I’ve a friend who really likes cars. Like, a LOT. You can ask him anything about cars and he can recall parts, makes, models, uh, the shape of the tires, of any vehicle. It’s impressive. When I ask him why my car is making X noise, he asks me a few questions and he’s been right almost 100% of the time.
As someone who doesn’t really know anything about cars, I find this fascinating. He talks about what’s probably wrong, and why it is happening. He explains that with a million teeny, tiny parts it’s inevitable something will not work as expected. Some cars run flawlessly for a decade, some fall apart when it rains. With so many variables it’s not surprising every car is different.
What on earth does this have to do with this website? I’m getting there.
Someone sent me an email the other day and mentioned how we all start our lives as women.
And it’s true! I remember reading this when I was very young and my mind was just blown.
There’s REALLY not as much of a difference between a clitoris and a penis as most men (yes, I know, NOT ALL MEN) would like to believe. Why does everyone have nipples? I mean, mine aren’t practical or functional. Or cute.
Instead of blindly stumbling around trying to explain this, I have some help from the textbook ‘Exploring the Biological Contributions to Human Health: Does Sex Matter?’.
All human individuals—whether they have an XX, an XY, or an atypical sex chromosome combination—begin development from the same starting point. During early development the gonads of the fetus remain undifferentiated; that is, all fetal genitalia are the same and are phenotypically female. After approximately 6 to 7 weeks of gestation, however, the expression of a gene on the Y chromosome induces changes that result in the development of the testes. Thus, this gene is singularly important in inducing testis development. The production of testosterone at about 9 weeks of gestation results in the development of the reproductive tract and the masculinization (the normal development of male sex characteristics) of the brain and genitalia. In contrast to the role of the fetal testis in differentiation of a male genital tract and external genitalia in utero, fetal ovarian secretions are not required for female sex differentiation. As these details point out, the basic differences between the sexes begin in the womb, and this chapter examines how sex differences develop and change across the lifetime. The committee examined both normal and abnormal routes of development that lead individuals to become males and females and the changes during childhood, reproductive adulthood, and the later stages of life.
Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Understanding the Biology of Sex and Gender Differences; Wizemann TM, Pardue ML, editors. Exploring the Biological Contributions to Human Health: Does Sex Matter? Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2001. 3, Sex Begins in the Womb.
Isn’t that neat? I think it’s neat.
I also think creation stories are fascinating, especially how different they can be from religion to religion, or from culture to culture. I went to Catholic school for my entire life and we were always taught that God created Adam, and Eve was created from one of Adam’s ribs. I never took it for fact, I knew the tradition of storytelling and I knew that thunder was, well, thunder and not angels bowling.
Anyway, this little biology lesson is a reminder of how small the difference is between men and women biologically. Is it any wonder that transgender people exist? Or that people identify as bi-gender? Or that some think that gender roles and gender societal norms are completely ridiculous?
It all starts with a teeny, tiny gene on a chromosome. That gene influences what our bodies look like. What our bodies look like determines what we are “allowed” to wear, think, feel.
Understanding science, chemistry, and biology can help others understand how teeny, tiny the differences are between boys and girls. It’s a nice thought to think that if people are educated, life might be easier for those who live outside of the gender binary. But since we live on a planet with people who honestly think the earth is flat, I wouldn’t hold my breath.