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Q. A friend told me recently that males and females begin life with both sets of sex organs and that each possess the same hormones. That’s probably just another one of those theories to justify bisexuality. Have you ever heard of such rubbish?

A. Rubbish as applied to theories to justify bisexuality or to the perception that human beings begin life with both sets of sex organs and that each possesses the same hormones? Personally, I’ve never thought of either hormones or sex organs in terms of rubbish.

Since every brain on the planet is believed to differ in structure, function, and perspective, each brain has its own opinion. The tone of your question suggests that your opinion on the topic of sex organs and hormones differs rather dramatically from that of your friend. The brain and body are “fearfully and wonderfully” constructed. Whatever else humans are (e.g., relational, spiritual), they are sexual beings at their very core. That does not indicate, however, that a person’s core sexual being and the sexual behaviors he/she chooses to exhibit are one and the same.

In terms of sets of sex organs, your friend was on the right track. Here is a brief summary.

Internal sex organs: Both genetically male (XY) and genetically female (XX) fetuses start out with two sets of internal primordial structures, the Wolffian and the Mullerian.

External sex organs: Both male and female fetuses also start out with a single set of external primordial structures:

Your friend was also on the right track in relation to the topic of hormones. As members of the same species, males and females are far more alike than they are different. This means that as far as is presently known, human beings have the same types of hormones. Relative hormonal levels differ, however. Males tend to have estrogens but at much lower levels than those generally found in females. Females have testosterone but at a much lower level than that typically found in males. Some studies have shown that at puberty the average male has 20 times the testosterone in a comparable female. And speaking of testosterone, competition appears to increase the level of testosterone in the male. Interestingly enough, competition doesn’t appear to have much impact on testosterone levels in the average female.

Sex organs and hormones as rubbish? Not so much. Complexity on top of complexity and fraught with potential for variation? You bet!