, 61 tweets, 13 min read Read on Twitter
So the transphoberati have been insisting “trans people don’t believe biological sex exists!”. And a lot of voices I love are pointing out that that’s not true, just that it’s more nuanced or complex than people like Singal present it. I agree with them, it is. But...,

(thread)
I actually don’t believe biological sex exists.

Hold on, slow down.

Yes, I know the biology underpinning "biological sex" is real. Anatomy is real. Gonads are real. Human development is real. Bone density is real. White blood cell count is real. Brain activity is real.

2/n
I know that how society regards differences in biology is essentially binary. And the oppressive force of that binary, as well as the patriarchal favoring of male over female within that binary, is real. But the idea of "biological sex" is a farce.

3/n
I’ll say it again: what we as a society think about sex differentiated characteristics, and what they represent, the terms we use for them, the things we believe about them, are a poorly defined, poorly understood farce.

4/n
Here’s what I mean:

If you look up “sex” in the dictionary, or get a lecture about biology from a TERF, you’ll invariably hear that “sex” is one of two categories (dictionary) or classes (TERFs) you’re put in based on whether you make ova or spermatozoa.

5/n
They’ll insist the classification is objective. That it’s fixed. The dictionary will likely insist that it’s synonymous with gender. TERFs will insist gender is a lie, but will still end up using the term “sex” as a synonym for gender anyway.

6/n
But, both “class” and “category” are terms that relate to organizing people. If it’s into two categories, that organizational principle is inherently binary. This process is an assignment into one of two categories, that happens at birth.

It’s birth assignment.

7/n
We’re not talking biology there. We’re talking ontology. That’s at best, something debatable, not some objectively “biological” anything. Attaching “biological” to that is an attempt to legitimize as objective and immutable, something that’s philosophical.

8/n
And this fact, that “biological sex” isn’t biology, is reinforced by a few realizations. The first is: we don’t actually check anyone’s ability to produce any gamete at all before a “biological sex” is ascribed to them.

9/n
“Biological sex” isn’t about gametes. It’s about the presumption about a relationship between genitals and gametes. If the entire point of the term is to talk about gametes, it fails before it gets out of the gate, because that’s simply not something ever measured.

10/n
What IS measured are genitals at birth. Namely the phallus/clitoris. A long one and they declare you “male”, a short one and you’re “female”. One in between and the dyadism obsessed powers that be too often decide what it’s supposed to be for you without consent.

11/n
This “biological sex” then is a binary tool for oppression. But none of it establishes a thing about gametes.

This is not biology.

What we talk about as if it’s some concrete thing, is mostly a story we tell ourselves about several disparate concrete things.

12/n
If you talk to a trans antagonist about what they mean by “biological sex” their definition will swirl and change with every use. They’ll insist it’s about “gametes” (false) while simultaneously insisting that it’s objectively observed at birth (false).

13/n
They’ll insist it’s about the presence or absence of a Y allosome (false). They’ll insist this is a definition we use throughout society (false).

14/n
They’ll insist it’s distinct and separate from gender.(false) with sex being objective (false) and gender being a fiction (false).

Every single sentence, every statement they make about biological sex is false.

Why am I supposed to admit this is legitimate, again?

15/n
And the terms used for “biological sex” are thoroughly gendered terms, anyway. They insist that “male” is biological while “man” is gendered. That is unless they attempt to claim both are biological and try to run trans people off their identities altogether.

16/n
Transphoberati Lite insist they’re separate, but “Male” has always been used as synonymous with “man or boy” and “female” for “woman or girl”. This is overwhelmingly the most common use of the terms and has always been their most common use.

17/n
TERFs have shown they know full well that the terms male/man and female/woman are used interchangeably, and they intend to claim both and fix them permanently to birth assignment.

18/n
But in the day to day, we ascribe gender/sex to people, not based on birth assignment, not based on gametes, or gonads, or any other feature we don't see day to day. We do it based on phenotype--a variety of secondary sex characteristics--and based on presentation.

19/n
What we do know about the biology of sex differentiated characteristics is that most people with a penis have testicles. Most people with testicles will produce spermatozoa. Most people who have testicles will have the allosome combination XY. Most. blogs.scientificamerican.com/sa-visual/visu…

20/n
Most people with XY allosomes will have a prostate. Most people with a penis will display secondary sex characteristics that we societally read as male. Most people with testicles will primarily produce testosterone.

And most people with a penis will be male. Most.

21/n
These relationships are mostly correlations, not causal relationships. And these connections at best form a bimodal distribution, not a binary. Many will point out that biological sex is just that: a bimodal distribution. I’m all for talking about such a distribution, but…

22/n
It really doesn’t matter what it is or what it should be. Because unfortunately, how the term “biological sex” was originally conceived, and how it’s always addressed, considered, debated, applied, every day, in every single setting, right or wrong, is as a binary.

23/n
Every appeal to “biological sex” will always mistake this distribution as a binary. It’s the nature of the idea, at its root. Because we’ve gendered these terms and pinned these gendered terms to cishet white society’s two idealized dyadic physical expressions.

24/n
We can talk about the science of how hormones affect muscles, bone, blood, the brain. We can talk about how human development, reproductive systems, the endocrine system. We can do this without ever invoking "biological sex" or trying to innately gender biology.

25/n
Blanket statements made about “biological sex” are invariably false claims. But they encourage people to think those claims are ironclad, universal rules. And rules like that are medically and socially dangerous.

26/n
The idea that a penis at birth MUST mean: testicles, testosterone, XY allosomes, 100% thoroughly male-read secondary sex characteristics is one that doesn’t just leave trans and intersex people to fall through the cracks.

27/n
A host of people, dyadic cis people even, have phenotypic characteristics that fall outside of what we read as matching their birth assignment.

The boundaries of exclusion bound up in this notion of "biological sex" cuts far wider a swathe than just its intended targets.

28/n
“Sex” as a concept is as narrow as “a birth assigned binary based on genitals”, as nebulous as “what we think someone is based on seeing them” and as broad as “a group of people we believe have roughly the same gametes, gonads, genitals, hormones and karyotype”.

29/n
But that broad category used to be far, far broader. We know that there have been people trying to claim there is some faux biological or evolutionary basis for all women (ha!) sharing a tendency towards being nurturing, being passive, being “bad at math”, being quiet.

30/n
This idea is always given the shine of faux scientific credibility despite being by and large no more scientific than phrenology. It’s a popular conception that too many scientists have embraced rather than challenged.

sciencemag.org/news/2014/03/b…

31/n
Society and the cishet white men who are most of society’s scientists want to believe that “biological sex” not only tells you for sure what someone’s gonads are, and what their gender is, but also tells you the roles and presentations they're best suited for.

32/n
The notion of biological sex in this context is an aggressive tool of the white patriarchy forcing marginalization on AFAB people on the insistent belief that their vulvas mean they are passive, weak minded, overly emotional, and less intelligent.

33/n
And what symbols are used for this split between these “biological” “opposites”? Ares’ spear ♂️and Aphrodite's mirror ♀️. The symbols for “biological sex” are color coded, mythologized representations of aggression vs. vanity.

“Biology” my entire ass.

34/n
But “biological sex” doesn’t limit itself to marginalizing trans people, intersex people, GNC people and all AFAB people, by conflating anatomy, genetics, endocrinology, social systems, phenotype, gender roles, and presentation. It also assigns sexual attraction to people.

35/n
We know that society insists people born with a penis are attracted to people born with a vulva. No one should be mystified by the existence of heteronormativity. It’s something that targets all LGBTQIA people, as well as non-white people. everydayfeminism.com/2015/07/what-i…

36/n
See how the process of heteronormativity marginalizes trans people as assuredly as it does cis LGB people, but only the one axis of oppression is noted explicitly in its name.

That erasure is far too common.

37/n
Cis gay trans antagonists sometimes insist that trans people have no history of our own. That we’re a recent addition and previously were tucked under the skirts/coattails of the LG movement, spanning back a century.

38/n
The reality's mostly been the reverse. Cis LG groups separate from trans people, came to the fore relatively recently, and for most of queer history over the last few centuries, society’s focus on LGBTQ+ people was centered on its feelings and beliefs about trans people.

39/n
Cis LGB+ people existed, of course. But terms like "sexual inversion" were used, a concept society and sexologists used to describe all LGBTQ people in the latter half of the 19ith century and early 20th century historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5114/

40/n
This has been spun in the last 3/4 of a century as being explicitly about gayness, framing THIS as gay history, while erasing that it's clearly trans history, too. Look at Havelock Ellis' textbook on the subject from 1896. palgrave.com/us/book/978023…

41/n
His discussion of "sexual inversion" focuses extensively on same sex attraction, but the way he frames his discussion of inverts, the way so many sexologists did for a century before and and a half century after him, is grounded in terminology today aimed at trans people.

42/n
The sexologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing in 1886 described AFAB "sexual inverts" as "the masculine soul heaving in the female bosom". Ellis emphasized gender role reversal and said inverts were born in the wrong body.

journal.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/foot…

books.google.com/books/about/St…

43/n
Karl Heinrich Ulrichs is regarded as a pioneer of the gay liberation movement, an advocate for same sex attraction from the middle of the 19th century.

makingqueerhistory.com/articles/2018/…

44/n
But read instead how he describes those like him. He uses the term "Urning" for those who have "a female psyche caught in a male body" and talks about playing manhood as a role, like an actor.

aglp.org/gap/6_transgen…

45/n
Even Magnus Hirshfeld, who first coined the term "transvestite" and was seen as a pioneer in trans rights and trans services, ran his institute for all LGBTQ people, but some histories center his work as relating to LG people.

46/n
But he used the term "sexual transitions" or "sexual intermediacy" to refer to all LGBTQ and cross dressing people, who he characterized as having gender-inverted object choices.

magnus-hirschfeld.de/ausstellungen/…

popmatters.com/183247-magnus-…

47/n
We see a concerted effort to erase how much of early gay history was early trans history, how much focus was centered on trans people. And this conflation of transness with gayness wasn’t just common among sexologist.

48/n
This popular view of LGB people as somehow partially trans or trans adjacent is part of why gay men have been so universally characterized as effeminate. It’s part of why popular conceptions of cis gay male sex often ascribe homosexuality only to the bottom.

49/n
It’s part of why so many anti-gay slurs start off strongly rooted in or tied to transmisogyny: f**got, sissy, pansy, fairy that early trans women writers chart their relationship with these terms, as Jennie June did.

50/n
And the vestiges of this idea of sexual inversion underpins everything Ray Blanchard ever wrote. His delineation of “HSTS” trans women is a hold over to a theory that had its heyday in the 1890s. His demeaning of “AGP’ trans women is likewise related.

51/n
Queer history is overwhelmingly grounded in society’s fixation on trans people.

This is not to deprive LGB people of their presence throughout queer history, merely to say that up until quite recently society wrongly regarded all LGBTQ people as some flavor of trans.

52/n
This reductive belief in sexual inversion is present today, in some cis people’s insistence that sexual orientation is synonymous with genital preference, which aside from excluding trans and intersex people and their partners, excludes a lot of cis LGB people in general.

53/n
There are far too many LG people, even sexually active, allosexual LG people who never interact with their partner’s genitals at all and for whom it’s simply not a factor. This belief that “genital preference equals sexual orientation” paves over all of their identities.

54/n
Take this back to “biological sex”--we’re talking about a cultural artifact born of a white cishet belief that your birth genitals determined your gender, gonads, gametes, secondary sex characteristics, roles, preferred presentations, demeanor, intelligence, and sexuality.

55/n
This is, to put it gently, some fucking bullshit right here.

This isn't biology. This is a quasi-religious belief system founded on two parts actual biology with 20 parts religious sexual shame and rigid binary gender roles.

56/n
Do I believe in talking about biology? I hope it’s apparent I do. But this artifact of “biological sex” muddies the waters more than clears them, and gets used to target trans people, intersex people, GNC people, LGBA people, women in general, and nonwhite people.

57/n
Do I believe this oppressive system is real? Of course I do. Socially constructed, passionately believed in, dangerous, underpinned by a little actual biology, and real. But outside of talking about this system of oppression, “biological sex” as a concept is a fiction.

58/n
There’s no way to invoke "biological sex" without inviting the superstitious belief that genitals equals every other thing that traditionally gets rolled into the idea of “biological sex”. Every time the concept is brought up at all, the whole payload is delivered.

59/n
Let's talk about biology without miring it in such poisonous narratives. The transphoberati invoke "biological sex" specifically because it DOES call upon all those narratives. Every time we're expected to defend it or disavow rejecting it, they win. I'm done with that.

60/60
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