Sex Determination

My understanding of the changing methodology of sex determination has grown with my understanding of signaling. An argument I have seen on more than one occasion asserts that if a person has an XY chromosome set he is solely male and will be referred to as such, and if that person does not have a Y chromosome then she is female and will be treated in that manner. Not only is the assumption of a binary system incorrect because it discredits the existence of intersex individuals, but this oversimplification assumes the direct correlation between the existence of genes and their phenotypic expression.

As we have learned, perhaps the most important determination of sex and secondary sex characteristics is the regulation of hormones. It is because of this phenomenon that gonads of fetuses develop down distinct paths. While these developments are typically predictable, a chromosome’s presence is not a guarantee of trait appearance. The alteration of hormonal signals and the amount of hormones present in the bloodstream are what lead to situations where individuals with two X chromosomes develop ambiguous genitals, or a lack of reception leads to individuals with a Y chromosome developing XX typical external genitalia. Digging deeper, we see the genetic basis of all traits, and how the coding of proteins depends on the activation of the gene. Therefore, even individuals with functioning hormone receptors may display atypical sex characteristics caused by altered or inactive genes. An increase in the understanding of more than the binary that gender is typically associated with has the potential to give validity to movements of those seeking to expand gender identity options across the United States and the world. Discoveries in the field of genetics continue to show that conventional understandings of sex and gender are far from inclusive. However, changing laws and societal understandings will be an arduous battle due to the deep establishment of typical practices; even pronouns, a standard of the English language, focus in on using gender based he/she pronouns, designating anything else as “it”, a dehumanizing word.

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