Back to the basics I: Sex

Update passport issue 29 October 2018

N.B. Interesting: today a Dutch Judge ruled that the 57-years old Leonne Zeegers from Breda is allowed to get X in her passport instead of F (female) or M (male). She just wanted to be seen as human. It took a year and she had to prove that there had been doubt about her sex when she was born. Yet now, eventually, the judge ruled that one’s  biological sex is not the main thing and “that the time is ripe for a third gender”. Change can happen sometimes very fast!

(Source: Metronieuws, 29-10-2018).




Photo by Godisable Jacob on

This is probably a good moment to explain some terms I use in this blog.


No, not what you are thinking about right now, yes I know. No I am referring to the sex-gender distinction and thus seks as  your biological make-up. It sums up whether you are a man or a woman or…? I am adding ‘or’ here since many studies have pointed out that even sex is not so clear-cut and dichotomous. Annemarie Mol showed for instance in her classical article “Who knows what a woman is” that a woman is defined by many academic disciplines in different ways, e.g.  by having a vagina, breasts, a womb, being able to bear children or a relatively high percentage of oestrogene. Besides, not each of these characteristics is present in every woman (“Wie weet wat een vrouw is. Over de verschillen en de verhoudingen tussen wetenschappen”, Tijdschrift voor Vrouwenstudies, 1985).

Mixed cases

Of course you already knew that. We does not know cases of babies born, where it is not clear yet whether it is a boy or a girl, because the testicles have not yet descended? Some men have more pronounced nipples than women. Some men even have breasts. And you also know, after haven been kissed by several aunts, that some women have a mustache, others even a beard. You may change parts of your biological make-up, by surgery and/or medicines.

Sex and the young

You also know that young girls and boys do not differ very much in their oestrogene and testoron percentages, but this changes a lot in their puberty. Then these and other sex differences become more promiment. Even if you tried to deny your sexso far, at the moment when you start menstruating and getting breasts or when you start getting wet dreams, a beard and a voice that has suddenly dropped, it becomes markedly difficult to hide that you are female or male. Besides, other people increasingly claim then that you should or should not be doing certain things, because you are a woman or because you are a man.

Sex and the elderly

You are also aware that sex differences tend to become less prominent when people get over seventy. That is one reason I guess why in hetero couples the man and the woman then start to look like the other. One other reason for that I think is that if you have been in a relationship for fifty years or so, you have also been ‘busy-bodies’ about the other and so your thoughts and your way of clothing have become influenced by the other. And another reason  is that they do not need to attract anymore a new partner, so they tend to wear (also in their hair cut) what is comfortable.

Sex and sex/gender identity in your passport

So in other words, your sex is your biological make-up but it differs somewhat in time and it is not exactly the same for all men and all women. What’s more, you maybe a woman and sing with Shania Twain “Man, I feel like a Woman’ . Yet a man who is in his biological make-up clearly be male, but may feel the same and have a sex  or gender identity  as female. That is why some people plead for a third option: for instance ‘other or genderqueer’. Do you think that we need to change passports for that third biological category?

Rianne Voet 16-10-2018

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