Saturday, July 15, 2006

Gender Dysphoria

Thanks to my blogpal, the Florida Masochist for pointing this one out.

According to the

One little girl entering Broward County kindergarten this fall is actually a boy.

Few will know this genetic truth, because the 5-year-old's parents and school administrators have agreed that it's in his best interest to blend in as a female.

Mental health professionals have diagnosed Pat -- not his real name -- with gender dysphoria, a condition in which a person believes that he or she is the opposite gender. After two years of examination, they have determined that he is not simply effeminate or going through a phase.
Okay, some transitory (oops, wrong word) tentative thoughts on being transgender.

Let's assume this child truly is experiencing gender dysphoria.

Without intending to disrespect those who might well be living in a transgendered state, wouldn't you agree that nature (at least in this case) went haywire during some formative stage of fetal development?

That is, if the body is physically (by x/y chromosome definition) male and yet the mind/soul identifies so strongly with being female that the person actually hates his sexual organs, then this is not a natural phenomenon. Can we agree to that?

It would be analogous to being born deaf, blind, or with any other physical handicap, disease, or condition that causes that person to function in a way that "nature" did not intend. (Now I know I'm broaching a moral issue when I use the word intend. That is intentional.)

You see, without denigrating those with physical impairment we can at least, by simple observation, determine that something isn't as it ought to be. In other words, a person ought to be able to see, hear, walk, talk, run, love, laugh, and live a natural life (ie, a life that, when all the parts are in working order, is normal for a member of the human species called Homo sapiens).

A person who's gender is male ought to develop into a person who's mind and soul is masculine. This is what nature intends. Without prejudice or hate or arrogance, we know that this child in Florida likely will struggle with his sexual identity until he dies.

If this seems logical to you, it is because you hold at least two assumptions (probably more, but like I mentioned at the beginning, these are tentative thoughts at this point). These assumptions may not be articulated as such, but they provide a basis for much of our spoken arguments.

First, nature does intend certain things. Otherwise we would have no basis for classifying something as unnatural (e.g. a kitten with two faces or chicken mcnuggets). Why this is a moral issue is that when a disaster (any disaster) occurs, we react with moral sentiment: "That shouldn't have happened that way." The very use of the word 'disaster' implies that some things are and some things aren't; that the world should exist a certain way.

Now, if "a person who's gender is male ought to develop into a person who's mind and soul is masculine" (my quote from above) makes some sort of logical sense to you, then the second assumption you hold is that there is something called masculinity and that it is different than femininity. These concepts are under attack today, and unfortunately I do not have time to explore them in this post.

But hang with me as we expound on some of these issues in the next few weeks as I enter into dialog with a new blog acquaintance, aTypical Joe, "a gay New Yorker living in the rural South." I asked Joe if he'd like to start an argument on gay marriage, and he graciously agreed to a sincere, thought-provoking "diablog" on the topic.

Should be engaging and I hope you participate in the discussion. Why not start now? What are your reactions to what I've posted so far?

Discussion also at Blue Star Chronicles. And soliciting comments at the following Open Posts: bRight & Early, Stuck on Stupid, Cao's Blog, and Outside the Beltway.


  1. I would tend to agree that this Broward County child is too young for that kind of diagnosis, though I've yet to read the article. I can say with confidence that the transgendered people I know would say don't intervene. Wait and see how things play out.

    The recent death of Dr. John Money will figure prominently in a future blog post. He was a fierce advocate of a kind of surgical intervention that many of us find disastrously horrific. NPR had a piece on his death here.

    Even more interesting and on point, you mention that being born deaf prevents a person from functioning in the way nature intended. A significant deaf community would strongly disagree. Many of them would argue that they are as "nature" intended. The nature argument is a double edged sword. I strongly urge you to take a listen to this Christine Rosen podcast on the new eugenics.

    Her position is essentially that our goal of eliminating birth defects, mental retardation, Down's Syndrome and improving the gene pool is, in effect, a new eugenics. And not much more humane than the old.

    I look forward to the dialogue.

  2. Joe,
    The comments are more intriguing than the post! Thanks for participating. We'll get to gay marriage eventually - for, as you know, my agenda isn't to bash but to elicit some views on, what is turning out to be, the larger issue of sexuality. Appreciate your feedback.

    You write about my position that "...being born deaf prevents a person from functioning in the way nature intended. A significant deaf community would strongly disagree. Many of them would argue that they are as "nature" intended."

    I will listen to that lecture you link to with interest. And my initial response is to acknowledge that there are many in the deaf community (especially those in the church, the context with which I'm familiar) that affirm their deafness as a gift; advocating that they are indeed whole individuals without need for pity or special treatment. For those I know this attitude comes from the belief (stated simply) that "God don't make no junk." To which I wholeheartedly agree.

    I do not mean to imply that deaf people (or anyone with any type of physical or psychological challenge) are anything less than human. We are all complete individuals since the "person" is more than the body. But by simple observation, when the body isn't functioning correctly as nature (by that of course I mean God's design - I'm not hiding that I'm a theist) intended, then that opens us to a legitimate discussion on what steps to take to "correct" or "affirm" that condition.

    This issue of affirmation is one which I want to explore regarding gay marriage and homosexuality in general. So you know where I'm coming from and will likely head. (That way you can prepare your arguments, lol) lgp

  3. First, I must point out that John Money did not remain an advocate of gender reassignment surgery. By the time he published Lovemaps in 1986, he no longer advocated such surgery for anatomically intersex infants, although he still favored assigning them (as well as other children) a gender identity. It is unfortunately true that, while he moved away form his early cultural-reductionist views, he never publicly acknowledged his error in the David Reimer case.

    On the main point, as a materialist I quite reject that nature "intends" anything. Things appear unnatural to us insofar as they are at odds with what we've been programmed, either by genes or environment, to expect and desire.

    An intersex child has a problem insofar as te experiences an inconsistency between ter sexual anatomy and ter neural wiring. This is a problem that may be corrected by changing either one or the other; at present it appears generally easier to change anatomy.

    I see no evidence that the child in this story is experiencing any inner conflict. Such conflict would arise if, and only if, her parents were trying to force her to assume a gender role which didn't feel right to her (as Reimer's did). On the contrary, it appears here that the parents are respecting their child's subjectivity.


Keep it clean and positive. (And sorry about the word verification, but the spmb*ts are out in full force!)