Regarding Gender Confusion

Regarding Gender Confusion

A Chapter by Paul

Regarding Gender Confusion

The confusion in the title is not aimed at others, it is my own confusion. It is my confusion at the science around sex and gender. I do not want to be confused. I am a person who seems to offend people with my opinions regularly. I prefer to back this up with facts that hold up to scientific scrutiny. I do not want to accidentally offend someone. I want to know the latest science because I want to have a proper discussion on these matters. I have tried looking up the science associated with sexual identity. I have tried to avoid the political or cultural issues. I am still confused. There is an internet battle going on. It is between those who think that compromise either endangers the lives of transgender people or endangers society at large. 

I think it is best to begin with some statements of what I think I know. Humans are animals, mammals, primates. Primates procreate when a male copulates with a female. A male has the body parts needed to make and ejaculate sperm, the female has the body parts to store eggs and the ability to gestate and birth an offspring. A male has a penis and testicles, a female has a vagina and a womb. The part each sex plays in procreation requires different hormone levels and results in differences in body type, aside from reproductive organs. Biologists identify males, females and intersex as the three options. Intersex is defined as an individual born with both a penis and a vagina or other sexual characteristics. I believe, as a non-biologist, that other sexual characteristics refers to internal differentiation from the external genitals. There seems to be little disagreement with biologists, psychologist or pundits when it comes to male, female and intersex. I don’t believe that transgender is a term used by biologists but I believe it is accepted in the medical community. My understanding of a person described as transgender, is someone having a sexual identity that differs from the genitals they were born with. Transgender, however, is where I find opinion outracing scientific facts. I try to do research but the internet battle rages, making it difficult to find an unbiased article or definition. Maybe biologists and medical professionals can recognize a purely scientific source, I am at a loss. I asked a physician friend about an article I read on gender/sexual identity, they did not want to discuss the matter. I think that they feared I might not have the same exact view point and preferred to avoid the matter completely; that’s helpful.

If the last paragraph is what I think I know, and could still be wrong about, the following is what I know that I am completely confused about. What is the accepted definition of gender in the scientific community, biology and medicine specifically? Has the word gender been ceded to the realm of culture? Is it only a cultural term, with no connection to biology? Is science now saying that males and females, of any species, are only different, aside from genitalia, because of societal norms? Are there scientific studies that show that, if untouched by societal norms, male and female children show no gender differences? What is the hard data regarding brain and chromosome incongruity with genitalia? I am not talking about obvious differences that an intersex individual would have. I am thinking of subtle ways that hormones work in the body that can show why some individuals are experiencing a feeling of dysmorphia. Is it okay to use the word dysmorphia when discussing transgender individuals? Are there some individuals who do not care if any of these things can be proven biologically? Do these individuals simply feel more comfortable in the outward appearance that is culturally opposite to their sexual organs? 

I should probably make it clear that I believe that individuals are free to act in any way that does not physically harm another individual. I do not believe that transgender rights, or any rights associated with sexual orientation, should be predicated on whether there is biological proof for an individual’s choice. I base my philosophy of human rights on choice, because I believe in every individual’s right to try and live the life they desire. We all eventually choose to seek out our desires or ignore them. If I discover that I am attracted to a lifestyle that is out of step with my primary social group, then I have a choice to make. I have to choose regardless of whether it is ever proven that there is a physiological reason for my non-conformity. I can ignore my own desires and conform to the norms of my group or I can choose to attain the life that I desire. Both sides are very concerned that this biological proof be established, regardless of my opinions on the matter.

           I seem to end up at odds with people on both sides of the discussion. These are the two extremes I come across most often: a belief that all gender differences are a social construct or a belief that there are males, females and intersex individuals and anything else is a social construct. I think that the first belief gets its most ardent supporters from radical feminist philosophy and the second belief gets its most ardent supporters from conservative religious philosophy. When it comes to which of these groups I lean towards, I would have to choose feminists. This is because conservative religious philosophy makes it too easy to view females as little more than baby birthers and homosexuality as evil; but I also need to deal with the things that put me off about radical feminist philosophy. I believe that Feminisms main goal should be to make it clear that males and females should have an opportunity to excel in any arena. While men may have an advantage in physical strength, and an advantage at not having to bear the children of our species, that should not change any legal standings in the community. The differences between males and females should not change one’s standing in legal, economic and social situations; but to insist that male and females are only different because of cultural dynamics is where feminism, for me, loses sight of scientific reality. I like to be on the side of science and I think that science confirms clear physical and psychological differences in males and females of any species. Science, at its best, is constantly testing its outcomes regardless of how it works politically. This is the best way to check our bias’. 

I have no problem making a statement like this: females are categorically better at parenting than males. There is a biological component, to the care of offspring, that occurs naturally in females. This makes perfect sense when you consider the scientific fact that humans are animals, animals with highly developed brains. We need to recognize that this big brain of ours allows us to change how we think. This accounts for the cases, anyone can site, where the male in a family is a better parent than the female. This does not change the fact that biologically females are necessarily the better suited to parent offspring. This is one of the reasons we are so successful as a species. Males are much more involved in parenting than in other primate groups. This, I think, is attributable to just how good at raising offspring human females are. They have molded society, using our big, human brains, so that males are more involved in parenting. 

While these beliefs may be unpopular, with more radical gender theorists, I should point out that this same way of thinking has changed my view on pan sexuality. Pan sexuality defined as: romantic or sexual attraction that is not limited by gender identity. I no longer dismiss this view of human sexuality. This is important because it helps explain the sexual confusion that many people feel in their teenage years. Our animal instincts allow for a much more fluid view of sex than I ever thought possible. I used to joke to my friends (not all were amused) that a gay man we knew, who had fathered a child, had to be viewed as bi-sexual. This was based on the scientific fact that a man needs to be physically aroused in order to impregnate a female. I could not be aroused with another man and therefore…While firing out my pithy lines, I ignored the fact that I am an animal, a mammal, a primate. Pan sexuality, especially in formative years, seems to be the norm in animal societies. My inability, to be aroused with another male, has more to do with how my understanding of sex and society was formed, not with how sexuality works for animals. Sex is all pervasive in many of our close animal relatives. In writings from our human ancestors, it is obvious that homosexual relationships were common in men who would not have thought of themselves as out of the ordinary; they had wives and children. On this point I agree with many radical thinkers, that human offspring are trained to view intimacy in very stringent ways. This is due to religious and cultural beliefs. Anyone who has children, or spends time around children, knows that they do not have instincts about sexuality that look anything like what society wants. They need to be trained to abstain from doing, and sometimes even talking about, certain things that are prevalent in other primate societies. For the record I am not unhappy that we train children to not play with their genitals or their friend’s genitals in public. I am even happy we set boundaries around sexual behavior for children when they are out of societies gaze. The wrong-headed part is pretending that these urges, this curiosity, is unnatural. Children need to know that society has rules to control nature. This is what society has always been, for better and for worse. 

While the digressions of the last few paragraphs felt necessary, I am no less confused on the issues surrounding scientific conclusions on gender; most importantly as it relates to those who identify as transgender. It is important that I established that I agree with the view that human males and females should have equal standing in society by virtue of our humanness, not because we are exactly the same. I believe that societal norms can certainly influence an individual’s development but not change their basic make up as a biological being. This seems important when we are discussing people feeling like they do not fit the gender roles that are associated with their physical makeup. Science must be able to tell us some quantifiable way to state when someone is dealing with dysmorphia and what its physical and psychological components are. My fear is that these studies end up tinged with a political element because of the internet battles. Where can I find purely scientific data on these issues?  

Some may ask, why does it matter, let people be what they want. The momentary joy associated with this declaration is soon quashed by the reality of our world. There are places in our society where people can show that they are being hurt by not having firm definitions. In women’s sports, school settings, legal papers associated with our standing in our federal and local governments that impact medical outcomes. Like it or not the differences in male and female make it impossible to just say, let people be what they want. Liberal minded people are just as angry as more conservative types when someone has an unfair advantage in sport or creates a possible safety issue in other arenas. To make it a fact that we are whatever sex we feel we are, on any given day, seems anti-science. There needs to be a criterion for what it means to be transgender, based in the best data that we have. This is how we can make solid legal decisions, away from emotion. I believe in a society where a person, with no biological proof that they feel more like the opposite sex, does not need societies permission to act on this feeling. A choice can be made and acted on in a free society; it just may not garner you the same legal standing as someone who has scientific data to show why they choose not to conform.   

I am happy to let people live as they want privately, and to expect tolerance in public, but there are places in society where we cannot ignore the differences between males and females. Let science be the guide for us. Good science is always willing to test itself, that is what separates it from the biased articles on the internet. I am willing to have my opinions proved scientifically idiotic in order to know what is scientifically provable. If most of us can get to this point, then life will be easier for most males, females, intersex and transgender people. It may not be easier for radical thinkers on the extreme left and the extreme right. As usual, I am okay with this.   

© 2022 Paul

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Added on January 17, 2022
Last Updated on June 28, 2022



I am writing in the Mid Atlantic area of the United States, mostly non-fiction at this time. I am a song writer as well. Also of interest could be- http://bookstore.trafford... more..

Regarding... Regarding...

A Book by Paul