The Language of Gender Identity

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To the Editor:

Re “The Problem With Saying ‘Sex Assigned at Birth,’” by Alex Byrne and Carole K. Hooven (Opinion guest essay,, April 3):

Mr. Byrne and Ms. Hooven argue that use of “assigned sex” terminology “creates doubt about a biological fact when there shouldn’t be any.” But sex characteristics are not “a biological fact”; they are rather a series of facts — anatomical, hormonal and genetic — that are not always in alignment.

The term “sex assignment” derives from the medical literature of the 1940s and 1950s, in which physicians grappled with what was then called “hermaphroditism” and is now called “intersex” or “D.S.D.,” for disorders or differences of sex development.

To conclude that the words “assigned at birth” are needless is to deny the complexity of biological sex and to erase both the history of intersex conditions and the embodied reality of the people who are born and live with them.

Barbara M. Chubak
New York
The writer is an associate professor of urology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

To the Editor:

Transgender people like me do not exist as a topic of rational debate, something to be tossed around in discourse; we are people, and our lives exist far beyond your philosophizing. Articles like this are not only unnecessary, but they are also harmful, patronizing and dehumanizing.

The phrase “sex assigned at birth” is causing no one any harm, and it is not meant to replace “sex.” We are not advocating the end of “male” and “female.”

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