What makes a woman? New documentary seeks answers

Transgender model and activist Munroe Bergdorf hosts the new Channel 4 documentary What Makes a Woman? Science and society are grappling with the complex and contentious topics of sex, sexuality, and gender. New research and evidence demonstrate that simplistic binaries are more complicated than previously believed.

In 2017, Bergdorf was the subject of sustained online attacks after she was named a spokesmodel for L'Oreal, and internet trolls took issue with her social media comments about race and gender. She was eventually sacked.

It's great that Channel 4 is pushing to have this difficult conversation. The debate is often presented as "science vs. activism," or "science vs. theory." Having a calm and reasonable discussion about such things is a fairly new development, as media outlets in the past favored non-trans "authorities" pontificating on trans lives, rather than allowing trans people to discuss the issue, even noted trans scientists.

My own thinking on this was greatly influenced by trans neuroscientist Ben Barres, and by trans biologist Joan Roughgarden, whose book Evolution's Rainbow looked at sexual diversity in nature, a common theme of her work:

If you're an evolutionary psychology fan who believes trans people carry some sort of bias against The Truth™ or Biological Reality™, I recommend (non-transgender) biologist Ruth Hubbard's book The Politics of Women's Biology.

Hubbard was the first woman tenured in biology at Harvard. It's a very interesting read that was way ahead of its time.

What Makes a Woman? (via Channel 4)

Disclosure: I met Bergdorf during my work on making Tinder more gender-friendly, and I collaborated on developing a voice training course with 2Pass Clinic where she gets her surgery in the documentary.

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