Is Gender (Sex) Binary?

In following a Twitter thread, #IStandWithMaya, i stumbled onto a scientific american blog post which asserts that “Actual research shows that sex is anything but binary.” What do scientists with a Christian worldview say on this topic? Thanks.

See for backstory on #IStandWithMaya.

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Hello, @djhair01! Thanks for coming to the Connect community with your question. As we take the time to read the article, I would be curious what else about the article struck you? You already mentioned,

But I wonder if you hear the author making a compelling case? What were some other passages that brought up questions for you? :slight_smile:

With this being such a political hot-button issue, we need to make sure we remain respectful and understand what sort of argument is being made.


I am sure that @Sam_Allberry has some wonderful insight he could bring to this issue. I wonder if he might have some time to share. I know he stays pretty busy.

I daresay that the author is conflating terms a bit in the blog post, and there’s no question that s/he(?) is letting his/her interpretation of the evidence be heavily influenced by his/her worldview.

I think the author’s most legitimate point is that societies tend to develop rather narrow, stereotypical concepts about masculinity vs. femininity; this is something that I won’t dispute. From a purely functional, reproductive standpoint, however, there are only two sexes, male and female. As it turns out, though, the development process is an intricate, complicated dance that still isn’t fully understood, and any number of abnormal events can lead to abnormal results; the people whose biology is impacted by these abnormal results are collectively referred to as intersex. Individual intersex conditions are fairly rare, but if you put them all together, intersex people make up about 1-2% of the human population.

In the vast majority of cases, sex is determined by the SRY gene on the Y chromosome, which triggers the differentiation of the gonads into testes about 6-8 weeks into development; prior to this point, the gonads are undifferentiated, and without a functional SRY gene present, they will develop into ovaries. However, any number of abnormal events can affect the final outcome: the SRY gene may be damaged or lost in an XY zygote, preventing male development, or it may be be transferred from the Y chromosome to the X chromosome during meiosis, resulting in an XX male. Additionally, a person may have more or less sex chromosomes if meiotic division doesn’t split the father’s genetic material evenly between the gametes (ex. an X female or XXY male). Further abnormal situations can occur if certain developmental events (ex. the descent of the testes) fail to be properly executed. Depending on the exact situation, the final person may appear normal but suffer infertility, deal with mild to severe impairments, or (if the genetic/developmental abnormality is too extreme) be miscarried. Even when everything goes normally, however, and we end up with a fertile XY male or XX female, the interaction between genes (which are more akin to dials than on/off switches) and environment leads to a broad diversity of physical, mental, and psychological results.

Okay, all that aside (and it’s a majorly simplified explanation), we as Christians are left with the question of how to deal with the messiness that is biology. I don’t believe that the correct response is to take the exceptions as proof that the male/female model is wrong, nor do I think trying to force-fit people into a mold (which has tended to be the traditional approach) is the best idea. From my perspective, then, the best option is to treat the male/female dichotomy as basically correct while avoiding the temptation to say that men must be like this or women must act like that. At the same time, we must acknowledge that people who don’t fit the typical mold are just that… people… who are made in the image of God and deserve to be loved and valued as much as anyone else. And in the end, sex and sexuality is an earthly affair; at the Resurrection, there will be no marriage (Matthew 22:30) except that between Christ and His bride, the Church, and all the incongruities between body, mind, and spirit will be sorted out by the God who makes all things new.


Michah - Thanks for your explanation and insights.


Kathleen - sorry about the delay in responding. Thanks for your concern about respectfulness.

To answer your questions:

Another aspect of the article that caught my attention was the amount of information shared. Unfortunately, i got lost in the details, which really made me appreciate the succinctness of Micah’s explanation.

I didn’t consider the article to make a compelling case, it appears to be citing outliers as the “new normal”.

Finally, i didn’t understand the connection in the passages where the author appeared to link physical manifestations to environmental factors. Thanks.

Hello Djhair01,

Thanks for the question. MicahB’s outline of some biological complications to a binary definition of maleness and femaleness is good, but I would make the additional point that the plurality of conditions cited represent dysfunction and therefore an abnormal condition (it is recognized that some argue against definitions of normal and abnormal but that’s a different discussion topic). Since I posit the normal sexual state is a binary attribute, I also argue against the very definition of transgender. In Christian love, I and we recognize the human value of all those who are so confused and/or traumatized that they mis-identify as transgender, yet the emperor garners no benefit if he’s parading unclothed down main-street.
I believe the fact of requisite surgery and hormone therapy directly obfuscate the legitimacy of transgenderism. Further, the basic claim is that “I’m a male in a female body” or visa versa. The point being that this declaration by advocates of transgenderism validates maleness and femaleness, thus binary sexuality. That is, if maleness and femaleness aren’t true attributes then it wouldn’t matter whether I was disposed towards an opposite sexual proclivity; it only matters if maleness and femaleness is real.
The UK is radical in its promulgation of unmoral and amoral propaganda, especially in the area of sexuality and killing infants in utero. My God grant them eyes to see. And may God guide America away from this folly.

I am not a scientist, but I too share in the question of sexual identity. So, may I offer my understanding. (I can? Oh goody! :slightly_smiling_face:)

The sentiment and feelings of the human body may identify propensity; but not legitimacy. How something or someone makes me feel is not synonymous with; what is best for me. Body or soul.

GOD’s prescription for living offers the knowledge that provides the best for us. Body and soul. We may believe it concerns an impact upon GOD in some manner. But the truth is; nothing we are or are not will ever alter who and what GOD is. The created can never define the Creator.

I don’t think we try until we want to follow propensity. Then we say sentiment or feelings debunk reality. This, instead of GOD’s Word, identifies what is natural, what is legitimate, and what is true.

GOD’s prescription for living is similar to what the human parent will prescribe for its own children.

Fire may look pretty. Fire may mesmerize the child. But the parent knows what harm it will bring if the child touches the flame. I may be born without the ability to feel pain, but the destruction will be the same. Good and loving parents will always do what they can to keep the child safe. That is no less what GOD has done for us. No less what GOD continues to do for us. Free will decrees that one day the child may opt to touch the flame, but the ramification will always result in destruction.

GOD says to do things a certain way. We say, “but I feel like doing it another way!” GOD says trust my heart for your best.

As one of His children, no matter how drawn I am to the fire; I want to trust Him. I will trust His oversight and He will help me.

GOD has no agenda but my safety. GOD has no desire but to be united once again with me. Therefore it would be better for me to purchase a flashlight than to ever follow my attraction to the flame.

Perhaps sexual identity is not binary, but the sexual identity has been prescribed by the Creator. Do we trust Him or not?

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Greetings Mr. Hair!
Gender is absolutely binary - it is either male or female, and can be determined through the use of a simple blood test. There is even one available to pregnant mothers to see what gender their unborn baby is.
You will be well edified if you look up “Ben Carson gender identity” on a search engine. He was a renowned neurosurgeon, the first to ever separate twins conjoined at the head, before he ran for President, and now currently serves as Director of HUD. He is a VERY intelligent Christian who knows quite a bit about biological gender.
I hope this will lead you to, not just answers, but the truth.
God bless you!