Defining ‘man,’ ‘woman’ not easy

Regarding the initiative to define marriage as between “one man and one woman”:

Before changing the “Defense of Marriage Act,” we need to define “man” and “woman.”

During gestation, the default body plan is female and is converted to male by tiny amounts of testosterone in early fetal development. The default brain plan, again female, is converted to male, by hormones, shortly before birth giving a definite difference.

If, for some external reason, unusual amounts of hormone are present in the blood supply to the fetus, at these different prenatal stages different body or brain plans may develop. Either type is completely compatible with the other. These differences may result in a baby with a male body and female brain or female body and male brain. Now which is this baby, a male or a female?

At birth, because it is obvious, the body plan is usually used, but the brain plan seems to be what determines gender self-identification. So are we to use brain or body plan to define man or woman?

Or do we use blood tests to find the XX and XY chromosomes to decide female and male? Then how do we propose to define a person with XXY chromosomes?

Is this person man or woman? Both, either, or neither?

Or consider the female Olympic athlete who at autopsy was found to have undescended male genitalia. Surely we can’t demand that a couple display their genitalia to resolve this.

For the record, I am a 90-year-old nuclear engineer, who worked on the Manhattan Project, and mother of seven children who was married to the same man for 60 years.

Margaret Asprey

Lake Stevens