With the help of science, humanity has gradually reduced the moldiness of ignorance that thrives in the stagnant conditions of superstition and dogma. We know the earth is round, not flat. We know the earth revolves around the sun, not the opposite. We know weather and disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanos, earthquakes, etc.) are natural and potentially predictable occurrences, not punishments from a vindictive god. We know racial differences are minor genetic variations and not evidence of inferior or subhuman beings or justification for discrimination. We know that left-handedness is not evil or inferior to right-handedness. But we still have significant ignorance and prejudice toward differences in gender and sexuality.
Many people believe that “normal” humans are born only as male or female and only as heterosexual and that gender identity should always match a person’s genitals. According to Dr. Veronica Drantz, a physiologist and science/medical educator, none of those beliefs is true. Gender and sexuality are complex and involve genetics and hormones over several months of fetal development. The internal sex organs, external genitals and the brain are all part of our gender.
During the first six weeks of embryonic development, female and male genitals are identical. All humans begin as females. Then genes may trigger two male hormones that change some of us into males. At 12 weeks, each person’s genitals are determined along a continuum from female to male or somewhere in between depending on the amount of male hormones present.
Brain structures that determine gender identity and sexual orientation don’t begin developing until the second half of pregnancy, so brain sexuality can be different from genital sexuality, and differences may result in a person being transgender. The factors that determine gender and sexual orientation occur before birth. No one would argue that people choose the genitals with which they are born. Likewise, humans do not choose their gender identity or sexual orientation, they discover them.
Humans can be born with variations in genes and ambiguous genitals (intersex) or with genitals that don’t match their brain sexuality. Such atypical individuals are normal variations in the same way that left-handedness, right-handedness and various forms of ambidextrousness are normal variations. Forcing or coercing people to change their gender with surgical or hormonal treatments can be very harmful, just as forcing people to change their hand preference has harmed many people in the past. It is rarely the variation from typical that causes problems, it is how the person is treated that causes distress. We must stop pathologizing and “correcting” gender differences and discriminating against those who don’t match what we think “normal” should be. We must allow individuals to discover their own sexuality and support them in their discovery.
Gender and sexuality are innate. LGBTIQ people are natural variations – different, but not defective. They often suffer from horrific rejection, discrimination, hatred, and violence sometimes resulting in severe depression and suicide.
The current hyped hysteria over which bathroom a person may use is disgusting. Trivializing the gender and sexual identity issue by claiming that male sexual predators will simply pretend to be female to prey on children in locker rooms and public bathrooms is disingenuous and insulting.
We must reject unprofessional, ineffective conversion or reparative therapies for homosexuals, and we must eliminate genital “normalization” surgeries and hormonal treatments for infants and children who are too young to participate in a decision. We can hope that learning from science will reduce ignorance, and learning to embrace rather than fear natural diversity will reduce hatred, violence and unnecessary suffering.