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Gender as a Psychological Construct

11154968_394318284083775_1727804353313483432_oDoes biology matter at all?

Some posts not just on WordPress but across the internet – from both LGBTQI and cishet people – have got me thinking recently about the entire question of gender, and in just exactly which concept it should be seen in.  It is nowadays accepted fact that any type of inherent sexuality each is born with (as opposed to learned behaviour) is perfectly normal, and most educated people find that acceptable.  I would argue that the same must apply to gender.

Let’s get this correct first; there is not one of us born or alive who is “all man” or “all woman”.  That is actually a biological impossibility.  Females have a certain amount of testosterone in their bodies, as men have a certain amount of oestrogen in theirs (and some more than others dears) – get used to it.

And of course, we all start as ‘female’ in the womb.  Yes, guys, even you.  How the hell do you reckon you got those nipples?  Any of you with moobs, that’s all your own doing – there are no female hormones in beer or kebabs.  But it is not only about nipples.  The ‘blueprint’ embryo has a genital bud, which if the male chromosome dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is introduced, will grow into a penis, and without DHT, it would develop into a clitoris.  However, Müllerian Inhibiting Substance (MIS) prevents a female reproductive tract from forming, thereby allowing the penis to develop further.  Then of course you guys have that ‘seam’ running down the middle of your scrotum.  That is the Raphe line, which is basically a scar.  To explain, every embryo, as well as the genital bud has a genital opening.  When female hormones take over, this develops into the labia / vagina, but with male hormones, this opening fuses together as the penis develops, eventually leaving a line running from the anus, across the scrotum to the base of the penis.  Doubt this, guys?  Try tickling your perineum (the area between the scrotum and anus) and find how pleasurable that feels.  Of course it does – you’re basically exciting your ‘labia’ (laughing here at images of cishet men reading this suddenly pulling their hands away from their crotches).

It is important to make these distinctions, for in science what we are talking about above is not gender – it is sex.  People often confuse the two when they are not one and the same thing.  Sex refers to biological differences between ‘males’ and ‘females’ with the chromosomes being XX for female and XY for male.  Sex however does not determine gender, no more than it determines sexuality.  Genital development takes place in 6 to 12 weeks of pregnancy.  At this time the brain is not fully formed, which does not take place until around 8 weeks into the pregnancy.  Some would argue that it is due to this ‘misalignment’ in development that some are born trans, and some are not.  I say phooey.  If it is a misalignment, then it is one we all go through during foetal development, and if that is the case, then it can be strongly suggested that gender is purely a state of mind.

What better evidence to support this than to look at intersex children?  I am of course speaking of babies born supporting both ‘male’ and ‘female’ genitals.  Either as an embryo or as a baby, the gender of such a child has already been determined in their brain.  This is why I applauded brave little Malta for being the first country in the world to ban parents determining the sex of intersex children.  To do so is to impinge the gender the parents want, not whichever gender the child is psychologically.  I would strongly argue that to do is a breach of human rights.  It needs to be that child, once they are old enough to make a distinction, to decide which of gender, if either, they belong to.  I say “if either” for the simple fact that some intersex people refuse to proscribe to either side of the gender binary but are happy to remain intersex, and as a genderqueer pansexual I can relate to that (I’ve never had sex with an intersex person, but I would imagine it would be one helluva lotta fun to do so).

Consider further that it is only in relatively recent history that trans and intersex people have been able to undergo transition.  Before then, even before our ancestors came down out of the trees, down throughout history there have been trans and intersex individuals who lived out their entire adult lives identifying as either one gender or the other (or even both with some).

Should this come as a surprise to any of us?  People are fickle creatures living lives which are far from black and white.  We are a mixture of animal and human, savage and gentle, male and female, in different degrees and at different times.  Even the most brutal individual can have great moments of compassion; even the gentlest of persons can be incredibly cruel if circumstances give rise to it.

We already know that we all have the mixture of male and female within us; the propensity for men to show their feminine side, and women their masculine side.  If this is the truth, and given the way our bodies and brains form, then one can only surmise that whatever their biology may say to anyone, it is an irrelevance, and psychologically we are all ‘transgender’ to some degree.

Thoughts peoples please.

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Little Malta leads the world on Intersex Babies

_000000LoveMaltaTiny country with a huge heart bans unnecessary surgery

The Republic of Malta can hardly be called one of the biggest players on the world stage.  A tiny archipelago of islands in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, it has a land mass of 122 square miles and a population of a mere 450,000.  HIstorically it has always been an important port of strategic importance, and a crossroads of civilisations.  The Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Habsburg Spanish, the Knights of Saint John Hospitalier, French and the British Empire all ruled it in turn, before it became independent in 1964, and a republic in 1974,  Since Saint Paul (allegedly) was shipwrecked on the islands, it has been an important centre for Christianity.  A stronghold for Crusaders, it was the Knights of St John who gave us the Maltese Cross.  To this day the island republic remains fiercely and fanatically Roman Catholic.

So, one may think with such a long history of religion, and staunch adherence and blind loyalty of the population to the diktats of Rome, that Malta would be strongly against the rights of the individual to determine their own gender.  And you would be wrong.  In a move which completely surprised me, on Wednesday 1 April 2015, the Maltese Parliament voted to ban surgery on intersex babies (i.e. babies born with organs of both biological genders).

In passing the new law, the Maltese Parliament is determined that the identity of a child as male or female must lie with each individual themselves as the grow, and shall now work with medical professionals to ensure that the rights of intersex children are protected.  They also seek to ensure that any surgery which may take place is wholly and not “driven by social factors without the consent of the minor”.

This new law also contains protection for trans and intersex people and is being hailed as some of the most progressive in the world.

“I am very proud to be from a country that has from now on the most comprehensive and respectful laws when it comes to the rights of trans and intersex people.” said Maltese Member of the European Parliament, Miriam Dalli, “No one should be declared mentally ill, undergo forced surgery or being forced to go through a divorce, in order to be recognised as who they truly are. I sincerely hope that the whole of Europe will follow Malta’s example, and that such degrading practices will be issues of the past.”

I couldn’t agree more.  Malta has not only led Europe and the world in one of the most progressive steps in protecting gender identity ever, but they put the rest of the world to shame.  They have proven that size and prestige really does not matter.  You don’t have to be the biggest or most powerful on the world stage to be the most progressive, or to take a very brave stand against the powerful, i.e. Rome, who would frown upon your acts.  A small voice is sometimes the most effective.

Arja Voipio, co-chair of Transgender Europe, stated, “Lawmakers in the rest of Europe should take inspiration from this trail-blazer for swift action.”

Indeed they should.  And I in particular look to my own little Scotland to follow their lead.  Now that Scotland has hate crime laws and some of the most progressive equal marriage laws in the world, it is time for intersex children to have legal protection.