A Harvard-educated Texas Democratic lawmaker drew double-takes for declaring at a hearing that there are six sexes, prompting a rebuke from skeptics who said his count was off by four.
Texas state Rep. James Talarico made his pronouncement prior to public testimony Tuesday before the Public Education Committee on House Bill 4042, a measure to bar transgender athletes from girls’ K-12 scholastic sports.
Mr. Talarico, a former English teacher, first quizzed Republican state Rep. Cole Hefner, the bill’s sponsor, on how many sexes there are. Mr. Hefner said there were two.
“The bill seems to think there are two,” said Mr. Talarico, who holds an M.A. in education policy from Harvard. “The one thing I want us to all be aware of recognize is that modern science obviously recognizes that there are many more than two biological sexes. In fact, there are six, which honestly, Rep. Hefner, surprised me, too.”
He explained that there are “six really common biological sexes” based on X and Y chromosomes: Not just XX (female) and XY (male), but also single X, XXY, XYY and XXXY.
“The point is that biologically speaking, scientifically speaking, sex is a spectrum, and oftentimes can be very ambiguous,” Mr. Talarico said.
Not having it was Beth Stelzer, president of Save Women’s Sports, who testified in favor of the bill.
She cited scientific studies “proving that the male advantage is immutable [in athletics], and there are in fact two sexes. They are dimorphic: XX, XY.”
“The other, quote, sexes mentioned are disorders of sexual development that are variants of XX or XY chromosomes,” Ms. Stelzer said at the hearing. “They are still disorders of male or female.”
While Mr. Talarico drew plenty of eye-rolls on social media — conservative author Dinesh D’Souza tweeted that the “only thing obvious here is this man’s stupidity” — the idea of multiple biological sexes has gained steam in recent years on the left.
Harvard’s Office of BGLTQ Student Life released a guide in 2017 declaring that “There are more than two sexes,” according to Campus Reform, while Mashable ran a 2018 headline, “The Trump administration says there are two sexes. The science says they’re wrong.”
Mr. Talarico did not cite his sources, but the same point was made in a popular 2013 post by financial asset manager Joshua Kennon entitled, “The 6 Most Common Biological Sexes in Humans.”
Children’s Hospital Colorado said that “X&Y chromosome variations” occur “because of problems with the formation of a parent’s sperm or egg,” and that children born with such variations may have medical conditions and distinct physical attributes.
“Males with an extra X chromosome usually have small testicles and show delayed or incomplete pubertal development due to low levels of testosterone,” said the hospital website. “Girls with Turner syndrome [one X chromosome] can have short stature, webbing of the neck, a broad chest and shorter fourth fingers.”
The Tech Interactive, a project supported by the Stanford School of Medicine Department of Genetics, said research “does not suggest that people who have these differences are more likely to be transgender.”
“Typically, if someone has a Y chromosome, no matter how many X’s or Y’s, they have the body parts of a boy. If someone doesn’t have a Y chromosome, they have the body parts of a girl,” said then-Stanford graduate student Kim Zayhowski, now a genetic counselor, in a 2017 post.
Such sex-chromosome differences occur in about 1 in 1,600 people, she said.
“Now this is important: having differences in sex chromosomes doesn’t mean that someone is transgender,” she said. “Because remember, being transgender has more to do with how someone feels.”
Mr. Hefner said that the Texas University Interscholastic League has latitude to handle issues such as chromosome variations.
“There is a process in place for doctors and families to figure that [out] because we do know on a rare occasion that that has to be worked out and decided,” he said.
The House bill is pending in committee, while the Texas state Senate approved April 15 its own version of the women’s sports bill.