This is something I meant to write a long time ago for kellyonthefritz, but my life has been kind of insane recently and I didn’t get to it and now I can’t find the original post to reblog, so I’m just making a new text post:
It is generally accepted by mainstream libs that sex and gender are separate, and that gender is a social construct. However, sex is considered biological, divided into Male and Female, XY and XX. It’s in our genes, therefore it must Be.
Except the designations of biological sex were created by people. Before genetics, infants were sexed at birth due to the gross size of their genitalia. An infant with a large clitoris was sexed as male, and vice versa. With the advent of genetics, doctors and scientists deferred to the genome. Specific parameters of appropriate infant clitoral or penile sizes were determined, and those who had external genitalia that did not match their genetic coding were mutilated to fit medical standards.
What about intersex people? True hermaphroditic people (XXXY) are extremely uncommon, whereas those with a particular genetic sex (XX or XY) but some form of hormone imbalance are more common. How do you sex someone with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome? They possess the XY genotype, but their androgen receptors cannot recognize testosterone, therefore they never develop masculine secondary sex characteristics. What about someone who has Kleinfelter’s? (XXY) Or Turner’s (XO)? What about every single XX person in the world, where one X chromosome in every cell in their bodies is inactivated? Karyotypes have no inherent sex. Hormones have no inherent sex. Men produce estrogen and women produce testosterone, both at nontrivial levels (both testosterone and estrogen are also derived from a common source). Congenital adrenal hyperplasia affects mineralcorticoids. We have sexed the body in specific ways that we have attempted to understand people through the ages, and these methods are fallible, subjective, and at the mercy of our ignorance and biases.
Related reading: Anne Fausto-Sterling’s most excellent Sexing The Body.