Not too long ago I become aware that gender is a spectrum. It's not just male/female. There was a post on Steemit recently of a collage of photos of someone who had both male and female characteristics. The person who posted the picture asked the readers to respond "yay or nay". I was confused as to what we were supposed to be saying yay or nay to and I said so. I commented about how gender is a spectrum and how I'm glad that on Earth we have a wide variety of options, abilities, body types, and ways to express our uniqueness. Someone replied to my comment expressing their confusion as to why I would say that. They said, "There are only two genders, male and female. A rare hermaphrodite has characteristics of both genders. You can identify as whatever you want and dress however you want, but that doesn't change your gender. Even a sex a change won't give a man the ability to have a baby. Also, could you outline all the genders in your gender spectrum for us please :)"
So, instead of giving a long-winded response I thought I'd make a post and link to it on the comment. I am grateful for the comment and the opportunity for discussion.
As requested, here are a few (and there may be many more) labels people use: transgender, cisgender, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, gender fluid, intersex. And, here are all the gender chromosome variations: XY, XX, XXX, XXXX, XXXXX, XXY, XXXY, XXXXY, XXYY, XYY, and XO. Please someone let me know if I've left one out.
Then, there are various conditions like congenital adrenal hyperplasia in genetic women and complete androgen insensitivity syndrome in genetic men. Conditions like these alter or affect hormones and can lead to the gender developing characteristics of the other gender or not producing characteristics of their chromosomal gender. I hope that makes sense. Find more info about that here.
Okay, now let's talk about brain chemistry in people who are transgender. Here is a quote from Huffpost (blog) article titled Neuroscience Proves What We’ve Known All Along- Gender Exists on a Spectrum that explains the findings of a recent study on brain chemistry: "There is some early evidence, then, that science is catching up with something many of us already assume, and for good reason: Gender identity exists on a scale, rather than in narrow dichotomized groups. In essence, trans people had brain chemistry approaching the middle of the gender spectrum — inherently different from their biological sex and closer to their identified gender. For example, a trans woman has significantly different brain movement than a cis man, despite having the same biological sex. Moreover, trans men and trans women were different from each other, implying that the brain shows a wide range of gender based differences, rather than simply male or female." Here is the link to that Huffpost article.
So, this blog points to this study titledWhite matter microstructure in female to male transsexuals before cross-sex hormonal treatment. A diffusion tensor imaging study:
Here is a quote from the abstract: "Conclusions: Our results show that the white matter microstructure pattern in untreated FtM transsexuals is closer to the pattern of subjects who share their gender identity (males) than those who share their biological sex (females). Our results provide evidence for an inherent difference in the brain structure of FtM transsexuals." (Ftm means Female to Male)
There are some people in this world who are born with genitalia that looks female upon birth, but at puberty looks more like male genitalia. Here is a quote from a REALLY goood National Geographic article titled How Science Is Helping Us Understand Gender
"Carlos, 12, holds a photo of himself as a girl. He is one of a small group of children born in the Dominican Republic with an enzyme deficiency. Their genitalia appear female at birth—then, with a surge of testosterone at puberty, they develop male genitals and mature into men."
National Geographic Photograph by Lynn Johnson
This article also talks about cultures all over the world where 3rd genders are found.
Then there are intersex chromosomal conditions. Intersex people are born with any of several variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes, sex homones, or genitals that do not fit neatly into the definitions of "male" and "female"....So, it can be internal and/or external characteristics that vary. It is much more complex than the "rare hermaphrodite". Emily Quinn is an intersex blogger/youtuber that talks about her life as intersex.
She says that intersex people represent about 1 in 200 people. She has XY Chromosomes and internal testes. She has a vagina, but doesn't have a uterus or ovaries.
So, to the idea that gender is a spectrum, I think the National Geographic article says it best: "Gender is an amalgamation of several elements: chromosomes (those X’s and Y’s), anatomy (internal sex organs and external genitals), hormones (relative levels of testosterone and estrogen), psychology (self-defined gender identity), and culture (socially defined gender behaviors). And sometimes people who are born with the chromosomes and genitals of one sex realize that they are transgender, meaning they have an internal gender identity that aligns with the opposite sex—or even, occasionally, with neither gender or with no gender at all."
And, it's all okay. Isn't the variety and uniqueness of this planet amazing!?!
I hope you all are intrigued by this topic and do more reading. And, I hope that you keep an open mind. Also, again, thank you to the person who commented on my comment, as it inspired me to make this post!
Initial photo by prettyfrog on DeviantArt