Putting the ‘sex’ in sex chromosomes overshadows their holisitic importance

Sarah Richardson is a historian and philosopher of science who focuses on the intersections between race and sex and the sciences. In her new book, Sex Itself: The Search for Male and Female in the Human Genome, she explores how cultural gender norms have influenced the study of sex in the genome, and vice versa. Earlier this week, I spoke to her on the phone about sex, gender, and two chromosomes called X and Y. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Susannah Locke: We’ve been calling the X and Y chromosomes “sex chromosomes” for about 100 years. What’s wrong with that?

Sarah Richardson: When I first got into this subject, I just assumed that X and Y were always known as the sex chromosomes — meaning that they were naturally and obviously the markers of sex. But as I got into the history, I realized that the X and Y chromosomes were known as anything but the sex chromosomes for the first 20 to 30 years after they were discovered.

Read the full, original story: What your science teacher told you about sex chromosomes is wrong

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