Controlling Bodies, Denying Identities


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Exploring the scientific evidence for the biological origins of sexual orientation and gender identity must continue to both enhance patient care and fight discrimination. But that gray area brings with it a certain unease. We are most comfortable when we can neatly categorize our environment. It helps make the world seem more manageable, more familiar. At UCLA, however, and elsewhere in the small but growing field of sex and gender biology, science is shedding light on this unfamiliar terrain. But while sex and gender may seem dichotomous, there are in reality many intermediates.

Vilain says that understanding this complexity is critical, as misperceptions affect the health and civil liberties of those who fall outside perceived societal norms. Read the exlusive online article here.

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Even at the most basic physical level, Dr. Vilain explains, there is a spectrum between male and female that often goes unrecognized and risks being obscured by stigma. Among his many lines of research, Dr. This includes genetic variations in the complement of sex chromosomes — for example, a mix of XX female and XY male sex chromosomes in the same body, or an extra or missing sex chromosome XXY, Klinefelter syndrome, for example, or monosomy X, Turner syndrome.


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DSDs also include variations in the development of the genitals or the gonads. Individuals can be born with both testicular and ovarian gonadal tissue or with ambiguous genitalia — female genitalia that is enlarged enough to resemble a male penis or exceptionally small male genitalia. Conditions that affect hormone levels also fall into this category. A number of genetic factors have been associated with DSDs, and, in recent years, whole-exome sequencing — analysis of the parts of the genetic code that control protein-coding regions of the human genome — has made it possible to diagnose the genetics at play in many intersex cases.

In , she demonstrated that monkeys given the toy-preference test exhibit the same sex-based toy preferences as humans — absent societal influence. Hines later found that girls with CAH tended to prefer masculine toys compared to their non-CAH sisters, suggesting that hormones heavily influence gender expression. Sexual orientation whether one tends to be attracted to men or women has also been shown to have biological roots.

And while gender identity — the sense one has of oneself as being either male or female — has been harder to pinpoint from a biological standpoint, efforts to understand what role biology may play are ongoing. The researchers studied boys whose cross-gender behaviors matched those retrospectively reported by adult males seeking sex-change hormones and surgery. They tracked the youths over some 15 years, gaining a better understanding of the course of early cross-gender behaviors. The Fourth Circuit dismissed the case when Gavin Grimm graduated from high school.

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Such judicial dicta bears a striking resemblance to the hyperbolic rhetoric cited at the beginning of this article. Kenosha Unified School District. To this the Whitaker panel added an Equal Protection argument. But it could be many years before the Court hears a case clarifying its interpretation of Title IX; over the past 46 years the Court has only heard eight Title IX issues, none involving transgender rights. The appeal of this argument is readily apparent: no one wants to claim that they have acted on the basis of a stereotype; we pride ourselves in viewing each person as an individual.

But in the hands of some judges and administrators, cheered on by many advocacy groups and legal academics, the regulatory attack on stereotyping has been extended to an assault on almost all conventional understandings of sex, sex differences, and sexuality. No longer is the argument simply that our biology should not limit our opportunities and aspirations. Now the argument is that gender and biology should be regarded as completely unrelated. If we continue down the path of insisting that biology should play no role in distinguishing between male and female, then the rationale for separate teams disappears.

That these policies are being imposed by judges and administrators interpreting vague statutory phrases rather than by elected legislators should alarm us all. Shep Melnick is the Thomas P. About the Author. A curious thing to read on the same day that I learn that the cheerleading squads at the Superbowl will be co-ed.

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This quote begs the question: What would be wrong with non-gender-segregated sports? We already do this in boxing and wrestling, and kind of do it with jockeys. If so, then would segregating by testosterone levels be an option? The tests get cheaper by the day.


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  • Shall we extend this handicap system to the professional level? Let us say that your typical beer belching softball player is desirous of playing in the big leagues. Are we to permit him to take five strikes before he is called out? Shall we reduce the length of the basepaths for him.

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    Then again, we do have a Judicial Department and numerous Administrative Agencies to regulate the handicap systems. I believe it is your last suggestion. Look to the military—specifically, the infantry—for an example. The military has not proved immune to more general societal pressures regarding the perception that women are still treated unfairly as a general matter. So it is entirely plausible, in my view a certainty, that desegregating sports will result over time in a change in the standards for the specific purpose of assuring more women can successfully compete with men.

    Football has, even without the gender matter, already begun d evolving into a flag football state.

    The inclusion of women in teams would merely hasten that d evolution, and other changes would have to ensue. Eventually there would be pressure to take action similar to what California just did: simply mandate a certain percentage of women on each team. Then the game would have to be revised further. I suppose the response to this is: so what? Sports rules change over time and people keep watching, so why not change them to equalize the competitive chances of women?

    To which I would reply: why? For what reason? For what compelling reason is it necessary or desirable that sports be sex-desegregated? Suggesting that segregation in sports somehow keeps women unfairly out of science or business is unconvincing. As for compensation of female athletes, the Proggies see discrimination.

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    I, TOO, see discrimination in this matter. It is the discrimination that we all make when we choose to watch one sporting event or another. The human species is THE discriminating animal — we select from a choice of options. The market determines the amount of revenues available to the team owners and the players.

    Thus will they justify to themselves their programme of repression, complete with their inquisitions and autos-da-fe and continue happily along. All they have to do is work the change the sex-desegregation. At least, I believe such an outcome to be probable unless more resistance is offered to these new Soviet people. Martin , wherein the Supreme Court held that the Americans with Disabilities Act required the PGA to permit competitors to use a golf cart to get from hole to hole, rather than walk as prescribed by the rules. This fact is so commonplace that even people who grumble about flexing to accommodate gender differences no longer feel the need to acknowledge the other forms of accommodation.

    Call me when the Court requires that courses be shortened to accommodate people with disabilities. Why do we segregate by age? It was re-tabled in May with changes requested. In February another version of the Bill was introduced in which the death penalty had been dropped, but in which lesbian and gay conduct was still criminalised.

    An amended Bill was still pending at the conclusion of research Amnesty International Amnesty International [Internet]. Urgent action , London : International Secretariat.

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