Texas lawmaker sparks backlash for arguing there are six sexes

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James Talarico speaks at a committee on public education.

A Harvard-educated Democratic lawmaker from Texas faced pushback for declaring during a hearing that there are six sexes on a “spectrum” — not two, according to a report.

State Rep. James Talarico, a former English teacher with a master’s in education policy, made his pronouncement before the Public Education Committee on a measure to ban transgender athletes from girls’ K-12 scholastic sports, the Washington Times reported.

“The bill seems to think there are two,” Talarico said to Republican Rep. Cole Hefner, the bill’s sponsor.

“The one thing I want us to all be aware of is that modern science obviously recognizes that there are many more than two biological sexes.”

James Talarico speaks at a committee on public education.
Texas House of Representatives

He added: “In fact, there are six, which honestly, Rep. Hefner, surprised me, too.”

Talarico explained that there are “six really common biological sexes” based on X and Y chromosomes — not just XX (female) and XY (male), but also single X, XXY, XYY and XXXY.

“The point is that biologically speaking, scientifically speaking, sex is a spectrum, and oftentimes can be very ambiguous,” he said, according to the news outlet.

However, Beth Stelzer, the president of Save Women’s Sports who testified in favor of the bill, disagreed with the lawmaker’s take on Xs and Ys — citing studies “proving that the male advantage is immutable [in athletics], and there are in fact two sexes. They are dimorphic: XX, XY.”

Lisa Stanton, front right, with her transgender girl, joins other parents of transgender children and supporters of transgender rights join in the capital outdoor rotunda to speak about transgender legislation being considered in the Texas House and Texas Senate.
Lisa Stanton, front right, with her transgender girl, joins other parents of transgender children and supporters of transgender rights join in the capital outdoor rotunda to speak about transgender legislation being considered in the Texas House and Texas Senate.
AP

“The other, quote, sexes mentioned are disorders of sexual development that are variants of XX or XY chromosomes. They are still disorders of male or female,” she said.

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Meanwhile, conservative author Dinesh D’Souza said in a tweet that the “only thing obvious here is this man’s stupidity.”

Talarico did not cite his sources, Children’s Hospital Colorado said that “X&Y chromosome variations” occur “because of problems with the formation of a parent’s sperm or egg,” adding that such kids may have health conditions and certain physical attributes, the Washington Times reported.

“Males with an extra X chromosome usually have small testicles and show delayed or incomplete pubertal development due to low levels of testosterone,” the hospital explains on its website.

“Girls with Turner syndrome [one X chromosome] can have short stature, webbing of the neck, a broad chest and shorter fourth fingers.”

Parents of transgender children and other supporters of transgender rights gather in the capital outdoor rotunda to speak about transgender legislation being considered in the Texas House and Texas Senate.
Parents of transgender children and other supporters of transgender rights gather in the capital outdoor rotunda to speak about transgender legislation being considered in the Texas House and Texas Senate.
AP

But Tech Interactive, a project supported by the Stanford School of Medicine’s Department of Genetics, said studies of chromosome variations do not “suggest that people who have these differences are more likely to be transgender.”

“Typically, if someone has a Y chromosome, no matter how many X’s or Y’s, they have the body parts of a boy. If someone doesn’t have a Y chromosome, they have the body parts of a girl,” Kim Zayhowski, a genetic counselor and former Stanford graduate student, said in a 2017 post, according to the report.

“Now this is important: having differences in sex chromosomes doesn’t mean that someone is transgender. Because remember, being transgender has more to do with how someone feels,” Zayhowski said, adding that sex-chromosome differences occur in about 1 in 1,600 people.

Meanwhile, Hefner said that the Texas University Interscholastic League has the flexibility to handle issues such as chromosome variations.

“There is a process in place for doctors and families to figure that [out] because we do know on a rare occasion that that has to be worked out and decided,” he said.

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