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The Spectrum of Sex: The Science of Male, Female, and Intersex

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This transformative guide completely breaks down our current understanding of biological sex and gender diversity. Introducing readers to seven variations of human sex, commonly considered intersex, the book challenges the myth that sex and gender are binary and explores the inherent diversity of biological sex and its relationship to gender identity and expression, and the This transformative guide completely breaks down our current understanding of biological sex and gender diversity. Introducing readers to seven variations of human sex, commonly considered intersex, the book challenges the myth that sex and gender are binary and explores the inherent diversity of biological sex and its relationship to gender identity and expression, and the impact this has on society. Examining historical, linguistic and socio-cultural understandings of sex and gender, as well as genetic and scientific definitions, the book is an important resource for dismantling gender and sexuality-based discrimination and promoting understanding and inclusivity. Co-written by one of the world's leading intersex activists and a highly respected scholar in biological sciences, and accompanied with detailed anatomical illustrations throughout, this pioneering text is the essential introduction to gender and sex diversity for gender studies, women's studies, biology and genetics courses, as well as professionals working with intersex and trans communities.


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This transformative guide completely breaks down our current understanding of biological sex and gender diversity. Introducing readers to seven variations of human sex, commonly considered intersex, the book challenges the myth that sex and gender are binary and explores the inherent diversity of biological sex and its relationship to gender identity and expression, and the This transformative guide completely breaks down our current understanding of biological sex and gender diversity. Introducing readers to seven variations of human sex, commonly considered intersex, the book challenges the myth that sex and gender are binary and explores the inherent diversity of biological sex and its relationship to gender identity and expression, and the impact this has on society. Examining historical, linguistic and socio-cultural understandings of sex and gender, as well as genetic and scientific definitions, the book is an important resource for dismantling gender and sexuality-based discrimination and promoting understanding and inclusivity. Co-written by one of the world's leading intersex activists and a highly respected scholar in biological sciences, and accompanied with detailed anatomical illustrations throughout, this pioneering text is the essential introduction to gender and sex diversity for gender studies, women's studies, biology and genetics courses, as well as professionals working with intersex and trans communities.

47 review for The Spectrum of Sex: The Science of Male, Female, and Intersex

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mansoor

    نویسنده‌ی اصلی کتاب یک اکتیویست شناخته‌شده است که ادعا می‌کند هم مذکر است و هم مونث و هم هیچ کدام. او از لحاظ بیولوژیک مونث است و سی‌ای‌ایچ دارد - حالتی که بدن آندروژن اضافی تولید می‌کند. این حالت، در جنس مونث، نوعا منجر می‌شود به داشتن کلیتوریس بزرگ. دیگر مشخصه‌های بدنی این افراد هم ممکن است مردانه‌تر باشد. نویسنده فصل اول را با این ادعا شروع می‌کند که «همانطور که بیولوژیست‌ها و دانشمندان نشان داده‌اند [کذا] جنسیت انواع زیادی دارد و این چیزی طبیعی است.» بعد اضافه می‌کند «مفهوم جنسیت آنقدر متنوع نویسنده‌ی اصلی کتاب یک اکتیویست شناخته‌شده است که ادعا می‌کند هم مذکر است و هم مونث و هم هیچ کدام. او از لحاظ بیولوژیک مونث است و سی‌ای‌ایچ دارد - حالتی که بدن آندروژن اضافی تولید می‌کند. این حالت، در جنس مونث، نوعا منجر می‌شود به داشتن کلیتوریس بزرگ. دیگر مشخصه‌های بدنی این افراد هم ممکن است مردانه‌تر باشد. نویسنده فصل اول را با این ادعا شروع می‌کند که «همانطور که بیولوژیست‌ها و دانشمندان نشان داده‌اند [کذا] جنسیت انواع زیادی دارد و این چیزی طبیعی است.» بعد اضافه می‌کند «مفهوم جنسیت آنقدر متنوع و گسترده است که دیگر دسته‌بندی سه‌گانه‌ی مذکر و مونث و اینترسکس [کذا] هم برای توصیفش جوابگو نیست.» نویسنده از همان اول کار مرز کلمات را درهم می‌ریزد و مدام مفاهیم را در جای هم به کار می‌برد که گواه آشفتگی ذهنی‌اش است. او جوری از تنوع در مشخصه‌های جنسی و ظاهر افراد حرف می‌زند، انگاری که تقسیم‌بندی جنسیت انسان‌ها به مذکر و مونث، برحسب مشخصه‌های ثانویه‌ی جنسی یا براساس ظاهر افراد انجام می‌شود! دانشمندان انسان‌ها را از روی اعضای جنسیِ اصلی‌شان (در جنس مذکر بیضه‌ها و در جنس مونث تخمدان) به مذکر و مونث تقسیم می‌کنند. اینترسکس‌ها افراد بسیار نادری هستند که جنوتایپ و فینوتایپ جنسی‌شان کاملا با هم نمی‌خواند، منتها آنها جنس سومی محسوب نمی‌شوند (مثل خود نویسنده‌ی کتاب) در حالی که نویسنده‌های کتاب ادعا می‌کنند استثنایی تلقی کردن افراد اینترسکس، با "دیگری‌سازی" از آنها بهشان آسیب می‌زند، خودشان "دیگری‌سازی" را در افراطی‌ترین شکلش پیاده می‌کنند، وقتی ادعا می‌کنند زنانی که کلیتوریس بزرگ یا پستان‌های کوچک دارند، مونث کامل نیستند. جنسیت آدم‌ها براساس شکل بدنشان تعیین نمی‌شود. آدم مذکری که پستان دارد یا باسنش عریض است، هنوز مذکر است. همینطور آدم مونثی که قد بلند، سینه‌های تخت، و باسن باریک دارد، همچنان صد در صد مونث است ............ Utter pseudoscientific nonsense. While the main author is an activist, the book claims to show you the "science" of biological sex the way you've never seen it before in a science book! And the co-author is a professor in the department of biological sciences at a university I've never heard of.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Littlebookterror

    This is a very interesting scientific look at the biology and language surrounding physical sex, genitals, and genomes. It's written in an educational tone without sounding patronizing. I am a strong advocate for more LGBTQIA+ representation but know very little about the I in the acronym personally. This book offered many explanations and further research options if needed. It offers a detailed explanation of what variants of sex the human body can be made up of and how we failed to properly clas This is a very interesting scientific look at the biology and language surrounding physical sex, genitals, and genomes. It's written in an educational tone without sounding patronizing. I am a strong advocate for more LGBTQIA+ representation but know very little about the I in the acronym personally. This book offered many explanations and further research options if needed. It offers a detailed explanation of what variants of sex the human body can be made up of and how we failed to properly classify it and force it into the known male/female binary. While it didn't offer me any new information on the topic, I was able to understand it all despite being a non-native English speaker. It also sheds a light on non-Western people and how they had more genders but were forced to assimilate. The scholarly chapters are broken up by personal stories from intersex individuals and how they grew up and searched for their right identity. Those talk about the overlap between sex and racism or LGBTQIA+ community in important ways. I found those stories the most fascinating and eye-opening. I did think it was a bit too short overall. I would have been interested in some numbers and what studies have been done so far. I know this is not the most interesting thing but graphs and figures would have made it palatable. I do have to say that the atrocious formatting of the arc makes it harder for me to separate my feelings of the book itself from the actual content inside. I received an advanced reading copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Geneviève (thefreckledbookworm)

    WHY ARE SO MANY AMAZING-SOUNDING BOOKS SO DISAPPOINTING. There are so many typos, misspelled words and general lack of punctuation that this book is basically unreadable. While I know this is and ARC, and some errors are POSSIBLE... I don't have the impression anyone took the time to edit this book before putting it out there. I don't even understand what I'm reading because I need to guess MORE THAN A FEW WORDS in each sentence. DNFing 😔 WHY ARE SO MANY AMAZING-SOUNDING BOOKS SO DISAPPOINTING. There are so many typos, misspelled words and general lack of punctuation that this book is basically unreadable. While I know this is and ARC, and some errors are POSSIBLE... I don't have the impression anyone took the time to edit this book before putting it out there. I don't even understand what I'm reading because I need to guess MORE THAN A FEW WORDS in each sentence. DNFing 😔

  4. 5 out of 5

    Isaiah

    To see more reviews check out MI Book Reviews. I got an ARC of this book. I was super excited to read this book. It is exactly the sort of book that I love to see published. I already teach about how sex isn't binary in my sex ed class. I don't go into the in-depth aspects of it, because I doubt I could do that aspect justice and keep the kids interested. If I had the audience that wanted science, I would totally go into it (I ask every time).  That being said, I was excited to learn more. I didn't To see more reviews check out MI Book Reviews. I got an ARC of this book. I was super excited to read this book. It is exactly the sort of book that I love to see published. I already teach about how sex isn't binary in my sex ed class. I don't go into the in-depth aspects of it, because I doubt I could do that aspect justice and keep the kids interested. If I had the audience that wanted science, I would totally go into it (I ask every time).  That being said, I was excited to learn more. I didn't learn anything more from reading this book. This is the same stuff I got in an hour lecture from a psych professor in college as part of a psych club event. Most of that lecture was making sure every single person in the room understood why lying to people was wrong and forcing someone to have surgery (or surgery without consent) is wrong. So this book was disappointing for me. I wanted it to be more. Maybe it was the length or maybe it was there is just not a lot of research out there since it has been hidden for so long by the people in power? I don't know.  I loved the personal stories at the end of the chapters. Those were the parts I looked forward to and found the most engaging. Hearing directly from people can have that emotional impact that the science side can lack. It made the book feel more complete with both science and emotions behind the points made.  The book itself was almost unreadable. There were so many typos and layout errors that I felt like I had to decipher the text to read it. I am hoping that it is just the ARCs that are like that, because otherwise there should be a new editor and the authors should each get new keyboards. "Often" was spelled as "oen" every time it was used. "Different" was "dierent". I can go on and on about examples of this. There were times when I couldn't tell what the word was supposed to be anymore from the issues.  In the last chapter or the second to last chapter, the authors lost me entirely. They said that trans people "misrepresent" their sex, by saying they are male if they are a trans man for example. They continued on to say  that I would have to pretty much out myself constantly to accurately represent myself to the world, which is both dangerous and unrealistic. They say that calling someone cis erases intersex people, which I can understand. It doesn't allow for a third option outside of trans and not trans. That was great to think about, but there was also no suggestions for moving forward. Instead it was just shame on trans people for creating another binary. I felt attacked at one point in particular. The authors said that trans people don't transition their sex, so the narrative of female to male is incorrect. My trans identity is heavily rooted in my body. My issue is my body is not male. My gender has not changed through the process of my transition, it is why I identify as transsexual instead of transgender. So that statement erased my existence. I know it was not the intent to personally attack me, but I still felt attacked. The authors also kept saying that identity is in flux through adolescence, that adults were the ones who could transition. Gender identity is pretty set before a kid is even in elementary school. I started my medical transition at 15. Multiple studies have been done that show trans kids don't just grow out of being trans and that delaying transitions is not healthy. So pretty much every time trans people were mentioned in this book there was misinformation. So the last sentence that says this is a great guide for the intersex and trans community feels like a lie.  The detail anatomical illustrations I was promised were inter-spaced with weird pictures that made me doubt the books seriousness. There was a weird picture of Godzilla with scissors coming after a clitoris. There was a cartoon about watering a penis until it flowers. I think there were two anatomical illustrations, that was it. There were illustrations about genes and the heavier science parts, but very little that would be anatomical.  I will be very clear on one point: forcing surgery on intersex children is wrong. Body autonomy must be maintained. Consent is necessary. My views on this were reinforced with this book and the more I read from the intersex community. Also, fuck John Money and his bullshit. None of this is new to me, but it is incredibly important to state since not everyone seems to understand why forcing children into surgeries they don't need isn't necessary. 

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bogi Takács

    (Complicated thoughts; I'll try to write a review soon IY"H) (Complicated thoughts; I'll try to write a review soon IY"H)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Amanie Johal

    Would definitely recommend as a solid overview of what intersex means and how it can manifest (the authors even acknowledge that 7 categories could still be too restrictive for the types of variances that exist!). I've heard the term "intersex" before and knew that people aren't always born with XX or XY chromosomes, but I didn't really understand what this meant or how these two facts were related until I read this. It was also really nice to hear personal stories from intersex people after each Would definitely recommend as a solid overview of what intersex means and how it can manifest (the authors even acknowledge that 7 categories could still be too restrictive for the types of variances that exist!). I've heard the term "intersex" before and knew that people aren't always born with XX or XY chromosomes, but I didn't really understand what this meant or how these two facts were related until I read this. It was also really nice to hear personal stories from intersex people after each chapter because they demonstrated exactly how people's lives are impacted when their genital variance is either affirmed/not shamed versus when it's subjected to practices such as intersex genital mutilation (IGM). I know people found this information simplistic/the length too short, but as someone who didn't know this information beforehand, I thought it was served its purpose as an "essential introduction to gender and sex diversity", but if you've already been introduced to these ideas in a college class, then I can see how there's nothing new in here for you.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Harri

    I recently read the book XOXY, A Memoir: Intersex Woman, Mother, Activist (for my review of that book see here) and wanted to learn more about being intersex. This book is a nonfiction book which aims to educate on exactly that topic. It gives an interesting overview of the subject, although it was a quicker read than I expected it to be. It's not too dense and academic, with a good mix of hard science, historical context and personal stories. There was even some information on intersex in Greek I recently read the book XOXY, A Memoir: Intersex Woman, Mother, Activist (for my review of that book see here) and wanted to learn more about being intersex. This book is a nonfiction book which aims to educate on exactly that topic. It gives an interesting overview of the subject, although it was a quicker read than I expected it to be. It's not too dense and academic, with a good mix of hard science, historical context and personal stories. There was even some information on intersex in Greek mythology, and Judaism, which I found particularly interesting. The biology is explained in detail, and not dumbed down, but I still found that I understood most of it, despite not being a scientist. Some of it gets quite complicated, but because the science is broken up by the history and personal stories, I found that the book managed to keep my interest the entire way through. I found it helpful that a prior knowledge of much biology wasn't assumed, for example DNA was described in detail before the subject of intersex DNA was covered. The book features some diagrams which are simple and helpful, but I would have appreciated more diagrams to really help with some of the more complex science. The book goes into detail about gonadal intersex, androgen insensitivity syndrome, Swyer syndrome, Turner syndrome, Kinefelter syndrome, congenital adrenal hyperplasia and 5-ARD, and really does get across the point that intersex people vary massively. The most important thing about this book is that it is written by an intersex person, and is celebratory and positive about being intersex. The book explains in detail why unnecessary surgeries on intersex babies and children are wrong, and celebrates natural intersex bodies. This is important because intersex voices have been ignored and spoken over for so long. The personal pieces in this book were very insightful, in particular the one written from the perspective of a Navajo intersex person. If you only read one chapter from this book, make it that one. The commentary about the intersection between colonialism and racism and the intersex experience is very powerful, and particularly important for white and non intersex LGBTQ+ people to read. Intersex people should be leading these discussions, and in this book they are. There was one thing that bothered me about this book, though, and that was the discussions about trans people. The start of the book felt very positive about trans people. Whilst the trans and intersex experiences are not the same, and intersex people face unique issues and prejudices due to being intersex, there are definitely overlaps between the two. However, later on in the book there is a personal piece written by the wife of a trans woman, where the pronoun 's/he' is used to refer to her during transition, only using 'she' once transition is 'complete'. This made me feel very uncomfortable, and isn't the way that trans people usually choose to talk about themselves. I don't know whether the trans woman in question was in favour of being referred to using s/he, but it didn't feel right. And then we get to the last chapter in the book. This was a discussion about the word 'cisgender'. Whilst there were some good points about the issues intersex people have with the word cis (are they cis if they are intersex but identify with their assigned sex? how can they be trans if they have a nonbinary body and a nonbinary identity? can someone be nonbinary and cis? intersex and cis?) but the perspective of the discussion seemed to come from a place of distrust towards trans people. The idea that talking about the difference between being trans and being gender nonconforming and using the word cis erases a gender non conforming persons identity is an argument used by TERFs to silence trans women. That trans people must say 'I am a man but I am female' or 'I am a woman but I am male' and can't transition their sex puts trans people, especially trans women, at risk of violence. It reiterates the belief that people need to know a trans person's assigned sex or else they are being dishonest. We need for all sexes and genders to be seen as valid, but this rhetoric hurts vulnerable people. I feel that there is a solution somewhere to the linguistic problems around the language used to describe trans and intersex people, but this chapter doesn't give any suggestions, just says that trans people are describing themselves wrong. This really bothered me. It felt like the attack was on the wrong people, on trans people for supposedly upholding a binary, when that binary is forced upon us by cis people, similarly to the way a binary is enforced on intersex people by people who aren't intersex.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Izzy

    ’I don’t want to change myself. I want the whole world to change instead.’ — Les Hamanaka, non-binary Elder. Really enjoyable and informative, especially in regards to the biology, experience and differing cultural practices related to intersex people. Loved that there was creative non-fiction in there written by intersex people, both trans and non-trans. Loved learning about the spectrum of sexes in non-Western cultures, and how our ideas about sex and gender are heavily influenced by colonisati ’I don’t want to change myself. I want the whole world to change instead.’ — Les Hamanaka, non-binary Elder. Really enjoyable and informative, especially in regards to the biology, experience and differing cultural practices related to intersex people. Loved that there was creative non-fiction in there written by intersex people, both trans and non-trans. Loved learning about the spectrum of sexes in non-Western cultures, and how our ideas about sex and gender are heavily influenced by colonisation. It also had some interesting things to say about the connotations of the word ‘cisgender’, namely that while the word has good intentions it ultimately upholds a binary system that negates the experience of intersex and non-binary people in a variety of ways. I think the science was explained well and as a non-scientist person I thiiiiink I pretty much followed it. Writing this review made me realise I def loved this book, rather than just do four stars. Def keeping this book to reread in future! More about this fab book at the author’s website: https://hidaviloria.com/books/

  9. 5 out of 5

    CR

    Most of this book was things that I already knew from taking college classes. However, the personal stories were amazing. My major issue were the typos and no punctuation. I know that this was an ARC but it was really bad and I wished that this would have been edited more before it was released for reviewers.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Very insightful book about the meaning of gender and sex, especially what it means to be intersex and what that has consequently brought upon people who identity as such. Would recommend to anyone fascinated about gender, like myself.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stacey Williams

    An eye-opening read about variation in sex and the exclusion that can result from a cultural mandate to perpetuate a sex/gender binary. A reminder, too, of how important language is in defining an experience or identity, not only for who it describes but for whom it doesn't. An eye-opening read about variation in sex and the exclusion that can result from a cultural mandate to perpetuate a sex/gender binary. A reminder, too, of how important language is in defining an experience or identity, not only for who it describes but for whom it doesn't.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jodi

    Really very enlightening. A great explanation about how binary assignment of gender has created so many problems.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cristie Underwood

    Since i have a few friends that are transgender, this book caught my eye. The authors' ability to mix facts with real life experience made this not only an educational read, but an enjoyable one. Since i have a few friends that are transgender, this book caught my eye. The authors' ability to mix facts with real life experience made this not only an educational read, but an enjoyable one.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Fernando Meisenhalter

    Extremely educational, with a rare ability to mix science with everyday experience. One of the most interesting reads on this subject that I have ever read. Very recommendable.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Yong

  16. 5 out of 5

    Heidi Gardner

  17. 4 out of 5

    Claudia Monique Gomez

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michael Johnson

  19. 5 out of 5

    Hena Vadher

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

  21. 5 out of 5

    Emma Cholip

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ambrose Miles

  23. 4 out of 5

    Letizia

  24. 5 out of 5

    Victor Raggio

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mattie Richards

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jordi

  27. 4 out of 5

    Christine Severn

  28. 5 out of 5

    Erin

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alex The Ninja Squirrel

  30. 5 out of 5

    Khippies

  31. 5 out of 5

    Morgane

  32. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  33. 4 out of 5

    Alison Tonagh

  34. 4 out of 5

    Alan Michelson

  35. 4 out of 5

    Gor

  36. 5 out of 5

    Hezekiah

  37. 5 out of 5

    May Helena Plumb

  38. 5 out of 5

    Gretel

  39. 4 out of 5

    Lona

  40. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

  41. 4 out of 5

    Mahrukh Ahmed

  42. 5 out of 5

    Rhiannon Parent

  43. 5 out of 5

    KeBOBster

  44. 4 out of 5

    Adrianna

  45. 5 out of 5

    Kristy

  46. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  47. 5 out of 5

    Liz

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