i hope the superabundance of question marks is an indication that you’re aware on some level of how utterly wrong you are.
[trigger warning: discussion of genitalia and internal organs]
first of all, when you say “sex” i assume you’re talking about what is called “biological sex”, “sexual dimorphism”, or “sexual difference.” specifically what you are trying to state or imply here is the material existence of two categories of bodies: male and female. i’m gonna guess you’re starting with chromosomes since that’s been considered the ‘most fundamental’ basis of sex by transmisogynists since at least 1979.
a sex chromosome is a particular-appearing blob that shows up on a karyotype, or a test involving dyeing and microscopically viewing chromosomes. chromosomes are little blobs of folded up goop that if you spooled it out long enough you would find to be a chain of DNA—which is to say a chain of base pairs (guanine and cytosine, adenine and thymine). what you’re also gonna find in there are histones that the chromatin (the material of somewhat spooled DNA) is wrapped around. In addition, you’re gonna find methylation, and all other sorts of little chemicals and particles in there because guess what? DNA is not a linear coding system. DNA codes in chunks—usually triplets that are usually read as certain amino acids, which then come together to form the building blocks of proteins. but the thing about triplet coding is that it can be very complex. so
can for example simultaneously code as
AGG CTT ATT AGG CTC ta
a GGC TTA TTA GGC TCT a
ag GCT TAT TAG GCT CTA
like just to give you an example. now there are signals indicating how that coding should start, but those signals can move around, or be turned on or off. that’s one of the things methylation is for—it can turn on or off the signals of where to start the coding chain. methylation for any given part of a DNA strand can be triggered by all sorts of things. one study found a linkage between rates of diabetes and levels of stress in the grandmothers of those with diabetes—i.e. the stress was linked to diabetes in the grandchildren. that’s just to give you some idea of the level of complexity of coding.
and the complexities continue at every level. the proteins that are formed by those DNA sequences may come together in different ways depending on the chemical composition of their environment. the DNA itself—a three-dimensional object in the same environment—may physically interact with the proteins or with itself. but also remember that we are talking about chemical goop subject to environmental conditions, which include all sorts of mutagens. sometimes shit just goes weird (not gonna say ‘wrong’ because that presumes that mutations are ‘bad’ which is bullshit given the necessity of mutation for genetic adaptability—also it means applying anthropocentric notions of functionality, of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behavior, to goop) and AGG CTT ATT loses a letter and becomes AGC TTA tt (this is what’s called a frameshift mutation—you can also have other stuff like point mutations). also, things can just go weird when the DNA is being replicated—it’s not a perfect reading process, it’s a bunch of chemical reactions floating in goop. and it’s happening millions of times, so the likelihood that things will go wrong in various ways is high.
but even above the level of the DNA coding, on the level of the chromosomes, things are confusing. because the chromosomes come together out of more loosely distributed goop when the cell is splitting, and things can go wrong in that process—get misplaced, get shuffled over to the other side, etc. likewise, there’s a process called crossing-over that occurs at cell replication during metaphase (while the chromosomes are paired at the center of the cell prior to the nucleus dividing) where chromosomes just swap shit around for the heck of it. and it’s pretty random where this happens too, which can mean that important codes just get cut in half, or new codes get created.
all of which is leading to say that it’s incredibly unlikely to expect any sort of meaningful fifty-fifty split between “XX chromosomes” and “XY chromosomes”. which works with reality, because in reality we observe all kinds of variations, exactly as we would expect. now, what happens when there’s variation? for the most part, things just happen. it’s all just cells. they do their thing, make little organs, replicate so the organs get bigger and more specific, etc. so maybe now you can begin to see why expecting them to neatly behave in two sets of patterns is completely inaccurate? or why it is that in the real world we observe a wide range of human bodies rather than just XX Barbies and XY Kens? but even looking beyond that, what’s actually going on with the so-called reproductive system? well, some of these cells have the ability to generate gametes—sorta like half-cells—which can get together with other gametes to grow into another big blob of organs. that’s what fertilization and pregnancy is. that’s all that’s involved. generally speaking, one type of gametes will appear in the bodies of people whose cells tend to have goop that shows up a certain way on a karyotype, while another type of gametes will appear in the bodies of people whose cells tend to have goop that shows up a different way in a karyotype, with a whole lot of variation and possibilities for things to be disrupted. so why does that even matter to us? why am I sitting here at 4am on christmas night with a box of cheezits and a glass of wine answering shitty anons about this? [note: i wrote this a couple days ago and am only now posting it] because out of those general tendencies of bodies, people have constructed the notion of sex.
patriarchy, at its basis, is a system of economic exploitation that consists of one group of people being assigned to do work which is valued, and another group of people being assigned to do work which is not valued. this was mapped onto two general groupings of people, those who tended to have one type of gamete and those who tended to have another, and the ones who pushed the idea that their own work was valuable were ‘males’, ‘men’, etc, while those who were forced to be the object of exploitation and violence were ‘females’, ‘women’, etc. as part of the process of valuing male work, men constructed an explanation for the inequality that they claimed derived from the nature of physical reality. specifically, the notion of ‘sexual difference’, or the tendencies of people to produce different sorts of gametes. in order to better justify and value their exploitation of women, men constructed a whole notion of selfhood around this, an ideal which for them happened to be contained in the organ that most of them used to distribute the gametes. and in order to justify the violence that they were doing, they argued that there were naturally only two categories of people, grouped based on labor done/positions during sex/gamete production/etc (all these things were conflated and differently emphasized over time, helping to mystify the falsity of the distinction).
the notion that certain types of organs map to certain types of behavior, certain economic patterns, etc, is a product of a social system of oppression. it is NOT founded in any sort of ‘biological fact’ because first and foremost ‘biological fact’ does not exist. an organ is not a signifier except in the context of a socially constructed ‘biology’ which is specifically constructed as a justification of patriarchy. quite literally. i’ve worked with biologists (yeah, anon, turns out i may have in fact opened a biology textbook a few times in my life) and one thing i can say definitively is that like most scientists they don’t tend to think deeply about how the sorts of questions they ask and the ways they interpret data are structured by the world. at best they’ve taken a required bioethics class or two while an undergrad. so when they’re going to interpret mathematical data, they’re doing it in a way that already presumes the real question as answered. they find sexual dimorphism not because it’s in the results of their data but because it was assumed by the way they asked their questions—if you ask ‘which sex is better at math?’ you’re never going to find evidence that ‘sex’ is a meaningless construct. this is what a lot of ‘scientific truth’ is, in fact—the things that were already accepted when people went to ask more complicated questions, and which were only torn down, if ever, when all the answers to all the complicated questions continually revealed something which undermined the previous model (which, by the way, is happening right now with the notion of sex—that’s right, even patriarchal scientists are coming to an awareness of how utterly bullshit it is, albeit by the most roundabout way possible and still doing as much harm as they can on the way).
But what we can see from all this is that gender precedes sex. gender is a way of organizing the social sphere, and biological data is organized off of that. gender, in other words, is the fundamental category of sex under patriarchy. now, one might say that we live in a social world, that our subjectivities are socially constructed, and thus for us an organ is a signifier. this is of course true, but one has to recognize the socially constructed nature in order to realize first and foremost that we are not looking at a rigid system here. it is not simply a matter of saying that under biological reality a certain chromosome or a certain organ leads to a certain place within patriarchy, and likewise it is not simply a matter of saying that under social construction a certain chromosome or a certain organ leads to a certain place within patriarchy. if one is aware of the complexity involved in socially constituting what is basically a blob of goo (cells) that does or does not more goo (babies, people, etc) as belonging to a somehow binary and rigid category, one can more easily see how that social construction may at times slip, and result in a person who, for example, has one sort of organ, and yet has had their identity socially constructed within the category for a person with a “different” (within patriarchal notions of ‘sexual difference’) type of organ. in fact, one can only fail to recognize this if one begins from the disingenuous place of assuming a priori that the person in question is being deceptive or being deceived, rather than reporting reality as closely as it can be reported in this language. and the use of inversions of this language to report closer realities is an effort to redirect and gain control of biopower as it has enacted itself on us. it is no more or less legitimate than the language of patriarchy, except if one finds legitimacy either in supporting patriarchy (arguing for sex as ‘real’) or disrupting patriarchy.
what, then, is sex? it’s the way people talk about blobs of goop, and specifically the way that blobs of goop have been categorized into two types, in broad defiance of reality, for the express purpose of perpetuating the patriarchy.
so yes, sex is biological, in the sense that the terms of sex are coded into the discourse of ‘biology’, which is itself socially constructed by patriarchy.
sex is a social construct. this is my final fucking word on this shit.
do NOT bring this ignorant shit into my inbox again.