Sexual Identity Hard-Wired by Genetics, Study Says - Mothering Forums

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Old 10-20-2003, 04:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Published in the latest edition of the journal Molecular Brain Research, the UCLA discovery may also offer physicians an improved tool for gender assignment of babies born with ambiguous genitalia.

Using two genetic testing methods, the researchers compared the production of genes in male and female brains in embryonic mice -- long before the animals developed sex organs.

They found 54 genes produced in different amounts in male and female mouse brains, prior to hormonal influence. Eighteen of the genes were produced at higher levels in the male brains; 36 were produced at higher levels in the female brains.

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmp...ity_brain_dc_4

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Old 10-21-2003, 05:08 AM
 
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This research is so fascinating to me.

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Mild cases of malformed genitalia occur in 1 percent of all births -- about 3 million cases. More severe cases -- where doctors can't inform parents whether they had a boy or girl -- occur in one in 3,000 births.
*this* information needs to be out there more. 1/3000 is a LOT of births and I bet you that every single one of those parents feel all alone and like they are the only one this happened to.

 

 

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Old 10-21-2003, 09:03 AM
 
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Boy, you are right it needs to be out there!

Why is it happening? Has it always been such a high number? Or is it related to toxins in the environment, like what is happening with frogs?



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Old 10-22-2003, 11:37 AM
 
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So, part of society is so homophobic that they still need scientific evidence to prove that sexual identity isn't a choice. How sad is that that so many are unwilling to just love and accept people as they are. In the end it won't matter anyway, because the homophobes will look to their book as the final say anyway and don't believe science. sad.

As far as "gender assignment", I'm not sure that Dr's are the best people to be making that decision. I think that we as a society as so scared of anything different, that we force decisions too soon sometimes. There have been cases where Dr's have made the wrong decision and later the person wanted to be the other gender.

how can anyone other than the person living in the body know who they are?
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Old 10-22-2003, 06:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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arduinna, how would you go about "letting" a child decide whether they are boy or girl? it might be optimal, but unworkable in the real world. i mean, a child doesn't even kniow what boys and girls are until around 2-4 yrs...at which point they have a desire to know what they are too....

genetic testing gives those whose child's genetalia is a "toss up" a way to be more likely to help a child HAVE an gender identity at all....rather than just let the parents decide...50% chance of being ":right" just isn't good enough for people like the robert/roberta case where the penis was destroyed during circumcision and the parents just raised the boy as a girl instead (gasp) . When he hit puberty, he went through hell, because his upbringing (girl) was at war with his genetic blueprint (boy).

genetic testing gives us a sense of what is likely to happen in the future in the mind of a person, despite what morphology seems to indicate. that seems like a good reason to use it in cases (esp) where there is some degree of indeterminability.

make sense?

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Old 10-22-2003, 07:16 PM
 
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The ambiguous gender thing fascinates me, since I have only ever seen it on tv, and never ever heard of anyone IRL who has a child like this, or is like this themselves, these people must be so terrified of people finding out, so sad that it is 1 in 3000, yet, I don't even know anyone who knows anyone, YK?

:Patty :fireman Catholic, intactalactivist, co-sleeping, GDing, HSing, no-vax Mama to .........................:..........hale:
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Old 10-22-2003, 07:54 PM
 
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Unworkable?? Well there is alot of power in words. Once you've decided it's unworkable, how would you even be open to another solution?

Why must a decision be made at birth? Because most adults are unable to contemplate an exisitance without knowing if they should by a blue or pink baby blanket? Is it better to decide for a child and remove body parts in essence deciding their gender for them without consultation? In stories I've read and seen on these cases rarely do the parents decide, the Dr's do instead. In one case they decided to to make the child a girl. And while growing up she never felt comfortable in her own body. Later she found out that she had been born with a penis and it had been removed. She ended up having a sex change and because they removed her testicles at birth she now has to take artifical hormones.
Her childhood was already confusing because how she felt wasn't what she saw when she looked in the mirror. So how was her life made better by surgery?

All because society insists on having everyone fit their little box of acceptable.

If your not even willing to ask the question, you'll never know the answer. hmmm going to put that in my sigline. It wasn't specifically directed at you, but to all of society.
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Old 10-22-2003, 08:10 PM
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As far as "gender assignment", I'm not sure that Dr's are the best people to be making that decision. I think that we as a society as so scared of anything different, that we force decisions too soon sometimes. There have been cases where Dr's have made the wrong decision and later the person wanted to be the other gender.
I totally agree that, in virtually all cases, there should be no sex-assignment surgeries on anyone until they're old enough to have a reasonable say in the matter. The concerns about waiting, other than the issue of scarring (a minor issue), are largely hypothetical (eg, "what are the kids in gym class going to say when they see Billy in the locker room??"). It's better that the surgery be done right, than that it be done fast. This is particularly the case, given the present near-dearth of studies following up on children who have had sex assignment surgery in infancy or early childhood.

However, you need to give the child a "gender", in the sense that you need to refer to him/her as "him" or "her." S/he can change that gender later, in most cases totally (eg, on birth certificate, drivers license, etc.), at least in the U.S. (this isn't always true in all states, however).

I'm not at all certain, given that most of the disorders that cause ambiguous genitalia have a genetic basis, that the findings reported in the OP will correllate to intersex children. It's pure speculation at the moment.
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Old 10-22-2003, 08:32 PM
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For those who are interested in the case to which Arduinna refers, check out "The True Story of John/Joan" by John Colapinto:

http://www.infocirc.org/rollston.htm
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Old 10-22-2003, 08:53 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Unworkable is what I think the dream of not assigning gender is. For reasons that Marlena mentions, but also because children do have a desire to define and categorize themselves in relation to their peers and the worl din general. Furthermore, I do not think gender assignation is somehow limiting in general. I do not think that means I am handicapped by a lack of imagination or free thinking, either.

Arduinna, it seems your posts of late have been quite curt. I'm not sure what I have said to offend you on this topic. However--in specific cases where the physical presentation is ambiguous, the article i posted above does not advocate surgery (or if it did, i totally missed that part). The article is about using genetic information (not surgery) to assign gender. And i think that's a much more humane way to make what is for now a one or the other choice.

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Old 10-22-2003, 09:26 PM
 
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I've yet to see a case in the US anyway where surgery wasn't done asap. Although I'm not up on all the cases so that doesn't mean that it hasn't happened. I can't remember the names anymore of the various cases I've read, but I do remember one where the Drs did what they wanted regardless of the parents wishes, and I don't think it's an isolated incident. Did I miss the part on the article where they said they were against surgery on unconsulted minors? My understanding was that this was to be used to make gender selection "more accurate". I personally question what is more accurate than asking the person living in the body!



I'm sorry that you feel I've been curt. I question everything, especially things that are usually automatically accepted as fact. I honestly feel that too much of American society accepts way to much as truth without even thinking about it. The words and truths we all tell ourselves are very powerful. I realize that it's often seen as aggressive and threatening when someone questions our truths. I've yet to figure out how to do that in a way that no one might be offended. Lots of times I question just for the sake of understanding something better, and that is usually baffling to someone who doesn't think that way. Then they assume that by asking a question that means I agree with it. Which isn't always the case.

I understand you can't imagine what it would be like to be intersex. But what did intersex people do before "gender selection" surgery was available?

I really think that the drive to assign babies a gender is about the adults in the room, not the baby. I think we as a society need to examine the real reasons why there has been such a rush to surgery.

I completely support gender reassignment for people that choose to have it done. That is the only way to guarentee that it's correct.
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Old 10-23-2003, 11:58 AM
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There appear to be a few misconceptions or confusions here:

1. Gender assignment is the social differentiation of a person into "male" or "female". It entails CALLING someone "he" or "she," and any social activities, conditioning, etc. that go along with it.

2. Sex assignment is the surgical alteration of a person's genitals so that the genitals appear "more" like "male" genitals or "female" genitals.

3. The correct term is "assignment", not "REassignment." In most cases in which sex assignment takes place, it's to make the genitals of a person appear more like those of their chromosomal sex (to the extent that they actually HAVE XY or XX chromosomes, which is by no means always the case with these kids). A paradigmatic example is that of a girl with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAS), one of the most common intersex conditions (hypospadias in boys is another common example). Because of the overproduction of testosterone which is a byproduct of the condition, girls who are affected by CAS may have an "abnormally large" clitoris. Surgeons would usually hack the offending organ "down to size" in infancy (this still happens, but surgeons do try to take a little more care to retain some of the key nerves these days). This surgery does not "reassign" the infant's sex; rather, it merely makes the offending organ(s) appear "more feminine."

No, I'm not in favor of such surgeries, as I've noted earlier (except when performed in adulthood (or even teenhood) at the request of the individual in question). i'd advocate them ONLY in the rare (but extant) cases in which the child's parents are likely to reject the child in the absence of "corrective" surgery.

It's a fascinating topic, though. And yes, Arduinna, it's true that, even though there have allegedly been some changes, the policy of most pediatric urologists, when they come across one of these kids, is to "correct" the kid as early as possible. While surgeries against or without the consent of the parents are presently apocryphical (they may have happened 30 years ago, but not now), there is a fair amount of arm twisting that may occur.
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Old 10-23-2003, 12:20 PM
 
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Thanks for the definitions. BTW< I used to the term reassignment to say that I support ALL surgeries including reassignment, which is I think the correct term when someone is changing from the sexual and gender assignment that someone else made. Or to spell it out, anyone that feels they were born in the wrong body or as the wrong sex and also for people for which Drs made the decision and they feel it's an incorrect one.

This study has implication beyond just confusing gender babies. There is the possibilty that this test could actually stop people from getting sex reassignment. What if this test is used to deny someone a sex change? What if the persons feelings clash with what the test says?
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Old 10-23-2003, 12:46 PM
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I understand you can't imagine what it would be like to be intersex. But what did intersex people do before "gender selection" surgery was available?
If you're interested, you may want to check out the following book on the subject: Hermaphrodites and the Medical invention of Sex, by Alice Dormurat Dreger.
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Old 10-23-2003, 12:53 PM
 
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Thanks Marlena

I have some extended friend personal info in this area, but don't want to get into it here.
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Old 10-23-2003, 01:24 PM
 
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Huh.

ACtually the main thing I took from that study was that it was crap, and the reporting on it was poorly done.

Examples:

""Our findings may help answer an important question -- why do we feel male or female?" Dr. Eric Vilain, a genetics professor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, said in a statement. "Sexual identity is rooted in every person's biology before birth and springs from a variation in our individual genome." "

This is not logically connected to anything about their actual study. Finding that some genes are produced at different levels between male and female mice (and I would think that mouse brains would be different from human brains for a whole host of reasons) does not have a single blessed thing to do with how we "feel" about our sex identity. Or at least, if it does, there's a ton of steps in the middle describing the cause and effect relationship that they conveniently left out.

For all we know, those genes are simply what is necessary to trigger puberty at the appropriate time and has no influence on sex identity or individual behaviour whatsoever. For all we know, those genes build testicles and ovaries. Any conclusions for what these genes do are premature. WAY premature. Connecting them to sex identity is like ... an astronomer saying "We found a distant sun-like star with an earth-like planet orbiting it. We now know that there is intelligent life on other planets."

"For example, the two hemispheres of the brain appeared more symmetrical in females than in males. According to Vilain, the symmetry may improve communication between both sides of the brain, leading to enhanced verbal expressiveness in females."

Now this is just stupid.

First of all, male and female mice do not have "verbal expressiveness."

Secondly, "verbal" anything does not reside in brain **symmetry**--there specific parts of the left and right hemispheres that are devoted to speech and verbal ability. This is just using science to justify preconceptions. Any scientist with a basic understanding of neurobiology would know this guy is making it up.

I really hate this kind of "science" and its reporting.

Unfortunately, scientists have been using badly flawed scientific studies and poorly reasoned conclusions to justify their ideas about what men and women are "really" like for hundreds of years. In the last century, scientists weighed the brains of men and women, found that women's brains weighed less, and said, "Well that proves it then, women really are less intelligent than men, no point sending them to school."

And let's not forget that in some societies, women are not expected or allowed to speak--it's men who are assumed to have greater "verbal ability" (as well as every other kind of ability). What would their scientists have made of these findings? "The greater symmetry of female brains is a clear sign of their inferiority; male brains are more exciting and diverse."

ARguments like this actually were made when scientists first discovered that sex was determined by x and y chromosomes. Men were supposed to be better because they had one of each; and women were inferior because they had two that were the same. Making them more limited and more like each other, you see, than men are.

Personally I find it problematic that we have this obsession with classifying everyone as either "male" or "female". Modifying someone's genitals will not change the fact that they are intersex; it simply makes them more "acceptable" to society and gives them an identity that other people can understand. I fully support such surgery for anyone who chooses it (although I have questions about the way sex reassignment surgery is today performed--but that's another topic). We're all adults, we can do what we like with our bodies. But I think that, as a society, we'd be better off if we stopped trying to force everyone into either the "male" or "female" box.

I want to make clear that I fully support equality for people of all sex identities and orientations. I can't buy that someone would "choose" to be gay or transgender--who would want to be discriminated against and make themselves a target of hate groups? But I don't believe this study has anything to do with it.

Sorry for the long post! This kind of thing tends to get my hackles up.
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Old 10-24-2003, 01:37 AM
 
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People I know, trans folks and gender queers, would tell you that there are actually more than two genders; there are an infinite number of genders and gender expression. Not everyone identifies as he or she.

thanks athena_dreaming and Arduinna for putting out a gender-queer friendly view (even if that wasn't exactly what you were intending)
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Old 10-24-2003, 01:48 AM
 
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oh, that was my intention
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Old 10-24-2003, 11:23 AM
 
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Me too.

And I agree on the definition of gender. I think we're too attached to this binary "everyone has to be a boy or a girl" idea. I mean, have you ever stopped to think just why it is exactly the credit card company needs to know if you're male or female to apply for a card?
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Old 10-25-2003, 12:21 AM
 
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Ha! probably for reasons similar to the stuff in this study...'cause you know, women have bigger shopping genes or something.
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Old 10-25-2003, 12:35 AM
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I believe it's for identification purposes.

Most people still subscribe to the notion of dualistic genders, even becoming offended at the notion that gender might not be "hard wired" into one's brain (I think this is largely where the appeal of studies such as that in the OP lie). I personally don't think "most people" are correct about this at all. However, the fact of the matter is that raising a child as "neither male nor female" will likely yield a very unhappy child. Check out the thread about the 12 year old boy who killed himself, and what folks have had to say about teasing.

Forging one's own way re gender is something that children should do themselves after they're old enough (however old or young that might be; it certainly differs from child to child) to do so for themselves. It shouldn't be a path forced upon them by their parents.

You might reply, "why should this dualistic gender system be forced upon them?" If so, then please refer back to paragraph two of this post.
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Old 10-25-2003, 02:32 AM
 
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I also do not see how this exactlyl applies to gender roles/"proof" of biological basis for homosexuality.

My first post was meant to point out that there should be a lot more info out there about "intersex" babies, so parents realize that they are not the only ones going through this etc...

 

 

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Old 10-27-2003, 10:55 PM
 
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i'd advocate them ONLY in the rare (but extant) cases in which the child's parents are likely to reject the child in the absence of "corrective" surgery.
Perhaps such people shouldn't be parents, if they care that much about having a child that is socially normal. Would anyone really do that? Wait and plan for this baby for 9 months and then reject it if the genitals didn't look right?

Genital surgery should never be done on an unconsenting individual. I don't care how often he-she gets teased in the locker room, why is forceful surgery the answer? What is so darn important that it can't wait until the child wants it done?

Only my child can make the decision to have cosmetic surgery. It's never my choice.
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Old 10-28-2003, 01:09 PM
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Perhaps such people shouldn't be parents, if they care that much about having a child that is socially normal. Would anyone really do that? Wait and plan for this baby for 9 months and then reject it if the genitals didn't look right?
I agree. But parenthood is not something which we presently allow or prohibit to anyone based on some test or other prior to conception. And yes, there are in fact some parents who reject their children, whether actually or emotionally, because their genitals are not "normal." While there are only a handful of studies on the subject, and all of them deal with small study populations, they show that there is a significant psychological adjustment that parents need to make in order to accept an intersex child. The studies also show that some of them simply don't make the adjustment. See, e.g., Froukje M E Slijper et al., Long-Term Psychological Evaluation of Intersex Children, 27 ARCH. SEX. BEHAVIOR 125 (1998) (the citation is in law review format, rather than scientific format, incidentally)
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