“There are things we know that we know. There are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also things we do not know we don’t know. So when we do the best we can and we pull all this information together, and we then say well that’s basically what we see as the situation, that is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns. And each year, we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns.” – Donald Rumsfeld
I was sure about certain things. Like the difference between male and female. And then I heard about the humiliating ordeal suffered by Caster Semenya, the 19-year old South African running phenomenon who dominates the women’s 800m race. Now I’m not sure anymore. Why was she made to undergo all sorts of tests to prove she was female?
Sports are organized according to sex. And, once upon a time, the governing bodies of sports determined sex by looking. Then they found out you can’t believe everything you see. So they started chromosome testing. And that’s when they learned why adults always tell children to stop asking too many questions.
Here’s Ariel Levy of The New Yorker:
“In normal human development, when a zygote has XY, or male, chromosomes, the SRY—sex-determining region Y—gene on the Y chromosome ‘instructs’ the zygote’s protogonads to develop as testes, rather than as ovaries. The testes then produce testosterone, which issues a second set of developmental instructions: for a scrotal sac to develop and for the testes to descend into it, for a penis to grow, and so on. But the process can get derailed. A person can be born with one ovary and one testicle. The SRY gene can end up on an X chromosome. A person with a penis who thinks he is male can one day find out that he has a uterus and ovaries….
“All sorts of things can happen, and do. An embryo that is chromosomally male but suffers from an enzyme deficiency that partially prevents it from ‘reading’ testosterone can develop into a baby who appears female. Then, at puberty, the person’s testes will produce a rush of hormones and this time the body won’t need the enzyme (called 5-alpha-reductase) to successfully read the testosterone. The little girl will start to become hairier and more muscular. Her voice may deepen, and her testes may descend into what she thought were her labia. Her clitoris will grow into something like a penis. Is she still a girl? Was she ever?”
Levy goes on but I guess you get the drift. If not then read the Rumsfeld quote above.
So let’s leave Levy and go to the RH bill.
Rep. Anthony Golez observed recently, “The country is divided on the definition of when life begins, either during fertilization or implantation period. If the country is divided as to the definition of when life begins, then it is to be presumed that the choices used for fertility are not yet certain whether they are lawful or unlawful as provided for by our Constitution as to the protection of life from moment of conception.”
When does life begin?
Golez said Congress must answer that question before it passes a reproductive health bill. That’s the way it should be. And yet I’m afraid.
Congress might end up like the IAAF, the governing body of athletics. It lifted Semenya’s suspension after tests showed she was female but it did not lay to rest questions about what the testing accomplished in the first place. Did it lead to a better and fairer way of organizing athletics and, for that matter, sports? Similarly, how will the answer to Golez’ question insure equal protection for the rights of both the mother and the zygote or the blastocyst, as the case may be?
Blame it all on an old Italian. Everything was fine until he built a telescope to spy on his neighbor’s daughter and aimed it at the stars while waiting for her to get home.