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Is gender identity a social construct or an innate characteristic?

Confused

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Mike, could you explain this more? I'm not following.

Did you miss the part about a hyperactive grandson? I just said it to confuse you Moni.

I think I am gender fluid Moni, but I think the dysphoria fluctuates also. I don't really know how to explain it. As I said I am still learning. Puberty brought on all kinds of things. Dysphoria, depression, and I was suicidal much of the time. You read my initial story, but I didn't admit to being suicidal in it. That movie I watched many years ago about the futuristic machine that could change anything about you, even your sex, stayed in my head for months. I just knew I wanted to trade places with my wife, and the feeling wouldn't go away. Back then I had no clue what caused it and didn't even know what transgender was. I certainly had no one to ask. Even when I heard the term transgender, I didn't relate to being an immoral degenerate child molester like that was portrayed to me, until I realized I was one:LOL:

I believe hormones play a role, and is probably why dysphoria seems to get worse for many when you get older. Most of my life I have had dysphoria with my lower parts, but not normally about boobs. Over Thanksgiving I started getting sore nipples and realized something is happening there. I was surprised with how I felt about it and after prayer and talking with my wife I finally decided to see what happens. I have also found that some of the conversations on this forum brings up emotions I can't explain. I have even taken days away from it to see if it makes a difference. (My wife would like it if I took more breaks) I find I now really look forward to the day I can get estrogen, especially after reading what others here say. My urologist would tell you I badgered him about getting estrogen on my last visit. I think I might have stated once before I am messed up. If not, I'm sure you have.:D

Hugs,
Mike
 

Michelle_P

My gender is a work of nonfiction.
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@OzGirl posted that illustration above of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, a tiny but very important bit of the autonomic system, the brain/body interface that regulates the body and handles more or less automatic activities. This region in particular appears to handle certain reflexes linked to the “fight or flight” response, how we react to sudden threatening visual stimuli. Male and female mammals, including humans, have different responses in this area. The area is one of several small regions in the brain that are sexually dimorphic, and as the illustration shows, the form of the area tracks with gender identity and not genitals!

I will note that these areas are small, and are not deeply linked to the brain’s higher level cognitive functions. That is, there are not “female” and “male” brains, but simply brains that have these variations in small loci that are not affected by training, learning, and other stimuli that do alter the white and gray matter connectivity.

Socially learned behavior, including gender performance and gender presentation, do involve learning and so result in changes in the white and gray matter we associate with higher level cognition. I strongly suspect that measured differences across genders in this area are a result of social conditioning, brain plasticity at work.

The sexually dimorphic regions of the brain, it should be noted, do not honor the cultural binary model. There are a range of differences observed for each area, with overlap between “male” and “female” distributions. Just to add to the fun, only about 6% of the population seems to have all of these areas lined up with their sex assigned at birth, with most people having one or more areas not matching up! So much for the “gender binary!” We are all a bit of a blend.
 

Monica

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If you look at the brain and can't find the smoking gun, then obviously trans people don't exist. Well, we know that isn't true. To me, the brain is very complex, well other people's are. I wonder if they ever did a brain scan on a cis person and a trans person while they were, say, dressed in female clothes. Or thinking about having female bits (for trans women). Don't know if that would lead to new info. All I know is these people on youtube and other places who claim we are nothing more than a sexual fetish gone crazy are hateful, disillusioned fools. We should not internalize these outdated theories and have them create internal guilt in us. (I've recently enjoyed pointing that out in a few places on Youtube.) In my head, I know I'm wired this way. Despite all the back and forth cycling masculine to feminine, what I've done the last five years is the only thing to give me wholeness and peace. Trust me, like many here, I fought against it. Since I was 4, it was a part of my consciousness. It was sexual at times. Cis people have sexual thoughts too. The desire to be female was there before the sexual thoughts though.



@Confused Mike, I do know some of your story but had a hard time translating through Grandson-ease. I have posted before about my non transitioning friend. She fought taking estrogen for the external reasons you may find yourself facing. Her wife was disapproving and she felt loyalties that she thought taking it might betray. Hmmm, and she was quite religious also, similar to you. We had a close friendship. I heard her wrestle with dysphoria in almost every letter. I spoke about my fears of surgery not happening and she reassured me. For my part, I strongly argued for her to do something strictly for herself, take E. I never urged her to transition, but I knew the peace of mind that E would give her with her dysphoria. She finally went for it, having to battle the VA on the way. I can tell you that after taking it, she described a great lessening of the dysphoria. She described taking pleasure in some of the slight changes it brought. In her case, it improved the quality of her life. I know she felt some guilt once in a while, but I kept telling her, taking a small step for yourself betrays no one.
 

Confused

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@OzGirl as the illustration shows, the form of the area tracks with gender identity and not genitals!

there are not “female” and “male” brains, but simply brains that have these variations in small loci that are not affected by training, learning, and other stimuli that do alter the white and gray matter connectivity.

Socially learned behavior, including gender performance and gender presentation, do involve learning and so result in changes in the white and gray matter we associate with higher level cognition. I strongly suspect that measured differences across genders in this area are a result of social conditioning, brain plasticity at work.

The sexually dimorphic regions of the brain, it should be noted, do not honor the cultural binary model. There are a range of differences observed for each area, with overlap between “male” and “female” distributions. Just to add to the fun, only about 6% of the population seems to have all of these areas lined up with their sex assigned at birth, with most people having one or more areas not matching up! So much for the “gender binary!” We are all a bit of a blend.

@Michelle, I do think we are all somewhat of a blend, with many just ending up close to one or the other end of the spectrum. I have also read the paper that illustration that is from. I agree there is some learning we have to do in order to try to achieve what we are assigned at birth.

I'm going to give a comparison that I know Moni will understand, but I don't know how many will. On modern cars the ECM, or brain, adjusts things to get the best engine performance. When something gets too far outside the required parameters the engine light comes on letting you know it can't adjust enough to make it right. I think we get that warning light (dysphoria) because we are outside the norm and are not comfortable with what society expects of us, or even what we expect out of ourself. Cisgengers don't even know there is a warning light.



@Moni, Not taking estrogen is not because of religious reasons. My current urologist doesn't want me to take estrogen because he thinks it might cause a resurgence of the cancer this soon after radiation. I know he is only trying to protect me. I am constantly arguing with my doctors. I've already fired one urologist. I do a LOT of research and some of them don't like it. This urologist told me he usually waits about 3 years after the radiation before restoring the hormones. That is not going to happen and I told him I would have a different doctor by then. I have talked to hundreds of prostate cancer survivors and several who take estrogen. I just happened to get an aggressive form of the cancer.

Actually I got most of the benefits I have heard about just from removing the testosterone. It shut down most of the noise in my head. My therapist even commented to me she had never seen someone get so happy without any hormones. I told her that should tell her something. It seems like I have done everything backwards in this. I'm fairly certain I will have my surgery before the estrogen. Research shows it is better to wait between 18 months to 2 years to get testosterone after radiation for my type cancer. I made it pretty clear to my urologist I won't be having any more T, and I doubt I will wait the full 2 years for E!

As for my wife, it was a struggle most of the year, but she has finally come around. As to the religious part, I have come to terms with much of the "religious" aspects and actually got my wife to see it as well. I consider myself Christian, but not religious by the way. There is a difference. Most religious people pick and choose what they consider sin. The bible I read from gives us Grace. It is not a license to sin, but there is nothing I read that says being transgender is sin. It only is if you use their definition of what they think we are. I can argue the Bible with the best of them.

I now find myself on Finasteride and rubbing minoxidil on my head. It seems to be helping some. I am getting ready to try some electrolysis on my face soon, so there's that. I'm not up to removing it all since it is mostly grey and I don't know how much torture I can endure. Interesting lives that we live!

Hugs,
Mike
 

Linde

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Reading this all, it makes me more and more confused? I cannot recall at all that I had any desire to be a different gender than I was. I actually did not know what a gender was, I was just I. I never had the desire to wear any of the stuff of my older sister. Growing up, I sure knew that my body looked different than the bodies of my male peers, and if one could call it dysphoria (but I think it rather was some kind of dysmorphia), so no, I did not want to be a girl, I wanted to be a real strong boy an later on a hairy young man! Through all my life I tried very hard to be as manly as I could with that funny body of mine. I never had the desire to wear female panties or other stuff, real men don't do those things, and I wanted to be a real man!
After my wife had left me, I started to analyze myself, and came to the conclusion that the man role did not really fit me, and I became agender again, which eventually lead to me being a woman or a while now.

I have no idea how I fall into this brain/gender stuff. I am still not really clear if I have dysphoria, or dysmorphia, but either would not be very strong either.

I am pretty confused!

Hugs
Linde
 

Confused

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Reading this all, it makes me more and more confused?

I have no idea how I fall into this brain/gender stuff. I am still not really clear if I have dysphoria, or dysmorphia, but either would not be very strong either.

I am pretty confused!

Hugs
Linde

Hence, my profile name, Confused! :)

Hugs,
Mike
 

Linde

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Hence, my profile name, Confused! :)

Hugs,
Mike
You, my friend, know better what you are doing than I do. I just drift along, and play follow the leader (must have been my boobs who lead?).

Hugs
LInde
 

a Birdie on a Wire

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Actually I got most of the benefits I have heard about just from removing the testosterone. It shut down most of the noise in my head.
This has been a fascinating thread.
Like @Linde I don't recall ever thinking about gender or wanting to be a different gender than I was assigned... although, my memory seems to be a little shoddy as I get older. :) However, over the past six or so years when the switch did flip and I started thinking about and exploring gender expression, some pieces and recollections began to have me realize there are a LOT of little things that point to what I guess is dysphoria.

I think there must be varying degrees of dysphoria and what I experience is rather slight. Although, I suspect my wife would argue very vocally against that notion. Before starting estrogen and a T-blocker I could be kind of a jerk. Ok... a lot of a jerk.

But after starting both at rather low doses, like Mike (@Confused ) said, the "noise" kind of shut down. Took about a week or two and it was rather slight but noticeable. Then after a month, my wife commented that she could tell there was a difference in my... I don't know. My emotional demeanor.
 

Loki Luci

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I look forward to Hrt partly for that "noise" dampening, @a Birdie on a Wire ! Once I realized where certain emotions were being magnified by testosterone, I've been able to at least be more mindful of what is my "real" emotions and what isn't.
I think so many cis men also don't recognize that feeling of being angry or frustrated or bitter all the time as an illusion of their gonads.
So, I used to fluctuate as to my view of where the origin of gender was, philosophically, whether it was psycho-sociological or physiological. After listening to a handful of medical professionals give talks or training seminars and listening to a few philosophers and sociologists, I don't think it is so easy to pin the origin solely on neurology or social conditioning. Toward the beginning of this thread, I heard a good idea of a tripartite creation of gender, that is it's more than society and neurology.
Society in different cultures place certain "norms" on performances of gender that is stereotyped by biological sexual appearances. The biology isn't a coincidence and the neurology, for a majority of the population, trends in matching the appearance of biological sex. But, even from culture to culture, the "norms" vary wildly and have a lot of difficulty changing their anchor in APPEARANCES of sex. This leaves out the sexuality/sensuality factor, which does not care what Society's feelings are, but rather is very biological, rather than psychological. But, then, there is the Butler approach, that the "feeling" of a gender is often from the performance, whether external or internalized through rumination. We can feel more akin to a certain group by emulating them.
Our neurology actually adapts, it's "plastic" and alters sometimes to mirror or copy others, and sometimes in reaction or compliment others. But, even then, a neurotype can be common to those with a certain gender expression, whether "adapted" to or born. However, we find that neurological formations that stay, even when they make it hard to adapt, are proof that gender is not a choice or mere exposure or creation of some event (like an old worn-out theory about trauma-creates-gender dysphoria line of thought). Crossdressers and drag queens don't become transgender simply by performance or "adapting" to roles, either. In a talk by Dr. William Powers (someone posted his talks and seminar on another thread, I think), he explains that his experience with many transpersons was that, when asked about a choice in a hypothetical scenario of a magical dysphoria-be-gone pill, they would rather be happily cis of their birth assigned gender than transgender. But, there were a significant amount of them that felt it would be like a lobotomy if they did and would choose whatever being transgender brought them, as though it was their truer identity. Clearly, this tells me that something beyond mere psychology or neurology is going on. If we clearly don't choose to be transgender (at least most of us didn't wake up one day and opted for it because it was an ideology or a logical step in success or something), sexuality isn't a definer of gender and biology only shows something didn't come off the natal assembly line in "normal" order but that hasn't been the determinate for everyone, then what tells us from the inside that we're Male or Female or Neither when the body is clearly not?
And if you believe in a soul, then why do some come "flavored" toward a conflicting gender to the norm for the body? If you believe in reincarnation, then why is it that some are always a binary gender, some are fluid and some are randomly one gender or another, depending on life? Is there a Unity for the three views?
I'll finish my thought/query with sharing some of my experience. I grew into my teenage years without a strong gender bias but a heavy gender "pressure" from my parents (even before I was born, they chose uber male things for me). Once I started finding social (versus purely sexual) attraction, I started experiencing (from my memory, at least) gender dysphoria. I rebelled from the "pressure", even though I didn't have an outlet or clue on social transitioning at the time, and I got distracted with living cis roles and lifestyle. Once I could have a moment to look inward and be honest with myself, the gender identity became clear and the gender dysphoria was distinct from a general depression. I didn't choose, but when I found it, I couldn't ignore it nor did I want to change it. Like a personal Truth, rather than a personal affliction, even though the dysphoria red-flagged parts of my body and appearance.
 

Linde

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Loki Luci, to complicate your thoughts a little more, people like I come into the mix. I never had any gender feeling, I was told that I am a boy, and I tried very hard to be a boy. I never had the desire to be a girl. Everything changed with puberty, when my body did not develope male, but slowly feminized itself more and more. I still had no gender feeling. Much later, when my body started to grow boobs, I slowly developed a female gender identity.

Hugs
Linde
 

magic_michelle

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As someone who was born without a Y chromosome I always felt that I was not a boy. I knew things were even more wrong when I hit puberty and realised that I didn’t like girls the way that girls wanted me to like them. There was no access to any sort of information back then unless it was in the school library and I didn’t hear the term transgender until my early twenties. I found myself then trying to reinforce the “male choice” as I thought it were (it seemed easy as I liked girls) but it only got harder and not easier despite it looking that way on paper. I eventually realised that I had to align my body with my internal biology before I just couldn’t go on and when I found myself being told that the way I had felt, what I had known about myself my whole life to be true, inside to be correct and that there was a medical causality... I don’t think I’ve ever been so upset in my entire life. I felt like I had robbed myself and I simply couldn’t have had this experience unless gender is more than just a social construct but instead something innate within us. As others have said there is a lot of social conditioning that surrounds that gender identity but the identity itself is an intrinsic part of what makes us who we are and that is as true for anyone else as it is for me whether they are cisgender or transgender or non-binary or intersex.
 

Loki Luci

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Thank you both, @Linde and @magic_michelle !
It just reminds me how diverse the factors are behind gender and how the ratio of those factors aren't the same for even a majority of transpeople. So, like the sincere seeker looking for answers and wanting to find their "truer self", it sounds like we all have to look deep to understand our actual, authentic identity.
For some Nature reveals the caveat, others the soul speaks out and others still have to emerge from the cocoon of their pain.
 
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