scratched out.

    Gender and sex are the same thing. It’s been scientifically proven that there are two sexes, hence, there are two genders. Claiming that gender can be defined as “anything one identify as and there can be as many of them as society claims” makes the term viciously vague and removes all meaning from it, hence, making it useless. We have a much better, scientifically valid definition of gender, and that is that it is a synonym for sex. Citing a liberal papers written by liberal activists published in liberal journals escapes nothing of this reality. Many people have come to recognize that liberals have gone off the rails when they keep making this crazy stuff up — and what’s worse, you’re a ‘hater’ if you don’t agree with it. Ridiculous.

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    • There may be some documented cases of people who are or are pretending to be transgender behaving inappropriately in bathrooms, but it is exceedingly rare. http://abcnews.go.com/US/sexual-assault-domestic-violence-organizations-debunk-bathroom-predator/story?id=38604019

      This is sort of like assuming that nobody should allow their children to attend Sunday school due to multiple documented sexual assaults by priests.

      It’s also true that there is at lease one documented case of a woman filming another woman while in the bathroom http://ktla.com/2016/07/16/lapd-investigating-playboy-model-who-shared-body-shaming-photo-of-naked-woman-secretly-shot-at-gym/. By this logic nobody should be allowed to use the same bathroom or locker room as anyone else.

      For what it’s worth here’s the WHO’s definition of gender:
      Gender refers to the socially constructed characteristics of women and men – such as norms, roles and relationships of and between groups of women and men. It varies from society to society and can be changed. While most people are born either male or female, they are taught appropriate norms and behaviours – including how they should interact with others of the same or opposite sex within households, communities and work places. When individuals or groups do not “fit” established gender norms they often face stigma, discriminatory practices or social exclusion – all of which adversely affect health. It is important to be sensitive to different identities that do not necessarily fit into binary male or female sex categories.

      Gender norms, roles and relations influence people’s susceptibility to different health conditions and diseases and affect their enjoyment of good mental, physical health and wellbeing. They also have a bearing on people’s access to and uptake of health services and on the health outcomes they experience throughout the life-course.
      http://www.who.int/gender-equity-rights/understanding/gender-definition/en/

      And if gender and sex are always the same thing it quickly gets rather hard to describe certain human societies.

      Please tell me what constitutes a liberal paper or a liberal journal.

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  2. Wow the bull got thick on this pack of lies. The only spurces credited have even less credibility, so keep yourself to your echo chamber believing the bull you spew. While actual CREDIBLE science continues to prove you wrong on every level every day.

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  3. You mentioned the word “chromosomes” but went on not to explain what they do.

    The fact is there are only 2 genders/sexes. Maybe, even 3, but no more than that. First two are male and female determined by XY and XX chromosomes. Then there are intersex people who do to issues during development inside a womb might be born with both sex organs out organ deformity. Anyone born with anything other than 2 chromosomes, either XY or XX chromosomes, has a genetic mutation or abnormality that frankly causes them to grow up with physical and mental difficulties. They are essentially invalids.

    If someone thinks they should be a different gender from the one their genetics made them than the fact is they suffer from gender diseuforia. A mental illness.

    Just like feeling attracted to the same sex.

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  4. How about if you have a penis, you use the men’s room and vice-versa? Have you lunatics ever thought that the remaining 99.5% of the population doesn’t want to use the same restroom as some mentally-ill freak who is confused with their gender? Doesn’t our comfort and privacy mean anything? Or shall it be sacrificed in the name of “social justice”?

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    • Given that 99% of women’s restrooms I’ve ever used in the United States have doors on the stalls I feel that I can pee in private without worrying that anyone (regardless of their genitalia) is watching me and I feel that protects my privacy. If someone starts peeking over the stalls that’s of course a problem, but that’s a problem regardless of the peeker’s genitals and thankfully is not something that happens often. I will leave the issue of whether men’s urinals should have stalls and doors to the people who actually use them.

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