What function does sex identification at birth actually serve?

German parents will no longer be legally obliged to register their newborn child as male or female, and will instead be officially allowed to assign the baby a “third gender” if the sex cannot be clearly identified at birth.The new law will come into force on November 1, on the back of a constitutional court decision which states that as long as a person “deeply feels” that they belong to a certain gender, they have a personal right to choose how they legally identify themselves.Parents of newborn infants will be allowed to leave the gender form on the child’s birth certificate completely blank if it is born with unusual physical characteristics making it impossible to determine the gender.The new law will apply to intersexuals, also known as hermaphrodites, rather than transsexuals. Hermaphrodites are people in possession of both female and male physical characteristics.

via Germany to become first European state to allow ‘third gender’ birth certificates — RT News.

So, thanks to the new judgement in Germany, parents whose children have “unusual physical characteristics” will no longer be forced to choose one or the other (which, according to other articles often leads to immediate surgery to “correct” genitalia according to the choice of the parents). However, this raises the broader question – why is sex determination at birth even required at all?

Just as we don’t (any more) require or think that “race” should be determined at birth (at least not as far as I know in most places), is there any real function of determining sex at birth (or even ever)? What is the real function of having sex programmed into our official records?

Is it medically helpful to know who has a uterus and who has testicles? Yes, perhaps. However, this could be data simply privy between the doctor and patient, to be used as and when specifically required.

Is it there so that government programs can be targeted? So that we can decide who gets what benefits? Maybe.

Does it help government to identify people? Perhaps, but there certainly are better ways.

Does it help individuals to “self identify”? Well, it’s certainly not a self-determination of sex – rather an enforced one, and even if we weren’t entertaining it in official records I am sure the individual could figure out how they wanted to identify themselves.

Does it enforce a gender binary and the power structures that come with it? Certainly.

Of course, changing or getting rid of this couldn’t be done overnight, but isn’t it long-term an idea worth considering? Do we, in fact, require a society where sex identification at birth or even later in life (in drivers licenses, passports, etc.) is ever required?

No more sexting in Pakistan…

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has banned 1,795 expletives on SMS, ordering telecom companies to filter out SMS-es containing these offending words with effect from 21 November 2011. The letter includes a list of 1,109 English words, more pornographic terms than expletives, and another 586 Urdu words which are more colourful sexual expletives of the standard South Asian kind rather than the plain garden variety pornography.

The Pakistani Twitterverse was on fire last night as the two lists make for hilarious reading. The English list begins with A.S.S. and ends with yellowman. Some words sound harmless (crap and crappy), others bizarre (Jesus Christ, flatulence, murder, monkey crotch). Many are commonly used obscene words (“FUCK YOU”) and care has been taken to account for alternative spellings (biatch, muthafucka). While many spelling variations of ‘masturbation’ are on it, the correct spelling is not. Most words seem to be designed to prevent ‘sexting’ or sending sexually explicit texts (sexy, lick me, do me, S&M, lotion and porn). The list comes down on anal sex as much as vaginal sex. But it isn’t just sex. By banning drunken they perhaps hope to reduce alcoholism.

Sex Boosts Brain Growth, Study Suggests | Rat Sex | LiveScience

Sex apparently can
help the brain grow, according to new findings in rats.

Sexually active
rodents also seemed less anxious than virgins, Princeton scientists discovered.

Past findings had
shown that stressful, unpleasant events could stifle brain
cell growth
in adults. To see if pleasant albeit stressful experiences
could have the opposite effect, researchers studied the effects of sex
in rats.

Scientists played
matchmaker by giving adult male rats access to sexually receptive females
either once daily for two weeks or just once in two weeks. They also measured
blood levels of stress hormones known as glucocorticoids, which researchers
suspected might lie behind the detrimental effects that unpleasant experiences
have on the

When compared with
male virgins, both groups of sexually active rats had cell proliferation, or an
increase in the number of neurons, in the hippocampus, a part of the brain
linked with memory whose
cells are especially sensitive to unpleasant experiences. The rats that had
more sex also had adult brain cells grow, as well as a rise in the number of
connections between brain cells.

However, the rodents
that only saw females once in two weeks had elevated levels of stress hormones,
while the rats that had regular access showed no increase in the hormones.
Sexually experienced rodents also proved less anxious than virgins, in that
they were quicker to chomp down on food in unfamiliar environs.

These findings
suggest that while stress hormones can be detrimental to the brain, these
effects can be overridden if whatever experiences triggered them were pleasant.

The scientists
detailed their findings online July 14 in the journal PLoS ONE.