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Sex, gender, and why we shouldn’t care

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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We all like a story about the triumph of good over evil. A favorite trope is the story of a schoolyard bully who someone finally finds the courage to punch in the face, the bully collapsing in tears. “He cried like a little girl,” we tell our friends.

What do we mean by that? That suddenly his chromosomes switched from XY to XX? Do we mean that his sex organs changed, that his body hair become lighter, that he suddenly became more curvaceous? Of course not. We are ascribing to his behavior a cultural stereotype that little girls cry when they are hurt, and little boys don’t. We all know that isn’t true, everyone cries sometimes.

Our culture is full of stereotypes that make no sense. Girls wear skirts, boys wear pants. Girls wear makeup and most boys don’t. Those are cultural norms, though.

There are two definitions we need to get out of the way, because most people seem to believe they refer to the same thing, and that’s not the case.

“Sex” is the categories humans are divided into based on their reproductive functions. If we define someone by their sex, we define a man as someone who fertilizes an egg in a woman, who then hosts the fetus until birth.

Gender can describe either of the two sexes and refers to social and cultural differences in contrast to biological ones. Something tha affects people of both genders.

Our identification with one gender or another is only tangentially related to the number of X chromosomes we are born with. Many factors during our development in the womb ultimately affect who we understand ourselves to be. Everyone is familiar with the hormone testosterone, so I’ll focus on how much it affects our view of ourselves.

As I have written before, my father and I are very different people. He had high testosterone levels. He was a boys boy growing up. Constantly getting into fights, playing every sport, spending the rest of his time hunting and fishing…doing what we culturally consider “man stuff.”

But high levels of testosterone are not always a good thing. He was aggressive, easily angered, was bald in his mid 20s and suffered from maladies related to high testosterone as he aged. He died at age 69.

I’m much more like my mother. She was peaceful, even tempered (I never saw her angry (seriously)), enjoyed reading, sewing, and doing things around the house.

My testosterone level is in the normal range. I never got into fights growing up, am generally very laid back (my wife and I have argued only five times that we can remember is our 45 years of marriage). I also enjoy reading, writing, various forms of art, etc.  I still have all the hair on my head, and other than an aortic value replacement in 2019 (a congenital defect) I’m very healthy at age 71.

I grew up with both parents, so could have been influenced equally by either. But as far as my gender is concerned, I’m closer on a spectrum to mom than dad.

There are people born with XX or XY chromosomes that as they are growing up, relate far more to the gender identity of people of the opposite sex. This usually is because of factors during their development in the womb beyond their control. Hormone imbalances, brain development, health of the mother, all can affect fetal development. This experience is very confusing for a maturing child. They feel and think like a girl, but they have the sex organs of a boy. As they reach puberty, the conflict becomes unbearable. Society tells them that they should be attracted to girls (if they have boy sex organs), or vice-versa, but that’s not the case.

Social pressure from other teens, parents’ refusal to accept what is happening, can ultimately become more than they can handle. The result is often suicide.

Sexual reassignment can be lifesaving for these young people. They can finally be physically what they are mentally and emotionally.

Attacking trans-sexual people and sexual reassignment is cruel and irrational. The existence of trans-sexual people does not diminish the rest of us in any way. The idea that they are more likely pedophiles or will engage in sexual assault is nonsense. 

Most child sex crimes and assaults are by members of the child’s own family. The idea that they are using their status to sneak into bathrooms and leer at naked people is silly. 

Our separate public bathrooms are a cultural thing. Other cultures are different. If folks want to look at naked people, three clicks on the Internet will get you XXX porn. Why pretend to be a woman in the hope of getting a quick look at naked flesh through a crack in a stall?

I don’t know what has happened to our society. Why have we become so obsessed with how other people look, think, or live their lives. Maybe TikTok has turned us all into other obsessed voyeurs, believing we have the right to pry into the lives of and control others.

Unless someone’s behavior is directly affecting your life, leave people alone.

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