Chromosomes: the Y’s and therefore

Chromosomes: the Y’s and therefore

Until very recently it was quite acceptable (even in “gender circles”) to equate the difference between sex and gender, to that between nature and nurture, or nature and culture.

Humans have 46 chromosomes of which 44 are composed of almost identical pairs. The other 2 are the sex chromosomes…..the X and the Y. Women have a pair of X chromosomes whilst men have an X and a Y. The Y chromosome is small and contains one small gene that acts as a master switch turning on the whole range of other genes that eventually give rise to a male body.

Every human being contains essentially all the genes needed to build a body of either sex. Women also have the potential to grow a penis, a beard, to develop a deeper voice. We all have the basic genetic material to become either men or women so it is not surprising that some ‘blip’ in the gene on the Y chromosome can lead to some unexpected results. The gender gene is important as
it decides which other genes get turned off or on. In many societies with a preference for sons men often blame their wives for the succession of daughters, and probably keep changing wives in order to get a son. In fact the sex of their children is determined by the transmission or otherwise of the Y chromosome.
The Y chromosome is often linked with criminality, and aggressivity in men, and defects in the Y chromosome are held responsible for various forms of male infertility. Sex testing of successful women athletes has often revealed the presence of the Y chromosome despite their having the external sexual characteristics of women.

Recently there has been a spate of books on the future of the Y chromosome and some scientists believe that in the next 5 – 10 million years it might disappear. (No pressure then on any readers of this page.) Apparently this has already happened in some rodent species where another chromosome has taken over the function.

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