Everyone’s sex is constantly changing every time they take a breath and oxygen is exchanged with carbon dioxide at the cellular level; DNA replicates during cellular division as all our body’s cells replace themselves; our brains lay down new pathways to record memories and the like; hormone levels fluctuate over the course of a day, month, and lifetime; and, our genitals change size/shape/form during puberty, sexual arousal, and menopause. All these changes happen in a social, cultural, and environmental context. We are not the same person we were 5 minutes ago. The body is not a static object; it’s a dynamic, ongoing process. And you offer several pieces of evidence supporting this position: puberty, menopause, changes in sperm count/”sex drive,” etc. All are changes in human biological sex.

As I offered to Sasha Tarakanova above: if you can’t point to me the aspect of human biological sex that is not undergoing constant, dynamic change in relationship to society/culture/environment, I am prepared to consider the possibility that “sex” is not socially constructed. In this larger question (“Is sex socially constructed?”) it’s important to note that social construction is not the same as volitional or spontaneous change. It is not the same as “transsexualism,” “cross dressing,” or “sex change” surgery. And it would first be useful to settle on a definition of the term “sex.” Which aspect of “sex” are you arguing is static, immutable, and unchanging? Or beyond social/cultural/environmental influence? (I didn’t see any in your response above.)

If you haven’t read it, you should look at Cordelia Fine’s books on the science of gender differences. She lays waste to the fiction that there are “male” and “female” brains. Fausto-Sterling has an older, but still relevant, book on this subject, as well. Some of her writing is available at her website and I highly recommend her book Sexing the Body. Her last book usefully summarizes her thinking on this topic. And Rebecca Jordan-Young’s book Brain Storm decimates the ‘scientific’ research into sex differences in the brain.

I understand this topic can be challenging. We are encouraged to think our sex is a static, unchanging thing. Once “a man,” always “a man,” etc. But that position is simply not supported by the evidence, much of it produced in The Sciences…including biology.

Michael J. Murphy, MA, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Illinois. He is the author of many book chapters, and encyclopedia and journal articles. Most recently he edited Living Out Loud: An Introduction to LGBTQ History, Society, and Culture (Routledge, 2019). He lives in St. Louis with his husband.

Professional homosexual. Professor. Writer. Scholar. Activist. Husband.

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