QUESTION: I think in socialogy there maybe a difference between sex and gender, but is there one in biology?

And what determines a person's sex? These days it seems like a topic of contraversy. Is it simple set of chromosomes or could a transgender person claim to be the opposite sex because they are getting hormones artificially that are more prominent in the opposite?

ANSWER: Hi James
Sexuality has gotten a lot more confusing from a sociology standpoint in recent years. In Biology however nothing is different.  In my classes I establish a continuum with respect to males and females At one end we have 100% males and at the other end 100% females. Everybody fits somewhere in the middle and where we fit depends upon on hormones. Everybody secretes both estrogens and testosterone. Females who secrete more testosterone are more masculine and tend to lean toward the male end of the spectrum and males who produce more estrogen are more effeminate. It is likely that those who desire a change in sexual identity lean further to one extreme or the other. At what point a person feels more female or male is hard to explain. It is hard to put a number on "feelings"  Certainly genetics plays a part. The role of external factors is still up in the air
 I do not believe that homosexual desires are related to this. That appears to be involved strickly with genetics since it occurs in over 1500 species in the animal kingdom. This is something that Homophobes  should keep in mind.
 It is too bad that the topic has become a political and religious controversy when sexuality is determined by genetics and steroid hormones which are not under human control

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QUESTION: There is a transgender (or trans something) comedian on America's got talent and when I commented on how obvious it was that they were male but dressed as a female on their page a bunch of people jumped all over me claiming that she is in no way male anymore. Could this be so or is this entirely chromosome related and they will always be male unless a surgery could change that?

Does this article make any useful points?

I did watch the episode of Americas Got talent. Female impersonators are often a part of show business.. In fact I had a friend years ago that performed in Drag. These performers are not always Transgender nor homosexuals. It is possible that those on the show were merely in Drag pretending to be transgenders to gain a competitive edge.
 AS the article you posted Males are born with an XY configuration at the 23rd pair of chromosomes.. Neither hormones not surgery is going to change that. A may person wish to change gender and do so with hormone therapy and surgery But males will stay biological males and female will remain females.  Note that when transgenders change it depends upon hormones and the surgical changes are  merely cosmetic.  


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Walter Hintz


Science teacher for over 50 years. MSc. in biology. I can answer questions in general biology, zoology, botany, anatomy and physiology and biochemistry.


I have a MSc in biology and have been a science teacher for over 50 years. At present I am a faculty member at a college and a science consultant at seven catholic schools.

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