Wednesday, June 10, 2020

An Open Letter to JK Rowling

Dear Jo,


You don't know me, but I'm an author. I write science fiction and, as such, must research science on occasion to get all my facts straight.

Recently, you doubled down and wrote a freakishly long defense of your transphobia. Needless to say, I was terribly disappointed in you. I can sense you're already terribly devastated over this sudden revelation, so I'll be nice and take it easy on you.

As a speculative fiction author, daring to speculate on the potential of human beings is something I take great pride and joy in. One day, I hope we can move beyond things like racism, sexism, homophobia, and, yes, transphobia.

But, at the same time, in my stories, I'm doing my best to represent the best of humanity because I want people to open their minds to a better world and give up the closed-minded labels of a worldview corrupted by fear and hate.

I think you can probably relate, as you wrote a little known series about good vs. evil yourself. Okay, maybe it's a little bit better known than I care to admit--but, please, can't you see why that makes what you say all the more damaging? There are young boys and girls and people of various sexes and gender identities all looking up to you.

They don't know who I am. I'm not a mega-billionaire with a podium or a bajillion Twitter followers. If I said toy-poodles aren't real poodles, nobody will care. If you say it, millions will care. Please, Jo, I implore you, choose your words wisely.

You say that you've done the research and know for sure there are two biological sexes. Really Jo?

Because, to me, it doesn't sound like you understand that chromosomal karyotypes are what determine the "sex" of a biological organism and that these karyotypes often have very different structures.

As you may know, in humans, there are 46 chromosomes, present as 23 pairs. Twenty-two pairs are found in both sexes (autosomes) and one pair (sex chromosomes) is present as either XY (in males) or XX (in females).

Normally, all cells in the body that have a nucleus will contain a complete set of the same 46 chromosomes, except for the reproductive cells (eggs and sperm), which contain a half set of 23. This half set is the genetic contribution that will be passed on to a child. At conception, half sets from each parent combine to form a new set of 46 chromosomes in the developing fetus.

Also, as you may know, if there are more or less than the 46 chromosomes there can be physical and genetic mutations that cause certain genetic problems. But there are also different combinations of stable chromosomal karyotypes that extend the sex chromosomes in humans (yes, they are technically genetic mutations but happen frequently enough as not to be shocking to anyone who deals with genetics every day).

This means, the necessary genetic information for biological sex is there but can often be structured in a different way than just XY or XX.

So far, there are approximately 6 stable karyotypes that we know of (but possibly more we haven't come across yet).

The six biological karyotype sexes that do not result in death to the fetus are:

X – Roughly 1 in 2,000 to 1 in 5,000 people (Turner’s )
XX – Most common form of female
XXY – Roughly 1 in 500 to 1 in 1,000 people (Klinefelter)
XY – Most common form of male
XYY – Roughly 1 out of 1,000 people
XXXY – Roughly 1 in 18,000 to 1 in 50,000 births

So, if you're going to get technical, each karyotype variation isn't the "same" sex reorganized, it's a completely new structure and therefore a completely new sex.

This means there are, genetically speaking, 6 distinguishable biological sexes in humans as identified by karyotype testing of the chromosomes themselves.

Like gender, biological sex sits on a spectrum of chromosomal types, some more stable than others. Albeit the spectrum is limited, it still contains identifiable ranges of chromosome types.

But what does all of this mean?

Well, it means there are people who fit the male/female binary type and there are people who don't. For example, there are people who look completely female with full breasts and nubile bodies and, yes--even have vaginas--but are actually completely male, genetically speaking (see androgen insensitivity syndrome).

Would you call that a woman or a man? Male or female? You see breasts and vaginas and think--there is a woman! But you'd be wrong.

The thing to realize is that they are all VALID sexes according to genetics and, more importantly, according to science. They just don't fit neatly into the two most common sexes that you know of.

So, no Jo. It doesn't appear you've done one iota of research. You seem to have just demonstrated the Dunning Kruger Effect in all of its glory. And I for one expected more from a woman of your intellect.

And I'm sorry people are calling you a TERF and what not, but you need to understand, Jo, even though I realize you're not a trans-exclusionary radical feminist, the things you are saying about trans-folks sound indistinguishable from their harshest, meanest, and most hateful detractors. You know, all the people who are genuine transphobes

And if it walks and talks like a duck...well, then I hope you can see the problem here.
You claim you're an educator but I too am an educator and can clearly see you haven't done the research you claim to have done.

Please, understand, biological sex isn't a simple binary proposition. You believing (incorrectly) that there are only two biological sexes at the chromosomal level doesn't change the factual science on the matter that there are actually more--a factual science that, if you actually consulted it, would set the record straight.

Now, how do all these chromosomal variations affect the human mind? Well, we're still learning that. But one thing to keep in mind is that there is often a disassociation involving how a person might feel inside with how they appear on the outside, especially if these two things are very different.

This is especially true of intersexual people who have both working gonads and ovaries (yes, Jo, they exist). Asking them to choose to be one thing is like asking a homosexual to be straight. That goes against their coding. Why try to shove them into your limited worldview? Why not, as an educator, try expanding your mind a little bit too?

The mistake is to try to classify these people as either-or. They are both. They are something that doesn't fit into your little box of labels. So stop trying to force them into it against their will. They will find their own boxes, and if those boxes don't exist, they will make new ones.

Oh, I know, Jo. It's hard being completely understanding of things that make little sense to us. But, it doesn't mean we can't be compassionate or accepting. So, please, bear with me.

Learning the science can be eye-opening in ways you couldn't possibly imagine--or, you being you, maybe you could imagine it. Which is why it baffles me so much as to how closed-minded you are willfully choosing to be here when the science is staring you right in the face.

And, Jo, it's true, we haven't even gotten into the complexities of talking about gender identity yet.

As you can imagine, this conversation gets really complicated rather fast and I (a white, cis heterosexual male) really am not the person to be discussing it with. YOu know who you should be consulting though? That's right, trans folks. Queer folks. The LGBTQ folks. They know far better than I do, and most assuredly better than you do, what it means to live a life in their skin.

The bottom line is, if you did take it upon yourself to carry out the terribly laborious task of opening your Google browser and maybe taking a couple hours to brush up on the science of the subject you're failing so miserably to speak on, you might be in a better position to rethink your hurtful words and you wouldn't look and sound so much like a TERF (a label you disagree with yet, ironically, while slamming others with labels they disagree with).

Transwomen are women too. And transmen are men.

And for those, like JK Rowling, who still don't think so, I'm going to share what I say to all those racists I encounter right before I block them.

"If you cannot be decent or compassionate enough to see the inherent dangers of an ideology predicated on hate, it's not just our belief systems that are in conflict. It's also our morality."

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