Sam Sharpe

Sam Sharpe is a fourth year PhD student in the Division of Biology at Kansas State University, where they are studying drought adaptation across grass populations. While not watching grass grow, Sam is engaged in advocacy for queer and transgender students on the KSU campus and in STEM fields. Sam believes strongly in the importance of scientific literacy, science communication, and the capacity of biology to empower, rather than invalidate, queer and transgender identities. In their free time, Sam enjoys running marathons, baking rainbow cakes, and taking selfies with cute plants.

Biological Sex and Transgender Identities - Friday, 7/27 at 1:00 pm in the Ashton Bridges Room (Room 257)

Presentation Overview:

Transphobia at the personal, political, and policy level is often justified by the argument that biological sex exists as a provable and discrete binary. Accordingly, all non-cisgender identities are dismissed as invalid and in violation of physical and scientific truths. Such claims are rooted in historical misconstructions of physical sex differentiation as justification for prejudicial hierarchies of humanity. Mainstream media and popular science publications also re-enforce oversimplified understandings of the inherent variation in sexually dimorphic traits, both in humans and across eukaryotic phylogenies, contributing to these stigmatizing misconceptions. My research brings together principles of evolutionary biology, human development, and gender studies scholarship to develop a holistic and accessible model of biological sex, gender, and self-identification. This work is also informed by best practices for trans and queer inclusive teaching and language. In this presentation, I will provide an overview of the inherent complexity of biological sex, including the role of gametes, chromosomal variation, and sex differentiation during development. I will discuss how the medicalized shame and secrecy around intersex bodies creates a false perception of biological sex as fully and unambiguously dimorphic. My presentation will conclude with a discussion of the implications for understanding gender identity in light of the natural variation in biological sex, and suggestions for how to combat misinformation about biology and transgender identities with an accessible and inclusive scientific understanding.

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