An Important Disclaimer
Right now, transgender issues are coming out of the closet. We’re living through an unprecedented cultural shift in the Western world as the T of LGBT is given more coverage in the media since ever. It’s an important and fascinating discussion. Two things I need to clear up though.
First, as always, I ask you to keep an open mind. By all means disagree, challenge and question what I say. I’m not afraid of disagreement but if you’ve already made your mind up about transgender issues and nothing could alter your view, there’s no reason for you to read this.
Second, I need to clarify why I don’t consider this to be an “inappropriate” topic to post about. I am well aware that a lot of people read my blogs and I have a responsibility to make sure my writing is always family-friendly. That’s why my blogs are free of things like swearing. The topic of transgenderism however, is Biology and, as part of Biology we have to discuss the fact that men and women are anatomically different.
Young people today are growing up in a different world to the one their parents grew up in. Transgender issues are not in the shadows anymore; children hear the words, see the coverage and they have a lot of questions. It’s not my job to persuade people what to think. But it is my job to present people with facts and let them make their own minds up about the implications.
As I’ve said before, young people are quite capable of disagreeing with something they hear. Besides, if we want people to grow up with the ability to discuss things sensibly, we need to encourage debate and discussion.
Let’s also be frank: some people reading this may be dealing with transgender issues themselves. The last thing you want to do is refuse to let anyone talk about it because it’s “not polite”. It's a complicated topic sure, and definitely one that people argue over, but it's one that does need to be discussed as part of modern Science. Which is why, as a Science writer, I'm doing so.
Transgender isn’t a dirty word and it shouldn’t be something we’re afraid of. It's a Biology word and ought to be discussed in that context. However, it is still considered a controversial subject by many, so I need to make this absolutely clear:
I am writing to explore the Science of gender and what I post here does not necessarily represent OR disagree with the views of any institution I am associated with. I am writing about facts, from my own curiosity and a desire to explore Biological complexity. It must be taken in this context only.
So, with that in mind...
Walking the Line
I got the idea to write this article several months ago when I came across the online blogs of Michael Brown (stream.org). Some of his blogs have titles like “Why LGBT’s war on gender must be resisted” and “it’s time to stand up to transgender activism”. It’s tempting to switch off when you read his words, but there is a theme to his writing. A theme I happen to agree with: wanting to be something doesn’t make you that thing.
He actually seems fine with transgenderism incidentally because he considers it “real”. He talks about “the rare few” who suffer from being born in the wrong body but thinks the trans community is pushing things too far by introducing a lot of complicated sex and gender terms. Things like genderqueer, genderfluid, cisgender, bigender, third gender etc. etc. This, he argues, is “cultural insanity”.
After all, if a five foot person “identifies” as being six feet tall, this doesn’t make them taller. Brown is correct that we need to accept reality and can’t change what’s true by wanting it. Sure, you have a right to believe whatever you want but as a member of the human race you also have a responsibility (just as important) to believe what is true.
As I’ve said before and will undoubtedly say again: reality isn’t a choice. If it’s sunny you don’t get to believe it’s raining. Reality forces you to a conclusion whether you like it or not. It’s harsh but it’s the Scientific method and it’s the best thing we’ve got.
Opinions and gut feelings should never be the guiding light on deciding what’s true. So, let’s take Michael Brown at his word and decide that yes ok, a line should be drawn and that line ought to be reality. If a person claims to be an aeroplane, that doesn’t make them an aeroplane.
This doesn’t make us intolerant by the way. Being tolerant is not the same as agreeing to everything. Ultimately 2 + 2 = 4 and while a person is allowed to say 2 + 2 = 5 there is no reason you have to accept it.
Facts are facts and they can only be challenged with evidence, not opinion.
You could argue that if a person wants to identify as a different sex then this is basically fine and why should it even be important? We have to be honest though, transgender rights are complicated and there’s a potential minefield of morality to navigate. These are NOT easy questions and they are certainly not questions Science can answer. What Science can do, however, is help people make informed decisions by trying to establish what the facts really are. The last thing we should do is make snap judgements.
Michael Brown’s “where do we draw the line?” question does need to be discussed. So, let’s do it. How many of these gender and sex identities are “real” phenomena and how many are just people wanting to be something else?
The Wisdom of Children
When I was a child here’s basically what I thought I knew: there are girls and there are boys which is 99.99999% of the population. Then, there was a tiny, microscopic, insanely rare number of people who thought they were born in the wrong body.
These people often wanted to get operations to change their bodies but a lot of them lived to regret it. There was even some debate as to whether it was a real condition or whether they were making it up.
Most of these “transsexuals” (as they were called) were mentally ill and this desire to switch gender was a side-effect of the mental illness. But it didn’t really matter because “transsexuals” were so rare I wasn’t likely to ever meet one.
It’s possibly the school I went to, but transgender issues weren’t talked about in the open and on the occasions they did get mentioned they were treated as a taboo playground joke: “your mum’s a tranny lol”.
This is what I was led to believe, so I understand, I really do, that it can be a shock or surprise when you come across the absolute rainbow of genders and sexes the trans community talks about today. It’s a normal human reaction to go “nope” when presented with something that challenges a deeply held belief, especially one we learn in childhood.
The idea of “boys and girls” is one of the first, most fundamental things we learn about. If someone told me there’s a whole new bunch of colours for instance and I had to learn all the names, I’d balk at the suggestion.
But, to be a Scientist means keeping an open mind to the possibility that our childhood convictions (even things which seem obvious) may have been over-simplified or downright wrong.
For example, when we’re young we assume that all stars in the night sky are the same type of thing. They certainly look that way. When we discover there are actually dozens of different varieties of star throughout the cosmos, we don’t put fingers in our ears and say “well that’s just getting silly”. We accept that things are more subtle and nuanced than we previously thought.
Why should gender identity be any different? After all, the principles governing star formation are relatively simple compared to the complexity of a human brain. 86 billion neurons with trillions of connections between them? It would be surprising if all human brains fitted into simple categories.
All the colours of the Genderbow
I remember once asking a friend of mine who was a member of the LGBT society at University what happened at their group meetings. She said, half-jokingly, “we sit around arguing about what all the different words mean”. To add to her point, the society later changed its name to the LGBTQ society, and then to LGBTQA.
Consider the words of Cory McCloskey of the Fox 10 news channel who, after hearing a report about a transgender woman responded live on air: “What is a Transgender woman, what does that even mean now? I can’t even keep up any more!” Although it’s easy to mock him, he really does speak on behalf of many people.
This feeling of confusion is not uncommon. And, if I’m honest, the first time I came across all these words I probably raised an eyebrow myself.
However, and this is important, whether you’re a member of the trans community or not, this discussion is important and society needs to be aware of the terminology. Yes, it’s different to what you learnt in primary school, but suck it up. Simply saying “well that’s a lot of words to learn” isn’t a very meaningful point. It’s important to find out what the trans community wants to be called.
At the moment this can be difficult however because we’re in a period of linguistic turmoil and the words are up for grabs. The LGBT community is still figuring things out, deciding terminology as it goes and, as a result, some words mean different things to different people.
I don’t want to offend or upset anyone from the trans community so first I’m going to explain what the different words mean as I understand them. This might also be useful for you the reader if you’re new to the topic.
Below are some generally accepted definitions, but let’s be clear - some trans people will disagree with my definitions and find these words unpleasant, even hurtful. But, I need to agree on words to use and it’s impossible to please everyone. So I’m going to do my best, please be patient if I say things you don’t like.
Sex: Your anatomical and biological body. Man or woman. This is the thing a doctor can identify by looking at you the moment you’re born.
Intersex: When your body is not clearly man or woman, or has features of both. The old-fashioned term was “hermaphrodite” but that word isn’t used anymore because it’s rather cold and clinical. Don’t use it unless you’re in Biology class talking about garden worms.
Gender: What you internally feel you are. Male or female. This is your personal sense of identity, the way you would classify your mind.
Cisgender: A person whose gender matches their sex i.e. a male gender in a man’s body. (I’ve heard people objecting to this word, saying it’s silly to have a word to define what is the most common position, but we have the word “heterosexual” to refer to the most common position, so let’s accept this one too.)
Transgender: A person whose gender does not match their sex. The simplest way of describing this is the idea of being “trapped in the wrong type of body”. The old fashioned word for this was “transsexual” but that word has also fallen from favour, so don’t use it (unless you’re watching or performing in The Rocky Horror Show). A transgender woman is someone who was born in the body of a man but considers themselves female.
Bigender: People who feel they have characteristics of both genders. The gender-equivalent of intersex. These people feel partly male and partly female and not necessarily in a 50:50 ratio. Richard O’Brien himself (the author of Rocky Horror) stated in an interview that he considers himself 70% male and 30% female.
Agender: People who feel they are lacking in a gender, that they are neither male nor female.
Third Gender: This one is a little difficult for many people to imagine, but these people feel they have a gender (so they’re not agender) but it isn’t male or female. If you imagine blue = male, red = female, then bigender would be purple, agender would be black and third gender might be something like green, not fitting on the same scale.
Gender Fluid: People whose gender identity is not constant i.e. they can be male for one week, female the next, moving back and forth along the spectrum, perhaps even being agendered or bigendered in between.
Sexuality: This refers to who you are attracted to. This is where words like heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual come into play. Although there is still a bit of confusion. After all, does your sexuality refer to the sex you’re attracted to or the gender? Fortunately, this isn’t the issue we’re talking about in the blog, so I’ll leave sexuality there for now.
Queer: While this word used to be a derogatory word for gay it has now been reclaimed as a term for the entire buffet of genders, sexes and sexualities. Anyone who isn’t cisgendered heterosexual is “queer”.
Genderqueer: A subsection of the queer community concerned with all the non cis-genders: trans, bi, a-, fluid etc. It’s ignoring the issue of sexuality. It is, in fact, the focus of this blog.
Transition: A genderqueer person will often go through a process of making the world aware of their genderqueer identity, and deciding how to express it themselves. This is called the transition and it is different for everyone. For some people it can be a name change, for some it can involve surgery to change sex. Some genderqueer people wish to advertise and celebrate their transition, others do not.
Trans: A casual word for someone who is transgendered. The same way you might use “gay” to refer to “homosexual”, it’s a more relaxed, informal and less clinical term.
Tranny: An insulting term for someone who is trans. Like calling a gay person a “fag”. Don’t use it.
Cross-dressers: This term often gets lumped in with the others because the term used to be “transvestite”. It refers to a man who wears clothes typically associated with women i.e. dresses and skirts.
Ally: A non-queer person who supports genderqueer rights i.e. they are cisgendered themselves, but support the genderqueer movement.
Yes, there’s a lot to take in there (and this is actually an incomplete list). But it takes a couple of days to start getting your terms right. It only seems like a headache if you decide it’s overwhelming. Occasionally you'll slip up, as with learning any new lingo, but it's really worth making the effort. And when it comes to pronouns ("he" or "she") there's a simple rule to find out which you should use: whatever the transgender person asks you to use!
I have, much to my embarassment, occasionally used the wrong pronoun when talking to a transgender student. I've always been grateful when they've shrugged it off and said "don't worry about it", because I know it is actually quite a big deal to them. So thank you to all the transgender people who are patient with us cisgendered people as we do our best to keep up.
Is being genderqueer an illness?
Whether you want to call being genderqueer a medical condition/illness is difficult because some genderqueer people, understandably, do not like the implication there is something “wrong” with them. The suggestion is that only normal, cisgendered people are “right” and anything else needs to be corrected.
I’m not sure where I fall on the issue. Neither is the genderqueer community, incidentally. Some genderqueer people end up suffering from depression and would describe being genderqueer as something which makes them unhappy.
There is, after all, a medical condition called “body dysmorphia” in which a person feels a sense of discomfort/dissatisfaction/disliking of their anatomy. This isn’t referring to the feeling everyone gets when they look in the mirror and think “I look awful”, this is referring to the feeling that your body is not what it’s supposed to be.
Understandably a lot of genderqueer people suffer from body dysmorphia but it’s worth mentioning that some do not and are perfectly at east with being female in the body of a man etc.
Some would argue that a lot of the depression felt by genderqueer people is a result of social stigma and bullying, while others say it arises from the brain knowing it doesn’t match its own body.
A female person born in a man’s body is, understandably, going to feel out of place in her own skin so perhaps this does need to be called an illness, because it causes suffering.
On the other hand, perhaps the only reason a female person in a man’s body feels unhappy is because we tell children that men are male and women are female, so a transgender person feels they are conflicting with what they are taught they “should” be. It’s a tough one to call and I’m hesitant to cast my lot one way or the other.
What’s a lot easier to answer is whether these things are real. The answer, as it turns out, is very much yes.
As surprising as this may be, and difficult for some to swallow, it does seem to be the case that all these genderqueer identities are biologically “real” and need to be treated as such. In fact, according to many Scientists who study sex and gender, the idea of a simple dichotomy is enormously misleading even though it’s familiar (imagine that, a familiar idea turning out to be wrong).
In 2015, the Scientific journal nature ran a whole issue dedicated to these issues and found that society is actually quite behind the times. If you want a neat summary of the issues look up the flagship article by Claire Ainsworth (18th February 2015).
While culture in the West might want to push everyone toward two sexes and two genders, the Biology is saying “not really” and always has done. Let’s take a brief look at some of the main genderqueer phenomena.
Being intersex means the person has biological features of both sexes and there are five main ways this can happen. 1) X and Y chromosomes being mixed up, 2) hormone levels corresponding to more than one sex, 3) internal organs e.g. uterus and prostate, 4) external genitals, 5) gonads (testes and ovaries). Some people have a mixture of these features and there isn’t really a debate about whether it exists.
I mean, technically speaking, the reason men have nipples is because babies start off with far less obvious sex features and the man/woman thing only gets decided later.
The gonads of a baby stay where they are for female, but drop down for male. The vagina remains open for a female baby and closes for a male, forming the scrotum (which is why the scrotum has a dividing line in it). So, in a sense, everyone has what are called “spandral” features of the other sex. Is it possible to have a human born with these features not clearly formed one way or the other, or to have both? Of course it is.
Intersex people are easily identified by medical scans and people with more than one external set of genitals have been known about since at least the first Century B.C. Intersex isn’t controversial and it’s absolutely real.
In 1995 Jiang-Ning Zhou showed that a particular region of the brain - the central subdivision of the bed nucleus of the stria terminals (BSTc for short) - is large for men and small for women.
What’s really interesting is that Zhou discovered transgender women (i.e. people who identify as female) have a BSTc which matches that of a cisgender woman. And vice-versa for men. In other words, your gender is determined by the size of your BSTc, and some people’s BSTc size doesn’t match their anatomy.
In 2002 Wilson Chung found similar results and in 2004 so did Dick Swaab, as did Alicia Garcia-Falgueras in 2006. There is some controversy about these findings and it doesn’t explain everything (for instance, how transgender people often know they are transgender from an early age, before the neurological difference is significant) but that’s a lot of compelling evidence pointing in a similar direction.
Also consider the 2013 research by Milton Diamond who compared identical twins one of whom was transgender, with fraternal twins one of whom was transgender.
Identical twins will share an upbringing/environment and genetic material, while fraternal twins share upbringing/environment only. These kinds of studies (called “twin studies”) can often be useful in finding out how much of a certain trait is genetically influenced.
Diamond found that in the identical twins, if one of the twins was transgender then the other twin was transgender 33% of the time. By contrast, in the fraternal twin set, 2.6% of the sets (actually a single set of twins) were both transgender. In other words, being genetically closer to someone transgender makes you more likely to be transgender than if you simply share an environment. Meaning transgenderism is affected by your Biology, not your environment.
The precise cause and effect of transgenderism is still not known conclusively, but the evidence does seem to be piling up. It is a real thing and transgender people aren’t choosing it. It is who they are and it might even turn out to be something as simple as the size of one particular brain region.
There’s also the fact that transgender people who transition are often a lot happier after the process than before (which is the opposite of what you’d expect if it was made up).
You might have been told that most transgender people live to regret their transition and that most transgender people have a history of mental illness prior to coming out as transgender. Actually, this is the complete opposite of reality.
In 2014 Annelou de Vries analysed the psychiatric health of transgender people who had been given puberty blockers at age 13 and surgery at 20, finding that every single one of them was just as mentally healthy as cisgendered people. In other words, transgenderism doesn’t seem to be a “side effect of being mentally ill” as some think, it’s possible to be perfectly sane, not suffering from any psychiatric illness, and also be born in the wrong body.
Furthermore, Annika Johanson (2009) found that 95% of transgender people are happier after the transition. Murad (2010) and Ainsworth (2011) found the same result. Pfafflin (2003), Kuiper (1998), Junge (1998), Smith (2005), Dhenjne (2014), Krege (2001) and De Cuypere (2006) also found that the number of transgender people who were happier after the transition ranged from 96-100%.
In other words, the idea of the “misguided teen who thinks they’re transgender and regrets the decision later in life” is astonishingly rare. The overwhelming majority of people who identify as transgender are a lot more happy once they’ve transitioned. Transgederism is very real.
Little research has been done on this topic specifically but it’s well known that the BSTc doesn’t come in two sizes only. It can be somewhere in between. What this means is that a person whose BSTc is halfway between male and female will quite plausibly feel they have features of both genders.
The BSTc can develop on a spectrum of sizes, meaning you would expect humans to come in a full range of genders from super-girly female to mega-masculine male. And, of course, we do!
In fact, just an out-there hypothesis, perhaps subtle distinctions in the size of your BTSc might explain why some men are ultra-male, masculine alpha types while some men have a lot of effeminate features but still consider themselves male. Being transgender or bigender doesn't immediately put you in a simple box. You can be a transgender man (anatomically a woman) and still be quite a feminine man. There's a lot of complex things which determine your gender so it's no surprise there's a lot of scope for variation.
I, for instance, am not a raging ultra-sport-playing hyper man. In fact, some of my personality traits could be described as a bit feminine (I cry at movies really badly for instance).
Perhaps my BTSc is 99% toward the male end of the spectrum (which is why I feel I’m definitely male) but I’m not one of the ultra masculine guys like a fireman, a builder, a cop, a biker, a sailor or a cowboy.
This one is particularly interesting and although it’s a new field, the picture emerging seems to be that genderfluidity is a real thing as well.
The medical term used is “alternating gender incongruity”, a term coined by V.S. Ramachandran, who has shown that in some people the hemispheres of the brain can switch their roles back and forth, which leads to changes in personality or thinking patterns, most likely including gender.
The brain’s ability to rewire itself spontaneously and at random is well known. People suffering from bipolar disorder for instance find themselves with two different brains at different times in their life. People with seasonal affective disorder find their serotonin levels dropping in the winter and so on.
In fairness, the jury is still out on this but given the fact that everything else about people’s brains has been known to switch back and forth, it would be astonishing if the only thing which never alternated was gender.
There is, at the time of writing, no available research I can find on this topic. So I shall have to stick with Scientific honesty and say I don’t know about this one.
It seems as though a lot of people objecting to all the “new” genders are objecting on exactly that basis. These genders weren’t around 40 years ago, so where have they suddenly come from?
Well, actually to say the idea of a third gender is a recent invention is wildly inaccurate. In fact, 20th Century Western cultures seem to be rather closed-off in terms of third gender concepts, while much of the rest of the world has known about them for a long time.
In Sumerian stories (ranging back 7,000 years) there are references to a third gender. Same thing can be found in ancient Egypt (4,000 years ago) ancient Greece (2,000 years ago) and so on. In fact, many ancient cultures outside of the Mesopotamian basin don’t seem to make the male/female distinction.
In present day Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan, Nepal, Japan and India, there is fairly common public acceptance that there is a third gender. Less common than the other two, but hardly non-existent.
The rest of the animal kingdom is also quite open to the idea. Joan Roughgarden, although a controversial figure, has argued that because sex comes in two main categories for humans, this makes a lot of people assume there are only two genders, but actually there could be dozens more we simply aren’t aware of.
Granted, there’s not a lot of human Biological research yet on third-genderism but it does seem as though this is quite a common gender-identity and not a new one at all.
How common is it?
Remember earlier I said that everyone assumes these things are rare? Well they are, but nowhere near as much as you might think.
It’s hard to get solid numbers on this because people may not want to identify publicly as genderqueer, but the available stats look something like this...
Around 1-2% of people are born intersex (M. Blackless March 2000 American Journal of Human Biology). Think about that. The average person knows around 600 other people. That means potentially twelve of the people you know are intersex. It’s uncommon sure, but it’s not 1 in a million. Chances are you know a dozen intersex people and a lot of them probably aren’t open about it.
Transgenderism is a bit harder to count as there aren’t clear figures but most sources I’ve checked estimate the number to be somewhere around 0.2% of the population. In other words, 1 in every 500 people. So, again, assuming you know 600 people the chances are you know somebody who is transgender.
Meanwhile other non-binary genders are (according to practicalandrogyny.com) common to around 0.4% of the population. In other words, 1 in every 250 people. So you probably know two or three people who identify as genderfluid or third gender.
In a school of 1,700 students for example, statistically there will be approximately three transgender pupils, around seven genderfluid/agender/third gender and somewhere between 17 and 34 intersex pupils (that’s an entire class).
If you’re carrying around the assumption that genderqueer people are extremely rare you might need to think again. The reason you probably haven’t realised the numbers are this high is because a) it’s only very recently that genderqueer people have felt cautiously comfortable expressing it, b) a lot of people are still discriminated against, so they never say anything and c) it’s not really anyone else’s business.
Transgender people aren’t required to wear a sign, so the transgender people you know...there’s a good chance you don’t even know about it. But genderqueer people are not made up, they’re not making their identity up, they are real and you probably know several.
“Oh, it’s just a phase”
Some people go through a period of self-uncertainty and identity crisis. Adolescence is a particularly biologically complicated process, during which the brain changes significantly. Is it possible that some people who identify as transgender in their teens will grow out of it later on? Well, yes.
This is one of the reasons medical organisations don’t just immediately give sex-change surgery to anyone who comes along asking for it, particularly when they’re young. As we said earlier, some people do get it wrong.
Many people would argue however: so what? If a person does think they’re a different gender and then change their mind, is that such a big deal? Besides, even if it does turn out to be a phase, this doesn’t mean they were making it up! As we’ve seen, it’s possible for the brain to switch genders on occasion, which means an anatomical boy might temporarily have a female brain which then settles back to male later on. Going through a phase doesn’t mean they’re doing it for attention. It could be a biological phase they can’t help, like going through a phase when their skin is really bad.
As a Scientist you have to keep your mind open and wait until the facts are in and a clear picture emerges. If someone tells you they’re genderqueer, why jump to the conclusion it’s a phase and they’re making a mistake? Why not give them time to find out? After all, if it’s a phase they’ll grow out of it without you telling them they need to. If you want a powerful and tragic example of what can happen when you force someone to be a gender they are not, look up the story of David Reimer.
I went to school with a very unusual boy. He was an attention seeker in ways you can’t even imagine. And not just because he wanted people to listen to his opinion, he wanted to be different.
Sometimes I like people to pay attention to me - of course I do, I think the things I say are interesting, otherwise I wouldn’t say them! - but this boy didn’t just want attention sometimes, he couldn’t survive without it. He also liked to be the victim, liked to be the outsider. Some people’s sense of identity is just like that.
Several years later I found out he was no longer a "he" and was in the process of transitioning to become a transgender woman. One of two things are possible here: either she had been transgender all along (which perhaps accounted for her sense of being an outsider) or she was faking it completely as her latest attempt to garner attention from people who were getting bored of her usual antics.
I don’t know the answer. As we’ve discovered, a small percentage of the genderqueer community really are making a mistake. Even some genderqueer people are critical of other people who are, quite probably “faking it”.
What I do know is that the percentage of fakers is pretty low. If you meet someone who is genderqueer, the chances are more likely they are genuine because only a very small percentage of genderqueer people are self-deluded. So if you’ve already met a genderqueer person (one in a few hundred) there is at the lowest estimate a 95% chance they’re the real thing. Perhaps you ought to take them seriously, it’s statistically sensible to do so.
How do you know?
As a cisgender person I often find it difficult to imagine how a genderqueer person knows they’re genderqueer. I suppose the idea is so alien to me, so different to my own experience, that I can’t help but wonder “how did you know?”
Some genderqueer people claim to have known since early childhood while others began to realise during adolescence. It’s different for everyone, the same as sexuality. As someone who’s not genderqueer I have no reference , but that is 100% my point. Because I’m happily male in a man’s body I’ve never had an inkling in my mind that I’m in the wrong body. The very fact I find it hard to identify with genderqueer people is because I am cisgendered.
I’ve never wondered about my gender identity and I’m so confident that I’m male in a man’s body, the very thought of being trans is unimaginable to me. So maybe that’s a good reason to trust a genderqueer person: I’m so confident of my own gender/sex identity it would take something incredibly powerful to make me question it. I’d have to be pretty convinced something was up. Well, maybe, that’s what it is to be a genderqueer person.
Maybe these people aren’t just casually coming to the conclusion they are genderqueer. Maybe the only thing which would make a genderqueer person identify as genderqueer is if they actually are.
As a teenager I was far from happy. I’d never repeat my adolescent years if you paid me and, aside from a few wonderful friends who stuck by me, I was utterly miserable for a long time (by the way, don’t worry about me, I’m doing great now!)
Thing is, I would have given anything to change who I was and many other teenagers feel the same today. But I never questioned my gender. I was unhappy and didn’t like who/what I was, but I knew I was an unhappy boy. Transgender people aren’t just unhappy with themselves and want to be different. They are transgender, irrespective of their happiness or unhappiness.
Transgender people aren’t “unsure of their gender”. They are the exact opposite. They are absolutely sure of it, that’s the whole point! As a cisgender person I never get unsure about my genders, why assume genderqueer people are doing it?
Does Science support transgender rights?
Science shows, pretty clearly, that genderqueer phenomena are real. It’s not a side-effect of mental illness either; transgender people are typically as mentally healthy as anyone else. They’re also not faking it or self-deluding. It’s not a choice, it’s not a lifestyle and it’s not something you can be persuaded out of. It’s the way you are. And it’s also not as rare as you might have thought.
Yes it can be daunting to hear about all these things we aren’t usually told in school, but this is just the way nature is. If you don’t like it, find another Universe! Genderqueer people are here, they are queer, and you have to get used to it.
Science doesn’t make moral comments however, it simply shows what the truth is. So Science doesn’t technically support or un-support transgender rights. It shows that they’re real considerations and it’s now a moral question: how should we treat people who are biologically different to the norm? Although really, the answer to that should be obvious.
I would especially like to thank Lu Mather for his advice, consulting and editing of the blog. He helped me with terminology, tone and even my terrible grammar.
Trans symbol: wikimedia
Anti-trans guy: theatlantic
Ben Melzer: stuff
Richard O'Brien: thumbs
Intersex group: Oii
Nail in the coffin: tryredemption
Trans flag: Wikimedia
I love science, let me tell you why.