Gender Genetics or Not?
From what I understand certain traits “run in families“: sexual orientation; gender issues; and the like. These are life-defining traits that traumatize many people based on societal expectations and prejudice. There are families that have perhaps one homosexual member and it seems that the immediate family and all once-removed family members (aunts and uncles etc) are heterosexual. Where does the homosexual orientation originate? Can certain human characteristics and behaviours “run in families” (in other words, are inherited). If so, does homosexuality, like many genetic traits in people, occur in different generations rather than every generation?
Some people look at sexual orientation as being genetically inherited, or something that happens during a certain stage of fetal development. A Nova documentary (I believe) examined the heterosexuality and homosexuality of “identical twins” (monozygotic - developing from one egg). The two men looked alike, shared similar interests, and even dressed alike but that was where many of their similarities ended. One twin was heterosexual and one was homosexual, yet they not only shared the same parents, but the same egg whilst in utero. Researchers used the two men to determine why it was that each man were polar opposites in their sexuality.
The study proved: nothing. All researchers could say was the homosexual twin had more X chromosomes than the heterosexual twin and this was possibly, maybe, sorta the result of differing amounts of a particular hormone per twin in the first trimester of the mother’s pregnancy. X chromosomes in a male, however, are supposedly inactive so this begs the question as to whether the presence of more X’s in one man than the other, even affects orientation at all. Early in embryonic development in females, one of the two X chromosomes is randomly and permanently inactivated in cells other than egg cells. This phenomenon is called X-inactivation or Lyonization. In males the X chromosome also experiences lyonization and only the Y chromosome is active. The unequal amount of whatchamacallit hormone that each twin received is not a gene, it is a chemical interaction between the mother and the child. It is possible this man is the only homosexual in his immediate and extended family. It is also possible there are other homosexual family members who haven’t come out, in which case that would indeed beg the question of genetic links between sexual orientation and DNA.
Is the same true for people with gender identity issues? It is such a major transformation for a person to begin life in one biological sex and transform him/herself into another that I wonder about that person’s childhood background. The famous, tragic case of Teena Brandon (Brandon Teena) revealed that she was sexually abused by an adult member of her family, (not necessarily her immediate family), for years. In such situations, many children believe erroneously had they been the opposite sex, the abuse wouldn’t have happened. Actually, molestation of a child is not about heterosexuality or homosexuality. It is pedophilia. A person who molests children doesn’t want an equal partner, and usually s/he doesn’t want a person with secondary sexual characteristics (puberty). They want a child because it is a power situation, a chance to overcome a helpless person and to instill guilt in the victim. This person is a rapist, not a sexual partner. However a young child or youth has no understanding of this phenomenon and thus develop the mistaken belief system about gender identity and power, because gender identity issues are all about power, even where a child has not been sexually molested.
Consider the difficult, biological and emotional journey of a transgender child. To decide whether to live as the opposite sex (or both, or neither), and to avoid the trauma of puberty in a body that doesn’t “belong” to him/her, requires power that is frequently denied by well-intended authority figures. Parents and doctors probably believe that the urge to live as the opposite gender is a “stage” that will be “outgrown”, and in enouraging the child to live as s/he chooses is to assist the child in making poor choices. I understand the concerns of these parents. It cannot be easy to (1) realize one’s child is transgender and (2) to encourage a child who is at a highly emotional and non-rational stage in life, to live as a transgender person. Always there is doubt and guilt for parents when choices are made that result in an unhealthy, unhappy child.
Not only does the transgender person struggle with the decision to come out to family, friends and the general community, but the stereotypes and legal and mental health issues involving transgenders continue:
“I don’t have a problem with transsexuals; I just don’t know why they want to have sex with everyone.” So said a 20-something female undergraduate student studying psychology. To be sure this comment was directed against transsexuals, but it doesn’t take a great leap of faith to assume this student believes the same of transgenders.
2. The first legal case regarding employment reported in the Wall Street Journal, dealt with a business professor at a Methodist evangelical religious school, who was discharged when school officials told him that his “womanly appearance” violated the school’s requirements of “model Christian character”. The professor was ordered to dress like a man. The professor began to manicure his nails, and started hormone therapy, and developed breasts. He was ordered to work from home, (taking a 20% pay cut), and was not to appear on campus with a feminine appearance. However, he visited the campus wearing a college T-shirt and makeup. He was dismissed.
3. Mike was a fifty-five year old who gave the following history: The patient was born female to a mother who gave her to another family. She was severely sexually abused by the adopted father and the step-mother, who gave her enemas for punishment. The patient remembered dissociating since age six. She was aware of the time lapses but said it was easy to hide them. There were seven or eight personalities then, 32 or 33 now. The patient went to a gender dysphoria clinic, where she withheld information about dissociating. Surgeries were done and in 1986 the patient married a Swiss woman. The patient was finally diagnosed DID with psychological testing. In this case, genetics plays a role in the patient’s mental health: the ability to dissociate has been proven to run in families and to span generations. And here we have a transgender person whose identity is further compounded not only by gender issues but with several dissociative states. watch 10 rare mental disorders
Transgender is the state of one’s gender identity (self-identification as woman, man, neither or both) not matching one’s “assigned sex” (identification by others as male, female or intersex, based on physical/genetic sex). A transgender individual may have characteristics that are normally associated with a particular gender, identify elsewhere on the traditional gender continuum, or exist outside of it as “other”, “agender”, “Genderqueer”, or “third gender“. Transgender people may also identify as bigender, or along several places on either the traditional transgender continuum. I am unaware of a case study of a child who considers him/herself to be any of the aforementioned but it is entirely possible for such children to exist. This, I am quite certain, must be even more traumatic than to be transgender male or female.
Transgender identification has a long, distinguished history:
1503 BC — Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut ascends to the throne, the second Egyptian queen to rule. She donned male clothing and a false beard signifying kingship, and reigned until 1482 B.C. She had one daughter, Neferure, who she groomed as successor (male clothing, false beard and all), but Neferure did not live into adulthood. Hatshepsut’s motive was non-sexual and not due to gender identity issues. She ruled as King to avoid disfavour with her subjects. watch queen pharaoh – Hatshepsut
6th Century to 1st Century BC — In the Greek Hippocratic Corpus (collection of medical texts), physicians propose that both parents secrete male or female “bodies” and that if the father’s secretion is female (rather than male), and the
mother’s is male, the result would either be a “man-woman” (effeminate male) or a “mannish” female.
Circa 60 AD — Emperor Nero reportedly has a young slave boy, Sporus, castrated (eunuching, in early times, was believed to be the primary mechanism of gender change. “Eunuchs” ranged in form from males whose testicles had been removed to those also given a total penectomy), and takes him as a wife in a legal public ceremony. Sporus is from then on clothed as an Empress, and accompanies Nero as such. watch bbc: ancient Roman emporer nero
1755 — The first openly lesbian and transgendered person, Charlotte Clarke, came out by publishing, A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Charlotte Clarke (Youngest Daughter of Colley Cibber, Esq.). Clarke, a flamboyant cross-dressing actress during a time in which male impersonation was a popular form of entertainment, related many scandalous things, including her relationship with her “wife,” “Mrs. Brown.” Although quite famous after this publication, Clarke passed away three years later, penniless and destitute. watch transsexual gender variance
1860 — Herculine Barbin is studied by her doctor, who discovers that the intersexed woman has a small penis, with testicles inside her body. Barbin was declared legally male against her wishes, became the subject of much scandal for having previously taught in a girl’s school, moved to Paris but continues to live in poverty, and ultimately committed suicide in 1868. Barbin’s story is quite fascinating. Her parents chose to raise her as a boy since males had more political and social rights than females, and it was upon reaching puberty that Barbin’s body emerged into that of an adult female. The existing law in England at the time stated that anyone who lived as a transgender person without making this known to his/her society, had committed a crime, and Barbin suffered the humiliation of a public trial. watch memoirs of a hermaphrodite
Since gender identity spans so many centuries (and millenia) it seems to me that there is most probably a genetic characteristic at work. Yet even research scientists are unable to prove this fact, leaving the mystery of the transgender, agender, bigender, genderqueer and third gender person exactly that: a mystery.
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