We, the Council of the Society for the Study of Evolution, strongly oppose attempts by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to claim that there is a biological basis to defining gender as a strictly binary trait (male/female) determined by genitalia at birth. Variation in biological sex and in gendered expression has been well documented in many species, including humans, through hundreds of scientific articles. Such variation is observed at both the genetic level and at the individual level (including hormone levels, secondary sexual characteristics, as well as genital morphology). Moreover, models predict that variation should exist within the categories that HHS proposes as "male" and “female”, indicating that sex should be more accurately viewed as a continuum.* Indeed, experiments in other organisms have confirmed that variation in traits associated with sex is more extensive than for many other traits. Beyond the false claim that science backs up a simple binary definition of sex or gender, the lived experience of people clearly demonstrates that the genitalia one is born with do not define one's identity. Diversity is a hallmark of biological species, including humans. As a Society, we welcome this diversity and commit to serving and protecting members regardless of their biological sex, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation.
*Here we are speaking of the multi-dimensional aspects that underlie male-ness and female-ness, including hormones, physiology, morphology, development, and genetic aspects. We acknowledge that many of these aspects are bimodal. Furthermore, some of these aspects are discrete categories (e.g., XX/XY, SRY presence/absence, gamete size, sperm production vs egg production, presence/absence of certain genitalia), but these categories don’t always align within individuals, are not always binary, and should be irrelevant to the determination of a person’s legal rights and freedoms.
Continue reading for a copy of the letter sent to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Want candidates to discuss science issues? Curious about what your local candidate's stance is on food sustainability, energy policies, or the environment? Science Debate (sciencedebate.org) is a non-partisan non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that has invited all candidates currently running for House, Senate, and Gubernatorial seats to answer 10 questions on science policy prior to Election Day. You can help by encouraging candidates in your state and district to post their answers, by asking science-related questions at town-halls, or by hosting a Science Debate event with local candidates. Contact Sally Otto at email@example.com to see how you can help add scientific issues to the discourse during these elections.
The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is offering our US members a chance to meet with your lawmakers in your home state to inform science policy this summer through their annual Congressional District Visits event. Participating scientists either meet with their elected officials at the local district office or may invite them to visit their research facility. Registration closes July 19. Learn more and register here.
On June 18, SSE, the American Society of Naturalists (ASN), and the Society of Systematic Biologists (SSB) submitted a comment to the Environmental Protection Agency in response to a proposed rule that would require that research conducted by the EPA be based on data that are publicly available. Continue reading for the full letter.
Last month, SSE funded 4 members to attend the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) Congressional Visits Day and the AIBS Communications Bootcamp in Washington, DC. The event included an advocacy-training program and congressional meetings with elected officials. Continue reading to hear from participants about their experiences.
Thank you to everyone who donated to ASN and SSE to fund grants to students in Puerto Rico affected by Hurricane Maria. We were able to grant over $18,000 to help students continue their research. Continue reading to hear one student who received funding, Paola Matos Ruiz, explain the impact of these funds.
Do you think science should influence policy? Do you have a particular issue that you would like to bring to the attention of policymakers? Sign up for an online policy training session hosted by the SSE Policy Committee. Participants will learn how to write a brief and meet with policymakers, then apply what they learned by meeting with a policymaker about an issue of their choosing. I will be leading the training and bringing in guest speakers online via four webinars during January-March 2018. Registration is limited to 15 members and closes January 8. Free to SSE members. Learn more here.
The leadership of SSE, ASN, and SSB have agreed to avoid scheduling the joint annual meeting in states subject to California Assembly Bill 1887, which prohibits state-funded travel to states with discriminatory policies. The following letter was sent to legislators in each of the eight states listed in the bill, which can be read here.
SSE will fund a limited number of SSE members to attend the AIBS Congressional Visits Day on April 17-18, 2018 in Washington, DC. This event will include an advocacy-training program and congressional meetings with elected officials. Scientists and graduate students who are interested in communicating the importance of federal investments in scientific research and education to lawmakers are encouraged to participate in this important event. Learn more and register here. To apply for funding to cover travel and lodging, please apply here by January 31, 2018.
Do you think science should influence policy? Do you have a particular issue that you would like to bring to the attention of policymakers? Sign up for an online policy training session hosted by the SSE Policy Committee. Participants will learn how to write a brief and meet with policymakers, then apply what they learned by meeting with a policymaker about an issue of their choosing. Training will take place online via four webinars during January-March 2018. Registration is limited to 15 members and closes December 15. Free to SSE members. Learn more here.
On November 23, SSE, ASN, and SSB sent a letter to members of the House and Senate regarding the proposed tax on graduate student tuition waivers included in the version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by the House of Representatives on November 16, 2017. Read the full letter below.