What is sex?

First, from a petition filed in NYC (Berkley v. Farley) that challenges the surgical sex-change requirement for birth certificate revisions:

7. In those forty years, the medical, scientific, legal, and psychological understandings of trans gender persons have progressed substantially. The mainstream view of these communities no longer equates sex with chromosomes or genitalia alone. Rather, it is now accepted that a person’s sex is determined by a host of factors, including
chromosomes, (4)
gonads (ovaries or testes), (3)
hormonal secretions, (5)
internal reproductive organs, (1)
external genitalia, (2)
secondary sexual characteristics, (6) and
the brain sex or one’s self-identified sex. (7)

Bold, numbers, and line spacing have been added to show consistency with the 2003 decision of The Court of Appeals in Maryland In re: Heilig (see page 8).

There is a recognized medical viewpoint that gender is not determined by any single criterion, but that the following seven factors may be relevant:

(1) Internal morphologic sex (seminal vesicles/prostate or vagina/uterus/fallopian tubes);
(2) External morphologic sex (genitalia);
(3) Gonadal sex (testes or ovaries);
(4) Chromosomal sex (presence or absence of Y chromosome);
(5) Hormonal sex (predominance of androgens or estrogens);
(6) Phenotypic sex (secondary sex characteristics, e.g. facial hair, breasts, body type); and
(7) Personal sexual identity.

Bold added to the terms medical and gender. Interestingly, the Berkley petition seeks to prove sex, while Heilig cites gender.

Of the seven factors, all but ONE refer to objectively demonstrable physical criteria. Yet, by promoting “gender identity” legislation, trans activists are arguing that the single subjective factor on the list (7)– the brain sex or one’s self-identified sex/personal sexual identity– should override the other six:

“Gender identity” means a gender-related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior of an individual, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth.

I repeat, “regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth.

As a female and a feminist, I am opposed to the replacement of “sex” with any kind of subjectively asserted identity, appearance, expression, and/or behavior. “Sex” is not an identity or a choice. Sex is a physical reality.

No single factor can or should be dispositive of an individual’s sex. Visual evidence of secondary sex characteristics (6) is generally accepted as proof of an individual’s “sex” despite the fact that these physical markers can be constructed and/or modified through medical interventions. In other words, appearances can be deceiving. Additionally, because factors (2), (5), and (6)–genitals, hormones, and secondary sex characteristics–are more malleable than the other three physical indicators, one or more of them often serve as the only legally necessary proof that a transsexual has had a sex “change.”

By contrast, chromosomes (4) are immutable; and factors (1)  and (3)–internal morphologic sex (seminal vesicles/prostate or vagina/uterus/fallopian tubes) and gonadal sex (testes or ovaries)–can be removed from an individual’s body but medical technology is not able to construct functional facsimiles of them because they cannot be created by any force but “nature.” Either you are born with them, or you are not.  

The biological purpose of these “sex” organs is human reproduction.

From monthly menstruation to fetal gestation, female bodies bear the primary burden of human reproductive processes. This reality is not under human control. Recognizing this, therefore, humans should use the physical manifestations of female reproductive processes as the lens through which we establish the meaning and substance of “sex.” Female bodies and perspectives should be the default, not males’.

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