Plus One: Commentary on Gender Ideology Culture
guest post from an actually non-binary person
In this issue, I am privileged to publish an essay from a good friend, who is actually a non-binary person: one of the very few people with an intersex condition. As such, he is uniquely positioned to comment on the way that medical conditions like his are appropriated by the Woke to spread their ideology. This is his only published writing on the topic and I am honored to publish it. —HMN
I am Actually Non-Binary
One plus one equals two. Unless you are online, then one plus one might equal three. Or four. Or five. This is an interesting argument that I’ve encountered and have tried to wrap my head around. Especially since I’m an extra one.
What do I mean by this? I – and I’m assuming many who are not online or on Twitter on a regular basis – understand gender and sex to be interchangeable. When we say woman, we mean a homo sapiens with a female phenotype and XX chromosomes. When we say man, we mean a homo sapiens with a male phenotype and XY chromosomes. This is the “binary” that is somehow problematic, despite being a simple material reality. Calling it problematic is like calling out sand for being made of silicate to be problematic. Or calling out hydrogen peroxide for not liking silver problematic.
Granted, it is not a perfect binary. There are outliers. Referred to as aneuploidy, these are people whom have an extra chromosome the most common being trisomies, having one extra chromosome - such as a 47,XXX or XXY or XYY. There are also rarer monosomies (only X is viable, this is known as Turner Syndrome), tetrasomies (four chromosomes) and pentasomies (five chromosomes).
I’m a 47,XXY with a male phenotype and it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.
How did I get this condition?
I was born from an older mother in a fairly poor region of New England. This increased the risk for this condition to occur. In addition to that, where I was born was very poor, and had very polluted water – similar to Flint, Michigan, but went untreated from the 1960s to the 1990s. I was born in 1981, and it was only in 1991 the community was informed of the pollution. Cancer rates in my home town are far higher than the national average as a result, and my mother drinking this water while carrying me might have had an impact on my pre-natal development. For example, when I was born, I was a preemie, and spent three months in a neo-natal ICU suffering from lung and kidney failures.
Growing up my extra chromosome had an impact. I didn’t like sports because I was very uncoordinated and thus did poorly. I was tall and lanky when most of my friends were still short – I’m the tallest in my family as well, by a solid two or three inches compared to all my cousins. I struggled in school. This was further impacted by growing up exceedingly poor. I didn’t have access to resources or special programs to help me. My school couldn’t afford them, nor could my parents. There was a program in my state’s capital city – but the cost was three times what my dad made in a year for two months. It was also an hour and a half away which made it difficult to get too since both my parents worked.
Were there struggles? Yes. I got teased a lot. I sometimes felt ashamed of my body – why wasn’t I as coordinated as the other guys? Why was I tired all the time? Why couldn’t I develop muscle mass? Why did I have breast tissue development? Why did my voice never really drop? Gym was hard for me due to embarrassment, and the fact no one ever wanted me on their team for team sports – I really sucked. But I worked through it.
I struggled with language, writing, and building essays. I didn’t start talking till I was almost three years old, and struggled with verbal expression until I was 12. I had a hard time holding on to ideas. I could verbalize what I wanted very well, but writing was (and is to this day) a challenge. I could watch a friend of mine write an essay in an hour and get an A, while I’d take a week and get a B-.
I have problems with sensory issues. I can’t stand the touch of polyester, nylon or other artificial fibers. I can only wear cotton and wool. I often over react to certain situations, and generally assume hostility where none existed. These are all things I work on. Except for polyester – it’s the devil’s fabric.
My parents were also distant. When I was born they didn’t even name me – my sister did. I didn’t bond with them as I have observed most people bond with their parents. I was often referred to as a “mistake” or a “setback”. As I said, we were poor. My birth impacted my parents retirement plans significantly. I had additional medical needs due to my endocrine system not working properly. I was clumsy and got into accidents more often. These all were setbacks. Every time I got reminded that I was a burden. Heck, I wasn’t even allowed to have my own clothes till I was a teenager. I had to wear my sister’s hand me downs. Let me tell you that this caused more issues in school then any physical manifestation of my condition.
My interests weren’t in line with typical boy stuff as well. I was an outsider from the get go. I loved home economics (I still sew and bake, they’re favorite hobbies), and I loved horses (I actually started riding a few years ago). As I said, I wasn’t a fan of sports, though I’m better at faking it now. I never really got or understood male bonding, and had very few close friends.
I was non-binary in a world where such distinctions weren’t even talking points yet. Where there was no talk about gender conforming surgery or puberty blockers or insistence on “pronouns”. I present as a male. I get called he/him.
But here is the thing.
Identifying As A Thing vs Being The Thing
I do not identify as non-binary. I AM non-binary. As in actually, medically, officially, in the material sense a non-binary person. And – frankly – I deeply resent the appropriation of my lived experience by those who have no genetic or physical abnormality yet try to force such language for themselves. My condition is not something that is to be “celebrated” or anyone should want to “experience”.
Let me stop for a minute. I reject, absolutely, the idea of gender and physical sex being separate. The material condition of the vast majorities of our species is a sex binary: Male. Female. There are outliers such as myself. But we’re just that – abnormal outliers. And that’s not a slur, nor should it be seen as a slur. I am abnormal. I am outside the normal distribution of chromosomes. In a random sample of people, 99% of the time you’ll get XX/XY as the population of your sample. That’s “normal”. It is not evil or good in a moral sense. It’s just material reality. Claiming that my use of abnormal is “bad” or “evil” is like claiming that finding a four leaf clover in a field of three leaf clovers is bad or evil – it isn’t. It’s an abnormal rare event that is kind of interesting. There are downsides, I outlined some above but there are others. Those are just part of the material reality. It’s like being mad you have to drink water. Or breathe oxygen. It just is.
One plus one does equal two. One plus one plus one equals three. However, discussions of sets of one greater than two should be rare and are best discussed in the medical and scientific communities.
Material Reality Matters
Let’s be clear - the material is the reality. Males with properly functioning XY chromosomes are generally faster and have strong hand-eye coordination, this can – but does not have to – lead to an interest and like for sports. Since my chromosomes don’t function properly, I am not fast and coordinated. I didn’t dislike sports out of some kind of gender identification. I disliked them because I was bad at them, and didn’t feel like doing stuff I was bad at! That might be lazy, which is fine. I liked sewing not because I identified as a woman (and holy shit is that sexist as fuck), but because sitting my ass in a chair and using a sewing machine with hand guards was something I could do without a high risk of major injury and thus became something I was interested in.
And I like baking because it’s applied mathematics. And home made bread both smells delicious while baking and tastes amazing. This might have something to do with my stomach size but that’s not the focus of this essay.
When I hear someone say that they are non-binary because they like dresses or some other social reason it is just so sad. Before we claim that preferences are somehow sex based, I want to see where having an XY or XX chromosome pair is a requirement for that. It sure as hell has not stopped me from doing what I want with my life.
Math is not male. You can like math if you have any set of chromosomes. You can wear a dress with any set of chromosomes. Go right ahead. Hell put some feathers in a hat and throw that on too. Liking dresses is not a sex characteristic. Liking cars is not a sex characteristic. Liking sewing or painting or digging ditches is not a sex characteristic.
Please show me where you need a penis to do math, or where you need a vagina to wear a dress.
Wanting to be a special unique wildflower who can get other people to bend to your will is not a sex characteristic – it’s a totalitarian characteristic.
If you are part of the normal distribution (XX and XY) who just happen to like things that might be outliers to like, you are not non-binary. And pretending that you are is having significant material harm on people. Let’s talk about why.
There are risks when you have extra chromosomes. While I am “healthy” I am at much higher risks for certain diseases. For example, diabetes. Insulin requires testosterone to be produced. I am testosterone deficient, thus I am insulin deficient. I need to be put on testosterone therapy – and I spent two hours talking to my doctor about the risks and how she feels those risks are outweighed by the risks of doing nothing. Most of my problems actually come from endocrine disruption.
Don’t Medically Manipulate Kids
Yet we want to talk about putting kids on puberty blockers or disrupting their endocrine function simply because if they say they are the opposite gender we must just accept that? And for those who say that isn’t happening… well, here you go. We are basically saying that to help children we must force them into artificial versions of my condition. And there are risks, and that’s where the next danger comes from.
Discussions about studying or researching this is often met with claims of transphobia. I have a condition which while not something that could lower my life expectancy does have an impact on conditions which do lower life expectancy and led to significant struggles growing up. I want doctors and scientists to research this. Would I have had an easier time studying with proper medications introduced earlier in my life or even prenatal? Would I have had the lankiness and clumsiness with proper testosterone monitoring or intervention?
Most importantly, I don’t want other people to go through it.
Artificially inflicting 47, XXY by purposefully disrupting a boy’s endocrine system is not going to help them (or inflicting 47, XXX on a girl). Depression and mental health disorders are incredibly common in such situations. If they are feeling depressed already, disrupting their testosterone isn’t going to help. It will, in fact harm them. Remember that there are no long term studies on the impact of this – but we know what happens to those with chromosome disorders, and while we can live normal lives, we will struggle with a wide variety of problems.
I am non-binary. The worst of my struggles were not driven by my gender identity or presentation – they were driven by the material conditions I was born and raised in. It was poverty that impacted me the most, not gender dysphoria – and yes I have sex characteristics that are female and male. In fact, 47, XXY can present as female.
If I had been born and grown up in today’s world I would be going through puberty blockers and gender confirming surgery, all of which would result in my health degrading and becoming worse. I would be told I should be a woman – in fact, I was asked by my doctor if I wanted to explore transition fairly recently! And no – I don’t.
Why not? Because I’m me. I’ve always been me. I do not allow others to define me based on what I like or am interested in. I am happy with the me I have become. I am proud of myself for learning how to socialize, to understand my world and better navigate it. I am proud of my career in STEM, despite my struggles with language and communication. I feel that inspite of my struggles I am pretty awesome as a guy.
I am completely okay being a man. Nothing that I like or do or facts about my body make me less of a man. In fact, the opposite is pretty sexist and totalitarian, not liberating. I am liberated because I can accept that my material and physical body is not in charge of my likes or interests. I do not need to categorize myself by others expectations because I am happy with who I am. Nothing changes that. Nothing will change the fact that I have XXY chromosomes.
And that’s okay. That’s good.
The Soft Bigotry of Ideological Bullshit
And conversations online about gender and sex are the exact opposite. Instead of being liberating they represent the worst and most toxic attitudes of the 1950s. Where a person like me would be told they cannot be a man, that they must be queer or trans or something else and this is repeated over and over. When I was younger I was not as confident as I am today. Like the vast majority of teenagers I wanted to be accepted and part of a group. If I had been told I was trans I probably would have jumped on it for that feeling of acceptance. I would have been told that I was not a proper man. Not in so many words of course, just like my doctor today I would have been told I could be a woman – implying heavily that I should just do it. I would have had my insecurities manipulated and magnified. I would have come to believe what I was being told.
It’s soft bigotry. I’m sure they feel they are doing the right thing, but they aren’t. They’re saying “You can’t be a man because you don’t do typically manly man stuff.” That’s sexist and frankly, bullshit. I am a man. Full stop. Nothing anyone says can take that away from me.
And anyone who said otherwise would have been wrong. I grew out of it. I found strengths and things that made me happy and confident. I found an amazing wife and life partner. I found friends and work and a sense of belonging in the world – all while looking and acting non-conforming.
What Struggling Kids Need to Know
And here is where I hope that a child who is struggling with their own identity will find this helpful. I didn’t engage in constant struggle sessions about my gender or force other people to call me special words that if they screwed up would make me flip my shit. I did it by just finding out what I liked and living my life. I refused to accept someone else’s categories in my life – and be absolutely sure that while the online gender community wants to talk about deconstructing gender, they are absolutely constructing much tighter cages to shove everyone into. To which I say “No thank you!”
Accept yourself as yourself. If you are XY or XX feel lucky. Embrace it. Embrace your growth and hormones and feel lucky your endocrine system works. Feel blessed that you probably have a normal body and that it is one thing that will not hold you back in the world. There are real, material consequences to screwing around with this system, and no your doctors do not understand the impacts.
There are two ways to go through life. You can be angry all the time and lash out at the world, and demand that it fall to your whims – you can try it. It won’t work. Or you’ll just harm a lot of people and maybe that will feel good in the moment but it will catch up with you. It is a hard life to see the whole world as your enemy, to want to fight everyone and everything. Violence against others is, at the end of the day, violence against yourself as well. Do you really think people who spend all day on Twitter pouring through years of tweets looking for something “problematic” are happy people? Do you really want to live that life? I want to learn how to make a saddle. I want to learn how to bake more breads. I want to be happy and have an interesting and positive impact on the world around my non-binary self.
Your other path is to simply accept yourself on your own terms. Do not make gender or race or anything else a part of your identity. You are you. If you are an XY male and you want to wear make up or do your nails – then do so. You do you. Do not allow others to tell you who you are or what you are and don’t do that to other people. Let other people figure out who they are and what they are. Be free and help free others. Don’t force people into little boxes. Don’t force people to acknowledge your box. I have been mis-gendered. My voice is a nonconforming aspect of who I am. I did not get angry. Sometimes I even let them think I’m a female for the laughs. It’s always funny to see the confusion on their face when I show up as my awesome male self.
Helping People Who Are Actually Non-Binary
The best way we can help non-binary people right now in today’s world is not struggle sessions and pronouns. It is by focusing on the material conditions that lead to these conditions and ways to treat them. Because there are real and dangerous health effects. I do not choose to be non-binary. It is not my identity. It is my material reality. To see others making a mockery of it and distorting the science of it is harming me and people like me. We need real science looking into this, and we need to stop artificially inflicting chromosome syndromes on other children.
We need to stop our sick obsession with gender and let people be people. Let the vast majority of sets be 1 + 1, and know that if there is a third 1 in there, that actually is a medical issue. It is not an opportunity to do LARPing.