The Complexity Of Gender And Other Heroic Things

People are born intersex all the time, from those with “ambiguous” genitalia, genes that don’t match outward secondary sexual characteristics, and other physical variants from the “binary” norm. Geneticists studying the “traditional” XX/XY chromosomes that have been associated with gender determination have found in studies that there is more than just absolutes at work.

Years ago people used the term hermaphrodite to refer to children that were born with different types of genitals. That term came about because people didn’t fully understand what was going on with the physical characteristics of the baby. Hermaphrodite has mistaken connotations of being both fully male and fully female at the same time, which is a physical impossibility. Often these children were subjected to gender assignment surgery at an early age with the assumption that growing up “one way or another” would be the healthiest psychologically. This sometimes had disastrous results.

So with all the unknowns in genetics, all the myriads of ways people can branch out from the accepted norms, why is it so hard for some to accept that the same sort of thing could be happening to those that are transgender? In a world where there are multiple possibilities, where some people that have XX chromosomes can present as physically male, and some people that have XY chromosomes can look completely female, why is it so difficult to see that some people who look male, have male genetics, can have “female brains,” and vice versa? Is it because some people don’t fully understand the complexities of psychology and physiology? Is it because some think in a black and white manner about sexuality when it is really far more complicated than an either/or situation?

People are very, very quick to judge before they have all the information in a lot of situations other than gender and sexual identity. So it’s not really surprising that more than a few cannot or will not make the leap to understanding how someone can be transgender. They don’t see how difficult it can be for someone to understand and come to terms with their gender identity, and what a long process it can be. It took Caitlyn Jenner 65 years to come to full terms with self-acceptance and to present herself as she felt. The teenager Jazz Jennings who has her own “reality” show not only fights with her own self perception, she has to endure people that can’t or won’t understand her situation. Personally I think if we can call someone brave for their religious beliefs, or their career choices, or their sociological accomplishments, then we can call people like Caitlyn or Jazz heroes of a sort too. They are out there showing other people, other human beings with feelings and situations similar to theirs that they are not alone, that life can be good, and coming to terms with who you truly are is sometimes the bravest thing you can do.


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