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Are there more than 2 sexes?


WillyWehr
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Hey, are there more than 2 sexes? I recently talked to a person who told me that it has been scientifically proven that there are more than 2 sexes biologically and that the biological sex is a spectrum, so I wanted to ask if this is the truth?

Btw: it was definitely about biological sex, not gender.

My ideas:
I know men have XY and women have XX chromosomes. I know there can be mutations in which humans can have XXY chromosomes, but is this called the another sex? especially when this person isnt fertile. And if you include all mutations of the sexgenes, would you get a Spectrum?

If you were to ask me spontaneously what the definition of a sex is, I would say that you can be divided into men and women depending on the task to which you belong in reproduction, but it is not that easy because if you are through an accident becoming sterile you wouldn't belong anywhere anymore and if you were born sterile there is also a problem, so it needs a better / more complex definition, I suppose.

I would be interested in your facts to put it simply: Are there more than 2 sexes?

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Yes

Nearly everything in the cosmos exists somewhere along a spectrum. Humans just force things into arbitrary binary buckets for convenience. Sex is no different. 

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55 minutes ago, WillyWehr said:

Are there more than 2 sexes?

Do we even know what "sexes" are supposed to be, outside of our weird ideas about reproduction? Humans want things; humans formulate agendas to get those things; humans either successfully force everything else to fit that agenda, or ignore/deny inconvenient nonconformity on nature's part.  

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There are even animals that change sex during their lives:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequential_hermaphroditism

 

The most wildly know is probably Clownfish:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amphiprioninae

"Anemonefish are protandrous sequential hermaphrodites, meaning they develop into males first, and when they mature, they become females. If the female anemonefish is removed from the group, such as by death, one of the largest and most dominant males becomes a female. The remaining males move up a rank in the hierarchy. "

 

Or which have both male and female organs at the same time:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermaphrodite

 

Take a look at this table of approximate prevalence in the human community:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersex

(data from countries with higher tolerances will be more reliable; many people with more chromosomes than XX/XY are not even diagnosed)

 

1 hour ago, WillyWehr said:

If you were to ask me spontaneously what the definition of a sex is, I would say that you can be divided into men and women depending on the task to which you belong in reproduction, but it is not that easy because if you are through an accident becoming sterile you wouldn't belong anywhere anymore and if you were born sterile there is also a problem, so it needs a better / more complex definition, I suppose.

Did you hear about menopause?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menopause

"Menopause, also known as the climacteric, is the time in women's lives when menstrual periods stop permanently, and they are no longer able to bear children.[1][7] Menopause usually occurs between the age of 49 and 52.[2] Medical professionals often define menopause as having occurred when a woman has not had any menstrual bleeding for a year."

 

The number of a woman's eggs is known at birth day:

https://www.google.com/search?q=women's+eggs+in+a+lifetime

"At birth, there are approximately 1 million eggs; and by the time of puberty, only about 300,000 remain. Of these, only 300 to 400 will be ovulated during a woman's reproductive lifetime. Fertility can drop as a woman ages due to decreasing number and quality of the remaining eggs."

 

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1 hour ago, iNow said:

Yes

Nearly everything in the cosmos exists somewhere along a spectrum. Humans just force things into arbitrary binary buckets for convenience. Sex is no different. 

I disagree. Sex is one of the few things that is actually binary. Genetically, you are one or the other. 

What you wish to identify as is a different subject. Call it sex-identity. That can as you say exist somewhere in a spectrum. 

If colour was similar, then you would have a world where people were born black or white. Nothing in the middle. But mentally, you could feel black, white, or any shade in between. You could be attracted to one, or the other colour, or both or neither, or bounce from one to the other. But if you were checked visually, you would always be black or white. 

We can't see genes, so it's not so simple. But imagine you could. Then what you would see would be just males and females. With some identifying differently, any way they liked. We would be used to it, it would just be part of normal life. 

So to me, the essence is that you can't BE whatever sex you like. But you can certainly IDENTIFY as whatever you like. Of course, how others see you is beyond your control. That's when it gets really complicated. I have one transgender friend, and they still struggle with their identity, years after the operation. It's not even easy or binary for those living it. 

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2 hours ago, WillyWehr said:

Hey, are there more than 2 sexes?

 

48 minutes ago, mistermack said:

I disagree. Sex is one of the few things that is actually binary. Genetically, you are one or the other

Define what you mean by “sex”

What makes you male, or female? 

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1 hour ago, swansont said:

 

Define what you mean by “sex”

What makes you male, or female? 

The only thing I can think of that is undeniable is the capability to give birth. Human males have no capability human females do, by this I mean the design, structure and mechanics.   

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2 hours ago, mistermack said:

So to me, the essence is that you can't BE whatever sex you like. But you can certainly IDENTIFY as whatever you like. Of course, how others see you is beyond your control. That's when it gets really complicated. I have one transgender friend, and they still struggle with their identity, years after the operation. It's not even easy or binary for those living it. 

The difference between objective and subjective?

From Google

Quote

Subjective most commonly means based on the personal perspective or preferences of a person—the subject who's observing something. In contrast, objective most commonly means not influenced by or based on a personal viewpoint—based on the analysis of an object of observation only.

 

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2 hours ago, swansont said:

 

Define what you mean by “sex”

What makes you male, or female? 

The sex chromosomes you have, surely? You can be XY or XX. Or, in rare cases of genetic malfunction, you can be XXY or XYY.

So far as I'm aware, all organisms that reproduce sexually, do so relying on 2 (two) sexes pooling genetic material. 

 

 

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4 hours ago, Intoscience said:

The only thing I can think of that is undeniable is the capability to give birth. Human males have no capability human females do, by this I mean the design, structure and mechanics.   

So menopause is where a female becomes male? Puberty is the opposite? A hysterectomy or tubal ligation is a sex change?

 

3 hours ago, exchemist said:

The sex chromosomes you have, surely? You can be XY or XX. Or, in rare cases of genetic malfunction, you can be XXY or XYY.

So far as I'm aware, all organisms that reproduce sexually, do so relying on 2 (two) sexes pooling genetic material. 

 

Which means the answer to the OP is “yes” according to this.

——

Interesting we have already been offered two very different definitions

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1 hour ago, swansont said:

So menopause is where a female becomes male? Puberty is the opposite? A hysterectomy or tubal ligation is a sex change?

 

Which means the answer to the OP is “yes” according to this.

——

Interesting we have already been offered two very different definitions

Not really. XXY and XYY are merely defects. They don't define a 3rd and 4th sex in any biological sense.

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6 hours ago, mistermack said:

So to me, the essence is that you can't BE whatever sex you like. But you can certainly IDENTIFY as whatever you like. Of course, how others see you is beyond your control.

I think the psychological gender identity isn't recognized as anywhere near as important, but mostly by cis gendered folks who feel they're "normal" and "natural" in this regard and don't have to worry. It would be easy to see this as a mental aberration viewed this way, so I studiously avoid it. I imagine how I would feel if suddenly everyone started referring to me as she/her, against my express wishes, just because that's the way THEY see me. I think I would definitely try to see how far "beyond (my) control" the situation was by insisting on being referred to the way I prefer.

 

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37 minutes ago, exchemist said:

Not really. XXY and XYY are merely defects. They don't define a 3rd and 4th sex in any biological sense.

But two is two, and you acknowledge there are more than two. “merely defects” is weaseling out of it. It’s just ignoring contrary evidence that doesn’t fit with your definition.

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8 hours ago, mistermack said:

I disagree. Sex is one of the few things that is actually binary.

Disagree all you want. I can't force you to be correct. 

6 hours ago, Intoscience said:

The only thing I can think of that is undeniable is the capability to give birth

By this definition, those who are infertile and post-menopausal aren't women. 

46 minutes ago, swansont said:

But two is two, and you acknowledge there are more than two. “merely defects” is weaseling out of it. It’s just ignoring contrary evidence that doesn’t fit with your definition.

They're also only acknowledging a subset of the possibilities. Others are like XXO, etc. It's forcing the data to align with ones preconceptions instead of the other way around. 

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Depends on what you mean by sex. Do you mean what gender you identify as ? Recreational ? Or procreational ?

This is a Science site, and we classify sex only as it pertains to reproduction of the species.
Self identity and recreational, we leave to the psychologists and sociologists.

In terms of reproduction, there is a hard line between the two sexes/genders; one gives birth to young, the other doesn't.
As they get older women might lose that ability, but sometimes we lose other abilities also.
Are humans not classified as bipedal when they use a cane or sit in a wheelchair ?
Are humans sighted, or on a 'spectrum', because some lose their eyesight as they get old ?

It is black and white; that doesn't mean there aren't species that reproduce asexually, but of those that can even change sex, ( as Sensei mentions ) only give birth as female.

Which 'sex' do you want to discuss ?

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50 minutes ago, swansont said:

But two is two, and you acknowledge there are more than two. “merely defects” is weaseling out of it. It’s just ignoring contrary evidence that doesn’t fit with your definition.

Not really. The XXY and XYY can be seen to arise from defective splitting of the pairs of chromosomes when sex cells are formed. The extra copies perform no  function in gene mixing, which remains a process involving the merging of two sets, one from each of two parents. So there is no way they define additional sexes from a functional point of view.  

A third sex would imply some process like the 3 sexes in Asimov's "The Gods Themselves", in which it took a merging of Odeen, Dua and Tritt (Russian for one, two and three) in order to procreate.  

 

 

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3 minutes ago, exchemist said:

A third sex would imply some process like the 3 sexes in Asimov's "The Gods Themselves",

Sounds like a threesome ( menage a trois ) to me.
So, we are discussing recreational sex ?

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Are there more than two sexes? Yes

Must we ignore a ton of exceptions to pretend there are ONLY two sexes? Yes

Do more than two sexes exist across the animal kingdom? Yes

Are humans part of the animal kingdom? Yes

Does it make sense to suggest some rigid state of ONLY two sexes map accurately on to humans, but not other organisms, and that this is the most precise framing of the question totally unrelated to our preconceptions and personal cultural biases? No

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7 minutes ago, MigL said:

Sounds like a threesome ( menage a trois ) to me.
So, we are discussing recreational sex ?

No. Not recreational. Biologically necessary. These were semi-substantial alien beings in this sci fi novel, in which there were 3 sexes. All 3 were needed in the procreational act.

The 3 sexes were designated male, female and parent, as it was the parent sex that did most of the caring for the offspring. I've forgotten a lot of it, but I do remember the quote from Schiller at the opening, which gave the book its title: " Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Gotter selbst vergebens." 

"Against stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain." 

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27 minutes ago, exchemist said:

Not really. The XXY and XYY can be seen to arise from defective splitting of the pairs of chromosomes when sex cells are formed. The extra copies perform no  function in gene mixing, which remains a process involving the merging of two sets, one from each of two parents. So there is no way they define additional sexes from a functional point of view.  

But you gave a definition: “The sex chromosomes you have, surely? You can be XY or XX. Or, in rare cases of genetic malfunction, you can be XXY or XYY.”

That’s four, not two (and there are even more). There’s no wiggle room here - you can’t have it both ways. Either there’s more than two, or you need a different definition.

 

 

46 minutes ago, iNow said:

They're also only acknowledging a subset of the possibilities. Others are like XXO, etc. It's forcing the data to align with ones preconceptions instead of the other way around. 

Yes, exactly.

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38 minutes ago, MigL said:

This is a Science site, and we classify sex only as it pertains to reproduction of the species.

Surely this stance could cause us to misunderstand data we're trying to analyze accurately? If we ignore the aspects of sex and gender outside of reproduction, are we being rigorous and intellectually honest with ourselves? Haven't we overcome the "biological necessity" aspect of reproduction, and shouldn't we be anticipating the need to view this as more of a spectrum issue?

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5 minutes ago, swansont said:

But you gave a definition: “The sex chromosomes you have, surely? You can be XY or XX. Or, in rare cases of genetic malfunction, you can be XXY or XYY.”

That’s four, not two. There’s no wiggle room here. You can’t have it both ways. Either there’s more than two, or you need a different definition.

This is extremeley loopy logic. You are just assuming that a genetic malfunction amounts to a different sex. Well, look it up, and you will find that it doesn't. In scientific terms, sex is determined by the type of gametes that you produce. Males produce tiny sperm, females produce much larger eggs. And that classifies both xxy and xyy as males. There are two type of gametes in humans, and that means there are two sexes. 

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25 minutes ago, iNow said:

Does it make sense to suggest some rigid state of ONLY two sexes map accurately on to humans, but not other organisms, and that this is the most precise framing of the question totally unrelated to our preconceptions and personal cultural biases? No

I know what you mean ...
Science always talks about circles and spheres, when we know no such thing as a perfect circle or perfect sphere exists in nature.
They are a 'spectrum' of shapes.

Seriously, biological classifications are just that, an easy way to group organisms into groups according to certain specific criterea.
And, yes, some of those criterea are binary.

Does it matter tome what you choose to identify as?
Not at all.
I only get my back up when I'm told what I have to perceive you as.
That is not my subjective reality; don't force yours on me.

Do you identify any other organisms as anything other than your subjective perception of them ?
Or do you ask your cat if she wants to be referred to as 'dog' ?


 

30 minutes ago, exchemist said:

No. Not recreational. Biologically necessary.

Yeah, read the story.
I was trying to be funny, and failed miserably.

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16 minutes ago, MigL said:

I only get my back up when I'm told what I have to perceive you as.

And if a fellow worker chooses to refer to you as she/her despite your preference for he/him, even after being repeatedly corrected, what would you say to them if they replied, "You can't tell me what I have to perceive you as, that just gets my back up"?

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2 hours ago, exchemist said:

Not really. XXY and XYY are merely defects. They don't define a 3rd and 4th sex in any biological sense

Nothing in nature is a defect per se. They may be detrimental in many conditions, but it is something that exists and if there is a classification that claims to be unviversal, these must be incorporated. The classification as a defect is purely an anthropogenic construct. Light skin colour could be seen as a defect in melanin production, for example, but is rarely considered as such. Sickle cell anemia is seen as detrimental, but in some areas they are positively selected.

Dismissing genetic elements merely as defects or exceptions do not prove the rule. If one claims that these classifications are universal, they must be universally applicable. If you have to add certain qualifiers then obviously you are just trying to press things into a mold that does not fit.

And obviously if we go beyond humans (or mammals) there is far more variability. The issue with using the genetic ability to give birth as a gender means that any mutation that would render someone infertile would define them as male, which obviously not make much sense (as well as the fact that biology changes with different age stages and so does the ability to reproduce). 

Obviously, sex is quite a bit less diverse than gender and if you imagine both as a biphasic distribution, sex has probably sharper peaks and much fewer cases in between those peaks. But they still exist.

14 minutes ago, MigL said:

Seriously, biological classifications are just that, an easy way to group organisms into groups according to certain specific criterea.
And, yes, some of those criterea are binary.

Yes, but also they are often only binary in certain contexts. When we divide up a population into male and female, it is a simplification to accommodate a certain research question, for example (i.e. we just ignore cases that don't fit but due to low frequency it is still broadly representative of the larger population). It is like creating models of complex processes. This works out fine in a general sense (i.e. many studies in humans work well if consider sex binary). But on an individual level it can be more complicated, though it typically is more associated with gender, rather than necessarily sex.

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