- Alan Smith attempts to answer the questions you were too afraid to ask
When I was young, sex was taught in biology and gender was taught in grammar. Then there came a time when ‘gender’ seemed to be used as a genteel substitute for ‘sex.’ Nowadays ‘gender’ seems to be the word of the year, which makes it such a pity that there seems to be so little agreement about what values the word can take and what each value means.
In this article I attempt to analyse ‘sex’ from basic principles, which might allow us to return ‘gender’ to the grammarians. This is, of course, a dangerous subject to try and discuss in public, risking attacks by the ‘trans’ lobby who accuse those who take a traditional view of the subject of suffering from ‘transphobia’ or hatred of ‘trans’ people. I have no hatred of ‘trans’ people, but I do believe that they have been badly advised. Nevertheless, I shall proceed with this attempt. Like so many older people I am beginning to suffer from Rhett Butler Syndrome, the chief symptom of which is an increasing tendency not to give a damn.
The definition of sex derives from the need of societies to continue in existence through its members having children. A male is one who has the potential to sire children and a female is one who has the potential to bear children; these definitions hold true whether or not the potential is flawed. Thus, in scientific terms, a male is one whose sex chromosomes are ‘XY’ and a female is one whose sex chromosomes are ‘XX.’ For each sex, during puberty the corresponding physical sex organs develop.
The ‘trans’ definitions are harder to pin down because ‘trans’ advocates tend to regard any questioning as hostile, but here are my working definitions. A transgender person is one who dresses in the clothes normally used by the sex opposite to the one to which he or she was assigned at birth; no physical or chemical changes are made except, perhaps, in the case of children below the age of puberty who may be given injections to delay the onset of puberty, which are said not to be irreversible. In addition, some transgender people change their view whether they are men or women almost on a daily basis. A transsexual person is one who has had physical changes to remove sex organs and courses of injections to assist the appearance of being a member of the sex opposite to the one to which he or she was assigned at birth.
‘Trans’ campaigners believe that, if a man really believes that he is a woman then he is a woman, and vice versa. On the other hand, if we should count a man-to-woman transgender person as a woman simply because he/she affirms it, should we not give equal weight to the opinions of those who deny it? For convenience, I shall refer to a man-to-woman transgender or transsexual as a transgender or transsexual woman without conceding that he/she is a woman, with similar usage for woman-to-man transgenders and transsexuals. Note that a natal person’s potential to reproduce may perhaps be faulty, but a transgender person’s potential to reproduce exists only as a member of the sex that he/she has renounced, and a transsexual person has no potential to reproduce.
Whatever the terminology, there is a need to differentiate three groups within each apparent sex: a natal man or woman who has been that sex since birth, a transgender man or woman, and a transsexual man or woman. One particular problem is a transgender woman with active male genitalia using women-only communal facilities such as lavatories and showers. Another is that of a natal man or woman seeking a potential spouse with a view to getting married and having children. He or she must choose from within a group, apparently of the opposite sex, one who is natal and not transgender or transsexual.
Finally, there is the question of truth in official documentation about people. A person who changes the sex on his or her birth certificate to represent the sex he or she at the time considers himself or herself to be is falsifying history on a small scale, similar to what totalitarian states do on a large scale. Suppose Benjamin Brown and Geraldine Green marry and have children. Benjamin then decides to become a transgender or transsexual and changes his name to Bernice Brown, reflecting that change in his/her birth certificate. Much later a descendant tries to trace his family tree. He finds the marriage certificate of Benjamin and Geraldine but further research in the male line is halted because Benjamin’s birth certificate no longer exists in that name.