LETTER: Regarding gender, science is not simple

Male/female categories are arbitrary, says letter writer

Some clarity on Ron Neels’ letter that there is “No scientific evidence to suggest ‘anything other’ than two genders.” (Dec. 13).

The words “sex” and “gender” are often used interchangeably, although the preferred usage is to use sex to refer to biological differences and gender to refer to social roles. (Which becomes problematic when you’re not sure if a given trait is determined by biology or culture.)

True, most males are XY and most females are XX, but there are many individuals who are a mosaic of Xs and Ys (such as: XXY Klinefelter syndrome, & XXX, XO Turner’s syndrome).

So since the X & Y chromosome number can be misleading in determining whether an individual is a woman or a man, and since nature and nurture interact and influence each other, with varying degrees of strength, science must logically conclude that gender is not an either-or dichotomy but a multidimensional spectrum, from the biological to the social to the psychological.

So what are we to do? Reject the very ideas of sex and gender and stop trying to classify people? Reject the dichotomy? Of course not. The binary classification is sufficient for most practical purposes and is very useful. In medicine, the knowledge that a patient is male or female helps to guide diagnosis and treatment. We know that men and women have different responses to medications and different incidences of various diseases.

It is enough to remember that male/female categories are arbitrary and not absolute. Science is not simple. Science tries to categorize, but nature is infinitely inventive.

(Reference: Harriet Hall’s Sex, Gender, and Sexuality: It’s Complicated (2013).

Bryan Stephenson

READ MORE: LETTER: No scientific evidence to suggest ‘anything other’ than two genders

READ MORE: See the latest letters, columns and editorials at The Progress Opinion


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