Bathroom bill, bogus biology, and intersex

In the US, bathroom issues continue to fuel debates about sex and gender. See here for some recent material:

While the NC bill was mainly aimed against trans people (and, hardly noted in the current debate, also against minimum wages), and is drawn into debates about gay and lesbian rights, the affair in my opinion also is an intersex issue. After all, a key assumption of the bill’s supporters (also expressed in the bill itself) is that intersex persons do not exist. Just to remind you – according to the definition of the NC bathroom bill, ‘biological sex’ cannot be established by any scientific criteria, but rather the birth certificate:

Biological sex. – The physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person’s birth certificate.
This is not even bogus biology but simply no biology at all. Apparently, the NC legislation believes that bodies don’t matter when it comes to sex. As far as supporters of the anti-LGBT legislation do quote biology, however, there is a lot of bogus biology. For example, A.E. Brain’s blog brought to my attention a Republican National Committee resolution which contains such an astonishingly number of errors on biological sex in only three lines that it is worth being quoted here:

A person’s sex is defined as the physical condition of being male or female, which is determined at conception, identified at birth by a person’s anatomy, recorded on their official birth certificate, and can be confirmed by DNA testing


Of course biological sex is not about being male or female only, is not determined at conception (look here, for starters), is not always (and if so, not always correctly) identified at birth and/or recorded on the birth certificate, and cannot be confirmed by DNA testing (as the IOC has learned from experience).


Human male karyotype. Source: WikiCommons.

The bogus biology is of course quoted to support the argument that biological sex trumps gender identity, at least until the birth certificate is changed; but it happens also to deny the existence of intersex persons. Very simply, if both anatomy and chromosones can be used to determine whether someone is male or female, what if  a person has a female anatomy and ‘male’ chromosones, as in the case of women with XY karyotype? Or more generally, what if anatomy and karyotypes come in more than two varieties, as they do in the case of humans?

A very benevolent interpretation of the above definition of ‘sex’ would be that the authors did not know, or for a moment forgot, that intersex people exist; but whatever excuse one finds for the ignorance expressed in the definition, it contributes to a perception of biological sex as binary and intersex phenomena as inexistent.

So while the bill may not intentionally restrict civil rights of intersexed people, it very clearly supports the position that they do not exist. This is dangerously close to the idea that bodies that cannot be assigned male or female gender at birth are somehow defective and for this reason alone have to be ‘corrected’ – an idea that poses very real threats to all intersex people.


Christof Rolker

Prof. Dr. Christof Rolker, Historiker an der Universität Bamberg.

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OpenEdition schlägt Ihnen vor, diesen Beitrag wie folgt zu zitieren:
Christof Rolker (30. Mai 2016). Bathroom bill, bogus biology, and intersex. Männlich-weiblich-zwischen. Abgerufen am 21. Juli 2024 von

Christof Rolker

Prof. Dr. Christof Rolker, Historiker an der Universität Bamberg.

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