Wednesday, 22 June 2005

The Brain, Genes, Gender and Sex

From :
Scientists say they may have found genes that help explain why a tiny percentage of men see themselves as women, cruelly trapped in the wrong body.

The researchers say the findings are very preliminary and should be “interpreted with the utmost caution,” due to the small sample size used in their study.

Nonetheless, they say, the results might shed some light on the rare condition, transsexualism. It is estimated to afflict about one in 30,000 men, some of whom follow through on their sense of their correct gender by getting sex-change operations.

More broadly, the research could help clarify one of the most contentious and poorly understood questions in biology: what creates “gender identity ”—the sense most people have that they are either a man or a woman.

The feeling is normally rather deep-seated; people don’t need to examine their body shapes to confirm it. It is also considered distinct from the issue of whom a person is sexually attracted to.
OK, so what is Gender? From :
From research and observation, I have developed a list of five semi-independent attributes of gender, as a map to help you to understand this complex often hotly emotional issue of gender. Consider sexual identity/behavior (gender) springing from five semi-independent attributes:

Genetic Gender — Our chromosomal inheritance.

Physical Gender — Our primary and secondary sexual characteristics.

"Brain Gender" — Functional structure of the brain, along gender lines.

"Brain Sex" — Love/sex Patterns, How we relate to others on a social and interpersonal as well as sexual level. "Love Maps."

Gender Identity — Our subjective gender, our sexual Self-Map, how we feel ourselves to be: male or female.
Genetic gender can be rather mixed. Most people are 46,xy (male) or 46,xx (female) : but some are 47,xxy (Klinefelter male), some 45,xo (Turner Female), and then there's mosaics and chimerae.

Physical gender usually follows the pattern laid down by the genes, but mutations such as Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome can turn genetic males into phenotypical females, and Congenital Adrenal Hypreplasia the reverse.

Brain gender is reflected in behavioural differences measureable even in the earliest days of childhood :
Even a few hours after birth, significant behavioral differences are noted between morphologically "normal" boys and girls. Newborn girls are much more sensitive to touch and sound than their male counterparts. Several day old girls spend about twice as long looking back at an adult face than boys, and even longer if the adult is speaking. A girl can distinguish between the cries of another infant from other extraneous noises long before a boy. Even before they can understand language, girls do better at identifying the emotional context of speech.
These behavioural differences are because there are significant morphological differences between male and female brain structures.

Brain Sex - Chicks dig Romance, Guys dig Big er, are more concerned with physical appearance.
Female brained individuals cannot and do not separate how they feel about a person (good, bad, nice, boring, etc.) and how they see them sexually. They must feel positive about a person as an individual in order to sexually desire them. Male brained individuals have a distant disconnect between feelings about a person as an individual and as a sex object. Males can easily, sometimes preferably, have sex with a person they don't know, don't like or even actively dislike. Love and sex are two different worlds for the male brained. These two worlds can come together, and for most this is preferred, but it is not necessary, and for some, not even desired.

Gender Identity -
The last of our five attributes, Gender Identity, is the last to be identified, and the least understood and researched. Gender identity is one's subjective sense of one's own sex. Like pain, it is unambiguously felt but one is unable to prove or display it to others. One's subjective gender is just as real and immalleable as one's physical gender but unfortunately not recognized in our culture. When one's Gender Identity does not match their Physical Gender, the individual is termed Gender Dysphoric. Like minority Sexual Orientation, Gender Dysphoria is not pathological, but a natural aberration occurring within the population, like blue eyes. As with minority sexual orientation, the percentage of the population having gender dysphoria is in dispute, with estimates ranging between one in 39,000 individuals up to three percent of the general population. My experience leads me to feel that the higher figure (3%) is closer to the actual prevalence.
But how would you know? A man born into a female body, but adjusted to the situation is unlikely to tell his son and his husband "Oh by the way, mommy is actually a guy", and certainly not if he's a stunning blonde with a curvaceous figure and an acting career. It's only if the Gender Dysphoria becomes too much to be borne that this all comes out - and the individual concerned often gets Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS), where their tissues are modified to more closely approximate the body they should have had.

It is this phenomenon, Gender Identity, that the research shows may in fact be genetically determined.

I'm still waiting on my chromosome analysis results - which amongst other things, should tell me what genetic sex I am. Because you never can tell just by appearances.

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