- Using science to try and disqualify transgender experiences is erroneous and ineffective.
Conservative opinion is that transgender and non-binary identities are not scientifically sound. Ben Shapiro, one of the loudest challengers to divergent identities, gives us a glimpse into the rationale behind those claims, based on basic and outdated knowledge on sexual differentiation and gender. Today’s science shows that using it to discredit human experiences and identities is flaky, ineffective, and plain wrong.
Disclaimer: The following piece is an entertaining and informative one. It is by no means a serious scientific account of gender, gender identity, transgender and/or non-binary issues; neither is it a representation, or attempt to represent transgender/non-binary lives or experiences.
Transgender people are people whose gender identity differs from the sex that they were assigned at birth.
Sex refers to the biological differences between males and females, associated with physical and physiological features including chromosomes, gene expression, hormone levels and function, and reproductive/sexual anatomy.
Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, expressions, and identities based on labels of masculinity and femininity and gender diverse people.
He believes that gender is inseparable from sex. Transgender and non-binary identities are not supported by science. Claiming on your own gender identity would be “throwing biology out of the window”.
Conservatives claim science doesn’t support Elliot Page’s statement, or any other transgender person’s
On the first day of December, Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee Elliot Page declared himself transgender. Despite the many celebratory remarks on Elliot’s public statement, some challenged it resorting to “scientific” arguments. Ben Shapiro, one of the loudest opposers of gender transitioning claimed that Elliot cannot have a saying on his own gender identity. And that he scientifically and indisputably is, and shall remain a woman. Shapiro’s outburst might probably stem from his belief that gender is inseparable from sex. And that saying otherwise would be “throwing biology out of the window”. But if one is to truly go by Shapiro’s scientific factuality, his arguments fall apart.
Once we truly consider the breadth of science and look beyond high school biology. The apparently rigid link between sex and gender bends. Gender is a societal phenomenon, a set of implicit and explicit rules that guide behavior based on people’s external sexual features. Yet anthropology has shown that societies all over the world have “non-traditional” (non-occidental, to be precise) gender roles.
¿What is the difference between Gender and sex?
Gender and sex are separate phenomena, the former being culturally prescribed refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, expressions, and identities based on labels of masculinity and femininity and gender diverse people. And the latter defined by our chromosomal makeup refers to the biological differences between males and females, associated with physical and physiological features including chromosomes, gene expression, hormone levels and function, and reproductive/sexual anatomy.
In high school, most of us learned that a women’s 23rd pair of chromosomes is a XX. And if it’s an XY we are indisputably male. We were taught men to produce a lot of testosterone and estrogen is responsible for female features. And only in extremely rare genetic mutations, people get intersexual features. Knowledge from books some printed in the last century, yet science has progressed since then. We now know approximately 130 million people were born with conditions of atypical sex development. People whose sexual features differ from what is traditionally consider male or female, outnumber the population of France, Spain, and the Netherlands together.
In the 1930s anthropologist, Margaret Mead. Described how the Chambri women, part of a tribal society in Papua New Guinea, were the food seekers and providers to their families, roles traditionally ascribed to men. Chambri women also took charge of traveling and trading, whilst men stayed with the tribe to participate in its politics. Reversal of traditional gender roles does not only occur in tribal communities, it’s also present in modern societies. In Shanghai, one of the world’s most successful economies, it’s common that men do the cleaning and cook for the family, while most women work.
The “scientific” argument against Transgender identity can be understood using an old parable
Some have hung transgender denial on a few branches of the biosciences, and there lies the very problem. Trying to understand complex phenomena such as human sexuality and gender with just a couple of scientific approaches.
That could lead us to a conundrum similar to the parable of the blind men and the elephant. The old tale goes: five blind men went to meet a new beast the circus had brought to town. And through touch, they aimed at getting a sense of its appearance; the man touching the trunk described the elephant as a big snake. The other two by its legs said it was a tree-like creature, the one on its side portrayed it as a wall. And the man grabbing a tusk said it was smooth but cold like a reptile. Exploring further and listening to the other “truths” they would have better understood the elephant’s appearance.
Science is constantly evolving and helping to reveal new realities.
The elephant in our room is the science of non-traditional gender. Using only high school biology to try and describe it would give us a biased, incomplete description. Science is constantly evolving, and in doing so it reveals ever-more precise descriptions of reality. For instance, accurate mathematical models allowed Copernicus to disprove the millennium-old belief that the sun orbited the earth. And biology -as pretty much all the other sciences- has evolved to a point where trying to use science to disqualify transgender people’s experiences is completely ineffective, and plainly wrong.
As science progressed, advances in electron microscopy and biochemistry gave way to discovering that chromosomal sex is not a binary phenomenon, but a spectrum; developments in physics that yielded magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and human-made antimatter have allowed for observing the brain to a detail enough to propose -very controversial- disparities between sex assigned at birth and people’s perceived identity.
Ill? More like a thrill.
The intention of this article is simply to evidence that using science to try and disqualify transgender experiences is erroneous and ineffective.
At some point, some also resorted to psychiatry to do so, but bodies being at odds with identities is no longer classified as a disorder, and even though this change is a great step towards equality, people like James Barry (a highly-ranked and accomplished physician of the old British Army), Olympic medallist Kaitlyn Jenner, late American Neurobiologist Ben Barres, or multi-award nominee Elliot Page, just to name a few, demonstrate that transgender people have never needed anyone’s validation to thrive.
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Neuroscientist, audiophile & "adulting" enthusiast.