The “Transsexuals – Facts Not Opinions” series, is an ongoing effort to explain scientific understanding of the transsexual condition. It is intended for a general (i.e. non-scientist and non-specialist) audience. This page will be updated to include links to all the posts in the series as it continues.
One of the flaws in this “woman trapped in a man’s body” phrase is that it decouples the mind from the body. It suggests some kind of ‘spiritual’ or at least non-physical nature of our trans-ness. …
Medical science should be able to tell us something about what distinguishes a transsexual from others in quantifiable and measurable terms. If you assume that the brain is where this “mind” thing resides, that sounds like the most sensible place to look.
This speaks directly to those who persist in believing that transsexuals ought to seek therapeutic cures to fix their confused minds, rather than seeking hormones and surgeries to alter their bodies. We have about a century of that approach being attempted upon thousands of different transsexual identifying people. Before telling people they should go down that road, it makes some sense to see where that has lead in the past. And you don’t have to look very far before a very distinct pattern emerges – total failure.
The disjunction between these two theories (Undifferentiation pointing primarily to a “nurture” explanation for gender identity while organization-activation leaned heavily upon “nature.”) was readily recognized at the time. However they were reconciled by a curiously Victorian spin. It was posited that Money’s theory identified a uniquely human trait – yet another feature separating mankind from the beasts. Animals may be vulnerable to pre-natal factors in determining adult sexual traits, but socialization and other cultural factors overrode such base instinct in humans.
Not all biologists were content with this reconcilliation.
Just about every educated person is taught that human sexual differentiation is a matter of chromosomes. If the chromosomes show an XY pattern, that indicates a male. If the chromosomes show an XX pattern that indicates a female. For the vast majority of humans this is certainly true.
But it can also be said that we know this is not true in every case. There are a number of known intersex conditions, ranging from people with rare chromosome patterns (e.g. XXY), to people born with with opposite physical anatomy than their chromosomes would indicate (i.e. XY girls, and XX boys), and this is only scratching the surface of medically known variations. In order to explain the alternative development patterns leading to these non-standard outcomes it is necessary to understand more than simply chromosome patterns. It is necessary to understand how the chromosomes themselves do the work of sexual differentiation and how, sometimes, they may not follow the expected pattern of development.