Why Are “Gender Critical” Activists So Fond of Gametes?

plus my new video “Trans People and Biological Sex: What the Science Says”

Julia Serano

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an image (cartoon or painting) of several dozen sperm converging on an ovum/egg
image by Nadezhda Moryak from Pexels

One of the most common ways in which anti-trans activists attempt to delegitimize trans people is by playing the “biological sex” card. As both a biologist and author of several trans-themed books, I have written extensively about the many problems inherent in such “biological sex” arguments. Those writings are collected in Biology, Sex, and Transgender People: A Resource Page. Adding to that body of work, I just released a YouTube video entitled Trans People and Biological Sex: What the Science Says. It is my most thorough critique yet, and it addresses nearly every concern and claim that I could find along these lines — I encourage you to check it out!

But there was one point that I couldn’t quite fit into the video without it becoming far too long of a digression: the recent gender-critical fascination with gametes. This is a rather new development, as infamous trans-exclusionary-feminist books like Janice Raymond’s The Transsexual Empire and Sheila Jeffreys’s Gender Hurts never once mention the word “gametes” or raise the issue of “gamete size.” Indeed, reducing all people down to the status of being either “egg producers” or “sperm producers” appears to be a rather reductive and tenuous foundation upon which to build a feminist movement. For more on this point, see Grace Lavery’s excellent essay Gender Criticism Versus Gender Abolition: On Three Recent Books About Gender.

And, as I discuss in my Trans People and Biological Sex video, gametes suffer from the same problem that genitals, sex chromosomes, and other imperceptible sex characteristics have, namely, we do not rely on them at all in everyday life. Every single day, we call people “he” or “she,” and relate to them as women or men, without ever knowing what gametes they may or may not possess.

Of course, as with all “biological sex” arguments, gender-critical activists are not attempting to appeal to logic or common sense here. Rather, they are making an appeal to authority. In effect, they are saying, “trans activists may insist that sex is a spectrum, but scientists have determined that sex is a strict binary based on gametes.” In this essay, I will interrogate such…

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Julia Serano

writes about gender, sexuality, social justice, & science. author of Whipping Girl, Excluded, 99 Erics, & her latest: SEXED UP! more at juliaserano.com