Becoming Female and Male: Our Extraordinary and Perilous Journey
by Ramon Piñon Jr.
Author Reputation Press LLC

"Fertilization sets in motion a series of complex transformations that convert the egg into a viable human being in the space of some 38 weeks."

It all comes down to a matter of XX or XY chromosome pairings. Human eggs carry an X, while sperm can either carry the X or a Y. From there, the “really intriguing story lies in the details,” writes Piñon. Professor of human reproduction and sexuality since the early 1970s, Piñon provides in this enormous study a quite comprehensive and detailed examination of the processes and characteristics involved in the development of male and female biological sex. “We are born with our sexual anatomy fully formed,” Piñon writes. “Sometime during our mother’s pregnancy we became female or male.”

An exorbitant amount of scientific explanation regarding just how that happens is presented, aimed at providing a comprehensive understanding for the layperson. Chapters are divided into such topics as our pre-birth journey, puberty, reproductive twilight, anatomy of male and female genitalia, the processes of fertilization and conception, life in the womb, birth and stages of labor, breastfeeding, pregnancy loss and birth defects, and fertility issues. Further, the author has included highly useful appendixes on genes, sex chromosomes, mutations, hormones, disorders of sexual development, and medical and ethical considerations.

Both the breadth of material covered and the level of detail are quite impressive. As Piñon relates, the book was born from the author’s decades of teaching human reproduction at the University of California, San Diego. Piñon soon realized he had material enough for two monographs—the one at hand, as well as a companion volume, Friction and Fantasy, which explores the “complexities of our sexual universe.” Noteworthy here—in addition to the obvious subject matter mastery by Piñon—is the use of scanning electron microscopic photographs, stunning in their nano-level detail. Also admirable is the author’s assertion that the 21st-century knowledge imparted in this volume “deepens our understanding of life’s processes and mysteries.”

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