Author: Nate Stitt, Greenhill School '23
On Friday, July 10, 2020, history was made. Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio became the first transgender woman to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
The announcement, featured as a twitter moment, quickly gained traction on the social media platform. The result: A great deal of transphobic garbage. People hidden behind their screen rambled about how they will refuse to read the magazine.
Their general message was that trans women will always be men because they were born as men.
That is simply incorrect.
Sex and Gender are two separate concepts. Biological sex is “determined by chromosomes, hormones and external and internal genitalia,” according to The Medical Dictionary. People are first assigned their gender based upon their sex at birth. For example, if someone is born with male genitalia, their gender is determined to be male. Gender is defined as “the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Chromosomes do not define gender — they are one of the traits that define sex.
Many people are assigned to a gender at birth that does not coincide with how they feel in their brain. As they grow, they feel like they were born in the wrong body — they identify as transgender.
The brains of many people who identify as transgender have hormones of the opposite sex. Read the first paragraph of this article from Science Daily: “Brain activity and structure in transgender adolescents more closely resembles the typical activation patterns of their desired gender, according to new research. The findings suggest that differences in brain function may occur early in development and that brain imaging may be a useful tool for earlier identification of transgenderism in young people.” This proves that hormonally, which, as you may remember, is one of the defining characteristics of one’s sex, transgender people are the gender that they identify as.
So, frankly, no. I will not accept the idea that Valentina or any other trans women are not women. That statement is scientifically and sociologically incorrect. I will not stay silent — neither should you.
"Definition Of GENDER". 2020. Merriam-Webster.com. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gender.
"Biological Sex". 2020. Thefreedictionary.Com. https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Biological+sex#:~:text=(an%20organism).-,sex,EBM.
"Transgender Brains Are More Like Their Desired Gender From An Early Age". 2020. Sciencedaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180524112351.htm.
“Understanding Transgender Genetics”. Nguyen, Tiffany. 2020. Genetics.Thetech.Org. https://genetics.thetech.org/ask-a-geneticist/transgender-genetics#:~:text=All%20in%20all%2C%20if%20a,that%20the%20person%20is%20male.
Graphic courtesy of Shani Glassberg