Sex Determination: Anatomy vs. Identity

Humans like boundaries. Parameters simplify our otherwise largely unexplainable and random world. There are two sides to this idea dictating the positive and negative characteristics. At first, definitions and boundaries exemplify humanities discovery and growing knowledge base. It is not a wholly bad thing when as a collective group we can say there is a mutual understanding of a specific idea. However, the downside of parameters is that when something is defined, it is then cemented. As a class we have striven to learn biology as a subject always in flux. As new information is presented we use past knowledge and reason to lead new thinking. Humans are not perfect beings and are more often than not, we learn from mistakes. In the case of gender, sex, race, and many other topics under the scope of society and science, no thinking should be cemented. Specifically, as our breadth of discovery has both expanded and specialized, we can move past rudimentary boundaries and into an era of accepting that not everything is clear-cut. Cliche as it may be, the pinnacle of science is not fully understanding everything in our universe. Rather, it is searching for the new and unexplored, and realizing that anything is possible.

In terms of sex determination, the idea of breaking old boundaries in light of new learning is truer now than ever before. In Alice Dreger’s TedTalk and Claire Ainsworth’s piece, anatomy can no longer equal identity. There are too many instances of contrast for this concept to remain as accepted as it is. If as scientists we can claim that it is possible and plausible that anatomy does not define gender or vice versa, then it should be taught as such. Learning is lost when complex and new ideas are discarded because they are thought as too revolutionary. It is perfectly acceptable for these new concepts to be taught tentatively and stressing the importance of more research. But when we know that something in the past is no longer one hundred percent accurate, we should stop teaching it as such. At least when the student has as a rounded amount of information they can approach the world with more than one perspective.

Overall, not having an adapting view on sex and identity is harmful to many things. Specifically, the physical and mental health risks involved for those affected by a mixed sexual-makeup cannot be forgotten. Both pieces cited the idea of nature vs. nurture, as well as how the surrounding community plays a large role. Having a mixed sex-makeup is not necessarily a harmful thing, but how a child is raised in response to their anatomy has a lasting impact which if not properly managed can cause mental health issues. Also, in many cases, experimental or unnecessary (to appease cultural aesthetic) surgeries can do irreparable harm to a person’s natural body. There is no single answer in how to approach sexual identity, but it is safe enough to say it is not nearly as simple as we currently make it out to be.

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