Explorer | Sex, Lies, and Gender

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Tuesday September 15 9P

It does not seem like a question that should be asked. You know who you are. Or do you?

Each year thousands of people around the world are born with ambiguous gender. They do not fit into our binary system of male or female - and shockingly many of them don't know it. Early surgeries transformed their bodies; families and doctors hid the truth.

Now, their stories are starting to be heard. National Geographic Explorer examines the science of gender...and the gray areas in between. 

From scientists and medical professionals to individuals whose lives are affected, we search for answers, even looking to the lives of other animals for clues.

WHAT IS GENDER?

There are boys... and there are girls. For millions of people these basic categories of gender don’t mesh with their reality. Learn more about gender differences around the world with these facts:

  • The word "transgender" refers to a person whose sexuality cannot be defined as male or female, as well as a person who presents themselves as the opposite sex.

  • In 1952, Christine Jorgensen was the first person to undergo a successful sex-change operation.

  • Intersex status is highly valued in Navajo culture, which recognizes three sexes: intersex individuals, males, and females.

  • The major groups of vertebrates include species that are solely female.

  • Anthropologists commonly refer to people in various cultures who exhibit behavioral and aesthetic tendencies of the opposite gender as “two-spirited.”

  • The word “androgyny” is a combination of Greek words for man (andros) and woman (gynaika).

  • Androgyny first emerged in the U.S. among homosexuals during the 1970s and quickly moved into the mainstream by the 1980s. Some icons who defied gender stereotypes include: Annie Lennox, Boy George, David Bowie, and Sinead O’Connor.

  • Studies indicate 74% of transgender youth in America have been sexually harassed at school and 33.2% have attempted suicide.

  • The transgender population in America experiences up to 60% unemployment.

  • Within North Piegan populations, some women who exhibit characteristics typically attributed to men such as aggression are called, “manly-hearts,” though they are physically female.

  • In some places in Africa “woman-marriage” is a practice where two women marry each other and one assumes the cultural status of a man.

  • In Moha, Hungary, there is a ritual called the “chicken kill” in which young men disguised as women travel from house to house.

 

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