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Religious Tolerance logo

Transgender persons, transsexuals, and gender identity

Conflicts over the use of public
washrooms and dressing rooms.
"Bathroom bills" are introduced
in some states.

The core problem: who is a "he" and who is a "she?:"

Most washrooms and dressing rooms in North American stores, schools, etc. are gender-specific: Unless they are a small room labeled for family use, they are restricted for men only or for women only.

This presents no problem for the vast majority of persons who are cisgender, for whom the following four criteria are in harmony with each other:

  1. Their gender identity -- the gender that they perceive themselves to be; the gender that they brains inform them that they are.

  2. Their biological gender -- they are normally considered either male if one or more Y sex chromosomes is present in each cell in their body, or female if their cells have no "Y" chromosome.

  3. The shape of an obscure brain region called the forceps minor (part of the corpus callosum, a mass of fibers that connect the brain's two hemispheres). 2 3 Among cisgender persons, the forceps minor of males is larger and contains parallel nerve fibers of higher density than in females. Among transgender persons, the same region of their brain typically contains a structure that corresponds to the gender opposite to their birth-identified gender. More details. The brain's forceps minor apparently "tells" the person what gender they are. Many transgender individuals are literally telling the truth when they say that they have a female brain in a male body, or vice-versa.

  4. Their birth-identified gender -- the gender that they were assigned when they were born; the gender placed on their birth certificate at birth.

That is, these four indicators of gender agree, either all female or all male.

Unfortunately:

  1. Newborns don't have a gender identity. It is only:

    "... during the early preschool years (ages 3 to 4 years), [that] young children engage in gender labeling. Young children can tell the difference between boys and girls, and will label people accordingly."

  2. Most people have no proof of their biological gender because their DNA has never been tested.

This means that, in practice, only the external structures in newborns' genital area are evaluated in order to assign them a gender and record it on their birth certificate. Many people regard this assignment as totally fixed and unchangeable for their entire life, during childhood, adulthood, and their senior years. If one is identified a male as a newborn, then they might as well have a "male" tattoo placed on their body because many would regard them as being unalterably male forever.

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However, a small minority of individuals are transgender; the above four indicators of genders are conflict in some way. Transgender persons and transsexuals sometimes describe themselves as a woman trapped in a man's body or vice-versa. Some say they have a female brain and a male body, or vice-versa.

A MTF (male to female) transgender person was identified as male at birth and now identifies herself as female. They are as certain that they are female as is any cisgender female, even though their primary sexual organs and sex chromosomes may both indicate to other people that they are male.

As described elsewhere in this section, the gender mismatch can cause emotional conflicts that are so severe that a large percentage of transsexuals will attempt suicide. Various types of therapy have been tried to change a person's gender identity to match their biological or birth-identified gender. All have had zero success.

Fortunately, sexual reassignment procedures can have an excellent success rate. Through the use of puberty blockers, hormone medication and/or surgery, the person's outward appearance can be changed so that they can successfully pass as the gender with which they identify. They can become the man or woman that they believe that they really are.

Unfortunately there is no agreement on how one should refer to a transgender person or transsexual -- as a "he" or "she." Take, for example, a MTF (male to female) transsexual:

  • Religious and social conservatives typically consider only a person's their birth-identified gender -- male in this case. Even if their brain screams femaleness, and even if they appear as a strikingly beautiful female, they are to be referred to as a "he." This is because a person's birth-identified gender is the only criterion that is obvious and visible. Conservatives often refer to transgender persons as "gender confused."

  • The LGBT community, composed of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender persons, along with religious liberals, secularists, psychologists, psychiatrists, other therapists, and human sexuality researchers, etc. typically refer to the person according to their current gender identity, which is female in this case; they would be referred to as a "she."

When this above lack of agreement over terms meets with gender-specific washrooms, conflicts are inevitable.

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A second problem: Sexual assault BY transgender individuals:

Suppose that most people accepted that:

  • A very small minority of individuals are transgender and have a gender identity different from their birth-identified gender, and

  • Most people accepted that many transgender individuals have a female brain in a male body or a male brain in a female body, and.

  • Most people also accepted that there is no counseling or prayer technique that will resolve their conflict, then

there still would be a concern by many people that a transgender person, say one identified as male at birth and who now identifies as female may try to enter a girl's washroom and sexually assault girls there.

One important factor to remember: There has been:

sign about transgender people

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A third problem: Sexual assault by a cisgender male pretending to be a male-to-female (MTF) transgender individual, victimizing girls or women in a washroom for females:

There may be a rational fear of this happening. Once in Canada, a cisgender male dressed up as a woman and gained admittance to a women's shelter, and assaulted women there. However, we have not been able to find a record of a similar incidence in the U.S.

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About public washrooms:

Some problems:

  • Men with babies sometimes find that baby changing facilities are only available in women's washrooms.

  • Adults with children of the opposite-gender often must choose between two difficult choices: to bring the child into a washroom not assigned for the child's gender, or entering a toilet not assigned for the adult's use."

  • Unisex washrooms -- facilities limited use by a single gender -- can cause problems for transgender persons. A MTF transsexual might enter a women's washroom and be challenged because she is viewed as having some noticeable male facial feature(s).

    On the other hand, for her to enter a men's washroom dressed as a woman might cause an even greater disturbance. If you want support for this statement, go to Google and search for: MTF transgender. Partway down the page, you will see a group of pictures of different MTF females all of whom were identified as male when born. There is also a link on that page to "More images for MTF transgender" that will show dozens of pictures of MTF females. Then imagine what would happen in mid-2016 if one of them followed the new law in North Carolina and entered the men's washroom! That law's simplistic solution is no solution at all.

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What is the solution?

Increasing numbers of retail outlets, universities, offices, etc. are providing small family washrooms for use by either gender, or are providing single-occupancy washrooms designated as unisex. 1 Unfortunately, this would require extensive and expensive remodeling of many stores. Also, some transgender persons might find this solution to be stigmatizing.

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Gender-neutral toilet," Wikipedia, as on 2011-NOV-20, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  2. Robert M. Sapolsky, "Caught Between Male and Female," The Wall Street Journal, 2013-DEC-06, at: http://www.wsj.com/
  3. Frank P.M. Kruijver, "Male-to-Female Transsexuals Have Female Neuron Numbers in a Limbic Nucleus," The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Vol. 85, No. 5, at: http://sindromebenjamin.tripod.com/
  4. Angela Oswalt, "Early Childhood Gender Identity and Sexuality," Gracepoint, 2016, at: http://www.gracepointwellness.org/

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Copyright © 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2016-MAY-14
Latest update: 2017-JAN-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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