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This week on the show Dr. Lindsey Doe, host of Sexplanations, walks us through a history of cases that have altered our understanding of gender identity. Then Jessi from Animal Wonders joins the show with Kiki, a domestic cat.

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Hank Green (HG): Hello! Welcome to SciShow Talk Show, that day on SciShow where we talk to interesting people about interesting things. Today, we're talking to Dr. Lindsey Doe, the host of Sexplanations and also, we'll be visited by Jessi of Animal Wonders with an animal that is one of my favorite animals. I know I always say that it's one of my favorite animals. It might just be that I like animals a lot, but I mean, this is the animal that I, personally, went on the internet and spent the most time looking at...aside from people... Probably.

Dr. Lindsey Doe (LD): [laughs] I wonder what it is.

HG: Have you got a guess? This is Lindsey, everyone! Hello!

LD: Hi!

HG: How's it going?

LD: Great! How are you?

HG: Good. So, what are we talking about today?

LD: So, I'm curious about gender right now, because I feel like, in our culture, we are moving through our understanding of that and sex, bio sex, which is how I differentiate between the way that people are born chromosomally, in terms of their genitals and their hormones and then what they identify with.

HG: Okay, so we have bio sex, which is basically the hormones and genitals you're born with and gender, which is how you identify.

LD: Yes.

HG: Okay.

LD: That's what I'm going with now. But if you want, there's a whole episode on Sexplanations about how gender is confusing.
[The Gender Map]

HG: Okay, well, we'll link to that.

LD: Okay. Kind of describing it as we are Magellans where we think that we're circumnavigating the globe of gender. We think we understand it. But really, we're just doing this wobbly thing around the continents.

HG: Mmhmm. All right.

LD: Yeah, so, going back to Aristotle...

HG: Ugh! Aristotle...

LD: What's wrong with Aristotle?

HG: It's amazing... you just talk about him. He was wrong about everything!

LD: Definitely this.

HG: Okay. How was Aristotle wrong this time?

LD: He thought that warm or hot sperm created males and cold sperm created females.

HG: That's interesting because that would be the easiest experiment to do possible and it would have been so easy to disprove himself and yet, he never did research. He was always like, you know what seems right to me...I'll write that down and then 2,000 years later, people will still be talking about my dumb ideas!

LD: [laughs and claps]

HG: I'm going to...I'm going to write a book about how dumb Aristotle was.

LD: You can! But I think something that's great about him is that he was a thinker, and he gave us permission to throw ideas out and then as people continued to do that, we realized that there is a component of ideas, which is research to...

HG: Yes. Right. Just because you think something, doesn't make it true. Which was where Aristotle got caught up in the whole scientific process. But I recognize that that was an important first step. 

LD: So, let's see, he said that, and part of the awkward sickness in it is that the idea transfers to oh, this is why we have frigid women who don't have sex.

HG: Right, we still use the word frigid.

LD: It's terrible.

HG: I mean, we don't. But is...I, I know what it means. 

LD: Yes, we understand it, even if we don't believe that that still exists. 

HG: Yeah, don't say that.

LD: Okay.

HG: Don't use that...No, I'm not...I just...It's just that...

LD: You, you don't say frigid women.

HG: That's a terrible thing to say.

LD: Okay, so then, we move forward through time, and in 1849 we had our first official research study on sex differentiation.

HG: That was a big gap.

LD: Yes, so before, between Aristotle and here, where we are, we're doing it based on what we see. Right? So those parts come out of the body, and these parts are tucked into the body. That's how we separate you. You also have these breast parts and you don't have these breast parts, you have more hair. There's superficial things that we can definitely see the difference between, but to get an understanding of how that difference is created didn't come until 1849. Yes, so it wasn't just a lull in whatever, we don't care.

HG: That was a good explanation, I like that. 

LD: Okay, good. So then, at that time, what happened was a researcher by the name of Arnold Berthold took six cockerels, cocks, and he removed their testicles.

HG: Male chickens?

LD: Yes.

HG: Okay.

LD: And he removed the testicles, and found, immediately, that those that didn't have the testicles weren't fighting as often... I don't think they had any drive to fight at all and they also weren't interested in the hens. 

HG: Mmhmm

LD: Oh, check that out. Look at this finding we have, let's keep playing with these...cocks and balls. And so they then, took the testicles, they mix-matched them and they put them back into cocks.

HG: Wait. When you said mix and matched, did you...are you putting...? 

LD: They weren't like, okay, A, we're removing yours. Oh, look, you're not fighting and you're not interested in hens, we're going to put A's back in A. They're like, oh, let's see what happens when we put B's in A.

HG: Okay...What?...How? Okay, keep going 'cause this is fascinating.

LD: Good!

HG: [Laughs]

LD: I'm doing my job. Then they, umm, they fought again and they were interested in hens again. 

HG: But why would they put another cock's balls back into a different cock?

LD: Why not?

HG: I don't know! Do we find out anything interesting...with the...

LD: Stay curious.

HG: Were there any interesting results when the cock got the balls of a different cock?

LD: Yes, I mean, that they still went back to the way that they were, as cocks with balls. [Laughs] I can't...

HG: [Laughs]

LD: Oh, gosh...

HG: This is my favorite episode ever.

[More laughter]

LD: Oh, okay.

HG: They went back to the way they were. Whether or not, it was their balls or another cock's.

LD: Yes.

HG: Did they...reattach the balls? Or, did they just stick them back in?

LD: I think they stuck them back in.

HG: Wow, that's amazing,

LD: It is. Yes.

HG: That they just started functioning again.

LD: Well, so the conclusion from this, and I don't have the whole research report, I just have a synopsis of it, is that what Arnold found from that is that the connection was not to the nervous system. So, it wasn't, I have a nervous system reaction to other cocks and that's why I fight them, or I have a nervous system reaction to hens and that's why I want to hump them. It was that it's in the circulatory system, and this is the first time we get the concept of hormones, specifically testosterone. 

HG: Wow!

LD: Yeah.

HG: a weird way to find that out. But...props to that guy, for being like, I wonder what would happen if just cut some testes out of a... bird...[Laughter]

LD: [Laughter] Yes, a bird. Next?

HG: Yeah. We're going to keep progressing through the history of our understanding of gender.

LD: Yeah.

HG: What's the next step?

LD: So, we're at 1865, now, and an Italian man is doing an autopsy on a body. And he thinks that this is a man whose testicles have not descended. But what he realizes when he opens it up is that there's actually a uterus and Fallopian tubes and ovaries. And now we get the concept of Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, which is, hey look, what actually happened is that a result of these hormones, the external genitals of this woman, this bio sex female, actually created an enlonged and widened clitoris that turned into a penis, and the labia, the rest of the vulva actually fused to create a scrotum. So, for people who have this intersex condition, there is no way to tell that they are a true bio sex female unless you do genetic testing. 

HG: Wow, so, in that case, I mean, obviously they didn't know then because they couldn't do the test. Would that have been an XY female? Or would it have been, like, XXY? Or some intersex condition?

LD: I am not sure, I could check it, but C-A-H is the abbreviation for it, and my understanding is that it's XX. Not it, but she is XX and that as a result of being exposed to high degrees of testosterone, you have the development of external genitalia becoming more male.

HG: Right, because we think of sex as being defined by your chromosomes. You're XX or you're XY. But really, it's defined by hormones, and generally that chromosomal, you know, set up depends... like, affects what hormones you're exposed to, but in the end the development of sex hormones can be controlled entirely through hormones.

LD: Yes. I mean, lots of those things are happening because chromosomally we're not just XX or XY, we can also be XXX, XXY, et cetera, et cetera, out in both directions. So it's complicated. You...You know that sex is complicated, because you have a wonderful episode on it. Link here.

HG: I do, I do. I did that once.
[Human Sexuality Is Complicated]

HG: Okay, so now, we know that there are...That sexual development can be influenced by hormones.

LD: Yes.

HG: Not just sexual action and, like, interest.

LD: And we know that what is happening on the outside of the body doesn't necessarily match the inside.

HG: Right.

LD: And that there is a gender...or a brain component that is getting imprinted that is different than the genitals.

HG: Right, because this woman lived her whole life as a man.

LD: Yes, which, kind of makes sense, too, though, then, because without the concept of gender, it's hard to manifest such a thing.

HG: So, yeah, right, obviously. Bio sex woman lived her whole life as a man.

LD: Yes. Yes, so now we are to 1915, 1916. Freemartin cow.

HG: So there's a freemartin cow in 1916.

LD: Yep.

HG: And that's some kind...some breed of cow?

LD: A freemartin cow is a lady cow who thinks that she's a bull. So she behaves like a bull.

HG: Oh! I don't...I've never heard of that!

LD: When they did the research on freemartin cows, they found that when you have twins; a cow and a bull inside the womb, that the womb mate, male, actually releases excess testosterone, which the womb mate, female, picks up and then manifests as, "I'm a bull."

HG: Oooh, so, then acting like, acting like as if they are a male.

LD: Mmhmm, because they have the testosterone going into their system at that very, very influential stage.

HG: So, at this point, you sort of, like, there's also an idea of gender identity in cows.

LD: Yeah.

HG: So, like, a cow can feel like a, you know, identify as a male, basically.

LD: Yeah.

HG: Okay, so we now know that your hormones can influence your behavior, that it can influence your development, and it can also influence your identity.

LD: Yes. So in 1981, Rhesus monkeys, some were given these prenatal shots of testosterone and what they found out is that... the monkeys weren't... How do I explain this? Didn't behave in masculine ways, because they... became masculinized in their physical traits and therefore, all the other monkeys responded to them, treated as males. They were male and behaved as male because they felt male. And I love that story, because to me that's where we are with gender in our culture, where it's not: if I was born as a bio sex male and present as female, I'm not female because you're treating me like I'm female. I'm female because I feel and identify as female, which is kind of poetic.

HG: Yeah, you know, obviously there's a certain amount of like... Science is not necessarily necessary in this situation, because I feel like sometimes if you feel a way and you want to live your life a way, that has no... like, science doesn't need to be a part of that. But, there's, I think some affirmation and some freedom in knowing that nature is complicated, and that all of these things can actually be reflected in our scientific understand of gender and sex and sexuality. Umm... So that's fascinating, all things, every one of those things, something I did not know. So thank you so much for sharing all of that. That's really cool.

LD: Good! Thanks! Can I ask you one more question?

HG: Yes, please do.

LD: Can I ask you a question?

HG: Yeah.

LD: How do you know that you're male?

HG: Yeah... I mean... I... just... I mean...

LD: You can turn it on me, if you don't want to answer about your personal life.

HG: I don't even know why, like... My, sort of, lifestyle has been path of least resistance. And I think it's that way for a lot of people, so I'm male because, like, people treated me male and I present as bio sex male and so I, you know, never questioned it because I don't have a piece of me that asks me to. So I'm male because it's the easiest thing and I never had a reason to question it and so I feel male.

HG: Fascinating! We are about to be joined by another bio sex female. Jessi, from Animal Wonders is going to be bringing a lady animal of...

LD: Of your favorite kind!

HG: Of my favorite kind! It's not...How can you have a favorite kind of animal? One of my favorite kinds of animals.

LD: Okay

HG: *snaps*

Everyone: Hey!

HG: This is... appears to be a normal cat.

Jessi Knudsen Castaneda: It's a panthet.

HG: It's a panthet?

JKC: Like a panther, a mini panther.

HG: It's a domestic house cat.

JKC: No, it's a domestic house cat. I tried, Kiki! I tried!

LD: You totally had me. I was like, of course, that's so exciting!  

HG: So, you have traditionally brought us weirder animals than this, but I will say that I love cats: normal cats, all kinds of cats, saber-tooth cats, and also, domestic house cats. Ooh, thank you for the rubs.

LD: Oh, loves

HG: I feel like people know about cats.

JKC: Yeah, yeah.

HG: But I actually... There are... Like, the normal questions we ask about the animals you bring, though, I don't necessarily know about cats.

JKC: What are some normal questions you ask me?

HG: Like, where... where is this animal from?

JKC: The domestic cat, where did it originate from?

HG: Yeah, I mean, obviously, this cat is from your house.

JKC: This cat is from, from the wild, actually a feral cat. So, wild.

HG: Oh, so you found it? Oh, as a kitten?

JKC: And then she came... Yes, as a kitten, yes and hand raised. She was actually very malnourished and nursed her back to health and she was teeny tiny and now she's doing awesome. So feral, so you know what feral is?

HG: Feral is a domesticated animal that has gone wild again.

JKC: Yeah, yeah, that is no longer living with humans. So, I wouldn't necessarily say wild, but yeah it isn't living with humans.

HG: Yeah, I mean, I feel like domestic house cats can definitely live on their own, perpetually.

JKC: Yeah, yeah, they can given the right circumstances, yeah definitely, yeah, they can live on their own. But, you know, they've chosen, they choose to live with humans. It's a mutually beneficial.

HG: It's a better life if you live with a person. Yeah.

JKC: Mostly, mostly.

HG: 'Cause of all the cans of meat that are available.

JKC: And mice that tend to congregate around humans, as well.

HG: Right, originally, yeah. So, where is the wild ancestor of...

JKC: They're still studying it. They still don't know.

HG: They don't even know?

JKC: Some say they originated 9,000 years ago in Egypt. And some say, nope, 5,000 years ago in Japan... The domestic, actual domestication. And the domestication process, it takes a while and you can only tell an animal is domesticated by looking at their genes.

HG: Right

LD: Oh, hi!

JKC: And so they do actually have significant changes in their genes, compared to like, tigers. 

HG: What would be the... Do you have any idea what the closest wild ancestor to the house cat would be?

JKC: It's a mixture, it's just a mixture of so many... Umm... yeah, but then you can also breed, I mean, not like a lion or a tiger, but you can breed back to the Wildcat or the Pallas's cat or Leopard cat, they, you can interbreed with them and get Bengals and you can get Savannah cats and stuff like that. So they're still very closely related to, what we would consider, a wild cat.

HG: Umm... Does Kiki like me?

JKC: Yeah! You can, you can try. This is actually Kiki's first time out and about. She's used to hanging out with my son, but, she's very curious about everything.

HG: Yeah, what's over there? Yeah, you look like Toothless.

LD: Aww!

HG: Coat color in cats is a sex linked trait. And the thing with Calicos is super weird and interesting. Because the gene for coat color is sex linked, when you have two Xs that have different coat colors, during early embryonic development the expression of the coat color, instead of one overwhelming another, like, brown eyes would overwhelm blue eyes, you actually get these stripes of expression so like, very early on it is decided which of the Xs is going to express and like, during that stage, when it's like a blastoma, just a sphere of cells, when that gets decided the ones that are expressing one X continue to...vOh you're so cute...vContinue to, like, every time they divide, they continue to express that trait, and so if there's this one cell that's expressing the one X it will spread and create this banded pattern and so basically, the stripes are from very early embryonic development when that one cell decided which X was going to express. So, with Calico cats, you're getting the two different coat colors, and with tortoise shells as well.

LD: That is so cool.

JKC: Yeah

HG: But it's just depending on what coat color is... what coat colors are being expressed.

LD: The same things happens, by the way, on human females where... on humans where X has more of the immune system genes, and so that's why bio sex males are more susceptible to things and bio sex females have a higher tendency of auto-immune problems.

HG: Oh.

JKC: Wow.

LD: I would much rather a certain coat than... Maybe not...

JKC: Than being susceptible to syndromes and stuff like that...

HD: And you can also, you can see the expression in female humans, too, if you test their skin, you can have stripes of expression that's just not visible.

LD: Wait, what's happening?

JKC: Calico, humans can be calico.

HG: Humans are... Human females have a Calico trait.

LD: What's happened? What?

HG: Where you can see different expressions happening in stripes of different areas...Well, you can't actually see it, but you can test for it. Veritasium has a video on this, if you would like to watch it.
[Why Women Are Stripey]

JKC: And there's like tiger ladies on there. It's awesome.

LD: What? I'm so excited!

HG: I like you, Kiki. Thank you for coming on SciShow Talk Show.

JKC: I think she likes you, Hank.

HG: I think she wants to get away from me. But you can't.

JKC: She wants to explore.

HG: Yeah, you do want to explore. Here's your cat back.

JKC: My very little girl.

HG: Aww, baby kitty. Kiki, thanks for joining us. Jessi, thank you for joining us. You can see Jessi's YouTube channel at and Dr. Lindsey Doe, as well, thank you for walking us through the guide of human understanding of sexuality and gender.

LD: You're welcome.

HG: That was super awesome. You can check her out at Everybody's got a YouTube channel.

LD: Whee!

HG: Kiki, you don't have a YouTube channel. Sorry.

JKC: She needs a YouTube channel.

HG: Right, okay, we'll work on that. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow Talk Show. I am Hank Green. This has been fun. If you want to keep getting smarter with us, you can go to and subscribe.