While going through my science book last year, I noticed something weird. A sentence in the class X science book reads, “A child who inherits an X chromosome from her father will be a girl, and one who inherits a Y chromosome from him will be a boy.”
Now at first glance, there is nothing wrong with it. This is what has been taught for ages, after all. A child with two X-chromosomes becomes a girl, and one with one X and one Y becomes a boy. The only shortcoming is, that’s not the case.
The sentence emphasises on necessity, and an urgency to bind gender with chromosomes. It ultimately concludes that gender is a binary term- which it is not. WHO considers ‘Gender’ as those characteristics of women and men that are largely socially constructed.
This sentence confuses sex with gender identity and reduces it to a binary concept. A postdoctoral scholar from UCSF explains that “Biological gender and gender identity are two very distinct concepts. Biological gender or sex refers to the anatomy and physiology of a human body, whereas gender identity is influenced by a multitude of factors, most of which we don’t fully understand.”
WHO also claims that hundreds are born with several variations of chromosomes, which in no way defines their gender. In addition, some males are born 46XX due to the translocation of a tiny section of the sex-determining region of the Y chromosome. Similarly, some females are also born 46XY due to mutations in the Y chromosome. Clearly, there are not only females who are XX and males who are XY, but rather, there is a range of chromosome complements, hormone balances, and phenotypic variations that determine sex.
The primary concern about this topic is that this sentence creates a specific, confined mentality in the minds of students. This statement teaches that a person can either be male or female and nothing in between or outside. This perpetuates stereotypes and stigmas that concern the gender-fluid communities. It also perpetuates stereotypical notations about gender roles, because individuals feel that they have to be at one end of a linear spectrum and must identify themselves as man or woman, rather than being allowed to choose their identity.
In our letter to NCERT, we have urged them on the necessity of making this small yet significant edit. We have urged the concerned authorities to edit the specific sentence. It is necessary that students grow up to be accepting and open-minded citizens, and respect others. It needs to be understood, as we’ve already mentioned and given examples above, that chromosomes don’t bind gender, and it is an umbrella term.
Now, with all of this scientific data backing up our petition, here is what we have suggested to NCERT as a viable edit to the previous sentence.
Edit- ’’A child who inherits an X chromosome from her father will generally be a girl, and one who inherits a Y chromosome from him will generally be a boy.’’
This is similar to the definition carried out by WHO- Most women are 46XX, and most men are 46XY. Therefore, by adding a word that maintains the probability of the following gender based on chromosomes, a small yet significant change is done. Considering how such occurrences happen comparatively less than the cases where chromosomes do define gender, a very grammatical and scientific logic is maintained.
It’s a given that many people won’t consider this as a pressing issue, for it doesn’t show instant results or breaking down of harmful stereotypes. However, I urge people to imagine the scenario of noticing the word ‘generally’, and students questioning their teacher about it. You have a class full of students who now know and understand that sex isn’t confined to being a boy or a girl.
Can you imagine the impact this acceptance might have? Imagine a whole generation – accepting of all sexualities. Now, even when you’re unable to see the bigger picture, here’s another point.
Someone’s identity or your acceptance of it should not be beneficial to you. If your sole purpose of giving someone a representation in a textbook is to provide your children with an open mind, and not the acceptance of the oppressed, then there’s a fundamental mistake in your morals. The edit should be done, not only for expanding minds but to also accept that gender and sexualities outside of what we always believed existed.
It is a small change, but it gives students a chance to broaden their mindsets, learn more than the confined notions and grow up to be accepting citizens – which, we feel should be the primary goal of every educational institution.
Sign our petition to help us get our word to NCERT.
(too see our official letter to NCERT, click here)