Let’s talk about sex! The anatomical kind not the act, but now that I have your attention why don’t we jump right in.
Sex is a biological factor that is most often assigned at birth and accepted as fact. There is an assumption that whatever presents externally- penis or vulva- is congruent with the chromosomes a person has, their hormone functions, and their internal reproductive structures. You know what they say about assuming though. In a textbook world each human has 23 pairs of chromosomes with either 23 X and 23 Y chromosomes (male) or all 46 X chromosomes (female). However that is not always the case and even when it is, the body’s ability to produce and respond to hormones impact how it develops as well. There are also instances when during the development of the external organs (penis or vulva) is disrupted and ambiguous genitalia form. Often when this occurs doctors and parents decide on a sex to assign and surgery occurs to make the child appear more male or female. If a sex isn’t determined for the child they may receive the sex label of intersex.
When there is an inconsistency between the chromosomes, hormones, external genitals, and internal structures it is known as a disorder of sex development. There are around 60 different conditions that are considered a disorder of sex development. While some of these conditions are easier to recognize at birth, others go unnoticed until puberty or fertility difficulties become evident, while some may go never discovered.
There are biological and anatomical factors that are at work when determining sex however, the practice of labeling at birth is to better guide medical professionals as they monitor a child’s growth and screening for congenital conditions. The issue becomes that we assume sex determines gender and use this information to dictate how the child is to be raised and treated.
The topics we are exploring with this series are complex and cannot be fleshed out in a single post. My hope is that through sharing this small piece of information regarding assigned sex it will help to start changing the way we think about and treat each other. For resources, references and to learn more click here.