Press release


November 6, 2018

While many Americans have noticed controversies over bathroom bills, narrowing governmental definitions of gender, or even just a greater visibility of transgender people, it can be difficult to find reliable information on what we actually know about gender and sex from a biological point of view. In a new video series from Phyllis Leppert, M.D., Ph.D. (Duke University emerita, President of the Campion Fund), scientists and experts unpack the deceptively simple concept of biological maleness and femaleness, and explain why it is an oversimplification to assume that we all fit neatly into one of two categories.

Speakers John Yarbrough, Kathryn McClelland, Ph.D. (Campion Fund consultant), Sarah Berga, M.D. (University of Utah), Joan Roughgarden, Ph.D. (Stanford emerita, University of Hawaii), and Rev. Phillip Cato, Ph.D. (bioethics consultant for NIH, retired Navy Chaplain and Episcopal Priest, Diocese of Washington, DC), each deliver short talks (3-6 minutes each), accompanied by animations, on the following topics:

  • A personal account as a transgender person, from childhood musings to struggles in adulthood, and finally a transition.
  • A description of the cascade of steps it takes for maleness and femaleness to develop in a baby, and some of the normal ways in which these steps can deviate from the stereotypical sequence.
  • A discussion of how hormone levels (like testosterone and estrogen) shape male and female brains to be very different from each other, and how brains come in many more than just two forms.
  • A survey of sex and gender variation across species, cultures and human history.
  • An argument for the value of considering scientific perspectives when forming opinions, rather than relying solely on our intuition.

Adapted from a workshop that was conducted at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Durham, North Carolina in April of 2017, the Campion Fund has designed these videos to be viewed either independently or in a group workshop format. A study manual accompanies the video series, including prompts that can be used to spur group discussion or independent reflection, and resources for further reading.