Afterword

From: The 7 Sexes

colophon
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A f t e r w o r d IwroteThe 7 Sexesbeforethepoliticaldebatesovercontraceptives,abortion ,andwomen’shealthcarebecameissuesintheU.S.2012Presidential election. This book, from my training and immersion in the history of science and as a geneticist, attempts to interpret the way our knowledge of sex determination emerged. Anyone studying that history will encounter cognate issues like twinning and disorders (or differences) in anatomical, physiological, chromosomal, and genetic factors in the developmental process that lead to male or female births or, in some instances, intersexual births. This book is largely about the biology of sex determination. But sex is also a behavioral activity and it, too, in the plant and animal world, requires behavior or mechanisms that bring about the union of sperm (or pollen) and eggs (or ovules). To the degree we know the biology, genetics, or environmental factors associated with human sexual behavior, I have included this. I have not, however, used this book as a polemic against other people’s personal views. It is their right, if they read this book, to filter the biology through their values and make decisions about reproduction for themselves and their families. I have lived a long life and I have had the privilege to see how society changes every generation. My expectations in the 1940s and 1950s were very different from my expectations today. In that early generation there was no “pill” for family planning. Abortion was criminalized. Children with intersexual conditions had to live with the terms hermaphrodite, 176 Infant Hercules, or testicular feminization. Homosexual behavior was criminalized. Sterile women were said to be barren. Some today would prefer it if the old ways were to continue, but society as a whole has chosen otherwise by using family planning and assisted reproductive technologies, tolerating or accepting homosexual behavior, and accepting premarital sexual activity. However our lives turn out, we are forced to make decisions. My father told me that in 1930 when my mother was pregnant with me, he asked her if she wanted an abortion. It was the Great Depression era and the birth rate was falling. My mother said no. I respect both of my parents’ points of view. My father was concerned about the costs of raising a family and the effect my birth would have on my mother’s health. My mother felt she would somehow manage with another child. If I had been aborted, I would never have known it, any more than the hundreds of millions of sperm that my father ejaculated would feel remorse that they did not get to fertilize one of my mother’s eggs. My being born prevented some other child who might have followed a year or two later as the economic fortunes of my parents improved. Biologists see the world through chance, probabilities, and uncertainties. But biologists, like all citizens, also see the world as one in which they have to abide by moral standards coming, in different emphasis, from philosophers, theologians, the behavior of their friends and neighbors, and the loving examples of their parents. I hope the reader has found this history useful to show how ideas emerge and change, how our knowledge eliminates false ideas of an assumed underlying reality, and how our technology makes that reality becomepartofourunderstanding.Ignoringwhatwehavelearnedinthe past two centuries limits the information we need to make decisions for ourselves and for our children. ...


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