So many transphobes claim that they’re not transphobic, that they are just defending the truth of biological sex. That sex is an “immutable binary.”
*cue collage of TERFs and that absolute dipshit with “Paradox University”*
They think that the profound, unassailable truth of biological sex is under assault by postmodern neo-marxist cultists, and seem to think that we’re trying to enact a ritual - once all of the children are transed and no humans left on earth remember how sexual reproduction works, then the Earth will self-destruct in a final gender reveal party and we shall ascend to Genderia.
But, uh, nope. That’s not how any of this works. The ritual for the Great Gender Reveal is closely guarded by the nonbinary high council, and we have sworn to only use it as a last resort.
But also, what does “Immutable binary” even mean? Let’s examine this claim a little more closely.
What IS a binary? Can anything be a binary? Can anyone be a binary?
Binary means two. It comes from “Bi” which is latin for two, and “Nary” meaning “Never”, as in nothing in nature is actually ever a fucking binary.
If we actually wanted to be linguistics nerds (NERDS!) we would acknowledge that “binary” is derived from the latin word for effectively “pair” or “two by two” or “consisting of two”.
The most abstract and “pure” version of binary is binary or boolean logic, “True” and “False”, “On” and “Off”. In computers, binary literally means that every form of information is encoded into one of two “digits”, 0 and 1. In computer logic, there is no “2” or “3” for an individual bit to be, the only possible things for it to be are 0 and 1. To represent the number 3, we have to use at least two whole bits, and make an eleven.
One step less abstract, and things like “good” and “evil” are arguably binaries. They are two complimenting phenomena, forces, whatever. Life and Death. Fire and Water, hot and cold, peanut butter and jelly.
But is “peanut butter” and “jelly” an “immutable binary”? Scholars remain divided. Can you make “peanut jelly” or “Grape Butter”? And most importantly - who fucking cares?
Depending on the context, binary is usually used to say “there are exactly two outcomes” or “exactly two configurations”
So, is sex a binary? To find out, we must go on a mystical journey to a land of self-contradiction: A learning institution dedicated entirely to promoting ideas that conflict with themselves - we must go to the aptly-named PARADOX UNIVERSITY!
Herein, we see human midlife crisis Zach Elliot tell us that sex is binary because there are exactly two types of viable gametes in human sexual reproduction. Now, it is true - he really is the human embodiment of a midlife crisis. And also, there are exactly two types of human gametes that occur naturally and fertilize each other into a viable zygote which has the potential to turn into a living human being. Two sperm cells cannot fuse into a zygote. Two eggs cannot fuse into a zygote. There is no known third kind of naturally-occurring cell that is compatible with either of those, or themselves, to create a zygote. In humans.
Except - we’re not just talking about gametes. We’re talking about human sexing, which is a little more complex.
Yes, that’s right - before we can talk about the miracle that is the human body in its totality, first we have to spend a little more time talking about Michael Phelps and Chansey. The Swimmers and Eggs.
So, previously, I said “nary a binary to be found in nature”
And then I went on, like a total putz, and contradicted myself as if I was some dipshit like Zach Elliot. BUT WAIT! No, I didn’t, because there is no true “egg and sperm” binary because it turns out, eggs and sperm cells are physical things and not abstract concepts. Yes, even in computer hardware, there is no such thing as a binary. We most often use “on/off” to represent a binary, but no capacitor is every truly “fully” charged nor “fully” discharged , no switch or transistor ever “all the way” in the “off” position nor “on” position - these are simply tools that we can easily control into very easy-to-sort states that we translate into these abstractions. The main functional principle of digital electronics is the sorting of infinite voltage variation into one of two categories. There is no true binary in the realm of the material.
Now, as to how this applies to gametes - If you say “sperm cell” to someone, odds are the mental image they will draw in their heads is either of a microscopic tadpole with 23 chromosomes or a gang of big-headed cetaceans. If your friend imagined the second one, they’re a keeper by the way. But to call them a binary, if you really want to be pedantic - and you bet your ass I do in this video - is a misnomer because of a very fundamental philosophical belief that I hold. And that philosophical belief - which is protected in law by the way - is called “Essentialism is Garbage.”
Essentialism is the belief that everything has an “essence” of being that thing that it is. Every sperm cell has “sperm cell-ness.” Being a sperm cell is a fundamental aspect of a sperm cell. Being an egg is a fundamental aspect of being a trans person that hasn’t come out to themselves yet.
But let’s take a look at the actual cellular biology and see how well essentialism can apply here:
So, there’s a sperm cell. It has a tail, a heating coil, and a head. That is a sperm cell.
Except…what about this shit?
Is that a sperm cell? It has two tails, not one.
There are a range of ways in which sperm cells can naturally have variations that make them nonfunctional. And we all know, too many defective sperm cells and you’re demoted from alpha chad to girly bread scientist.
But also, what about if it’s missing its tail?
I saw on an episode of CSI that sperm cells naturally lose their tails several hours after being, uh, evacuated from the human body. I briefly tried researching to confirm or deny this, but I’ve already done enough google searching for “sperm” for this episode and my poor eyes need a break. Now, I think even store-brand Ben Shapiro would agree that those sperm cells are still “sperm” once their tails break off, even though just a second ago, we were all quietly agreeing that “has exactly one tail” is a property of sperm cells as a rule. But at what point does a sperm cell stop being a sperm cell? At what stage of decomposition? At the stage where it is no longer “theoretically” capable of fertilizing an egg cell, chemically?
By that definition, over 90% of human sperm cells are not sperm, because over 90% of human sperm cells in the average cis man’s semen are deformed, nonfunctional, or imperfect
This info from the Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/male-infertility/expert-answers/sperm-morphology/faq-20057760
And about egg cells. They are more than just “blob” but in order to be viable to turn into a human being once fertilized - it needs functioning genetic material, mitochondria, the correct organelles to jump-start the process of zygote to blastocyst to full organism. And all of the chemical chain reactions set up so that once fertilized, it locks out any additional genetic contributions, and starts the process of splitting and changing into an organism.
But what if an egg is lacking one of those properties? If it’s incapable of being fertilized, incapable of completing the steps to go from gamete to zygote to assistant manager at Subway? Is it still an egg? If there is a cell that we all agree is, in fact, an egg cell, viable and everything, at what point does it stop being an egg if it decays naturally? Does it stop being an “egg” once it leaves the fallopian tube unfertilized? Once it exits the uterus? Once it hits the maxi pad? Once the outer chemical shell decomposes? Once the chromosomes inside decay? All 23, or just one or two is enough?
And arguably more important than the physical parts of the egg or sperm is the DNA itself. Again, 23 chromosomes in a human gamete. This is true both for sperm cells and egg cells. At least, the TYPICAL sperm or egg - as in, the most common configuration, the, uh…
How do you even define “typical?”
There we go, something possessing the traits that are average, expected - expected by who is a little ambiguous - capturing the “overall sense” of a thing - sounds more than a little subjective…
Ah fuck I’m in that post-modern surrealism now, all the clocks are melting off my walls and draping themselves on these dead trees that wandered in here when I wasn’t looking.
Are you really talking about sex and gender if you don’t have at least one existential crisis?
Anyway, a human gamete typically has 23 chromosomes, but the biology of genetics is complicated. Many human gametes form with more or fewer chromosomes because nature is a sloppy bitch. But - here’s the fun part - the fertilization process does not actually technically require sperm, even in mammals that sexually reproduce. Dolly the sheep was a clone, as in having the full genome of an external donor. Birthed with the exact same DNA in basically every cell as a completely different living sheep. This process didn’t come about through sperm and egg, but egg and…really hangry titty cells.
Wait a shit, is that THE THIRD GAMETE? TITTY-CELL RAISIN? And the fourth is “Egg minus nucleus”
I mean, only if you want to be a smartass. Which I usually do, but I’ll let this one slide. Gamete is a social construct.
If I really wanted to be a smartass, I would say that there’s no such thing as a binary even when it comes to gametes - my car, for example, is large, but it’s also mobile, so which gamete is that? Or is it small relative to a garage, and ergo it’s a sperm and buildings are all eggs? What about a tiny garage?
But even if we’re only ever looking at gametes - yes, it’s generally easy to sort a naturally-occurring gamete into either “sperm” or “egg”, and point out where an egg goes to fetus to baby to Starbucks Barista. I’m not here to cause you an existential crisis or make you question what even is reality. For that, I highly recommend The Outside by Ada Hoffman, available in print or audiobook. I’m just here to remind you that the material world simply is what it is, that objects have no will or mind or divine purpose. That the categories we draw, the classifications of objects, are all human concepts. And material reality doesn’t care much about how we conceptualize it and its…stuff.
(video edit tip: insert “great, I’ll grab my stuff”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFPl-B5VMcs)
So, now that I have disproven the existence of sperm cells - for any TERFs in the audience, allow me to clarify, that was a joke - let’s move on to examining the patterns of human bodies in a more big-picture kind of way.
It took several drafts of that sentence to phrase it in a way that didn’t sound like “let’s look at porn together.”
Because when transphobes bang on with their mantra, “Sex is binary and immutable” they’re not talking about gametes. They’re talking about people, they’re talking about bodies. They’re not just saying that our [CUMMIES] are binary. They’re saying our bodies are, and that WE are.
Now, gametes are the most common thing they point to. You say “sex isn’t binary” and they ask “so what’s the third gamete then”?
But if gamete configurations were each a sex, then there actually would be four sexes, based on whether or not you have eggs, whether or not you create sperm?
Eggs and no sperm
Sperm and no eggs
Neither sperm nor eggs
Both sperm and eggs
The fourth one is… well… we’ll get back to that one.
But even if we don’t count #4, 3 is still more than 2. But this is where transphobes, particularly TERFs, say that 3 does not exist.
That even if a person loses their gonads, perhaps in a tragic parkour accident, they are still essentially male or female, depending on which gonads they had before the accident. Why? If it’s about gonads and gametes (new working title for my tabletop RPG) then why are those suddenly not the deciding factor?
The answer, obviously, is special pleading, but even if we suspend pointing out the obvious, they then go on to talk about the other parts of our reproductive anatomy,
You know, [PEPSI], [VEGETABLES], uteruses, prostates. Which….. Get ready.
When it comes to the claim “immutable binary” there are two poles on a spectrum of interpretation. The first end being the “strong” version, wherein you claim that sex is a complete and utter binary or completely and utterly immutable. The weak end of the claim basically being a vibe. It’s just kinda.. Y’know… like kinda sorta a binary, and it’s also kinda sorta immutable, I guess, y’know, sorta. Right?
Now, if we take the claim of “immutable binary” cranked to 110%, the argument is that there are exactly two configurations that human bodies can have, and that it is impossible to make someone’s body different from those two exact configurations. Which are…
Penis Labia and vagina
Prostate Skene’s Gland
Beard Does not grow facial hair
Stimky Spring Breeze
So, the strong version of “sex is binary” would say that any one person will have all traits of one column and none of the traits of the other column. Which, even if we just took the “essential” ones,
Penis Labia and Vagina
Not everyone has sex chromosomes that are XX or XY, there’s also people alive who are X0, with the 0 indicating the absence of a second sex chromosome., XXY, XXXY, XXXXY, XYY, generally referred to as Kleinfelter variants. And if you really want something that will make you question this fundamental “binary”, consider XX/XY chimerism. In some pregnancies, two distinct zygotes fuse into a single embryo, which will have a mosaic of two distinct sets of DNA making up the person’s body when they develop. This is what Chimerism is in medical contexts. Chimeras as in the mythological creature are slightly more rare. But when a person is chimeric, they can have two separate sets of DNA actively influencing their growth and development, and sometimes when this happens… one set is 46XX and one set is 46XY. So which are they - whichever one happens to have more copies distributed?
And even among people with the typical XX and XY, the rest of the binary still does not always apply. Many XX cis women are born without a uterus or without ovaries, and sometimes even with testicles where their ovaries would normally be. Sometimes people with XY chromosomes develop external and even internal anatomy that is far more typical of females, sometimes because the SRY gene, the genetic catalyst for male sexual characteristics, happens to not be present on that particular Y chromosome. And even if it IS present, it is in rare cases nonfunctional, inactive, or otherwise doesn’t set off the chain reaction that normally culminates in peak male performance. And sometimes XY cis men are just… born without penises or testicles - called penile agenesis and testicular agenesis, respectively. And sometimes cis men are born otherwise typically male, but with a uterus.
These cases are rare, but the strong version of the binary claim would mean that those would NEVER happen, a single counterexample is enough to disprove the rule as an absolute. The soft version, however, is just basically woo - that these bodies “should” have been “fully male” or “fully female” but they didn’t - and this isn’t just special pleading, it’s also ableism and borderline eugenical. The notion that there is a sexual configuration we ‘should’ have, regardless of how we feel about our own bodies, is one of the primary motivators and justifications for intersex genital mutilation, which is an ongoing and systemic human rights violation. And it’s still going on, and still standard procedure in many, many places.
The soft version of the “binary” claim, which is entirely special pleading, says that any combination of sexual characteristics that is not all-male or all-female are “variations on male and female”, which…by what metric? How would we measure whether a thing is a “variation on another thing” or a thing of its own? Are cardiac muscle cells their own class of cells, or are they just “variations” on the smooth-muscle skeletal-muscle binary? “Well, they’re striated, so clearly they’re skeletal muscles, even though there’s no heart bone.”
I don’t want to put intersex people too far into the spotlight in this video - intersex people and intersex rights deserve a whole video themselves. But generally, natural variation from the sex binary model all gets lumped together as intersex. Even PCOS, Poly-cystic ovary syndrome, is considered by some to be within the category of intersex because it can make otherwise cis and endosex women have facial hair or loss of cranial hair, which is generally considered a male sexual characteristic (for the latter, “male-pattern baldness”). And the reason I don’t want to make this intersex-centric is because, while intersex people are also very directly hurt by the sex binary as a form of dogma, they have their own needs, and it’s sadly far too common for people advocating for trans rights to point to intersex people to try to disprove transphobia, but then don’t follow that up with actually advocating for intersex-specific issues. We’ll come back to this later, but for now, I’m linking some intersex voices and videos in the description for further research, and if you’re interested in trans liberation, you should be interested in intersex liberation too. We’re all in this together.
The Sex Characteristic Hierarchy
One of my personal favorite slow-motion self-owns by transphobes is the video “Is sex binary” by Zach “We Have Prager U At Home” Elliot, “Is Sex Bimodal?” where he says that the model of sex as bimodal means a “distribution of traits typical of males” and another “typical of females”
I’m guessing the X-axis is… pinkness? And the Y axis is…
Oh God Dammit, Zach, I JUST GOT DONE talking about how intersex isn’t…
“They are often placed in between the two averages-”
AVERAGES OF WHAT, ZACH?
“There needs to be an X-axis” good, good,
And here we go,
Now, is “height” a sexual characteristic?
In biology, we differentiate primary and secondary sex characteristics, with primary being the parts of an organism that are used in reproduction, and secondary sex characteristics being traits that emerge after puberty. Problem with this framework is… a lot happens to people’s bodies during and after puberty regardless of sex.
So, is “height” a secondary sex characteristic? Is it a sex characteristic? I’m pretty sure that every human being with a physical body has a height, even before puberty. Heck, arguably even before birth.
And Zach here is onto something when he points out that there is significant overlap,
The graph indicates very clearly that there are women taller than the average man, and men shorter than the average woman, and plenty of people of either sex in the range between the averages.
Let’s just sit for a moment and savor the taste of a fine strawman. Because Zach seems to think that it must needst be remarked that someone being 5’7” does not make them intersex.
Here he and his friend Colin are on the cusp of self-awareness,
“The implication of the Sex Is Bimodal position is that some males are ‘more male’ than others, and that some women are ‘more women’ than others.”
(From Clip) “Is female D more female than Female C?” AH YES HE ACKNOWLEDGES THE FEMALE D, EXCELLENT.
But he’s right that people aren’t “more male” or “more female” than each other. Because… maleness and femaleness are not quantifiable. They are patterns.
Look closely at this fine selection of women's wear. Which of these are “more striped”? Which is the most “striped”? Which has the greatest magnitude of “is striped”?
Is this tie Striped or Dotted? Where does it fall on the striped-dotted binary?
The answer is, of course, “That’s not how patterns work, you dunce.”
(Clip) “And therefore, sex category” THERE WE GO, CATEGORY. Not BINARY. (show “We got him!” clip from Last Week Tonight)
So, while Zach is correct in this assessment, that no one characteristic of the body influenced by sexual differentiation or that is correlated to sex itself becomes the totality of sex, what he’s failing to understand is not that “bimodal” is being used to say “there are two humps in a graph that can be plotted on a single axis” but that there are many, MANY characteristics related to or correlated with sex, and if we could neatly graph them all in some multidimensional mind-bendy my-brain-hurts kind of graph, like seriously I can’t even get a google image example of a two-axis histogram,
We’d see two sort of… clusters.
Kind of like this but in lots of dimensions, most of which would be very hard to graph. Like, how the fuck would you graph body hair distribution on an axis?
But if the presence or absence of gonads doesn’t determine your sex, and your… height, beard length, and voice pitch don’t, as Zach correctly observes, then what is it?
This is where he invokes the language of “design”
Clip: “Bodies can be structured for”
But here’s the question, Zach, who is doing the ‘designing’? Who is doing the ‘structuring’ that you are invoking? On its face, this is pretty obvious special pleading, but it’s also an attempt to evoke the naturalistic fallacy, it’s trying to evoke the narrative that there is a logic to natural phenomena that must be obeyed and adhered to. All while pretending that they’re not interpreting phenomena with their own narrative - that this is the only logical conclusion. That our bodies were designed to- wait, where have I heard this logic before?
Oh right. Well, guess what, buckos,
*Clip from Jurassic Park of Dr. Grant tying together two female seatbelts*
But tell me, Zach, if my body was organized for anything, really, then why shouldn’t I get to… oh, I dunno… REORGANIZE IT?
(Brief aside on screen - “Please note - we believe that all bodily modifications should be purely voluntary whenever possible. We want to #EndIntersexSurgery because infants cannot consent to surgery.”)
But now that we’ve talked about how ‘binary’ isn’t even naturally rigid, let’s talk about the “immutable part”
The strong version of “sex is immutable” would be… that any and all sexual characterisics are fundamentally immutable. Which would mean that if you are born with testicles, that it would be impossible to change your body such that you no longer have testicles. But, uh…. Do I have to explain that… do I… do I have to explain that…. umm….
It is completely possible, with current medical technology, to deliberately remove a pair of testes from their host. And, as my doctor has informed me, they will not grow back. Then she asked me, slightly concerned, why I asked her about orchiectomy.
Similarly, uteruses, penises, boobas, prostates, even hair distributions can be removed. Hair can be regrown, but even hair follicles and sweat glands cannot naturally regenerate, which is why scars can be uncomfortable for the bearer compared to surrounding skin.
So, the strong version of immutable is simply false. Because obviously, nothing material is truly, fundamentally immutable. That’s just not how matter works. Even atoms themselves can change, as radioactive isotopes shed their nucleic elements. When we are conceived into zygotes, we go from having no gonads to having undifferentiated gonads - called gonadal primordium - to having differentiated gonads - to being born. So even for endosex people, your sex has fundamentally changed from nothing to “could go either depending on hormonal balance” to something.
So given that the strong version of immutable is obviously untrue, let’s consider the moderate position,
“It is impossible for someone born male to ever give birth or produce ova - it is impossible for someone born with ovaries to produce sperm cells.”
Now, as of current, medical intervention lacks proven methods to reliably and practically achieve either of the goals - take an endosex female-born adult and alter their body such that they can impregnate someone else through coitus, or take an endosex male-born adult and alter their body such that they can carry a baby to term and push life through their brand new sacred passage. We acknowledge that. Science takes time and we have lots of things that we’re working on. But the claim that it is fundamentally impossible, no matter how great our technology becomes, has nothing about it that I’m inclined to believe. We’ve gotten to the freaking moon. We made the Earth round when flat was too boring for us. We invented cheese toast and microwave burritos. Our potential is vast, and to claim that we’ll never be able to give people freedom of bodily form is unfalsifiable right up until the moment we accomplish it.
But wait - not only is there no evidence that we can’t accomplish this, there is substantial evidence that we can. Remember how I said that it’s easy peasy to remove organs and body parts and not have them come back? (for clarity, I mean in comparison to other medical procedures, please do not perform surgery on yourself) Well, we’ve been developing for decades the means to replace organs and body parts. Starting with the crude prosthetics of peg legs, hook hands (*jingle from man car door hook hand*), to artificial hearts, to electronic motorized prosthetic hands and arms, to organ transplants, we have all accomplished. And there are many people alive today with completely artificial hearts as replacements for their organic ones, which failed them for one reason or another. The current goal is straight-up organ printing, which would allow us to replace organs entirely without need of donation nor fear of rejection, currently the two most limiting factors in the efficacy of organ transplants. That technology might be a long way off, but, get ready for this, because when I was first exposed to this concept, it legit made me giddy,
Decellularization and Recellularization.
Every organ in your body is made up of not just cells, but a sort of scaffold structure called the “extracellular matrix” which I promise is not just a sequel to your favorite movie by two trans women who weren’t out at the time yet. The ECM provides much of the structural integrity and shape of your organs, the same way an editor’s note, think of a metaphor that properly conveys just how fascinating biology is. The cells themselves do all of the work of the organ, producing whatever enzymes or constricting to pump blood, and importantly, hold the antigens, the chemical markers that tell your immune system which cells should be here and which ones shouldn’t. Now, there are very specific solvents that a donated organ can be treated with that will completely remove all of the cells in an organ, but, critically, leave the extracellular matrix intact, resulting in what looks, to our human eyes, like a ghostly version of the original organ. And - here’s the really cool part - if certain kinds of stem cells are seeded into a ghosty boi, and the whole thing submerged in a replenishing nutrient bath, the seeded cells multiply and fill out the whole scaffold, and in time you will have a fully fleshed, beating heart, breathing lung, liver that… livers…
And remember the bit about antigens? Because if Dave donates his heart to Sally with conventional transplantation, then Sally has to be on immunosuppressants for the rest of her life because otherwise, her immune system will see that heart, see Dave’s antigens on it, and kill it. But with decellularization, if the stem cells used on the ghosty-heart made out of Dave’s heart come from Sally, then the cells that grow out and fill up the scaffold are Sally’s and all have her DNA and antigens. And therefore, she won’t need immunosuppressants because if that heart is transplanted into her, her immune system will recognize it as her heart, even though the oldest part of it, the ECM, came from Dave.
For real, if you need a moment to jump on your chair with excitement for the potential this has to improve and extend human life, to give us more time with our loved ones and friends - I did too when I first found out about this research. By all means, take a moment to dance with glee for good things that are coming. Clip of Crit dancing from male extinction
Now, to temper that just a little bit, this method is still in development, because medicine is extremely complicated and we go comparatively slowly in that field for very good reason. Decellularization and recellularization is most successful with skin grafts and minor valve replacements, but whole organs, and particularly complex organs, have very limited success in transplantation this way. Again, this is super super complicated, and the research is ongoing.
But let’s apply that to sex. It’s very possible that this might be used for gonads. Now, with ovaries, it’s not settled as to whether or not this approach would be effective because a DC/RC’d ovary would be 46-XY if the recipient is 46-XY, and it’s unclear as to whether or not XY-Karyotype cells can generally undergo meiosis successfully without intervention. And that is if ovaries produce egg cells after birth - the previous consensus of reproductive science was that if you were born with ovaries, then the eggs in that ovary at birth would be the only egg cells they would ever have - fueling the “biological clock” mentality, recent studies have challenged that notion, and it’s really hard to know for sure. Maybe some rich scientist with access to donated ovaries might watch this video and be inspired to try DC/RC and see if egg cells generate inside it - I think that would be pretty conclusive.
Similarly, DC/RC of testicles for a 46-XX recipient would still very likely be ineffective by itself, as people with XX-Male syndrome, even those who naturally grow testicles and penises, are generally infertile because the SRY gene is needed for testicular differentiation and setting the person’s overall sexual development in the general direction of “male”, and sometimes the SRY gene happens to be present on an X chromosome, the gene for spermatogenesis is not generally present outside the Y chromosome, and if only 1 in 20000 46-XX possess an SRY gene, the odds that someone would have both SRY gene AND the genes required for zoospermia, or AZF, which would be very small. Even if that were a single gene, which I’m pretty sure it’s not, and that gene had the same probability of crossover as the SRY gene, then that would be one in 4 billion people!
And so, it might seem that the probability of a trans person naturally getting to make the gametes associated with their gender identity are…
Guess what, bitches? Genetic engineering is also a thing!
CRISPR is a family of DNA molecules that was discovered to have immense potential for genetic engineering. Roughly 50% of bacteria tested for its presence just happen to have it. And when paired with another molecule called Cas-9, it can become pretty close to a find-and-replace tool for DNA, including human DNA.
One of the limiting factors with genetic engineering is that every somatic cell in your body has a copy of your DNA, in its entirety, give or take transcription errors. Even with Cas-9, it might be very difficult to make widespread changes to a human body, because that’s about 40 trillion copies of DNA that would need to be rewritten.
But guess what?
When it comes to making gametes, we don’t have to overwrite all of the DNA. Just the DNA of the active cells in the gonads.
And guess which process takes only a few cells… and turns them into a whole organ?
That’s right, baybee, we’re bringing back decellularization and recellularization. Now, if trans dude Lucas has a pair of balls donated to him by his trans lady friend Rebecca, the surgeons would decellularize them balls, then take a small number of stem cells from Lucas, use Cas-9 to inject the needed genetic code into Lucas’s 46-X chromosome, and recellularize deez nuts with the modified stem cells, and presto - working balls with Lucas’s DNA, save for the minor modifications to add AZF.
As for ovaries, a bit more complicated, again, because we don’t understand those quite as well so we might have to induce egg production in the lab and then just… just shove ‘em in there. Stuff that ovary full of eggs, we’ll figure it out later.
Editor voice - “Crit, we are not going to film anyone stuffing hard-boiled eggs into a turkey for a visual gag.”
But - even if we don’t get the gonads figured out for trans women, uterine transplants are comparatively simple. Comparatively being the operative word here - it’s still complex, but uterus transplants have been performed successfully between cis women, and while there are some significant additional barriers to uterine transplants in trans women, there’s nothing to indicate that it’s fundamentally impossible. The uterus, mostly unconnected, could probably work fine as long as it had somewhere for shed lining to exit, but would probably require IVF and implantation, and then a C-section delivery unless we also developed pelvic reconstructive surgeries to allow the baby to take the waterslide down the sacred passage. Which, if transphobes say “that’s not a real vagina” you can get one from a donor vagina that was DC/RC’d if you really goddamn want.
And if a TERF tries to tell you, “hey, it’s impossible for a uterus to work in a male-born person,” or even wishes that someone born with testes would be “fatally allergic” to uterus transplants, then guess what - cis men, who have fathered children, no less - have been found to have fully-developed uteruses in their bodies. It’s a condition called PMDS - Persistent Mullerian Duct Syndrome. One such person, according to secondary sources, was advised by doctors that he could have an embryo implanted and would be very likely to carry it to term. He even had periods, eliminated through his penis. He just thought he was having completely normal pissing of blood every month since he was a teenager - I’m sure some trans people in the audience can relate to that level of denial before you came out. Anyway, the dude decided to get a hysterectomy, because he, like most men, did not fancy the idea of getting pregnant. I wonder if the doctors tried to talk him out of it by suggesting that his future husband might want kids.
And after all that detour, talking about extracellular matrices, CRISPR and Cas-9, we finally have a rough answer to the question.
“Is the moderate claim - that it’s impossible for someone as an adult, to go from fertile male to fertile female or vice versa - fundamentally correct as a law of nature?” The answer is - no. We have significant indication that the biotech needed to let trans women become pregnant for trans men to impregnate a partner with sperm out of their own profane passage is on some level possible. It would take a lot of deliberate and careful medical intervention and bio-engineering, but it is not fundamentally impossible, and dipshit me with my english degree was able to propose a plausible path of bio-engineering to achieve those ends.
The slightly weaker “moderate” claim is that you can’t change your sex chromosomes. And this one is the closest to correct - it’s impractical to change all of the copies of the DNA, in which there’s a full set for each of the 37 trillion cells in the human body. But then, you would have to explain to me, a cartoon fox on the internet, why someone who had gotten pregnant and given birth, and then gotten a partner pregnant with their own semen, has not materially changed their sex, even if most of their body cells have their original XX DNA. And that’s not even to say it would be, fundamentally, impossible to replace the DNA in all 37 trillion cells… just that it would be really fucking tedious and pointless.
And then lastly, there’s the weakest version of “can’t change sex”, which is to just shrug, mutter something about “biological reality,” and assert that sex is a “vibe” that any potential to alter it would be “scifi or magical thinking” before running off to see which animal a mind-reading hat associates you with. As you can imagine I find the weak claim unfalsifiable because there are no claims, much less any that could be disproven, and thus not exactly persuasive. Unless you’re terminally incurious, and you refuse to acknowledge any information that contradicts your worldview. Which brings us to the final section:
You’ll notice that in this very specific regard, transphobes try to look like they’re relying on science, but they rarely bother trying to make an ethical or moral argument to the question, “If we had the technology to let anyone get pregnant who wanted to, regardless of birth sex, or anyone provide sperm cells to a pregnancy who wanted to, regardless of birth sex, would that not be a good thing? Would freedom of form and more options for bodily autonomy be a good thing?” Because there is no rational argument against it. The closest they get is screeching that “the trans women are gonna steal all our uteruses” or “the left wants to take away your penis” even though the number of trans men and trans women is close to the same and so we’d basically just get a reproductive-organ-exchange program, and that’s before all the cis people who are willing to donate organs upon passing, and all of the cis women who want to get rid of their uteruses because periods just plain fucking SUCK.
When someone says “You can’t change sex” or “sex is binary” or “sex is an immutable binary” they’re not making a scientific claim. They’re not making a medical claim. They’re making a metaphysical claim, an ideological claim. A fundamentally ideological claim. And that’s why transphobes, particularly TERFs, usually refuse to quantify what would constitute a successful changing of sex. They don’t want to define starting and ending points, because then they would have to do two things that they hate, hate, HATE doing:
They would make their claims falsifiable, and therefore subject to disproof, as were the strong and moderate claims I addressed.
They would have to justify their starting and ending points.
The moderate claim? That we could never take someone born endosex male and alter them to the point where they were biologically indistinguishable from someone born endosex female or vice versa? They’ll just say, “well, the bones developed more male-like” or “they have a male nose” or “they still have the gamer gene” or, when they’re completely out of anything else, “they had male socialization and upbringing.”
Why? Why should we care about a few millimeters of bone or even chromosomes if someone otherwise has a body that they like? Why should a trans woman need to modify her body to the point of being capable of gestating a freaking baby, regardless of whether or not she even wants to have children at all, in order to have “achieved” womanhood?
And when you consider this next to how much overlap there is between male and female, both naturally and with intervention, double standards emerge. A cis woman could get a full hysterectomy, including her ovaries and fallopian tubes, and still be a woman, but a trans woman, to transphobes, would require a uterus transplant in order to “earn” womanhood, even if her first thing afterwards would be to get a hysterectomy because periods FUCKING SUCK.
Or what about that cis dude who just happened to have a uterus? If he *had* an embryo implanted and became pregnant, and even carried that pregnancy to term - say this person, right after giving birth, came out as a trans woman. Would transphobes respect her womanhood? Fuck no.
In fact, even if sex WERE an immutable binary, trans people would still be valid and their identities still meaningful. Even if it were fundamentally impossible to “change sex” meaningfully, like every time we got close god theyself came down from the attic and took the scalpels out of the surgeons hands or something ridiculous like that - trans women would still be women, and trans men would still be men. People would still have feelings about their anatomy, and those feelings would still be very real and meaningful. And each of us would still have the right to decide for ourselves what manhood and womanhood mean on an emotional, cultural, or even spiritual level and
Because fundamentally, they’re not about logic, they’re not about reason or science. They’re trying to justify, using the appearance of science and logic and materialism, enforcing an epistemology. They are trying to demand that you agree with them that maleness equals “man-ness,” that femaleness equals “woman-ness” and frame anyone who disagrees with that epistemology as delusional or deceptive. But manhood and womanhood and enbyhood are all complex aspects of our identities, our cultures, and our personal journeys. Trans women, even if they never transition, are still women for the same reason that gay sex is still sex, adoptive and found families are still families, and diet pepsi is still pepsi.
And this is one of the major reasons they won’t be dissuaded by reason. You can’t reason someone out of a position they did not reason themselves into in the first place, to paraphrase Jonathan Swift. They don’t want to understand, they just want to pretend that their hate is justified. And that’s why they will say things that they know are absurd - claiming that women’s sports are all gone now, even though trans women have not overrun cis women in women’s sports and never will. They say shit like “trans women shouldn’t be allowed in beauty pageants because they have a biological advantage when it comes to looking womanly” and just ridiculous, absurd nonsense. It’s so clearly irrational and senseless.
And why? Why should anyone get upset if my gay cis dude friend gets to get pregnant with his trans dude boyfriend’s baby with an organ-printed uterus, with the embryo made from cis dude’s sperm and trans dude’s eggs. Fuck, I think that would be an amazingly wholesome and I’m already 3000 words into a romance novel about just that, to be published by SofaWolf in Spring of 2019. But while TERFs just lurk behind the facade of materialism and “biological reality,” their assertions are a mere cover by things that the far right say out loud - disgust at subversion of what they see as the natural order. Resentment that other people might be more free than them mixed with the internalized shame and loathing they’ve been taught to feel of anyone who expresses feelings or desires not approved by both cisnormativity and heteronormativity. The far right will just cite moral frameworks that rely on external arbitrary guidelines, like “males are born to do this” and “females are born to do this” and “anything else is against the natural order” - you know, the same things they said to try to justify homophobia. But the far more universal ethical framework of “consenting adults” has proven to be much more reasonable as law and policy.
So to any transphobes who have made it this far into this video, congratulations on confronting your doxastic anxieties thus far and actually entertaining the ideas of the people you see as trying to burn down western civilization with unholy mpreg or whatever, but before you go, I have one final statement, and one final question for tonight:
Don’t tell me that humans cannot change our sexes.
Because whether or not we’re ever successful - is there any reason we shouldn’t once we have the means?
*from “Why Sex is Binary”* “Such as the often joked about Sperg”
Crit: “COME SAY THAT TO MY FACE TWERP.”
Some links to Intersex voices and activists talking about intersex experiences:
The Darlington Statement, which I personally encourage everyone ever to read:
InterAct Advocates home page:
Intersex Explained part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s11jHr_za_g
Intersex Explained part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNmzmKIrHHc
Intersex Explained part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpcYuMkp_qo
The way we think about biological sex is wrong: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stUl_OapUso
What I’ve learned from having balls: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28Ip-STEPKU
What it means to be intersex: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MB7nbvD8rQk
A different kind of superpower: what it means to be intersex: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vaq4Ij0qmog
News sources cited:
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Script and Editing by Prototype
Narration by Lunos Nocturne
Art by Raimu
Music by Rachel
Proofreading by UltraFennec et al
Additional moral support from Anubis and Tywin, the official CritCats.