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The Lady of Charleston?

A Case of Wrongful Gender Assignment?


Kim R. Finer
Department of Biological Sciences
Kent State University at Stark


This case uses the real story of Dawn Langley Simmons, who may have been misidentified as male at birth, to illustrate the developmental basis of human sexual dimorphism and how gender misidentification may occur. Students also consider the emotional, legal, and societal implications of gender misassignment and reassignment. Designed for a junior-level human genetics course for allied health students, the case could be used in a number of other courses including physiology, endocrinology, developmental biology, general biology, and psychology.

  • To understand the biological basis for sexual dimorphism in humans, including understanding the role of the SRY gene in determining the male developmental pathway.
  • To discuss the events during embryogenesis that determine sex at the chromosomal, gonadal, and phenotypic levels.
  • To become familiar with various genetic defects, which can lead to a lack of sexual concordance.
  • To recognize syndromes that may involve gender misassignment.
Keywords: Sexual dimorphism; gender; gender assignment; sex determination; SRY gene; embryogenesis; Dawn Langley Simmons; Gordon Langley Hall
Topical Area: Legal issues, Social issues
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Discussion
Language: English
Subject Headings: Genetics / Heredity   Cell Biology   Physiology   Biology (General)   Psychology   Sociology   Developmental Biology  
Date Posted: 03/27/01
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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