Sciency Words: Gynandromorphy

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Sciency Words is a special series here on Planet Pailly where we take a look at new and interesting scientific terms to help us all expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s word is:


The other night, I was doing some concept work on a new alien species, and I was considering alternatives to the simple gender dimorphism we humans are accustomed to. For example, what if children of these aliens were born without gender and only developed male or female traits (including reproductive organs) upon reaching puberty? What if, in some rare cases, a few individuals never developed gender at all?

I speculated briefly about another possibility: what if a small minority somehow developed both male and female parts, maybe split down the middle or mishmashed together somehow? Could such a thing happen? As much as I liked the idea, it seemed a little too bizarre to me. Then, Sci Show released this video on gynandromorphy.

Gynandromorphy comes from three Greek roots: “gyn” for female, “andro” for male, and “morphy” for shape. So the term literally means having the shape of both a male and a female.

One of the important functions of science fiction is to provide us with new perspectives on our current social issues. Sci-Fi writer Rosie Oliver has written several posts like this one asking what’s happened to what she calls progressive science fiction. Given the current crusade for L.G.B.T. rights and the growing importance of the L.G.B.T community, maybe a story from the perspective of a gynandromorphic alien is just what science fiction needs.

P.S.: When writing these Sciency Words posts, spell check usually goes bananas with it’s little, zigzagging red lines; but to my surprise, gynandromorphy was already in spell check’s dictionary. I guess the word is more common than I thought.

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