Warning: This piece may contain traces of satire.
Scientists at Princeton University say they have made a startling discovery which could change the way we think about biological sex. Until now, it had been assumed that the sex of a person was not fixed, and could be changed according to how a person felt, but according to the team of researchers, their new findings could blow that idea out of the water.
According to the scientist leading the research, Professor Duncan Forth, the unexpected discovery came after months of painstaking work studying human cells:
“We had been looking into the chromosomal structure of cells, when – quite by accident – we realised that there was a difference between one of the pairs. In some of the cells we were studying, both chromosomes were shaped like an ‘X’, but in others, only one of the pairs was shaped like this. The second chromosome was much smaller. We decided to label it ‘Y’”.
The research became controversial when the team began to investigate potential connections between the ‘X’ ‘Y’ discovery, and the subjects from whom the cells had been taken. To Professor Forth’s surprise, one link became immediately apparent:
“When we ran various tests to see which characteristics the ‘XX’ or ‘XY’ combinations correlated with, we were all amazed to see that in every case where there was an ‘XX’, the person from which it was taken was a female, and in every case where there was an ‘XY’, the cells had been taken from a male.”
Well aware of the huge ramifications of the discovery, the professor nervously explained how the findings, if verified, could completely alter the way we think about biological sex and the terms male and female:
“Yes, the implications would be enormous, as it would have the horrifying implications that a person is either ‘born female’ or ‘born male’ and that their feelings – which we had always assumed were supreme – actually don’t really mean that much. But I really can’t stress highly enough that our sample size was really very small, and it could be that further research will show that there really is no hard and fast correlation across the population as a whole.”
That further research may not even be possible, however, as there is rising fury across the university that the study was given funding in the first place. As one 2nd year biology student said to me:
“This place is supposed to be a place of tolerance and respect. Yet they’re funding hate research which is causing a lot of people a lot of pain and hurt. A lot of pain and hurt.”
Others who I spoke to broke down in tears as they talked about what this research could mean for them if allowed to continue. One particularly distraught post-graduate sociology student wept as they opened up to me:
“All my life I’ve been told that I can do what I want to do and be who I want to be. And that nobody has the right to deny me my rights. I truly do believe that. It’s up to me to decide whether I want to be male or female, or neither, or both. And no hate-filled pseudo-scientist or their so-called chromosomal research will ever change that.”
The university’s antifascist movement has been threatening to take action unless the research is stopped, the scientists sacked, and a statement issued repudiating the findings so far. I managed to track down the group’s leader in the University Safe Space, where he was taking a break between lectures to browse through a baseball equipment catalogue.
Wearing a black balaclava to protect his identity, he told me that the group would not tolerate the situation any longer:
“There’s no way we’re going to sit by and let them get away with this vile hate in the name of science,” he said. “This kind of genetic determinism is scarily like what the Nazis thought. And if they think we’re going to tolerate Nazism in our university in 2017, they’ve got another think coming.”
The controversy has also gone well beyond the university itself, with social media users lining up to condemn what they’re calling “hate research”. A barrage of criticism was unleashed on Twitter, for instance:
Haters @Princeton: How dare you try to force objective reality over my feelings!!! #NoToChromosomes
@Princeton bigots dare 2 tell us we can’t be who we want 2 be.
PS. Since writing this piece, it has been confirmed that the team of scientists working on the research are no longer in the employ of Princeton, and are now said to be “looking for work”.