Back when I was born, some complete stranger picked me up by a hind leg, kinda thought he could detect an “outie” in my doughy undeveloped bits between my legs, and checked the MALE box on my birth certificate. And that was that. I was officially a boy – one of two choices on the official 1960s form. They took my foreskin and my tail without even asking, wrapped me up, and sent me home with a copy of that little form to start my “blue” training.
There was an unofficial third option, which basically meant leaving the form blank in the event of signs of both sets of genitals being present, or neither, until the parents chose which they’d prefer after a brief discussion with the obstetrician about what the kid would be more likely to find useful at puberty or after, moderated heavily by what sorts of surgery caused what lasting types of damage at the time. This was the 60s, remember.
A couple hundred years before that, before you were required to check in with the government in the event of being born, there were no official forms to inconveniently lock things down – and if there were, the local courthouse tended to burn down every fifty years or so anyway, making it moot. If things rearranged themselves “down there” the closer you got to puberty, you just kind of dealt with it the way you felt you ought to and tried not to make a big fuss. Everybody just kind of shrugged and there were a few unkind whispers maybe and the older folks just nodded because they knew that sometimes these things just happened, but it was personal stuff and nobody talked about it in polite company.
Everybody knows sex is more complicated, and I’m talking strictly medically for the moment, than whether you were born with an “innie” or an “outie”. At the extremely noticeable end, a kid is born with reasonably functional versions of both sets of genitals about four times in a million. If you had maybe 10,000 people in your biggest city, back in the day, this was seriously “once in a blue moon” territory. If you were in the Abrahamic traditions, maybe you dashed its little brains out with a rock and called it “stillborn”. Elsewhere, maybe you handed it over to the priests for “special training”. But these days, pick a metropolis and know that there are half a dozen, maybe two or three dozen full hermaphrodites walking around. Maybe their parents picked their favorite gender and had doctors “correct the situation” with no more thought than they give circumcision these days. Maybe they didn’t.
I call that noticeable, but it really isn’t, unless you have one of those obnoxious scanners they use at airport security.
It’s not just related to X and Y chromosomes either. Even more frequent than hermaphroditism is a condition called CAIS – Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. You’re born with a Y chromosome, but nothing in your body responds to the presence of the male hormones you produce. You develop as a female – the default condition – and frequently don’t find out you have undescended testes instead of ovaries until you try to find out why your period is weak/sporadic/not present or why you and your chosen man can’t seem to have babies. This condition happens to maybe one person in 50,000 with a Y chromosome, maybe one in 20,000 – and that range is so iffy because a lot of times it’s never diagnosed. Before the 90s, doctors used to just not tell the people who had it (or even their families) that their girl-child was kind of a boy, maybe.
And yes, that word “Complete” up there implies that there are “Partial” forms that are at least as common. And “Mild” forms as well.
When it comes down to it, there are literally thousands of genes that control or influence sex and gender and sexual preference, and not all of those are on the X and Y chromosomes. You do, in fact, have more than 20 other chromosomes, doubled, one from each parent. Probably. And some of the gene groups that are typically on an X or a Y chromosome can occasionally be duplicated elsewhere and passed down by one parent or another. What kinds of pheromones you’ll find yourself attracted to seems to be heavily influenced by your major histocompatibility complex, which is on chromosome 6. There are probably other clusters elsewhere that make sure you aren’t attracted to the scent of family members, and somewhere else that influences the degree to which you might be attracted to the pheromones produced by individuals with traditionally male and/or traditionally female hormones, and yet another set for whether you yourself produce a “male” set of pheromones or a “female” set or some mix of both.
And then there are more genes that influence things that are only socially associated with gender, like whether you like to wear bright colors (that trait seems to switch genders every few generations, along with several others) and what your endurance is like for extended shopping trips and how easily you cry when you’re upset. Since there’s a boat-load of things like that that we have been trained since coming home from the hospital to associate with sex and gender, how we find ourselves responding to a ton of different cues can affect our feelings of how we should identify ourselves with respect to sex and gender and sexual preference. Especially if we were raised to think there were two tiny immutable boxes on a government form that we need to make ourselves fit in.
The Bible doesn’t help much with this situation. Genesis 5:2, in the KJV (the oldest translation the fundamentalists care to train themselves to understand), it says, “Male and female created He them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.” Unless that “and” in “male and female” is interpreted to be the inclusive “and”, as in “both at the same time, maybe”, then the rest of this verse needs to have the words “with about a ten percent margin of error” added into it somewhere – or else be relegated to the pile of “about as scientifically accurate as the Creation story”.
People are born outside those MALE and FEMALE checkboxes on the official birth certificates (that we’ve only been taking seriously for a hundred years or so), in terms of sex and gender and sexual preference, about one time in ten – about as frequently as people are born left-handed, and for analogically similar reasons. It’s barbaric to pretend otherwise, barbaric and ignorant, and it’s barbaric and ignorant to treat the very common phenomenon of the misgendered, the sexually misidentified, and those who are attracted to genders we traditionally don’t expect them to be attracted to as disgusting, as damaged, as pariahs, or as disposable people or human garbage. These people are brothers and sisters, friends, neighbors, coworkers, members of our communities and churches and clubs and groups and voters and fully-fledged &@#^#% human beings.
If you secretly think they’re going to Hell, then fine. That’s just ignorant bigotry and nobody can stop you. But leave bunk assignments in Hell to the god of your choosing. If you try to make life for these people Hell on Earth, you are so far out of line that the line is over the freaking horizon.
(Xposted for your convenience from SRF Heavy Industries.)