The gender spectrum: from Barbies to bulldozers

Gender’s a funny thing. Once thought binary and fixed, it’s now seen by most as a spectrum. But your sex, determined by your sex chromosome, is fixed…right? XX and you’re a girl, XY for a boy (and the uncommon XXY, or Klinefelter syndrome). Right? … Right?

But what if this wasn’t so clear cut either?

This week scientists have announced they have made a male mouse without a Y chromosome. The mouse then went on to reproduce (with a helping hand). Now, I can’t get the whole article, as I’m a stay at home mum at the moment, and can’t afford the $30.00 to access the article, published in Science, for 24 hours!! (Paying to access science is frustrating).

But, come with me on my leap (or several leaps) of logic. So, mice can be male without a Y chromosome. There are two genes on the X chromosome that can make them male. Actually anatomically male. I mean, a scientist in the lab has to flick the switch, but the genes are there. So what if the same holds true for humans. What if we have genes on the X chromosome that can make you male?

Now, I’m not for one instance suggesting we create a third sex. Or that we could replace the male population with XX women, with male anatomy. That’d be crazy…but it’s an idea.

No, that is definitely crazy. But, what if some of those genes on the X chromosome that make you a bit more male do accidentally get turned on in humans? Not enough to make you look male, but enough to make you feel male? You see where I’m going with this? What if the gender that you identify as is held on that pesky X chromosome? We know there appear to be markers for male homosexuality on the X chromosome, so why not markers for feeling male too? Maybe that would go some way to explain the combinations of anatomical sex, gender and sexual orientation, and the spectrum of gender and sexual orientation, we see today.

I hope I haven’t lost too many of you, in my ramblings. So, what does this have to do with kids. Well, everything really. The gender a child is assigned to at birth determines so much. Look at Girlbug and Boybug, for instance. Defined, and so binary, in their names alone. Like the Facebook memes of little boys with dolls, kids should be free to choose what they want to play with, and how they define themselves. If my two can play with the train track or the dolls together for 10 minutes, and I can grab a coffee, then that is a win in my book!

But I fear my two are destined for a life of stereotypes. We try to be as gender neutral as possible with toys, but now Girlbug can express an opinion it has to be pink or purple and have a princess on! She does have a train set which she loves, and a handful of cars. When Boybug was under a year, he picked up one of these cars and pushed it along the floor making a “brrrrrr” noise, something I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Girlbug do. Girlbug uses cars for props in role play – to transport people from one scene to another. For Boybug it was about all about movement.

Boybug likes to push a buggy (I’ve never met a toddler who doesn’t!), but it’s more likely to contain a toy hammer, piece of a jigsaw, sippy cup, crayon or a building block than a baby. He also likes to play with the hairdressing set, though it can turn into a scene from a torture movie if I’m not careful. He’s not keen on dresses or tiaras yet (he’s only 19 months, Girlbug wasn’t either at that age, and now she’s obsessed), though Girlbug has forced them upon him at times. And he spent a few months in a rather fetching pair of hand-me-down pink trainers. I could post a picture of Boybug in a tiara, but he might not thank me on the future (or maybe he will, who knows!). So here are the shoes.


5 thoughts on “The gender spectrum: from Barbies to bulldozers

  1. I think chromosomes have always been a part of the gender discussions, you can have someone who looks and has all the parts of a female but has male chromosomes. This person may still want to identify as female but how do we explain that? Then we can talk about hormones and parts that don’t always match and the discussion gets really weird. It sounds like you are doing an awesome job with your kids. Keep it up!


    1. Thank you – we try, like everyone else, and like everyone else I’m sure we make our mistakes!

      It feels more intuitive to me that an XY individual can look or feel female – faulty gene or genes on the Y chromosome, meaning the X gets expressed. But someone (well mice) being male without a Y chromosome log of blew my mind a bit. It’s not my area of expertise at all, but fascinating stuff!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I saw the train track photo you had above, and had to do a double-take to make sure it wasn’t my own kids. 🙂

    My Young Master Builders at Work

    My daughter is now 6, son is 5. She’s into animals, he’s into trains trains and more trains, but the fact of tracks being able to accomodate so many activities actually brings their interests together. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found princess racoons or horse stables next to the tracks and the two of them are sharing in this elaborately-constructed world involving all of their toys and imagination. I just let it go.


    1. That sounds like the way my two are heading. They’re a bit younger, but it’s one of the few things they’ll play together, albeit in different ways. My husband is very happy. He loves the train track too!!

      Liked by 1 person

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