Human sexuality topics
Two conflicting belief systems about
transgender persons and transsexuals:
The term "LGBT" is an acronym for "Lesbians,
transgender persons/Transsexuals. Sometimes, additional letters
added, like "Q" for Queer or questioning, "I" for Intersexual.
A transgender washroom sign.
An overview about what being "transgender" or "transsexual" is all about:
As is common with matters related to human sexuality, two major, opposing, conflicting, and incompatible belief systems exist in the U.S. and elsewhere concerning transgender persons. Beliefs differ about the validity of their current gender identity, and why their gender identity is different from the sex that they identified as having at birth.
It is important that older youths and adults understand fully:
- what their beliefs are about transgender individuals;
why they believe them to be true;
what the "other side" believes about transgender individuals; and
why they believe them to be true.
Only then can meaningful dialogue take place that will resolve the differences and conflicts and arrive at the truth. Unfortunately many people -- perhaps most -- are unaware of what the "other side" believes and why they believe it. Only through sincere dialogue can conflict be overcome quickly . Otherwise, resolution will take decades as it took for topics like interracial marriage, legalizing same-gender sexual behavior, gay marriage, etc. to be resolved. Awareness and dialogue could speed up resolution greatly, reduce emotional pain experienced by transgender individuals & their families, reduce the suicide rate among those who are transgender, and reduce the rate at which they are assaulted or murdered by strangers.
Belief 1: This is held by most members of the medical community, religious liberals, NOTAs (persons NOT Affiliated with a religious group), and the LGBTI community:
A gender identity counselor in Boulder, CO once explained the term "transgender" to Elsa, a 9-year-old. She had been assigned a male gender on her birth certificate but started to identify herself as female as soon as she could speak. The counselor said, simply:
"You are talking about how you feel inside. Others are talking about your body. Those are two different things." 1
These two things -- a person's body and their feelings -- can differ when it comes to gender. The two are set up at different stages of pregnancy:
- Their gender, as defined by the sexual chromosomes in their DNA which are present in every cell of their body, was defined when they became a zygote -- a fertilized ovum. That is, it happened at conception when human life forms -- an ovum and a spermatozoon -- combined to produce a new human life with a new, unique DNA. About half the time, the DNA contains a "Y chromosome" which indicates a male zygote; if it does not have a "Y chromosome" it is a female zygote.
- The structures in their perineum area, began to be defined when they were an young embryo.
- Their brain mainly developed later in gestation when they were a fetus. It is their brain that will tell them later in life what their gender identity is -- that is, what they will believe their gender is.
A person's current gender identity is what they sincerely believe their gender to be now. In essence, being transgender involves a relatively rare conflict between their current gender identity and their gender as was identified at birth. This was the gender that a doctor placed on their birth certificate shortly after they were born.
Being transgender seems to be related to an interaction of two factors:
Cause 1: Humans have two sets of different structures located in two separate areas of their body, one inside and one outside of the body, that are linked to gender.
One is a pair of special structures is inside the brain. They are either male or female in design and determine the person's gender identity -- "how they feel inside." The male and female designs are of different sizes and different neuron densities. Needless to say, they are not visible from outside of one's head.
The other set is external, located in the person's perineum area (often euphemistically called their "private parts"). They are usually either male or female, and determine the person's birth-identified gender. This can usually be determined with good accuracy via routine ultrasound testing long before birth. If modern, high resolution instruments are used. the embryo's gender can often be detectable as early as 12 weeks gestation.
- For about 994 of every 1,000 persons, the gender of the internal and external structures match. The person is referred to as being cisgender. For about 6 of every 1,000 persons, the gender does not match. They are transgender.
However, there are rare exceptions. Some newborns are intersexual; their "private parts" typically contain elements of both the conventional male and female genital designs. In about one every 2,000 births, a specialist needs to be called to assess the newborn and decide whether it should be registered as male or female on their birth certificate. Sometimes, it is necessary to analyze the newborn's DNA. The sex chromosomes in the DNA are usually either XX -- indicating a female -- or XY -- indicating a male. There are exceptions: some females are X0; some males are XYY, or even XYYY, etc. 2
Cause 2: Testosterone levels to which a fetus is exposed before birth fluctuate:
- A high testosterone level might cause a female fetus to identify as male after birth, later in its life.
- A low testosterone level might cause a male fetus to identify as female after birth, later in its life.
To sum up, gender can be defined in three ways:
- The gender defined by the appearance of their "private parts;" as used by a doctor to fill out their sex on the birth certificate.
- The gender defined by their sex chromosomes in every cell in their body.
- The gender as defined, later in life, by structures in their brain which generate their gender identity -- what gender they believe that they are.
Usually all three genders are the same. But, for transgender persons a mismatch occurs. They often describe themselves as being a female trapped in a male body, (or vice versa). That is, their brain is telling them that they are female, but their body and their DNA are both clearly male (or vice versa). This is literally true.
However, there is a further complexity. Among transgender adults, a minority of them:
identify themselves as not fitting into either gender, 1 or
- might describe themselves as "gender fluid." They switch identify between male and female from time to time.
Most children who identify themselves as being of the gender opposite to their birth-identified gender early in childhood will spontaneously reverse their gender identity and become cisgender later in life. However, children who identify as transgender early in life and who continuously identify as transgender from then until puberty approaches, often remain transgender throughout their entire life.
Most liberals, human sexuality researchers, etc. note that the "cure rate" for transgender persons through counseling, therapy, prayer, etc. has been zero or essentially zero. They refer to a transgender person as a her or him, as a female or male, and by their present name, according to the person's current gender identity.
Belief 2. This is held by many religious conservatives and some others:
They note that the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) describe how God created Adam as a male and Eve as a female. Many conservatives feel that God restricted people of each gender to specific roles in the family, faith group, government, and other areas of life. For example, the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) specifies that only men could become priests. Women were not allowed to testify in court. If a father sold a daughter into slavery, she would be a slave forever; if he sold his son, he would become free after many years as a slave. If a woman were found to not be a virgin on her wedding night she might be stoned to death. No similar requirement was in place for non-virgin men.
Some religious conservatives may feel profoundly threatened by thoughts of a newborn being apparently created by God as being of one gender and then observing that person change their gender identity later in life.
Many conservatives refer to transgender persons as being "gender confused." They see every person's having their gender permanently identified at birth and remaining that gender throughout their life. The term "confused" implies that the person is best "cured" through counseling or therapy, so that they will recognize what their actual gender is and accept it. As noted above, the success rate appears to be zero or close to zero.
Religious conservatives generally refer to a transgender person as a she or he, her or his, female or male, girl or boy, according to their birth-identified gender, not their current gender identity. They often use the name of the transgender person that was assigned to them at birth.
In 2016, these beliefs motivated some Republican legislators in North Carolina to create a "bathroom bill." It restricts people to use only public washrooms that match the gender on their birth certificate. Thus a transgender woman who was identified as male at birth, who now identifies as female, who appears female, who wears female clothing, and who has female mannerisms, is legally allowed to use only only a men's washroom. That is almost guaranteed to create a disturbance -- perhaps a violent one -- if she tries to follow the law.
Similar bills have been introduced in other states.
The vast majority of adults, about 99.4%, have no such conflict. They are referred to as cisgender.
- About half have genital structures, brain structures, and sex chromosomes that are female. They are identified as female at birth and self-identify as female throughout life.
- The rest have genital structures, brain structures, and sex chromosomes that are male. They are identified as male at birth and self-identify as male throughout life.
An exception to the above description:
The above description is accurate for the vast majority of newborns. However, it partly breaks down with persons who are intersexual. These are individuals who are born with structures in their perineum area which differ from the typical male or female design. They generally have structures that are part female and part male. The Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) stated:
"While the 'male' and 'female' types are relatively common, nature presents a full range of sex types, and people decide where the line should be drawn between 'female' and 'intersex' or 'intersex' and 'male.' That said, we do know that about 1 in 2,000 children is born with genitals that are pretty confusing to all the adults in the room. We know this from the statistics of how many newborn babies are referred to 'gender identity teams' in major hospitals."
Thus, there is no accurate method of defining what percentage of newborns are intersex.
References used:The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Jennifer Brown, "Elsa's Story: Family learns to let girl live as 'truegender'," Denver Post, 2015-JUL-17, at: http://extras.denverpost.com/
"Sex Chromosome Abnormalities," at: http://anthro.palomar.edu/
How you may have arrived here:
Copyright © 2007 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on
Original posting: 2007-JUN-08 as part of the Transgender menu.
Latest revision: 2017-JAN-12
Author: B.A. Robinson