How many actual genders are there

The physical gender: a mosaic

We grow up with the idea that there are only two genders who are clearly physically different from each other: women have breasts, a vagina and wide hips - men, on the other hand, have broad shoulders, a beard and a penis. At first glance, it seems very simple, but on closer inspection, the issue of gender is more complex - and more colorful than this familiar division would lead you to believe.

What is "physical gender" anyway?

Biology distinguishes at least four sub-areas by gender:

  • the chromosomal sex: Here the combination of X and Y chromosomes is decisive. The combinations XX and XY are the most common. In most cases this develops into a body understood as female (XX) or a body understood as male (XY). Other combinations are, for example, XXY (with an additional X chromosome), or X0 (with an X, but no additional sex chromosome).
  • the gonadal sex: This refers to the gonads - i.e. testicles or ovaries or gonads, which contain tissue typical of testicles and ovaries.
  • The morphological gender: It describes both the so-called primary sexual characteristics such as vulva, penis, ovaries, clitoris, testicles or vagina as well as the so-called secondary sexual characteristics such as fat distribution or beard growth and the tertiary sexual characteristics such as body type or size.
  • the hormonal sex: it describes the concentration of sex hormones such as progesterone, androgens and estrogens.

How many genders are there?

There are various possible combinations between the various sub-areas of physical gender:

For example, very many people with the chromosome combination XY have a penis; some but also vulva and vagina. Androgens and estrogens - some are considered "male", the other as "female" sex hormones - are present in all people in individual concentrations that can change in the course of life. There is also a spectrum between the penis and clitoris, which arise from the genital hump of the embryo: Both do not develop apart until around the ninth week of pregnancy and sometimes a "very small penis" from a "very large clitoris" is not so easy to close distinguish.

These physical sexual characteristics Incidentally, do not say anything about how people understand and behave sexually or with whom, for example, they fall in love.

Why is it important to know?

"Nature loves diversity; unfortunately society doesn't," says Milton Diamond, Professor Emeritus of Anatomy and Reproductive Biology, in a nutshell.1

We have learned not to speak and think about gender in its actual diversity, but only in the two sharply differentiated and mutually exclusive models "man" and "woman". Anything that goes beyond these drawers can easily become invisible or a problem. And that affects specific people and their biographies: for example women with beards and men without, intersex children and adolescents, adults with "too little" or "too much" breasts, "too angular" or "too soft" facial features.

Talking about the diversity in which nature produces humans can therefore be a shame and NormalizationSocial norms (lat. 'Norma' guideline, rule) denote generally recognized, binding rules of conduct that organize the coexistence of people. counteract and contribute to a freer society for all.

1 Diamond, Milton (2013): "Nature Loves Variety, Society Hates It" - Dr. Milton Diamond with Irene Diamond ". In: YouTube, December 24, 2013, TC 0: 0: 20-0: 0: 25, own translation. Last accessed on October 30, 2018 from