Hello, William Scott! You write some quite categorical opinions about gender and sex and 'sex changes.' This has been a bone of contention at 'the other place' I post at these days. I hope no one minds me quoting myself.
I think four things need to be kept present in the mind when dealing with "transexuals" or "transgender" people. The first is the so-called 'sex' chromosomes, X and Y. The second is so-called 'sex hormones' (including precursors). The third is physical development of a human being -- in the womb, in childhood, at puberty. The fourth is the historical record of so-called 'third sex' people in pre-modern cultures (including the term 'berdache'). Subsidiary, but inter-implicated are the terms 'gender' and 'sexual identity' and 'sexual orientation' ...
Ordinarily (or 'normatively') a zygote has either XX or XY sex typed in its development 'plan.' In the womb, a fetus carrying XX genes normatively develops from an indifferentiated physical state; in other words, a fetus is at one point -- despite it carrying XY genes or XX genes -- not yet fully 'sexed.' A fetus at that point does not have a penis, scrotum and gonads, whether XX or XY. The precursors to both organ-complexes are present in the developing organism (here you can look up Mullerian ducts and Wolffian ducts if you like). Here's a simplified illustration:
-- now, it should be no surprise to anyone that this particular 'differentiation' can fail in some percentage of fetal development. The reasons are many, but one important to this discussion are the groups of 'precursors' which influence or guide the normative development of the gonads from indifferent to 'different.'
There are a variety of syndromes in which a deficiency or inefficiency make differentiation impossible or partial. Some are related to the sex hormones as such -- in one such syndrome, the flush of hormones fails to register on the XY fetus. The result is a baby being born with an apparent female sexual organs: a clitoris, a vaginal opening, labia, female-style urethra. It is a 'boy' by genetics, but it is a 'girl' by ordinary perception at birth.
You can find this kind of developmental kind of 'error' described in detail under the rubric androgen insensitivity syndrome (a simplified explanation here at MedlinePlus).
Bear in mind that not all of these syndromes in the new baby can completely or reliably predict what will happen when the person reaches puberty. In some, the 'wrong' hormones effect a body-sculpting: the adolescent begins to develop secondary sexual characteristics -- but these breasts/ovaries/vagina ... testicles/penises/musculature do not follow the normative developmental path according to XX/XY.
In rarer cases where the simple bifurcation of XX v XY is not what the chromosomes show, development can throw up obstacles to any further development at all. An adolescent can fail to develop particularly 'masculine' or 'feminine' features ... and thus need additional targetted hormonal assistance depending on the syndrome.
I won't get too far into the details of other developmental syndromes, but quote from the other place:
In another thread, Adam remarked upon intriguing cases of 5-alpha-reductase deficiency, the genetic mutation that leads to "guevedoche" -- 'eggs at twelve'/balls at twelve.'
One of the older explanations of homosexuality was that a person of gender A was actually a gender B 'trapped' in the wrong body. In some ways, lay opinion continues to use this as a heuristic: A woman like Rosie O'Donnell then may have a 'male mind' in a female body. And a person like Jazz Jennings would have a girl's mind in a boy's body (and in this case, the parents accepted that Jazz's gender identity did not 'match' her body, and allowed her to begin a gender transition at puberty).
I think Greg would be satisfied with an explanation that God made these people, that the intersection of gender/sexuality/sexual orientation/physical conformity with gender is part of God's plan.
What makes this even more interesting (or puzzling) are the several distinct situations wherein the actual genetic sex (ie, XY or XX, but Klinefelter syndrome XXY and others, including Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, XX male syndrome, XXYY syndrome. XYY syndrome) does not lead to normal/expected development of secondary sexual characteristics in the womb or later at puberty.
This can result in situations in which a child is assumed to be male or female, but at puberty, the opposite development in genitalia occurs.
Some developmental disorders for which there is no particular genetic marker of course can result in 'intersex' babies, whose genetic gender does not unfold in the flesh, so to speak.
I do think there is a marginal utility in thinking about the 'male mind' in a 'female body' and vice-versa. Does research support this? Yes and no (details on request).
I will leave that material for consideration, and raise the next part of the topic that can focus the mind -- on those folks who claim 'gender dsyphoria ' -- and who wish that they could have plastic surgery, to adapt their physique to what their heart tells them is their 'true' gender.
Here I mention the other perplexing sexual organ, perhaps the most important sexual organ, the brain. The brain itself takes a 'normative' developmental course under the influence of sex hormones. This occurs during the first floods of development in the womb. An otherwise 'female' body develops a brain that will anatomically resemble the prototypical male brain, and vice versa. Note that some disorders 'kick in' only at puberty.
I invite William Scott Dwyer to spend some time researching a few of the ways that development can 'go awry' in the interplay of development. I hope he might spend a little bit of time musing over the situations in which sexual organs appear of one 'sex,' but the holder has the opposite-sex genetic identity -- or as above has unusual chromosomal sex 'typing.'. One can also explore the kinds of challenges that 'intersex' people face, when their genitals are at some point on the continuum between wholly 'male' and wholly 'female.'
Imagine yourself a parent of an intersex child. Do you support plastic surgery to 'normalize' genitals? Do you wait for the child to tell you which gender it identifies with? Do you raise them as a boy or as a girl? Which marker of sex is the 'correct' one -- the brain, the genes, or the genitals?
How do you decide?
-- it's nice to see some of the old gang still active here. Thanks for the opportunity to pitch for Team Reason . Hope all are well and happy, learning and growing,
(Edited by William Scott Scherk on 10/06, 10:51pm)