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Notions of gender

March 14, 2023

There is a clear biological definition of which animals are male and which are female. It isn’t about having a penis. Most male birds lack that. It’s not a matter of specific chromosomes. The male Y chromosome is a mammalian trait. Nor is it defined by where conception occurs. Many fish do that externally. It doesn’t involve relative body size. Nor which gender is showier. In birds, that’s usually the male. It’s not even about which gender cares for or carries the developing embryos. One conservative group wants to ban a children’s book because it is:

A picture book about seahorses, which touched on everything from their ability to change color to the independent movement of their eyes, threatened to “normalize that males can get pregnant” by explaining that male seahorses give birth; the Moms suspected a covert endorsement of “gender fluidity.”

george-sandI suspect if some reporter were to ask conservative legislators what the biological definition of male is, most would flunk. One such here in Texas wants to let people sue drag shows. And what characterizes a drag show? From the proposed bill (pdf): “A ‘Drag performance’ means a performance in which a performer exhibits a gender that is different than the performer’s gender recorded at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers.”

A biologist can tell you what distinguishes male and female animals. But cannot tell you what distinguishes male and female clothing. That is a matter of culture. The fact that a Texas legislator wants to dictate gender-appropriate clothing is as telling as the fact that a group wanting to ban school books calls themselves “Moms for Liberty.”

Prior to Trump’s court appointments, it would be a certainty that any such law would be thrown out by the courts on first amendment grounds. I wish I were so certain now. Tennessee is vying with Texas to see which can be the most draconian.

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