Nope. He never said that.
And he would be first to admit that.
There has been a debacle about Bill Nye allegedly contradicting himself in his show Bill Nye Saves the World, in which he says that gender is on a spectrum, with some claiming that in his 1996 show Bill Nye the Science Guy he said that gender is determined by chromosones. It did not take long for the transphobes to get to work, one of whom produced a meme from the show of Bill with the caption “Gender is determined by your chromosones”.
Despite the meme being roundly debunked by Snopes and many other sources on the internet, there are still some trying to claim it was genuine, and denying the gender spectrum.
Let’s get this clear right away. Bill Nye never said one thing about gender being determined by chromosones ~ ever, end of. On the episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy etitled “Genes”, Bill said;
“Our genes are stored in parts of our cells called chromosomes. They look like this. Chromosomes contain all of the genetic information, all of the instructions you need to make a person. Now humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes for a total of 46.”
This is what the bigots have latched onto, along with one sentence, not from Nye but rather from actress Amy Broder in a later episode entitled “Possibilities” in which she said;
“You’re either X and X. Girl. Or X and Y. Boy. The chance of becoming either a boy or a girl is always 1 in 2.”
Neither Bill Nye nor Amy Broder were talking about gender at all, they were talking about biological sex. That is what is determined by chromosones, not gender.
But even then the episode in which Broder was speaking was fatally flawed, as it maintains that there is only a biological sex binary. The very existence of babies born intersex tells us this is not so.
In the episode of Bill Nye Saves the World entitled “The Sexual Spectrum”, Bill corrects this by stating;
“Females usually have two Xs and males usually have an X and a Y. But it turns out, about 1 in every 400 pregnancies have a different number of sex chromosomes. Some people only have one sex chromosome, some people have 3, 4 or even 5. For me, I usually feel like I have a lot.”
But then we can be forgiveable to Bill, for the understanding of biological sex was a lot different in 1996 than it is today, and in “The Sexual Spectrum” Bill himself states;
“If you’re like me, and I know I am, you’re still learning about this field of science. We used to think that there were just two settings. Male and female. But it’s actually a lot sexier than that,”
“Take sex. We used to think it was pretty straightforward. X and a Y chromosome for males. Two Xs for females. But we see more combinations than that in real life… …We have to listen to the science. And the science says that we’re all on a spectrum.”
So, Bill Nye himself admits that he is still learning and he is no expert in the field of human biology and gender. And this is important. Let us for a moment imagine that Bill Nye had said that chromosones determine gender.
I really admire Bill Nye for his intelligence, his biting wit and great sense of humour, but just what are his qualifications? Well, Bill is in fact a graduate in mechanical engineering, with all his other scientific knowledge having absolutely no academic qualifications. He also has a hugely successful comedy career behind him.
So in other words ~ and I’m not being cruel here, just truthful ~ Bill Nye is no more qualified to speak about my gender than I am to teach him about the hydraulic resonance suppression tubes he invented for Boeing 747 aircraft, or how to deliver comedy lines to an audience. As an objective scientist, I’m pretty sure Bill himself would agree with that estimation.
Same goes for Amy Broder. She is no more qualified to speak on my gender than I am to teach her about acting. Actually, on second thoughts, having seen her perhaps I could (saucer of milk for Xandra).
And of course, Bill Nye is absolutely correct that science has taken great steps in 21 years, and we now have a much greater understanding of sexuality and gender than we did a generation ago. Hell, as someone over 40 (I’m not saying by how much, dears), I had not even heard of the terms genderfluid and pansexual until a few years ago, generally because they were still relatively unheard of. But when I read up on both, having lived in confusion all my life, they hit me straight between the eyes and I realised “This is ME.” Like Bill, even I am still trying to make sense of it. I’m pretty sure most genderfluid and/or pansexual people feel the same way.
Yet there are those ignoramuses who will continue to deny that there is a gender spectrum and that there is only a gender binary. This makes it especially hard for the genderfluid, because we face this ignorant prejudice and hatred not only from the cishet majority, but also from some within the LGBTQI community, including some transgender people who outright deny the very possibility of someone being genderfluid.
But what such people do not realise is they are playing the bigots game for them. The gender binary argument using chromosones was not too long ago also used by homophobes denying homosexuality or bisexuality. It is still prevalant today among some religious bigots who use the “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” line.
People, and science, were wrong about sexuality then. Just as it now known that they were wrong about gender.
And this is the part that infuriates me; that many people, including some very intelligent and otherwise very liberal ones, simply cannot seem to get it into their heads that biological sex and gender are not one and the same thing. They are not and never were. The genitalia on a foetus forms weeks before the brain develops. And despite the fact that there are many guys (both straight and gay) who seem to think through their dicks, it is in the brain that gender is determined, not the genitalia. That is as true for gender as it is for sexuality.
The fact is that there is only one person who is the true expert on their gender; YOU. That is true for all of us, be we cis, transgender, genderfluid, whateva. Therefore not one person has the right to judge, discriminate, or decry the gender identity of another.
Even though I actually think it’s cishet people who are the weird ones, and who are missing out on a whole lot of fun.