Dr. Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, director emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, won a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1995. As a biologist, she has long studied DNA, biochemistry, and embryonic development. On August 22, Emma, Germany's leading feminist magazine, published Chantal Louis' interview with Nüsslein-Volhard, in which the biologist both attacked core claims advanced by trans activists and criticized their anti-scientific basis.
Suggesting that an ignorance of basic biology may be to blame for the "unscientific" claim that there are many genders, Nüsslein-Volhard noted (in German; the following is a Google translation) that "all mammals have two sexes. There's the one sex that produces the eggs [and] has two X chromosomes. That's called female. And there's the other one that makes the sperm [and] has an X and a Y chromosome. That's called male."
After revisiting what she regarded as biological basics, Nüsslein-Volhard noted that the existence of hermaphrodites doesn't complicate matters or blur the lines between the sexes. "The fact that there are hermaphrodites does not change the fact that there are two germ cells, eggs and sperm, and therefore two sexes."
Just as "intersex" people (i.e., those with complete or partial sets of both male and female sexual organs) are not constituents or representatives of a third gender, Nüsslein-Volhard suggests that expressions of femininity in men or masculinity in women are not indicative of blurred lines but rather of varying hormonal levels and cultural influences.
The attempt to remedy the feeling of disconnect between one's sex and perceived gender — or that the two can be separated — Nüsslein-Volhard regards as "wishful thinking." She noted, "There are people who want to change their gender, but they can't do it. You remain XY or XX. ... People retain their gender for life."
Nüsslein-Volhard appeared to allow for some flexibility around the language and tack taken regarding gender. "Of course, a girl can wish to be called by a boy's name." Changing a name may not be problematic, but attempting to medically change the person that name signifies can be ruinous.
The professor suggested that artificially induced changes, such as hormone treatments, are not only unnatural but dangerous. Hormones, she claimed, "add something to the body that is not intended there." They can have a profound psychological and physical impact. "The body cannot handle it well in the long run. Every hormone you take has side effects. Taking hormones is inherently dangerous."
Nüsslein-Volhard is not without empathy for those with so-called gender dysphoria. She noted having struggled with her identity as a youth. In adolescence, she said, there were times she would have preferred to have been a boy, largely owing to socio-cultural concerns. "Many girls are unhappy in puberty," she said, but permitting young people to determine their gender themselves "is madness!"
There is, she indicated, both a futility and a conceit in the attempts made to transition from one sex to another by way of hormone treatments and genital reconstruction surgery. The biological basis, said Nüsslein-Volhard, cannot be changed. One's feelings are alterable by social and psychological circumstances, but biological sex is static.
For this reason, those men who claim to be women and physically compete with women benefit from the biological reality underlying their physiology. "Because of his male hormones, this person is stronger and runs faster. It's basically like doping."
In recent years, expressing and defending scientific facts concerning biological sex, as Nüsslein-Volhard has done in her interview with Emma, has resulted in legal and professional penalties for some and death threats for others.
"Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling has, for instance, been subjected to an intimidation campaign and threatened with rape, death, and bombings for disagreeing with LGBT ideology as it pertains to womanhood and biological sex.
Caroline Farrow, a Catholic mother of five, was investigated by police in the United Kingdom for calling a transsexual man a man on Twitter.
This week, country music star Jason Aldean's wife, Brittany, was castigated for "transphobic comments," having expressed gratitude to her parents for not "changing" her gender as a child.
The terms of the debate have similarly been targeted.
This summer, Merriam-Webster's online dictionary augmented the definition of "female" to include the trans movement's language, such that being female is now said to mean "having a gender identity that is the opposite of male."
In its 2022 fiscal year budget, the Biden administration replaced the word "mothers" with the term "birthing people."
Speaking to the anti-science component to trans activism, Nüsslein-Volhard argued that the resultant "mixture of sensitivity and moral arrogance paired with ignorance is simply fatal."