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A number of discussions have focused on which DSD conditions to consider allowing access to women's spaces. The primary issue of women being allowed to exclude men from spaces gets bogged down in how to draw the line precisely amongst DSDs and the matter isn't straightforward.

Sex differences, as we understand them, are due to two primary factors: the sex chromosome complement and androgen action. The "true intersex" population have atypical forms/combinations of these differences and can be challenging to sort out in the context of the real world where visual impressions have so much weight. This population is much much too small (on the order of 0.01% of the population) for any class effects and none threaten pregnancy. To be sure: conditions like 5ARD (Castor Semenya) are not "true intersex" here, all of the proposed rules below would exclude those males from women's spaces. None of these rules would, of course, tell anyone how to dress, what jobs they can do, how long to keep their hair, who to love etc.

Key "true intersex" cases

There are only a small number of "true intersex" cases to consider that makes the selection of rules difficult:

  1. CAIS - Insensitive to the most apparent effects of androgen action as it is known. Internal testes, no uterus. Cannot produce sperm.

  2. Ovotesticular disorder of sex development - Some have both gonads as mixes of tissue, some specific cases of one ovary and one testis.

  3. XX Male -Most have SRY attached to the X chromosome, a small fraction do not. SRY-ve XX males are believed to be due to the action of genes downstream of SRY that are thought to be (normally) gated by SRY but are not.

  4. Gonadal dysgenesis -Gonads do not differentiate. Female sex differentiation is not dependent on ovarian secretions, so these people will develop more similarly to females in childhood and can have a uterus. Swyer (XY) and Turner (X0) are classic examples. This could even include anorchia (born without testes).

  5. Mosaics and chimerism -Cells are a mix of karyotypes; numerous subtypes and reasons which can display a spectrum of phenotypes.

Exclusion Rules for Women's Spaces

An easy to interpret and apply exclusion rule is needed for most practical purposes. A rule that specified inclusion would almost certainly be difficult to reason about (perhaps that will be clear below).

Talking about sex in many of these individuals is a fraught matter when people do not know and understand molecular details of these conditions, and these people need be able to live in the world with privacy perhaps even legal fiction to make this possible.

Each of the obvious rules below work fine for typical males and females, but partition slightly differently amongst DSDs. "Born with" is presumed in each class.

  1. Potential to make small gametes This is a tricky rule to follow with "potential". Normally we use that mean to cover normal males who may not be producing gametes for any given reason...but all of the key cases do not have the ability to produce small gametes (e.g., CAIS). Do they have such "potential"? Hard to say. You'd have to let in XX males into female spaces with this rule, doesn't make a lot of sense.

  2. Has a testis Seems to make a lot of sense. Admits anorchia into women's spaces, excludes CAIS and some ovotestis.

  3. Has a penis All XX males are excluded from women's spaces as is anorchia. Swyer, CAIS etc. are not excluded from women's spaces here here.

  4. Constituent SRY "Constituent" to cover cases of microchimerism etc. and only SRY (vs. the whole Y chromosome) to capture SRY+ve XX males. SRY -ve XX males would also be in women's spaces though. CAIS would be male, but so would Swyer and some mosaic. This rule admits the very small set of SRY-ve XX males into women's spaces.

It's a lot of thinking to consider such a small population who, again, probably have tiny/no class effect on the class of typical 46,XX females. Any rule could potentially be unfair to some class in a way that we may not know yet.This is just a draft to outline the question. Perhaps there are some thoughts or corrections that can improve the presentation above.

A number of discussions have focused on which DSD conditions to consider allowing access to women's spaces. The primary issue of women being allowed to exclude men from spaces gets bogged down in how to draw the line precisely amongst DSDs and the matter isn't straightforward. Sex differences, as we understand them, are due to two primary factors: the sex chromosome complement and androgen action. The "true intersex" population have atypical forms/combinations of these differences and can be challenging to sort out in the context of the real world where visual impressions have so much weight. This population is much much too small (on the order of 0.01% of the population) for any class effects and none threaten pregnancy. To be sure: conditions like 5ARD (Castor Semenya) are not "true intersex" here, all of the proposed rules below would exclude those males from women's spaces. None of these rules would, of course, tell anyone how to dress, what jobs they can do, how long to keep their hair, who to love etc. # Key "true intersex" cases There are only a small number of "true intersex" cases to consider that makes the selection of rules difficult: 1. *CAIS* - Insensitive to the most apparent effects of androgen action as it is known. Internal testes, no uterus. Cannot produce sperm. 2. *Ovotesticular disorder of sex development* - Some have both gonads as mixes of tissue, some specific cases of one ovary and one testis. 3. *XX Male* -Most have SRY attached to the X chromosome, a small fraction do not. SRY-ve XX males are believed to be due to the action of genes downstream of SRY that are thought to be (normally) gated by SRY but are not. 4. *Gonadal dysgenesis* -Gonads do not differentiate. Female sex differentiation is not dependent on ovarian secretions, so these people will develop more similarly to females in childhood and can have a uterus. Swyer (XY) and Turner (X0) are classic examples. This could even include anorchia (born without testes). 5. *Mosaics and chimerism* -Cells are a mix of karyotypes; numerous subtypes and reasons which can display a spectrum of phenotypes. # Exclusion Rules for Women's Spaces An easy to interpret and apply *exclusion* rule is needed for most practical purposes. A rule that specified *inclusion* would almost certainly be difficult to reason about (perhaps that will be clear below). Talking about sex in many of these individuals is a fraught matter when people do not know and understand molecular details of these conditions, and these people need be able to live in the world with privacy perhaps even legal fiction to make this possible. Each of the obvious rules below work fine for typical males and females, but partition slightly differently amongst DSDs. "Born with" is presumed in each class. 1. *Potential to make small gametes* This is a tricky rule to follow with "potential". Normally we use that mean to cover normal males who may not be producing gametes for any given reason...but all of the key cases do not have the ability to produce small gametes (e.g., CAIS). Do they have such "potential"? Hard to say. You'd have to let in XX males into female spaces with this rule, doesn't make a lot of sense. 2. *Has a testis* Seems to make a lot of sense. Admits anorchia into women's spaces, excludes CAIS and some ovotestis. 3. *Has a penis* All XX males are excluded from women's spaces as is anorchia. Swyer, CAIS etc. are not excluded from women's spaces here here. 4. *Constituent SRY* "Constituent" to cover cases of microchimerism etc. and only SRY (vs. the whole Y chromosome) to capture SRY+ve XX males. SRY -ve XX males would also be in women's spaces though. CAIS would be male, but so would Swyer and some mosaic. This rule admits the very small set of SRY-ve XX males into women's spaces. It's a lot of thinking to consider such a small population who, again, probably have tiny/no class effect on the class of typical 46,XX females. Any rule could potentially be unfair to some class in a way that we may not know yet.This is just a draft to outline the question. Perhaps there are some thoughts or corrections that can improve the presentation above.

100 comments

[–] astro_terf 9 points Edited

I would exclude Swyer, CAIS and all other males with DSDs.

[edited to add: from sports, not necessarily other women's spaces - the lack of estrogen leads to a height and speed advantage in sports that is unfair to typically developing women. I wouldn't exclude Swyer, CAIS and other males socialized from birth as women as the problems of male socialization do not apply.]

Put simply, it's not simply the presence of male sex hormones/ testoterone during development that leads to the physical advantages that males have over females. The presence of female sex hormones during normal development during puberty and afterwards lead to physical disadvantages for women that CAIS males do not experiences.

For example, CAIS males have a height advantage that women do not. Estrogen causes epiphyses to fuse and so women tend to stop growing taller shortly after they reach puberty.

In addition, women develop wider hips to accommodate childbirth, but this is at the cost of an increased likelihood of injuries and a less efficient running stance. See https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/nursing-and-health-professions/q-angle and https://www.livescience.com/59289-why-men-run-faster-than-women.html . Biological males who have never had any of the benefits of testosterone do not experience the disadvantages from estrogen, which would still give them a leg up on women.

I wish there was a “save” option for comments. I would have liked to save your comment to reference it again in the future.