Colleen is a psychotherapist retired from private practice, specializing in human relationships.
A Soul-Wrenching Decision
Though it has been said the earliest choice parents make for a child is a first and sometimes middle name, this is not always true. While rarely discussed, a number of children are born with both male and female reproductive organs. At times, doctors have made the decision themselves as to which set should be removed.
Still, given the growing insistence on patients’ rights, parents have become more involved when a question of gender arises. Perhaps some children grow into contented adults, with no knowledge of this alternative having once been available. Still, for parents who later feel compelled to question their choice, the guilt may prove overwhelming.
Are There More Than Two Human Genders?
According to evolutionary theory, we human beings began as amorphous blobs. Still, as time passed, these separate clumps of cells joined together and reproduced others. As the need to procreate inched forward, the progress of evolution began with the mating of primitive forms of life, resulting, through millennia, in our current humankind.
Still, some species have abilities human beings have not absorbed. One of these is the capacity to determine or change gender when required by the survival needs of the overall community.
When And How Does This Happen?
The deliberate production of a queen bee in a hive, in itself verifies this reality. A queen bee is created by means of intensive feeding of royal jelly, while she is developing. In time, she evolves into a resource for the hive. Instinct will urge her to mate only with the healthiest drone.
There are other species that possess the same capability. Still, while not questioning scientific proof, there are those who remain horrified by the right of a human being who’s body and spirit are forced into a ceaseless duel for control.
Do We Have The Ultimate Understanding?
Western societies, generally, have assumed, until recent times, ourselves to be the most enlightened arbiters in various spheres, encompassing gender selection. Religious groups, overall, believe each of us was shaped by a mystical being. Hence, members are bound by their faiths to pray for conformity within themselves.
Still, This view is by no means global. Countries such as India, Pakistan and Indonesia accept any number of anomalies some among us might find appalling. So much depends on the norms of the time. Fortunately, the threshold of normalcy has become, over time, far more fluid and flexible.
Twin Bodies With Separate Genders
In the book, "Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family" by Amy Ellis Nutt, she describes Wayne and Kelly Maines adoption of twin “boys”, prearranged before their births. Given their identical physical structures, the Maines had no reason to think there would be any more difference between them beyond those of any other twins.
Naming them Jonas and Wyatt, Kelly and Wayne raised them both in the same ambience, encouraging them to engage in the usual boyhood activities. Still, fairly early on, a major divergence began to emerge. It became increasingly difficult to dismiss Wyatt’s persistence in playing with dolls and wearing dresses as passing idiosyncrasies. A cathartic moment occurred when Wyatt became distraught when discouraged from wearing a princess dress to a family dinner party.
Steps Towards Understanding
Although Kelly Maines acted with caution, she began researching histories and memoirs of those who had undergone the transition from one gender to the other. Her discoveries, combined with Wyatt’s consistent behaviours, led her to discuss her son/daughter’s conflicts with clinicians, and encourage her ambiguous child to accept psycho-therapy. Their findings confirmed what Kelly believed; Wyatt’s body contained the soul of a female. Once this had been ascertained, Wyatt, now called Nicole, began the steps towards gender re-assignment.
Before this life-changing surgery could be performed, preparations needed to be made. Secondary gender characteristics, such as the deepening of a voice, and removal of body hair were prerequisites. The permanent uprooting of male body hair is nearly unbearably painful. Perhaps, in time, a less agonising method will be developed.
Still, the adjustment, including the pain involved, forces consideration, while there is still time to reflect on the inner necessity of this penultimate choice. Shortly before her surgery, Nicole asked her mother, “What if I decide to go back?”
This question could not be answered, and yet, both mother and soon-to-be daughter knew it was the one avenue, without which she could hope to enjoy a fulfilling future.
Nature Versus Nurture Theories
While the controversy between whether or not, and to what degree, parental expectations inculcate a sense of gender is still being studied; proponents of the nurturing theory maintain gender processing may begin in the womb. Later, colours in an infant’s room, toys chosen, and even tones of voice used, can create a significant influence on a baby whose sense of consciousness is still evolving.
Still, the story of Nichole’s transgender challenges the nurture belief. The twins’ experience in their mother’s womb was almost surely the same. Once adopted by the Maines, their upbringing that of two boys. Indeed, Wayne, their adoptive father, had a far greater struggle with Nicole’s new identity than did either her mother, Kelly, or twin Brother Jonas.
Fortunately, he came to accept Nicole’s decision. Hence, one of the most joyous moments for both of them came when Wayne escorted Nicole down the aisle on the day of her wedding.
Legal and Ethical Ramifications of a Trans-Gender Athlete
In her memoir, Second Serve, Renee Richards describes her gradual realisation and acceptance of her true nature. In terms of fame, the temptations must have been strong to remain a man. Her athletic abilities were so advanced as to garner an invitation, during her high school years, to join the New York Yankees. Still, she declined, feeling impelled towards tennis. Having joined the U.S. Navy, in addition to skill on shipboard, she became one of its most eminent tennis champions.
Chromosomal Questions Began to Emerge
Contrary to the belief that women devoted to sports lack academic ability, Ms. Richards first earned a degree from Yale, and then went on to study ophthalmology at the University of Rochester. Still, her all-consuming passion for tennis made it all but impossible for her to deviate from her goal of becoming professional.
In addition, she continued to be plagued by the zeal she had tried to ignore, to become a woman. Hence, she underwent the procedures needed in order to bring about this transition. According to her memoir, she never considered the impact this choice might have upon her opportunities.
To What Extent Had She Become a Woman?
According to the most dominant tennis association, the right to compete as a woman depended on the Barr Body Chromosome test. In 1976 her refusal to take this test resulted in her being banned from playing in championship tournaments. In 1977, outraged, by what she viewed as discrimination, she brought a claim against the U.S. Tennis Association.
Perseverance led to her case being decided by the New York State Supreme Court. The court determined curtailing or prohibiting her from taking part in women’s tournaments violated her rights. The court issued an injunction against any further impediments being brought to block her career prospects.
Initially, she felt elated by what then struck her as indisputable justice. Later, she came to view her victory as biased in her favour, allowing her high testosterone levels as exploitative towards her female opponents. Still, no-one can be expected to alter one’s lifelong mental and emotional framework in an immediate way, due to the idealized wand of a surgeon’s scalpel.
Gender Testing And Testosterone Levels
Sports woman Olympian Caster Semenya, from South Africa, is pursuing a university degree in sports science. As the details of her successes are well-documented, it is not necessary to recount them here. Our focus is whether there was justice in forcing her to undergo intensive medical examinations in order to determine whether she should be allowed to continue with her career as a female champion.
Dating back to 2009, the question of her gender and level of testosterone was examined. Beyond a designated level, opportunities to compete as a woman would be at an end. At that point, she still qualified as a female. Still, as the 2016 Olympics approached, the subject arose once again.
Although this insistence was not intended for public disclosure, someone alerted the press, causing Caster intense humiliation. As before, the issue centred on whether her testosterone level meant her male hormone level disqualified her to compete as a woman.
It has been stated that ten per cent of young South African women have higher levels of testosterone than is considered acceptable for entry into global sports events. Caster agreed to be watched round the clock, in order to guard against her ingestion of any testosterone-inducing chemicals. She also agreed, to take testosterone-lowering tablets. No indication was found as to the slightest dishonesty on her part.
Future Implications of Brain Chemistry Testing
As understanding of brain chemistry strides forward, more concerns may arise as to the right to compete. Given the fact that no two human beings can be completely alike in chemical make-up, how far might we take increased testing abilities? Presumably, there could be a time when Adrenalin, endorphins, and other chemicals will result in influencing decisions. If this occurs, we can only hope it does not result in growing litigation and pain.
“God made me the way I am, and I accept myself.”
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2016 Colleen Swan
Colleen Swan (author) from County Durham on January 22, 2017:
Hi Paula, I hope this works, as it is my third attempt to respond to your comment. If so, I have a bit more to add. Colleen
Colleen Swan (author) from County Durham on January 22, 2017:
Hi, Jeffrey. I'm sure your blog is excellent, but I prefer not to have live links in the comments. Colleen
Jeffrey A Benedict from Colorado on January 21, 2017:
I did write a blog about my situation but I do not like to blantly promote my own blog on others peoples conversations. If you are ok with it I will post the link here.
I wrote my memoir before I was aware that I was born Intersex and just can't figure out how to add this part of my life without trashing my parents or looking like a moron.
Suzie from Carson City on January 21, 2017:
Colleen...As always, I thoroughly enjoy your work for it's fascinating subject matter & your impeccable writing talent. I appreciate that I come away all that much more informed and aware, for your effort.
I read your hub and then went straight on to read Jeffrey's forthright disclosure and sensitive in-depth explanation. At the moment I am on overload and attempting to sort out what I've learned and realizing you & Jeffrey have encouraged me to do some research to learn even more.
I find this happens quite often to me here and IMO, I'm convinced this is a major purpose of Hubpages and one of the many reasons I'm an enthusiastic member.
Hope your day goes well....Peace, Paula
Colleen Swan (author) from County Durham on January 21, 2017:
Hi Jeffrey, I believe were are each the gender we feel ourselves to be. Your parents did you a great injustice by deciding your gender in terms of symmetry. If you were to write a memoir, I'm sure it would be of interest to a good many people.
Jeffrey A Benedict from Colorado on January 20, 2017:
I am one of these people that were born with ambigous gender and lied to about it.
I consider myself both intersex and transgender.
The intersex is obvious but the fact my parents picked a sex based on making equal number of boys and girls in the house I feel they made the wrong choice. Therefore because my parents made me one sex and I disagree am I not Transgender?
Colleen Swan (author) from County Durham on October 23, 2016:
Hi, I am always intrigued and grateful for suggestions on ways to expand my knowledge in various areas. You clearly have a good deal of information on a variety of topics. Comments like yours make the research incumbent upon such an article feel genuinely worthwhile.
SmartAndFun from Texas on October 23, 2016:
In the past, intersex children (born with ambiguous genitalia or incomplete sets of female or male organs, or some reproductive organs of both males and females, chromosomal differences, etc.) were "assigned" a sex by doctors at birth or as babies, after an examination in which the doctors determined as best they could the sex the baby was closest to.
The child was then given surgeries to help them resemble the sex they were assigned, and raised as that sex. Once the children grew up, they often had no memory of this happening, and were unhappy with their surgically altered genitals, their assigned sex and/or the decisions made for them as babies.
Intersex people are now speaking out about this, and the result is a medical ethics movement advocating to allow intersex children to grow up without medical interference, so that they may decide for themselves as adults what type of surgeries (if any) they want, and whether they identify more as a male or a female. "Galileo's Middle Finger" by Alice Dreger is a fascinating read which touches upon this subject.
Again, intersex is different than transgender. Transgender people have "normal" male or female bodies.
Colleen Swan (author) from County Durham on October 23, 2016:
Hi Stella, nice to hear from you again. As long as this girl has a full set of female organs, everything should be fine. I think more of those choices are made than are ever talked about. Colleen
Stella on October 22, 2016:
This is a very interesting article on a subject that is very difficult if you are the parent of a transgender child. We had a couple that wanted a child for many years and the child was born with both sex. The parents decided on the child staying as a girl. I hope the girl is happy, so far so good.
Colleen Swan (author) from County Durham on September 23, 2016:
Hi, Smartandfun, thank you for your insights and information. I feel sure a lot of your ideas will generate some intriguing debates. Thank you for taking so much time to read and analyses my article. Colleen
SmartAndFun from Texas on September 23, 2016:
I would like to point out two things which I do not see mentioned in this article: the difference between intersex and transgender, and the difference between sex and gender.
There is a big difference between intersex individuals -- those such as Caster Semenya, who are born with physical genital anomalies -- and transgender individuals such as Nicole Maines.
Those who are intersex are born with ambiguous genitalia and/or internal organs which perhaps do not match their outer genitalia. In Semenya's case, it has been reported that Semenya has internal testes in place of a uterus and ovaries. If those reports are correct, this is a physical anomaly which makes Semeya's sex perhaps male, yet other parts of Semenya's body indicate this person is perhaps female. Or is this person neither male nor female? Semenya is an intersex person, not a transgender person.
Maines, on the other hand, was born with a healthy, male body. Maines' parents and doctors decided that perhaps he should have been born a girl because as a young child he liked to wear princess dresses and play with dolls. It was Maines' behavior rather than any physical anomaly which caught the attention of his parents and doctors.
When it comes to sex and gender, these days, one's "sex" typically refers to one's biological makeup, while "gender" typically refers to how one's clothing, interests and behaviors fit into society's current stereotypes regarding what male or female is supposed to be. For example, a male who is emotional and sensitive, likes to wear dresses, soft colors and shiny, flowing fabrics, and prefers hobbies or pastimes typically associated with women or girls, may be told he is of female "gender" while his biological sex is male.
Personally, I don't think kids should be told there is something physically or psychologically wrong with them if they like to play with toys or wear clothes typically associated with the opposite sex.
Colleen Swan (author) from County Durham on September 13, 2016:
Thank you Larry
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on September 12, 2016: