morgan-freemanRecent events at Marshall High School prompt this post. A parent complained to the school administration about a bulletin board urging acceptance of transgenders and the display was removed. [EDIT 4/1/2015: It appears that the removal of the display happened before the parents met with school officials, and might have occurred simply because it was time for another group to mount a display.] Some students feel that their attempt to increase visibility and acceptance of others was stifled, while others are apparently praising the removal of the display. The school rock was painted with a message of acceptance, painted over surreptitiously in the night, and then repainted with another message of acceptance.

I simply want to add a few words about the science of gender—what we know about the origin of gender identity and the extent to which gender or sexual orientation a choice.

Short answer: no choice involved. Gender appears to be as much a part of one’s biological make-up as is handedness.  Mammals are born with

penis or clitoris,
scrotum or labia,
vas deferens or uterus,
XY chromosomes or XX chromosomes,
large sexually dimorphic nucleus or small sexually dimorphic nucleus,
few hypothalamic estrogen receptors or many hypothalamic estrogen receptors.

You probably think that everyone possesses all of the first or all of  the second items in these pairs. Wrong! Most who think of themselves as male have all of the first elements, and most who consider themselves female have all of the second, but many people are a combination of some from Column A and some from Column B. We have no control over the combination that we are dealt. Instead we are to a great extent controlled by it.

In particular, in the absence of hormonal exposure during fetal development, the brain will become female. Regardless of what the genitals look like, the individual will likely think of herself as female.  If testosterone is present in the brain as it develops, the brain will become male, and the individual will think of himself as male, again regardless of the appearance of the genitals. It is the sex of the brain that plays the greatest part in determining gender identity, and this is something that the individual did not choose and cannot change.

There are people who have XY (male) chromosomes who are in every other way female, and people with XX chromosomes who are male. There are people with penises whose brains are female, and people with clitorises whose brains are male.  If your brain has developed in a manner that finds males attractive sexually, you will find males attractive sexually, regardless of what your genitals look like.  If your brain is a brain that likes females, you will like females, no matter what your genitals look like.  There is no (zero, nada, nil) evidence that sexual orientation is chosen.

So, non-accepting people, regardless of what your genitals look like, if you don’t like guys, don’t hit on them; if you don’t like girls, don’t try to hook up with them. Go for the people you like, and let others do the same.  Be who you are, and let others do the same. It’s that simple.


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