The X and Y chromosomes of humans and other mammals both have very atypical gene contents. The degenerate Y bears only a handful of genes that are specialized for male sex and reproduction. Now it seems that the X over-represents genes controlling reproductive traits and intelligence. This is hard to explain in terms of function but makes excellent sense in terms of evolution. Comparisons between the gene content of the X and Y in humans, distantly related mammals, and other vertebrates, define the evolutionary past of our sex chromosomes and suggest how special selective forces act on the X and Y.