A man? A woman? or a question mark?

This is the limited social definition of a man and a woman that you would see in human societies these days and in which is more prominant in less development societies.

Man Woman ?
Male Female Intersex
Masculine Feminine Tomboy, ladyboy
Dominant Subservient neutral
hetrosexual hetrosexual homosexual, bisexual, asexual, …

The definition is constructed with a bundled set of attributes. I listed the primary one in the above table, but there are many other secondary attributes that one would attach to men or women depending of how can they be classified and connected to the primary attributes.

One would expect social constructs to be in line with the natural process of production, but that is not the case, for humans knowledge of nature have progressed over time and some social definitions which were built at a time of less scientific knowledge had a strong grip on people’s awareness, and made it hard for new – more correct – definitions to emerge.

The catch of natural production process is that it doesn’t work in a binary matter. In other words, it doesn’t only produce black and white. Every human organ comes in different shades. Look at the eyes of people for instance, you can find a whole range of colors, shapes and sizes. Look at people’s height, there is a wide range of heights as well. The same is applicable on people’s sexual organs. Nature doesn’t only produce a complete male procreation system vs a complete female procreation one, it does produce organs for both systems that varies in size, shape and task allocated. And in which it can be a system hybrid between the two.

Unfortunatly societies need to assign sex to new born in order to assign social roles later on. Babies who come with unclear sexual organs have to be worked on in order to fit in a *defined* sex even if it means that doctors may do a mistake and cut some sexual organs that came below the standard size.

The same applies on the genetic sexual chromosomes. They teach us at school that people come only with two types of sexual chromosomes: XY defines a man and XX define a woman. They never told us that some men do carry XX, or some women may carry XY, or even other sets like having someone with 3 chromosomes attached to each other like in XXY or XXX people. Maybe it would have been too complicated to be taught at schools, especially the part explaining how those chromosomes translates into a full defined sexual organs.

If that is not enough puzzling enough, then add the gender identity in the mix: the awareness of a person of his own gender. Like for instance someone of a male organs identifying himself to be either a man or a woman! They classical social definition has it one to one relationship for people with male organs to be identified as men, but nature says otherwise, and some people with male organs fail to identify themselves as men, some may identify themselves to be a woman, some would identify themselves to be in-between, and others don’t even identify with either.

The issue of gender is even more interesting because it doesn’t deal with some clear seen organs, instead it has to do with the psychology of a person and his self awareness of his own gender. It makes me wonder of how applicable gender issues to animals and how much people’s awareness and the constructs of human societies came up with such problems. I know that there are gender roles in the more complicated species of the animal kingdom, but who else, besides of humans, are aware of their gender and its role?

And then comes the attitude attached with being a man or a woman. For men in general having a clear physical advantage (which comes in a range as well) over women, one would assume that physical strength is translated into domination and superiority, and thus at a time where strength was essential for human societies, men dominated women. But that is not always the case, as size and physical strength don’t always translate into domination.

While it may be easier for us to bundle those set of attributes into a simple definition of a man and a woman, in reality, those set of attributes rarely come bundled all together. Each one comes in a spectrum of degrees. Different attributes that if we pay a closer look into it, we would all realize that the majority of us fall indeed under the last column in the table above – which is a question mark!


  1. Good post Fadi!On top of the chromosomal abnormalities you mentioned we also have something recently discovered called mosaicism where you can actually have different genomes in different cells of your body. It was initially brought on from further investigation after a woman tested genetically unrelated to her child. So you can literally be XX and XY at the same time.The reason why they’re not taught early on in grade school is because they’re actually very rare disorders individually….as you stated; however with the increaseof public awareness campaigns and attention on the issue (at least in the US)they’re addressing these anomolies in the classroom more. I remember learning about Turner Syndrome (X0) in high school.Like you said there are criteria clinically that they use to assign a gender to an ambiguous newborns and many times the outcome is “normal” (you don’t really hear about the success stories because they don’t make interesting news), but these methods are crude and the criteria needs to be improved.


  2. Hey Observer,nice entry…what i know, is that there is a gene on the y chromosome that is responsible for testosterone reproduction, sometimes this gene may be duplicated, or witness increased activity, resulting in increased amounts of testosterone and hence more masculinity, but on the other hand, and if this gene becomes inactive, or is deleted, then the amount of testosterone will decrease, making the guy more feminine.now taking this into consideration, and the psyche of males/females who feel undecided, or trapped in a body not there own, it is only logical that some kind of gene/hormone thing which controls a guy’s/girl’s attraction to either same-or-opposite sex individuals is affected.if anyone has additional input on this i would appreciate it…thanks again, 🙂


  3. Very interesting. Good way to bundle the information together. I personally enjoy a loosely defined gender role, I try to combine as many good attributes of the two defined roles. It is interesting to see how the expectations for gender roles affects sexuality and sexual orientation.


  4. You’ll be amazed by the number of disorders and their severity that occurs with some of these genetic abnormalitiesMan, there is XXY and XXXY and these are men who do not realize they carry this abnormality until they’re adults and diagnosed with Kelinfelter’s syndrome, it affect 0.1% of men, a relatively high perecentage.. that’s about 3000 JordaniansAnd then the very ugly androgen insensitivity syndrome (previously called testicular feminization syndrome), where a girl is born and raised as a girl, she looks like female extrenally, and she’s only diagnosed with a problem one she can’t have a period. When they check her chromosomes they disoover she’s an XY- a perfect male! What happened is that her body had complete lack of response to testosterone, so he did not grown any penis or external male organs, and had testicles which completely shrunk while that male developed. These girls actually look more feminien than normal girls because there’s no testosterone effect at all in their body so they don;t have to shave/wax and their voice and skin are soft…etc, but genetically they are men. They have no ovaries or cervix or uterus and cannot get prgenant


  5. Asoom, thx. Different genoms in different cells? wow! That is new to me. I agree, the methods of determinging ones sex are crude, but I don’t think they should be improved, I think they should be eliminated all togather, there is no need to determine a sex for those who don’t have one! hamatosha, the gene on the y chromosome that is responsible for testosterone makes sense! Thanks for the info. I don’t think that sexual orientation has anything to do with gender identity. Some men who feel trapped in women bodies may still be attracted to other men even if they endure a sex change operation and turned their body into a complete male body.Majd, how is it going for you? Isn’t it hard combining both sexes into one person?Yes, it is interesting trying to connect the lines between gender identity and sexual orientation. I am not sure how much they are connected to each other. Maybe there is some kind of correleation, and maybe there is no connection at all, where the gene responsible about one has nothing to do with the one responsible of the other.hareega, do they consider that a disorder? I mean it may not be wide spread, but people with such cases are completly healthy individuals, right? It is really interesting knowing about all of those cases. And it is even more important to have some public awarnace for those cases. Imagine a Jordanian man marrying such beautiful feminine complete woman to end up discovering her male genetics after years of marriage! It shouldn’t make any difference, but you know how our society works!


  6. Fadi… yes they are healthy and they live normally, it’s better to keep raising them as females because that’s what they were used to. It was rumored that Farah Diba the beautiful Iranian princess suffered from it and that explained her beauty but she had kids so that contradicts her having this syndrome


  7. hareega, I find this very interesting. For some, it would mean that men should be careful from marrying a very beautiful woman for she might carry a male chromosoms and can’t bear children! A friend of mine is a Dr., and he told me about a case happened at his hospital. The woman was married and her husband was questioning the validity of their marriage! He should be, if he religious. Or maybe people should learn not to care? She is a woman after all! But what defines a woman here? Is she another question mark?


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