Curious conjunction of circumstances

My phone rang this afternoon, and it was Cabell, on the way to teach human sexuality, asking me about a certain reputedly intersex actress.  We had a brief conversation about androgen insensitivity.  This is a condition in which an individual has a mutation in the gene that codes for the testosterone receptor protein.  The individual makes testosterone, but the cells don’t respond to it at all.  As a result, an XY individual with this mutation develops as a female in most obvious ways.  External genitalia appear female, and at puberty she develops breasts, etc.  Typically such individuals are tall, relatively broad-shouldered and narrow-hipped, and have larger than average breasts.  They are generally sterile, and the vagina may be shallow.

Famous pic of four XY siblings with androgen insensitivity (NSFW, unless your work relates to genetics or sex determination).

Of course, I’m talking about this in my office at the Center for Writing Excellence, which is basically a cubicle — everyone in the place can hear me talking about naughty bits, and I’m not safely in my biology environment.  Whatever; they’ve come to expect this sort of thing from me.

Okay, so then later in the day I’m looking at facebook, and a friend has posted a link to this site with pictures of redneck wedding cakes.  The first cake pictured:

Shows two deer on the top.  Several commenters pointed out that both have antlers, and wanted to know if these were San Francisco rednecks, etc.   Another commenter says that females can have antlers.  So I checked it out, and found this article about does with antlers, which are rare.  Why do they occur?  Oh, various reasons, such as intersex, …

Seems like today is intersex day for some reason.

5 Responses to “Curious conjunction of circumstances”

  1. Jade says:

    Was she asking about Jamie Lee Curtis?

  2. Cabell says:

    It’s LGBT Studies this semester, not Human Sexuality. Incidentally, one of my students wondered if it was possible for XX individuals to have the same mutation. Is it? I would imagine that if so, you just wouldn’t really notice. Also, do AI people have low sex drives given their non-response to testosterone?

    Jade: Yes. I gave everyone a big photocopied picture of her from the 80s to discuss. Some of the students were more interested in her crazy “vintage” work-out regalia than the topic at hand. :p

  3. Cabell says:

    Also, after our conversation I was briefly wondering if *I* was androgen insensitive, but then I remembered that a) I’m not tall, b) I have really hairy fingers which I consider indicative of a testosterone response of some kind, and c) there was that thing where the genetic counselor showed you my chromosome typing when Mom was pregnant and you could tell that I was XX, right?

  4. Allen says:

    Cabell — Sure, an XX individual can have this mutation; in fact, for a person to be AI, they have to inherit the mutation from both parents anyway. And certainly an XX individual could also inherit it from both parents. I haven’t read anything about sex drive in AI individuals; it would make sense that it would be lower, though.

    About your chromosomes — that was Hannah, not you. Robin was almost 40 when Hannah was born, so we saw a genetic counselor during her pregnancy. However, I think I should have mentioned that AI individuals don’t menstruate. They also have very little pubic and underarm hair.

  5. Cabell says:

    Oh, right. Yeah, I kind of figured out that they must not menstruate if they were sterile.

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