Definitions of sex side conversation

You’re on a biology forum. You should know that sex isn’t assigned at birth, it is biological. Don’t use sex-denying terminology.

By the way, I support trans people and respect their identities. But I don’t think we need to deny biological sex to support trans people. That’s really just pandering to them, and it’s not helpful, it’s harmful.

Sex is assigned at birth though, no one is chromosome-testing newborn babies, so an individual with say, XY chromosomes but an androgen insensitivity would outwardly present female and be assigned that way.


But human sexing is almost always accurate. Even when it isn’t, the incorrect sexing isn’t arbitrary, but actually based on opposite-sex traits, so sex is not assigned. In any case, it’s biological sex that’s important, not sex recorded at birth. Trans people who were correctly sexed at birth shouldn’t be equated with cis people who weren’t. The latter are cis, not trans. They don’t go through gender dysphoria in the way that trans people do. Some cis women were recorded male at birth, but they have periods and can get pregnant and more importantly, have ovaries and not testes, so it makes no sense to call them trans women.

Just because sexing is almost always accurate, doesn’t mean there aren’t inaccuracies, and that we shouldn’t account for them in our speech.

…what? you’re honestly going to have to elaborate here because I’m honestly not sure what you’re referring to.

Regardless, early childhood socialization matters and if someone is (biologically) male but assigned female because of external sex characteristics - or worse, childhood genital damage or surgery due to ambiguous sexual characteristics - and they’re socialized as a girl but grow up and realize, hey, I’m actually a boy - sure they’re not technically trans but they’re going to go through a lot of the same anguish that trans individuals do go through.

There is an extremely famous case of this latter example happening to a gentleman by the name of David Reimer (wiki link here - I’ll summarize, people can read further if they’re interested:

Basically, David was one of a set of male twins who were diagnosed with phimosis and underwent medical circumcision (well, at least David did, his twin didn’t), but David’s went horribly wrong and his penis was extremely damaged. A psychologist who had a lot of (bunk) theories about gender being a blank slate recommended the family raise David as a girl (since not having a penis was viewed as a horrible thing) So they performed sex reassignment surgery on David - partially because the doctor wanted a test subject of all things - and raised him as a girl.

Guess what, he wasn’t a girl, he was a boy, and basically spent a tormented childhood being socialized as a girl until he finally rebelled against the ‘doctor’ and his parents and forced a confession out of them. He assumed a male identity but never really lived a happy life, and unfortunately, eventually, took his own life.

It is an entirely tragic story, possibly not exactly what you’re talking about, but I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure what you’re talking about, and still, I think, a good story to tell so that its like doesn’t happen again.


Also, in the interest of trying to keep a positive tone to this thread - and I desperately want it to stay positive, instead of constantly splitting hairs about definitions - this is fantastic news and hopefully something that will continue happening in multiple states. Thank absolute goodness that we still have some judges that are sane enough to strike down these obvious terrible, targeted, laws.



My stepson (transmale, AFAB, pronouns him / his) doesn’t live in Arkansas, but I’m disgusted by the number of states that have been jumping onto this bandwagon. He’s going to need appropriate (and sympathetic) healthcare wherever he and his husband live, though, and I’m happy to see that there’s at least one court that can manifest sanity.


ah, my time to shine has come again for sharing links! I believe some of the confusion in the above posts about gender vs sex and is from some mixed up terminology (the morderm expression I think Astra was trying to use was “Assigned gender at Birth” (often shortened to AGAB), often used to discuss “gender socialization” before someone came out as, or realized they were trans/nonbinary/genderqueer–

As for

“Some cis women were recorded male at birth, but they have periods and can get pregnant and more importantly, have ovaries and not testes, so it makes no sense to call them trans women”

– I believe Cyanfox is talking about people who are intersex-- people who are born with abnormal chromosomes and or physical traits is best summed up by “ambiguous genitalia”; intersex children are routinely and forcibly assigned a gender at birth, up to and including performing surgury on infants to make their existing sex characteristics more closely resemble their assigned gender and often have the truth hidden from them their entire lives, even when they’re kept on medications and hormones as children and young adults.

If someone is intersex and raised as a girl, but later realizes that they feel more like a boy, even before finding out about their intersex status, it’s entirely each individual’s prerogative as to how they identify, and there are as many trans intersex individuals as there are trans individuals who are not intersex. Being intersex does not automatically make you trans, or nonbinary, or cis, or anything; intersex individuals have as much self determination and capacity to explore their gender as anyone else.

In fact. This is not a random example.

May I present to you, the 116 year old memoir’s of a jewish, intersex man born in 1884 and raised as a girl from birth-- the Memoirs of N. O. Body, aka Karl. M. Baer, who would be 134 years old this year :)

Here’s the english translation available to borrow on the Web Archive’s lending library:

and if anyone here speaks german, here is the original 1907 version, which is public domain but not available elsewhere online (that I have found) due to lack of awareness / no one currently wants to transcribe the old german by hand lol

two different silent film adaptions were made of N.O.Body’s memoirs, in 1912 and 1919-- only the 1912 version exists today, as Nazis destroyed the 1919 version!

These memoirs are 116 years old and I am eager to read them-- I just got my physical copy in the mail the other day! If anyone knows of any other historical queer documents, let me know, I’ve made it my mission to get my hands on as many physical copies of different works as I can for preservation


The term “assigned” may be appropriate for a few intersex people, but certainly not the majority of humans, who aren’t even intersex. Would you say things dated using radiocarbon dating are assigned an age? Radiocarbon dating is probably less reliable than human sexing.

It’s more appropriate to say that sex is recorded at birth rather than assigned. But in most cases, you should speak of biological sex rather than sex assigned/recorded at birth or similar terms. Because that’s what really matters in most cases. Saying “sex assigned at birth” when you mean biological sex really seems like sugarcoating biological sex and like a euphemism.

By the way, David Reimer was actually recorded male at birth. It’s just that he was raised as a girl.

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I don’t know if this is historical enough: there was an Austrian intersex skier who won a gold medal as woman:

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This only makes sense if you define “biological sex” as phenotypic sex (as apposed to genotypic sex or a combination of the two). Sex assigned at birth is most commonly exclusively based on phenotypic sex. So if you wanted to use different terminology than “sex assigned at birth” replacing it with “phenotypic sex at birth” would make more sense than “biological sex”. “Biological sex” is an ambiguous term; does it mean phenotypic sex, genotypic sex, a combination, or is it used to deny the existence of intersex people?

Carbon dating is almost always expressed as an approximation not an absolute (e.g., this fossil is approximately 1 million years old). Sex assigned at birth is expressed as an absolute. Saying biological sex is absolute is inaccurate because a) the term itself is not well defined, and b) typically only phenotypic sex informs “biological sex” even though genotype is an important component. In other words, we know conclusively what sex is recorded on a birth certificate, but unless both phenotype and genotype are considered, “biological sex” is not absolute (e.g., certain intersex cases would not be discernible from phenotype alone).


I guess I’m missing why the discussion is even taking place? I hear everything you’re saying but I’m not understanding what the conclusion or point is meant to be, honestly.




oooh, i’ll look that one up! I’m mostly curious about the oldest things but will take anything XD

People working in biological collections might be interested in this archive around “queering the museum”. It’s fun to listen to these stories and think about how we interact as curators, project creators, and observers on iNat.


Biological sex is well-defined and absolute. It refers to whether you have ovaries or testes. An intersex person has some opposite-sex traits, but that doesn’t change their biological sex. Speaking of biological sex isn’t denying the existence of intersex people.

I’m not sure if the term “sex assigned at birth” is ever appropriate, but if it is, it’s only appropriate for intersex people, maybe not even all of them. Even for that minority, “sex recorded at birth” may be better, especially with all the misuse of “assigned” terminology that is occurring these days.

We shouldn’t use the “assigned” terminology instead of “biological” for everyone just because that’s what’s appropriate for intersex people. The vast majority of us are not in that minority, we shouldn’t misappropriate and trivialise their experience.

Speaking of cis women who were recorded male at birth, maybe they could correctly say that they were assigned male at birth. But trans women cannot, and should not, and if they do, they are being insensitive to said cis women.

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The point is that you shouldn’t speak of sex as assigned, as @astra_the_dragon did.

I get that the term “pandering” is sometimes used to criticise good trans-friendly practices, such as respecting trans people’s identities, but the trans rights movement unfortunately promotes some bad practices in the name of trans rights.

Trans people suffer from gender dysphoria. This can make it hard for them to accept the fact that their biological sex is male/female and not the other sex. To relieve this discomfort, trans rights activists ask everyone to abandon/dismiss/disregard the notion of biological sex; which is a terrible idea, since biological sex is real, important and not a social construct; making it pandering, or at least akin to pandering.

To abandon, dismiss or disregard the notion of biological sex is sex denial. The “assigned” terminology for sex is sex denying terminology.


i don’t feel like this post is appropriate for this forum, or anywhere else for that matter. You’re clearly missing the point, and i don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but it’s harmful either way. But, as others have tried to explain, biological sex is not a binary, it’s very fudgy across nature, and not straightforward at all. All you can really say is ‘i have a penis’ or ‘i have a vagina’, anything else in terms of inherent irrefutable sex is not scientifically valid


Also, it’s not really relevant that carbon dating is approximate, rather than absolute. Would you say things that are carbon dated are assigned an age range? And, like I said, biological sex is absolute. You say it isn’t because of all the different combinations of sex traits you can have, but couldn’t sex recorded at birth be thought of as a range of sex trait combinations then?

Missing the point? Which point? And how is it harmful? I reckon it’s bad trans rights activism that’s harmful, and it is actually trans and intersex people who are particularly harmed by it. Sex deniers are like Autism Speaks. You can oppose bad activism without being a bigot.

Are you saying that testes and ovaries don’t exist, or that there is no clear distinction between them? That there is no difference between an egg and a sperm?

Edit because this comment was hidden: There’s nothing wrong with this comment. You should explain why this comment is bad rather than flagging it. I don’t hate trans or intersex people, I just disagree with sex denial.

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