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Is gender identity a social construct or an innate characteristic?

Katie

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I posit that gender identity is demonstrably not a social construct. The tragic case of David Reimer is an example of that faulty idea failing in a fatal manner. Influential fuzzy thinkers like Dr. John Money and his contemporaries had this idea that gender identity is a matter of nurture and not nature.

When David Reimer survived a horribly botched circumcision, the prevailing idea at the time was to make his genitals look like those of a girl, raise him as a girl, and he would adapt and be a happy girl. That did not happen. He always had a sense of being very different from other girls and an innate sense of being male. The truth was revealed to him later and he decided to change his name to David and live as a man. Tragically, he ended up killing himself because life as an ordinary man was very difficult and coping with his past was nearly impossible.

The Reimer case is a very good example of why gender identity should be taken very seriously regardless of physical appearance. It is infinitely easier to alter the flesh to fit the person, than it is to alter the person to fit the flesh.
 

KathyLauren

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I have seen enough good science, including the David Reimer case, MRI and dissection studies, and others, to convince me that gender identity is biological and based in the brain. To the best of my knowledge, there are no studies indicating the contrary.

There are lots of social constructs surrounding gender, such as gender presentation, gender roles, gender expression, etc.. But gender identity, I am firmly convinced, is not a social construct.
 

Linde

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Look at me, I was made into a man! I tried very hard, but I never did fit in properly. But they had taken away my ability, to be a girl, I did not fit into that scheme either. My younger years were a pretty miserable life. I don't know how I would have endet up, had I not met my wife who did not like very macho looking and acting man, and she disliked body hair with a passion. I fit her likes, and this might have saved my life?
Poor David was mostly the opposite of me!

Hugs
Linde
 

Katie

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@Linde had you known the truth about yourself much earlier, might you have made other choices?
 

Linde

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@Linde had you known the truth about yourself much earlier, might you have made other choices?
I talked about that today in my psychology interview. From hindsight, probably not, because I would not have met my wife, with who I had the 36 best years of my life.
But if I could have made a decision, say after puberty, or in my early teens, I would have jumped to that solution. I feel more and more a sadness coming up inside of me that I was cheated out of my appropriate youth. I have this gigantic hole there, which was filled for me with misery, being made fun off, and beaten up. Would I have had a nicer life as a girl, I don't know? I just miss this time, which should have been fun, and was misery instead. Just because some a** doctor thought I would make a better boy than a girl!
The girl fashion in my younger teenage years wer Bobby socks, petticoats, wide flowing skits over them, some cute blouse, and very often a nice pony tail as hair do. I always dreamed about how wonderful it would be to be able to wear such an outfit.

I am a very happy woman now, and try to live the rest of my life to the fullest.

Hugs
Linde
 

Confused

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I believe it is inate from birth, not a social construct, but is slightly modified by living a long and troubled time with the wrong hormone levels and wrong bits. We've all had to learn to be somebody we are NOT! I don't have the dysphoria some of you do, but I still feel cheated.

Would I change it if I could? Were it not for my wife and children, I would do it in an instant!

It seems my body wants to do it now and I've pretty much decided to let it happen. My wife seems to finally be on board, but probably not for a dress 😁

Hugs,
Mike
 

OzGirl

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It is no surprise to anybody who know me to hear me say it is a biological deviation from fetal development, as so many different research institutions have found. From there, I believe the variations are in how we interpret the uncomfortable feelings sent to us from the conflicted Gender ID part of our brain. Many don't recognise these feelings as dysphoria until it gets strong enough to be easily identified, but until then, we have to interpret these feelings.

External factors like social pressures can affect the way we interpret these feelings, but it doesn't change the basic condition, just how we perceive it. This is where the concept of social construct creeps in, but it is simply not looking hard enough. Now, those of you who have read some of the research will have noted the dimorphic variation noted in the brain is very binary. I know researchers are trying to understand where Non binary comes into this, but given the evidence available so far, I am going to suggest a hypothesis which may be unpopular. If they can't find more variation in the brain structure (it's a really tiny area!) of Non Binary subjects, it may indicate that this is a condition of perception rather than a medical variation. Now please know this is just a hypothesis based on research to date, and research is continuing, but this does not in any way make non binary people any less valid, but may change the way we try to understand Non Binary and Gender Fluid, and this may include a stronger relationship to external factors. We need to see what the scientists can confirm!

Hugs,

Allie
 

Kenna

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Allie and I have touched on this in another thread. I'm very happy to acknowledge a neurological influence in determining gender ID, but I don't dismiss other factors. I believe that experiences, especially while growing up may also play a role, but I also think that there's something more, something that I have trouble labeling. "Spiritual" isn't quite right word (I need to work on that), but it's something fundamental to our being that is different to both neurological and experiential factors. I believe that all 3 play a role in determining where on the gender spectrum we lie. This multi-factorial approach also better accounts for non-binary people. If the neurological element of gender is binary (which I suspect it might not be) the impact of the other factors can more easily explain the diversity of expressions of gender and if all three factors are non-binary it leads to an even richer concept of gender across a deep dimensional space, not jusr a simple spectrum between two ends.

However I've also said that it's a subject that I don't get too hung up on; we are who we are.

Cheers,
-Kenna
 

pamelatransuk

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Hello again

I agree with Mike and Allie resulting from both the scientific evidence and my own life experience.

One of the first things I knew - certainly by age 4 and probably before - is that I identified as a girl.

I consider gender to be an innate internal characteristic which some of know from an early age but which some of us realise later in life either due to upbringing or social pressure or denial preventing us from accepting ourselves. Therefore I believe innate from birth.

Hugs

Pamela xx
 

Linde

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Allie and I have touched on this in another thread. I'm very happy to acknowledge a neurological influence in determining gender ID, but I don't dismiss other factors. I believe that experiences, especially while growing up may also play a role, but I also think that there's something more, something that I have trouble labeling. "Spiritual" isn't quite right word (I need to work on that), but it's something fundamental to our being that is different to both neurological and experiential factors. I believe that all 3 play a role in determining where on the gender spectrum we lie. This multi-factorial approach also better accounts for non-binary people. If the neurological element of gender is binary (which I suspect it might not be) the impact of the other factors can more easily explain the diversity of expressions of gender and if all three factors are non-binary it leads to an even richer concept of gender across a deep dimensional space, not jusr a simple spectrum between two ends.

However I've also said that it's a subject that I don't get too hung up on; we are who we are.

Cheers,
-Kenna
Kenna, this probably explains why I had non of those wrong gender feelings at all, until my body took the lead in feminizing itself more. I cannot recall that I ever felt I was the wrong gender. The first 5 or so years of my life I lived mostly like a girl, and wore the hand me down clothing of my older sister. This was not of any problem to me. After that I was told I was a boy, because the school required me to be a boy, and I tried to be as good of a boy as I could. I never had any problem with any gender I represented. I think I was simply agender, or non-binary (on the gender side). I only developed a real gender feeling pretty late in my life, and this was clearly a female gender that I felt I belong to. Well, I changed over into a woman, and for the first time in my life I feel very at home in my gender, which is, of course female. My sexuality was always very strongly binary, and still is.


Hugs
Linde
 

Overalls Bear

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Thanks for posting this interesting topic! Admittedly... I don't know anything about all of this really. Haven't read any of the research (nor do I have any interest in doing so at this point. I doubt I'd understand it if I did.) I accept at face value that being transgender can be innate. But I do wonder, based on my own personal experience, if it's not also possible for a person to develop transgender proclivities as a part of a more overarching psychological problem. This is, as I understand it, at least part of the purpose behind gender therapy and the real-life experience... to separate the truly transgender from those whose gender dysphoria is perhaps psychologically based.

Without going into a bunch of detail... when I look back over the course of my life (to the extent I can remember any of it) I find it difficult to accept I was born transgender and that the other psychological problems I've had were an outgrowth of that or, in the alternative, that they were an unfortunate co-occurrence. What seems to make sense to me in my own case is that, in some unknown way, I developed an array of psychological problems (that went unrecognized and untreated) and that it was these problems that caused me to begin dreaming of being a girl early on in my life thus producing my seemingly never-ending gender dysphoria. (I don't know if it really was never-ending or if it just seems that way from this vantage point.)

It is known (or at least I believe it is known) that thoughts and emotions can, over time, create pathways in the brain in much the same way that cars can create ruts in a dirt road for example such that, every time a car drives down that road, the tires are forced back down into those same old ruts come what may. And likewise thoughts or emotions, thought of or experienced repeatedly can (over time) create pathways in the brain that those little electrical signals just keep charging down whether one wants them to or not. This, it seems to me, is a possible explanation for my own transgender-like experience. At least these are my admittedly uneducated personal musings on the subject. Or, in the alternative, perhaps its just my way of rationalizing my circumstances? I don't know...
 

Michelle_P

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We all know that our assigned sex at birth comes from what folks observe between our legs, the shape of bits of tissue that originate way back in the first few weeks of fetal development. There is a complex dance of messenger proteins and genetic origins involved to produce this.

What may folks do not realize is that there is a nugget of gender identity that is also formed, many weeks later in fetal development, deep in the structures of the brain that interface with the body. Again, there is a complex dance of chemistry and biology that drives the production of the bits of neural tissue that hold this nugget of gender identity.

For many centuries, it has been widely held in Western philosophy that there is a duality, a split between mind and body. This argument is a handy way to construct philosophical cloudscapes of the mind or spirit somehow being detachable or independent of the body, which in turn permits the argument that the mind is somehow infinitely flexible in its independence, able to overcome any limits or issues of the body.

The idea that gender is purely a social construct ties in with this mind/body duality, being able to claim that gender arises from the infinitely flexible mind, and therefor gender is merely a socially imposed thing.

I argue that there isn’t a mind/body duality, but rather that the mind is part of the body, a sort of emergent phenomenon that arises from the operations of the brain, capable of learning and adjusting, certainly, but bound to the capabilities and characteristics of the brain and not infinitely malleable.

While I would agree that gender roles and gender presentation are certainly social constructs, I argue that gender identity is not, but rather arises from the brain, a deeply seated phenomenon that impacts the mind which develops in that brain.

If gender identity itself were merely another aspect of an infinitely malleable mind, then techniques of psychological persuasion or coercion should be able to alter that gender identity. That is, so-called “conversion therapy” would work, rather than simply terrifying the subject into concealing their gender identity. I know from personal experience that it does not work.

If gender identity was not seated in the depths of the brain, but imposed from without, then changes in the imposing stimuli should cause the gender identity to change over time. Dr. John Money attempted this, most notably with the involuntary gender reassignment of the child David Reimer, and in spite of his initial claims, failed miserably. (Google them. It's a really sad story.)

Gender identity can reassert itself in spite of social pressures, and if not congruent with the gender role or presentation imposed by society, can result in considerable discomfort, as some of us have experienced.
 

OzGirl

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Obee, this is why it is important to be properly assesed before transition. There are many conditions which can have an element of gender confusion, but aren’t transgender, and, unfortunately, there have been tragic cases where people were treated as trans when they were not. The physical difference in the development of our brains is not commonly detected in young people, maybe other than some unhappiness which is assigned to something else, and this is why there are so many late bloomers.

It is possible that in the future, diagnosis of trans will be from an MRI of the brain, though I have found many trans people scared of this prospect, but it would mean a more definite diagnosis and that people would be treated for the condition they have.

Hugs,

Allie
 

Donica

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Donica is munching on her popcorn. Please continue this discussion. Interesting thread. I am not educated in this topic, So I can only add, I feel that gender identity is biological, Innate at birth. Based on my own observations, young boys and girls have very different personalities, and seem to naturally gravitate to a completely different set of activities, way before societal programming begins. There are a few articles about similarities in the brain between cis women and trans women. Perhaps one day I will get off my butt and read this book I bought on this subject, The Gendered Brain by Gina Rippon, 2019. Till then, I'll keep munching on my popcorn.
 
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Confused

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I don't think there have been too many successful outcomes from conversion therapy so there's that.

I am still learning, but have seen some evidence that there are similarities in transgender female brains to cis female brains and vice versa. The sex of a baby is formed in a different trimester than the brain. I think hormone levels in addition to chromosomes can affect both events differently.

I feel that my sense of self started at a very young age for me and even though I had something traumatic happen to me 3 or 4 years later, it didn't seem to affect who I was. It did cause me horrible nightmares and pillls for a long time. When puberty hit, the changes hit me hard. I had no clue what was happening and I blamed that one event for most of it. looking back, I think there was more at play. I now have more dots to connect and make sense of it.

I thought for awhile I am non binary and gender fluid because it seemed to affect me differently at different times in my life and seemed somewhat affected by stimulus or even hormones. The more I researched and been involved in conversations here, the more I beleive it is actually more a change in my dysphoria vs gender. I think Allie and Michelle are effectively saying the same thing and I tend to agree.

Linde and I had some interesting conversations while she was here. I learned a few things about myself and why I might be the way I am. I think Intersex adds even more complexity to it that I have no experience to speak from. I think it can add to or lessen dysphoria depending on what is different. There is one variation of Intersex females with XY chromosomes that have no dysphoria at all.

Hopefully this made sense as I am watching my young hyperactive grandson and it is hard to put 10 words together without interruption.

Hugs,
Mike
 

Linde

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@ Mike, I never had, and still have not much of any dysphoria. I don't know why, but I never had those gender questions as a child many report here.

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Linde
 

OzGirl

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I don't think there have been too many successful outcomes from conversion therapy so there's that.

I am still learning, but have seen some evidence that there are similarities in transgender female brains to cis female brains and vice versa. The sex of a baby is formed in a different trimester than the brain. I think hormone levels in addition to chromosomes can affect both events differently.

Hopefully this made sense as I am watching my young hyperactive grandson and it is hard to put 10 words together without interruption.

Hugs,
Mike
Screen Shot 2020-08-21 at 2.12.52 pm.png
 

Monica

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I thought for awhile I am non binary and gender fluid because it seemed to affect me differently at different times in my life and seemed somewhat affected by stimulus or even hormones. The more I researched and been involved in conversations here, the more I beleive it is actually more a change in my dysphoria vs gender.
Mike, could you explain this more? I'm not following.
 

TonyaJanelle

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I'm going to confess something: sometimes I post things just to see if @Michelle_P will respond. I enjoy her contributions so much that I always hope she'll jump into the conversation.
It is always enlightening when @Michelle_P chimes in on these topics.
 
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