all 37 comments

[–]Spikygrasspod 10 insightful - 2 fun10 insightful - 1 fun11 insightful - 2 fun -  (4 children)

Ehhh. I think female and male are types created by nature, not just collections of features. A female is a creature whose body is organised around the reproductive role of conception, gestation, delivery. You might as well ask whether we can surgically construct a cat if we get all the cat features right.

[–]transwomanHesitantly QT?[S] 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (3 children)

Thank you for your response! ♥️

I think this whole discussion topic starts to get a little strange, especially since we don't know what will be possible with future medical technology. I think that sex is observed at birth, so even if one had the ability to change all of one's sex characteristics, they still wouldn't be identical as someone born as the opposite sex.

That being said, it definitely blurs the lines. I guess my question would be: if we had the ability to change all the characterstics of a human's biology to that of a cat, who are we to say that it isn't a cat? After all, wouldn't they meet the criteria of how we classify and recognize cats? I personally don't think it would ever be possible to do this, as it would require far more than just surgical or medical treatment, but it's an interesting thought experiment nonetheless.

[–]Spikygrasspod 5 insightful - 1 fun5 insightful - 0 fun6 insightful - 1 fun -  (2 children)

I guess it's a philosophical question; Is a cat a collection of those features our human concepts and language can identify and describe? Or is it an organic whole with an intrinsic telos--a purpose or function determined by nature, not humans--that our concepts merely attempt to imperfectly describe by noting its features?

A man-made cat is not the same as a nature-made cat. The very fact of its being constructed gives it a different history and meaning to a cat that simply... is. That's my philosophical position, and I don't usually press it on other people.

If we really did have the technology to make males nearly identical to females... they would have the same features, but different histories and meanings. What would that mean for how we treat them? I don't know. Maybe nothing. Maybe something. Could we medically excise men's statistically higher tendency to rape and murder other humans? I might consider dropping my nature philosophy and joining the tech revolution in that case.

[–]transwomanHesitantly QT?[S] 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (1 child)

That's true. That philosophical framework you outlined of something that simply "is" rather than something that was surgically/medically created seems to fit into my understanding of how we already classify people into the two sexes. That makes a lot of sense to me. Thank you.

[–]Spikygrasspod 3 insightful - 1 fun3 insightful - 0 fun4 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

You're welcome. Wikipedia has a page on teleology if you're interested. Obviously not everyone views the world in that way.

[–]DistantGlimmer 9 insightful - 1 fun9 insightful - 0 fun10 insightful - 1 fun -  (7 children)

As long as you have gendered socialization I don't think it would ever be possible for adults to change sex even if they could theoretically in all physical ways. I suppose theoretically you could take a baby in some future world and change their chromosomes and biology to make them the other sex but that ability seems like something that would have nothing to do with trans people and would be highly abused if sexism still existed in that world the way it does in ours (note that the belief that this would ever even be possible is actually contrary to gender identity ideology as it assumes that no "gender essence" exists and gender is completely socially constructed).

[–]transwomanHesitantly QT?[S] 4 insightful - 1 fun4 insightful - 0 fun5 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

That makes a lot of sense. Gendered socialization certainly has impacts on how we develop, and that's not something a medical sex change could create (unless we start getting into trans-humanist territory but that seems a little out of scope). I definitely can see how the potential for "complete" sex changes could actually be a danger, especially for a society rooted in sexism.

[–]Porcelain_QuetzalTabby without Ears 4 insightful - 1 fun4 insightful - 0 fun5 insightful - 1 fun -  (5 children)

I always thought sex was only physical. Is a male socialized woman not female? I'm pretty confused right now. If you want to argue that they'll never be like women, because they lack the socialization then let me ask you the question: what is a woman if not an adult human female?

[–]DistantGlimmer 4 insightful - 1 fun4 insightful - 0 fun5 insightful - 1 fun -  (4 children)

I do not think "male socialized women" can exist in this society. If the society which had the hypothetical technology to change physical sex was also the kind of genderless society that GC people want then yes you could make someone identical to other females without socialization but in a patriarchy, a male socialized person will still be shaped in important ways by their male socialization and privilege.

[–]Porcelain_QuetzalTabby without Ears 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (3 children)

So woman isn't just about sex? Assume there is a nation that has a matriarchal society due to some great equalizer that makes women stronger than men. It's basically the same as our society, but the sex classes are reversed. Let's call that country Matrica. Would a trans woman undergoing a complete medical sex change from this society be a woman in the US?

[–]DistantGlimmer 6 insightful - 1 fun6 insightful - 0 fun7 insightful - 1 fun -  (2 children)

The original purpose of decoupling sex from gender in second wave feminism was to decouple the socialized parts of biological sex from the physical parts. Many would like a world where gender didn't exist but it does unfortunately so socialization will be part of the sex class as long as patriarchy exists.

Transwomen in your hypothetical society would I think be just like transmen in this one. They would pose little risk to women and I suspect the main fight in Matrica would be between men fighting for male liberation from matriarchy and female transmen insisting 'transmen are men' But no, transmen are not identical to men either partly because of the female socialization they go through.

[–]Porcelain_QuetzalTabby without Ears 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (1 child)

Sorry for answering this late. Was kind busy. I'm aware why sex was decoupled from gender and I agree with the sentiment second wave feminism puts forward. I'm just confused why you link these two again. Imo somone is female regardless of socialization and if woman is adult human female, then male socialized women could exist, albeit unlikely in current society, and someone undergoing a perfect sex change would actually be a woman/man. Imo this follows logically from the premise that womanhood is only about sex. Or am I completely misunderstanding you?

[–]DistantGlimmer 4 insightful - 1 fun4 insightful - 0 fun5 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

I think you're confusing ought with is. Sex and gender are linked because gender is a hierarchy based on sex. A woman can only be an adult human female but there is also a gender aspect to being a woman under patriarchy. Society should be such that being born into a male or female body places no gendered expectations or socialization on the person but that is what we have to fight for.

Theoretically, it may be possible to raise a woman socialized male or a man socialized female if it was like on a desert island with no other contacts but in an actual society, I think it is virtually impossible. because they will get those messages from many places other than their parents. There are interesting discussions about people like Jazz Jennings or that other one that was transitioned really young and the extent to which they would be male or female socialized though but luckily this is not the experience of most trans people.

[–]MezozoicGaygay male 8 insightful - 1 fun8 insightful - 0 fun9 insightful - 1 fun -  (3 children)

The problem with this, is that to change someone's sex completely and fully doctors would need to replace whole skeleton and muscles, a lot of inner organs like heart, lungs, add new organs, add or remove some parts of the brain that are there to control hormonal levels. So in general - doctors will need to replace 80-90+% of human's body for it to be different sex (and if speaking about chromosomes, then 100% of body need to be replaced). And with that it will be easier to just create a new person from scracth. As majority of sex related changes are done to individuals in mother's womb before the birth, then in few months right after the birth, and "cosmetic" and "finishing" changes are done during puberty.

Technically, if doctors can make someone to produce one type of gametes, and to be able to use them, with all the consequences and ability to make healthy ofsprings - then it will be possible to call someone of that sex. This means that Female to Male transition theoretically possible, and Male to Female almost impossible, because of the amount of needed changes.

People still will have experience of the sex they grown up, so they will act like their previous sex still. Socialization is not innate and not based on biology.

[–]transwomanHesitantly QT?[S] 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (2 children)

Thanks for you input! Things like skeletal structure are something that probably won't ever be able to change, and it would certainly be easier to just create a whole human from scratch at that point. Also I agree that in a gendered society something like socialization can not be medically/scientifically created, unless we start talking about transhumanism and what that could mean for human conciousness. Just curious, but do you think that in a genderless society (or a society without gendered socialization) that someone who undergoes a medical/surgical process to "become" female is just as female as someone who was born female from birth? Or do you think, on some level, there's a kind of "sexed socialization" that would exist outside of gendered socialization which in turn would make them very different?

[–]MezozoicGaygay male 7 insightful - 1 fun7 insightful - 0 fun8 insightful - 1 fun -  (1 child)

Will they live through their first menstruation in age of 8-10? Will they live though puberty and feel pain of growing up, male gaze and being sexualized? And other things I only know from my women friends experience. You will be different person if you skip that all. Imagine yourself being put into capsule to sleep in 10 years and then waking up when you are 20. You will be just 10 years old in a different unknown body. However, technically they will be a woman, just without the experience of a woman prior to this point, and without understanding of some women talks.

[–]transwomanHesitantly QT?[S] 1 insightful - 1 fun1 insightful - 0 fun2 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

That makes a lot of sense to me. I do think we should establish a difference between gendered socialization and sexed socialization, however.

Things such as menstruation at a young age and puberty would likely fit into the category of sexed socialization that could never be eradicated from society, simply because it's based in biological processes. Things such as the male gaze and being sexualized would likely fit into the category of gendered socialization, which could eventually be eradicated by eliminating patriarchal structures and combating toxic masculinity.

I think I agree that even in a genderless society, we would still notice key differences in someone who got a "complete" sex change from male to female compared to someone who is female from birth, just based on biologically based factors of sexed socialization.

[–]worried19 7 insightful - 1 fun7 insightful - 0 fun8 insightful - 1 fun -  (1 child)

I really don't think it would ever be possible to change the sex of a born human being.

It might be possible to manipulate embryos to make them develop male or female, but I don't think that would be of much use to trans people. If science could change everything in an adult, including fertility, chromosomes, and DNA, I think that person would be biologically of their target sex. But they would still have their original socialization.

[–]transwomanHesitantly QT?[S] 3 insightful - 1 fun3 insightful - 0 fun4 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

I agree, I don't necessarily think it's a possibility, but it's still interesting to think about. In a world where it was possible, I'm not sure if I would classify someone who changed their sex as someone who was born of that same sex. I've always been under the impression that sex is observed at birth (and often while in the womb as well).

Many commenters have mentioned socialization, which I definitely agree with 100%. In a society with gendered socialization, that's not something we could medically create without some kind of way to modify human consciousness and thought, but that gets a little too sci-fi for the discussion at hand, I think.

Anyways thanks for taking time to respond, I appreciate your input ♥️

[–]peakingatthemomentTranssexual (natal male), HSTS 6 insightful - 1 fun6 insightful - 0 fun7 insightful - 1 fun -  (1 child)

My first thought, whenever questions like this come up (or when transwomen post they are so sure male pregnancy is coming), is that it just seems like the wrong place for scientific resources with all the human suffering in the world (even if I’d be someone who could benefit). Putting that aside though, I feel like it wouldn’t change many gender critical concerns or my concerns about safety because so much of that comes from socialization. I’d probably still assess whether a natal male trans person was more or less safe based things like age of transition and sexual orientation, plus more obvious things like appearance, behavior and mannerisms.

[–]transwomanHesitantly QT?[S] 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

I agree that it's definitely not something that would come anytime soon, if ever. It's more of a thought experiment, I suppose, given the uncertainty of what is to come in terms of future medical technology. Certainly there are far better ways that we could be applying medical and scientific resources that could potentially lead us to "complete" sex changes, especially given the amount of people who unnecessarily suffer in current society.

I agree with your assessment of gendered socialization, which is something a "complete" sex change wouldn't really be able to change. A 60 year old natal man could get one of these sex changes, but all of the socialization as a man would remain.

[–]CatbugMods allow rape victim blaming in this sub :) 5 insightful - 1 fun5 insightful - 0 fun6 insightful - 1 fun -  (4 children)

Nothing. The most advanced pseudovagina is still not a vagina. A super advanced diving suit doesn’t make one a fish either. The suit is just as artificial.

Besides, unless you’re gonna trans the baby as you’re announcing the pregnancy, the kid will be subjected to gendered socialisation and will not experience the same thing as their gender identity lines up with.
No surgery can give a man a girlhood, and they ought to be grateful for that.

[–]transwomanHesitantly QT?[S] 1 insightful - 1 fun1 insightful - 0 fun2 insightful - 1 fun -  (3 children)

Thank you for your input ☺️

When I created this post, I should have made mention of gendered socialization, as I agree with all the commenters that have talked about this in that no medical or surgical process could ever create that kind of socialization. I suppose I was primarily trying to focus in on the immutability of sex, and not anything gender-related.

I would not classify someone who was born female and someone who had a "complete" sex change in the same category, but I do think it makes the idea that "sex is immutable" a little more ambiguous. The primary reason I wouldn't classify them in the same category is that even in a genderless society (a society without gendered socialization), we would always have a level of "sexed socialization," since male and female bodies are just naturally different, which would naturally lead to differing paths of socialization. Is this a distinction you would also agree with?

[–]CatbugMods allow rape victim blaming in this sub :) 4 insightful - 1 fun4 insightful - 0 fun5 insightful - 1 fun -  (2 children)

I’d still disagree purely because is sex was actually mutable, it wouldn’t require extensive surgical and chemical intervention to change.

[–]transwomanHesitantly QT?[S] 1 insightful - 1 fun1 insightful - 0 fun2 insightful - 1 fun -  (1 child)

Right, but we already agree that sex is immutable as it stands in the present reality. We're just talking in a hypothetical situation where we can change all the signifiers we use for sex.

How does the extensiveness of a change invalidate the mutability of something? If it's possible to change, regardless of extensivity, doesn't that make it mutable?

[–]CatbugMods allow rape victim blaming in this sub :) 3 insightful - 1 fun3 insightful - 0 fun4 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

Time travel back to gestation and being born the opposite sex.

Nothing will undo socialisation so imo, surgeries will never cut it.

[–]Jizera 4 insightful - 1 fun4 insightful - 0 fun5 insightful - 1 fun -  (6 children)

Don't feed your head with absurd fantasies. It is a crazy idea that sex is simply determined by five specific characteristics: Sex hormones, internal genitalia, external genitalia, chromosomes, and gametes. This is like the absurd Plato’s “definition” of the human person as a featherless biped, what was ridiculed by Diogenes, who plucked the feathers from a cock a brought it to Plato” Academy.

The human body is not a mechanical machine made of replaceable or changeable parts. It is an extremely complex organism made up of trillions of cells gradually developed after fertilization from the single cell, the zygote, created by fusion of the egg and sperm. Each of those cells contains the complete genome of the individual which arises in fertilization; it drives and controls the whole development and directly or indirectly all the processes running in the body. Each of those cells “knows” the whole individual genome and therefore it also knows sex of the whole body, because the sex is determined by presence or absence of the sex-determining region which is a part of the DNA in the Y chromosome (sex-determining region Y - SRY gene ). A person having SRY is male; a person not having SRY is female. Therefore there are only two sexes and even so called intersex persons are either males or females (see this video).

Sex is a general term denoting the possible role, male or female, that an individual can play in reproduction. Sex refers the complex abilities the individual has, not only to some particular characteristics. Taking part in reproduction, the whole body performs a large number of various particular activities that are specific for the given role; the body is prepared and adapted for them in a variety of ways at different levels of all functional body subsystems, including the brain. All this is the result of four billion years of evolution of life and own development of the individual.

The purpose of the reproduction is creating new live individuals. The way how this process runs determines all body structures and functions and life processes of individuals. A healthy human being is the being who develops to reproduce, reproduces and dies; everything else is just necessary or random circumstances.

[–]transwomanHesitantly QT?[S] 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (5 children)

Don't feed your head with absurd fantasies

It's just a thought experiment, don't worry. I don't think this would be possible in any of our lifetimes, if at all.

Therefore there are only two sexes and even so called intersex persons are either males or females (see this video).

Thank you for this information. I'll check out the video!

I don't think I disagree with anything you've said, obviously the human body in relation to sex is much more complicated than we could probably ever imagine. But when we're talking about sex classification, there are certainly specifically outlined characteristics that we consider that are observed at birth. Things like external/internal genitlia are usually the most apparent of these, even if we don't know the chromosomes of the child immediately.

[–]Jizera 4 insightful - 1 fun4 insightful - 0 fun5 insightful - 1 fun -  (4 children)

The visible parts of the genitalia are mostly very reliable indicator of the possible role that an individual can play in reproduction. However it is not the reason why do we distinguish males and females. The reason is the principal difference of the roles in reproduction. Unrelated to reproduction the notions like sex, gender, male, female, man, woman have no meaning. I say it often and I will repeat it again: If we reproduced in same way as slugs there would be no men and no women.

[–]transwomanHesitantly QT?[S] 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (3 children)

Right, so the internal reproductive organs of a person are ultimately responsible for what role a person would play in reproduction. So doesn't that mean the role of reproduction is just a subclassification of a primary classification for how we establish male vs female?

[–]Jizera 3 insightful - 1 fun3 insightful - 0 fun4 insightful - 1 fun -  (2 children)

You only try to repeat Plato's nonsense with the featherless biped. Sex, gender, male, female, man, woman are not mathematical concepts and we don't establish male vs female. I wrote in the my first comment above

Sex is a general term denoting the possible role, male or female, that an individual can play in reproduction. Sex refers the complex abilities the individual has, not only to some particular characteristics.

We observe phenomena and the system of concepts represents them in our brain establishing model's following the structure of the observed phenomena and their observable relationships. It is night 03:30 where I live. I will try to explain it better tomorrow if it is still necessary.

[–]transwomanHesitantly QT?[S] 1 insightful - 1 fun1 insightful - 0 fun2 insightful - 1 fun -  (1 child)

I am curious about your perspective, and would love to hear more if you're willing to go into detail ☺️

I understand the idea of sex being observable roles a person can play in reproduction, however, I think I'm still not understanding how this can be detached from physical characteristics of one's biology.

As in, if there are observable roles to be played, we must ask, "how do we determine what role a person plays in reproduction?" The answer must lie in the reproductive organs a person has which allow them to take on said roles to begin with.

I'm interested in how a person who lacks the ability to reproduce would fit into this idea. The issue only seems to solve itself in my mind if I turn to the reproductive organs which are responsible for the concept of these observable reproductive roles.

[–]Jizera 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

It this moment I can write only incomplete response, because I will be next week offline and just now I have not time enough for the complete explanation.

I'm still not understanding how this can be detached from physical characteristics of one's biology.

I didn't write that the roles are detached from physical characteristics of one's biology. I wrote

Sex refers the complex abilities the individual has, not only to some particular characteristics.

The complex abilities are abilities of the whole body that are related also to the reproductive system.

Back to Plato for a while. A human being can’t be “defined” as a featherless biped, despite human beings don’t have feathers and typically they have two legs. Human beings are not “defined” by their observable body features. A human being is somebody who is a direct descendant of two other human beings. Therefore a person having Down syndrome or other conditions related to a genetic disorder is also a human being despite various differences from other humans. But we can recognize that someone is a human based on his characteristics and behaviour.

There are two different pairs of basic questions related to sex:

  1. Why do we differentiate people by sex and why is it extremely important?

  2. How do we recognize sex of a particular person and why does it seem so complicated?

We need to answer the first pair before we can answer the second pair.

Differentiation of people by sex is implicated by the way how we reproduce. Reproduction is a fundamental complex ability of every living species, and individuals of each animal species are equipped with a system of various particular body features and abilities that allow them to participate successfully in reproduction. Parts of the abilities are inborn brain functions, based on which further mental abilities or skills are developed and improved based also on experiences.

To reproduce successfully, we must be able to recognize individuals of our species and in them identify the right potential mating partners and also individuals who are our rivals in mating. Such functions can process simultaneously information which we obtain by senses of vision, hearing and smell; processed information generally includes particular visible body features and behaviour, voice pitch and colour, pheromones and similar sex dependent chemicals spreading around persons. In a particular situation we often don’t obtain the full range of information we are able to use to identify potential mating partners and rivals; we even don’t need to see outer genitalia appearance. This evaluation of other people is fast and mostly subconscious, we are aware only of the result. If we identify some contradictions we are disquieted and we are looking for more information to find out the real situation. Therefore we need and we are able to distinguish two groups of people, potential mating partners and mating rivals, to which we naturally behave in different ways. Based on experience we consider those identified as the mating rivals being of the same type as we are; we identify with them. Similarly, we consider the identified potential mating partners as being of a different type; we don’t identify with them. Such functions must be inborn and culturally independent and all other similar species (like mammals) have them, otherwise they would not be able to reproduce. However in humans, they are also accompanied by recognition abilities gained by experience using criteria that can be culturally conditioned, as for example, type attire, haircut, body decoration, or certain behaviour. Also not all humans we consider potential mating partners or rivals; typically sexually immature or old individuals are not included in these groups.

A partial summary: The notion of sex is related to our natural inborn ability to identify our potential matting partners and rivals. Identification of partners and rivals is generally based on complex information obtained by senses of sight, hearing and smell.

However the human brain has the ability of thinking in concepts (notions) which is closely related to use of the language. Our brain creates inner representation of observed and experienced phenomena using various systems of concepts and their relationships to build models that help us to understand the phenomena and keep complex structured systems of information and share them with other people. Since time immemorial humans participate in reproduction, observe all related phenomena and build corresponding system concepts trying to have a consistent model representing all important aspects of the reproduction process. The basic part of this model is very old and it precedes scientific research and it is based on elementary easily observed phenomena which can be summarized in a simplified way like this: To start development of a new human being, two existing human beings must perform together a special activity in which each of them has a special role very different from the role of the other participant. One participant must ejaculate a special fluid, which he produces, inside of the body of the other participant. If this activity is successful, which is not always the case, the new individual starts to develop in the body of the participant in which the fluid was ejaculated. Both participants must have a special set of organs necessary for the role they have in the activity and the participant, in the body of which the new individual develops, must also have special organs providing an environment for the developing new individual. Each human being, able of successful reproduction, can realize only one of the two roles for his whole life and has only one type of the reproductive organs. Therefore we can divide all human beings able to reproduce into two groups based on their potential role in reproduction and we can recognize the potential role based on the type of reproductive organs they have. We can include into these two groups all human beings whose type of genitals we can clearly recognize, because they definitely are not able to realize the role related to the other type of genitals. Doing this, we negatively relate the groups also to the role which is impossible for the members of the group.

[–]luckystar 3 insightful - 1 fun3 insightful - 0 fun4 insightful - 1 fun -  (1 child)

GC leaning but not 100% GC here. I can definitely see the argument that trans people are no longer their birth sex. As you said we have those 5 characteristics we use to determine sex, but at least some, but not all, of them can be changed. Now sex is ultimately a binary (there are only X and Y chromosomes, and only eggs and sperm, no other options), so strictly speaking if you're born [fe]male then you will always be [fe]male for the rest of your life. However, some people view sex as more of a strongly bimodal spectrum. They would argue that a fully transitioned trans woman, for instance, is at least partially biologically female due to no longer having a penis (external genitalia), and having hormones closer to that of a female (HRT). Whether those are achieved artificially or not doesn't matter; for instance if a person was born missing a leg and was a wheelchair user, but later in life got a prosthetic leg, we wouldn't continue to view them as a wheelchair user and we'd call them a person with two legs in casual conversation, though we would be remiss to pretend that a prosthetic leg is literally exactly identical to a natural leg. The people who focus on "vaginoplasty is an inside out penis" are technically correct, while not colloquially how we would think about such a procedure. Let's say you're a burn victim and you get a skin graft from your buttocks to your face, we wouldn't say "This person doesn't have a face, they have a part of their butt that they put on their face", even if that was technically the case. So in that sense, at least on a conceptual level, I understand the idea that a trans woman can be considered to be at least partially "biologically female".

I have a few issues with this concept, though. As you can see from the metaphors above, a thought exercise I often do is, "How would we talk about this condition if the person involved was not trans/"gender identity" was not a factor?". And that's where things get a little dicey and IMO the insult to the dignity of non-trans people outweighs the insult to the identity of trans people here. Because if we start saying someone can be "more [fe]male" or "less [fe]male" due to the presence or absence of sex characteristics, we're now making claims about a good number of non trans people. For instance, it would imply that women who've had a hysterectomy are "less of a woman" than women who do still have their uterus. It would imply that a man who lost his testicles to cancer is "less of a man" than a man who has testicles. And of course, it means that intersex people can never be "fully" male or female. And maybe, depending on how you define sex, that is technically accurate? But it seems like a big insult to the dignity of people in these conditions, the same way calling a vaginoplasty an "inverted penis" or a skin graft a "butt on your face" would be. So in that sense to me it comes down to ethics, and I am not comfortable using this "spectrum of biological sex" as a way of conceptualizing biological sex. I think it's better to say you're either biologically male or biologically female, and that a biological [fe]male can have many varied traits.

Then we have to ask ourselves how useful is "sex" as a descriptor, considering that it implies a wide range of possible traits? Part of the question too is whether sex is something set once at birth that can never change, or if changes in the body should be considered in updating our definition of a person's sex. In over 99% of cases, sex is determined at birth by the presence of a penis or vagina. If the person removes that organ, does it still make sense to refer to a descriptor of their condition that was based on that organ? If you're born sighted but later lose your vision, you are no longer considered sighted, and you are considered blind, even though you weren't born that way. Would it make sense to exclude such a person from services for the blind on the basis of being "sighted at birth"? I do think that there is room for some updating of our priors when it comes to describing a person. However, does that have to be done by updating our descriptor of their biological sex, especially when every last trans person retains at least one (chromosomes) trait of their natal sex? Take in healthcare situations, information such as "has had a vaginoplasty" or "is on a course of female hormones" would influence the appropriate medical treatment (eg: not giving a testicular cancer screening, or considering the hormones when prescribing medicine). In that sense though we can just refer to those specific conditions; sex alone doesn't tell us enough info (I mean, with over 99% accuracy, you can assume a person whose biological sex is listed as male is going to have a penis, but strictly speaking you don't know for sure until you physically examine the patient).

Now to more directly address your question about a person who has changed ALL of their sex characteristics, including DNA. I'm pretty utilitarian in my philosophy so to me these thought exercises aren't super useful. It reminds me of the "if you could implant a trans woman's brain into a biological woman's body, would she be a woman?" thought experiment. We could speculate on this, but in reality the odds of such a situation actually happening are so low that for me I'd rather spend time thinking about situations that are likely to happen. If there's some evidence that changing chromosomes is going to be a possibility in the future, I'd be interested in that, but my first thought would definitely go to helping correct chromosomal conditions such as Down syndrome, rather than trans issues.

[–]transwomanHesitantly QT?[S] 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

Wow, this was a really detailed response! You're awesome 😅

I think I agree with you in a lot of places here, especially the idea that perhaps sex as a classifier isn't always going to be accurate of the correct medical care someone will need. As a trans woman myself, I can attest to that from experience with my doctor. My doctor's office is not designed for people like me, who will still need a prostate cancer screening one day in the future, but also will need a breast cancer screening as well. I think this is something that can be improved over time, and I like the idea of having specific notes like "has had vaginoplasty" or "is on a course of female hormones".

I've considered the idea of some aspects of sex being bimodal, whereas others are binary. I feel the same way in that I think it would be kind of harmful to classify people as "more female" or "more male" than others. It almost puts people's sex into a hierarchy, and I feel that can be dangerous in a world that's already rooted in sexism. It's almost a way for the patriarchy to enforce more expectations on those who are female.

It's understandable that these kinds of thought experiments might seem useless. In fact, this question doesn't really matter at the end of the day because we're talking about something that won't be possible in our lifetimes, if it becomes possible at all. Of course, if medical technology comes to a point where this is possible, we should definitely be applying all said resources to help people in need, such as those with chromosomal disorders as you mentioned. Trans people are (usually) healthy and shouldn't be the top priority by any means.

[–]cybitch 3 insightful - 1 fun3 insightful - 0 fun4 insightful - 1 fun -  (1 child)

Technology evolving to the point of this being possible wouldn't make sex any more ambiguous than humans inventing guns makes tigers not dangerous. There are 2 kinds of gametes humans can produce, and as a result 2 kinds of roles we can play during reproduction - the reason biological sex exists in the first place. There are also humans with bodies that are incapable of reproduction, who don't fit into either role, but that doesn't change the fact that humans have 2 sexes, no more, no less, that just means sometimes animals are born with genetic abnormalities. We don't treat any other kind of genetic abnormality as something that defines our species, for example noone would claim the human species evolved to have a variable amount of fingers just because sometimes one is born with more than 5 on each hand.

So no, nothing will make human sex ambiguous. It's a trait that's been well defined since the beginning of time in all primates. Some potential technological advancement doesn't change anything about how nature evolved us, it just means we've learned yet another way to alter our environment to be more to our liking.

[–]transwomanHesitantly QT?[S] 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

Thanks for your response ☺️

I agree with you, there are 2 total sexes, which is based on the number of gametes humans are capable of producing, and that this idea in itself wouldn't change regardless of technological advancements.

I suppose what I meant by "ambiguous" is that sex is currently understood to be immutable, but this immutability becomes less clear in this particular thought experiment. So if, somehow, we reached a level of medical advancements which allowed us to change all the sex characteristics of a person, do you think that person would "become" a member of the opposite sex, or would they remain the sex that they were born as?