The just released identical SB 513 and HB 2737 bills throw a hissy fit over the possibility that some students will use transexuality as a rationale to be “peeping toms” and enter the opposite sex restroom for prurient interests. Not only would such a spur-of-the-moment excuse not be accepted by any competent school administrator, no youngster would want to falsely claim that label.
To solve this non-problem, these bills go back a century to recognize only the sex “identified at birth by a person’s anatomy.” Legislators appear clueless that for some children, that is exactly the problem.
When a couple is expecting, and they don’t yet know the sex of their child, the first words they want to hear at childbirth is whether “It’s a boy” or “It’s a girl.” But sometimes the doctor has to say “I’ll get back to you on that.” Sometimes genitalia are ambiguous—not clearly male or female.
Physicians can look at chromosomes, biopsy gonads, and check hormone levels to make an initial assignment—but it remains tentative. This initial assignment may not match what the child will come to “feel.” Testosterone or estrogens cause a brain difference in the second half of our fetal development that will only express itself a few years later—usually between the ages of 4 and 8.
Dr. John Money at Johns Hopkins University was the first to specialize in these ambiguities beginning in the 1950s. Among his many patients, their feelings of masculinity or femininity usually aligned with their attraction to the opposite sex—but not always.
Men vary from masculine to effeminate; and men attracted sexually to other men are not always effeminate. Women exhibit a range of femininity; and women sexually attracted to other women are not necessarily masculine. To separate the scale of masculine-to-feminine from sexual ideation, John Money borrowed the term “gender” from its use in language.
And look around at this wonderful variation in gender identity that enriches our society. Not every boy is a John Wayne nor every girl a Marilyn Monroe. There is a gradation to gentler boys and to “tomboy” girls that greatly enriches our cultural life.
The Kansas bills’ reference to anatomy-at-birth ignores the complexities of gender and sexuality that have become solid science over the last 60 years.
Yes, usually XY chromosomes result in a male, and XX chromosomes cause a female. But there are variations from XO to XXY, XXYY, XXXY and others. One-out-of 5,000 have XO, one out of a thousand are XYY, one out of 500 are XXY, and some persons are a mosaic of XY and XO. There are many thousands of Kansans affected by unusual chromosomal, anatomical and hormone variations.
What appears to be an anatomically normal baby girl can have XY chromosomes in every cell and possess testes; but the testosterone produced is ignored by body cells that lack receptors. The external anatomy of this XY baby appears completely female at birth.
Every boy has a small amount of estrogens produced by fat and other tissues. And every girl has some testosterone produced by the adrenal glands. These hormones vary in amount, person-to-person and over our lifetimes. Uncle Joe may have smoother skin. Aunt Louise may grow a slight mustache.
Finally, there is the recent brain research of Dick Swaab and his team. They located a section of the brain hypothalamus that varies in size with masculinity and femininity. The brain of an anatomical boy who felt he was a girl since age six, had the nerve center of a normal girl. Yet homosexual men do not, additional biological proof that gender identity does not always match with sexual anatomy or ideation.
Most biology students come away from this knowledge thankful that their chromosomes match their anatomy that matches their hormones that matches their brain development. And a few are thankful that perhaps now, others will understand the situations when these do not match.
Altogether, having some form of sexual or gender ambiguity is more common than all cases of Down Syndrome and cystic fibrosis combined. Therefore nearly everyone knows someone who secretly has some form of gender or sexual ambiguity; they just keep it hidden.
This current legislation, the “Student Physical Privacy Act,” is based on outdated, simple-minded ideas that everyone should be John Wayne or Marilyn Monroe.
It perpetuates an intolerance based in ignorance. It is 19th Century thinking.