Gender is not binary, but on a spectrum and fluid

Richard Friedman, in his article in the NY Times this past Sunday, August 22, 2015, How Changeable is Gender? says that, “The prevailing narrative seems to be that gender is a social construct and that people can move between genders to arrive at their true identity.”

Why the need for facial surgeries, reconstructive and hormone treatments, and the medical procedures?  Does this speak to the inevitable “…biology at the heart of gender identity?”

Gender identity is not binary, he says, meaning simply male or female.  And it can change.  What we look like and the bodies we are born into do not always determine what it means to be a man or a woman.

Friedman reports that about 5 in 100,000 are transsexual.  He says that there is now neurological proof that says that gender identity does in fact exist on a spectrum, and is not just polarized into two genders.  In a similar way that homosexuality and heterosexuality are on a spectrum, gender is more flexible than previously understood.  (Alfred Kinsey in his famous sex research, claimed that most of us exist in the bell curve between the two  ends of the heterosexual/homosexual spectrum.)  Friedman says that gender identity is also a range, with human biological variation from female, to female to male, from male to female, to male.

He quotes a study by Georg S. Kranz at the Medical University of Vienna who reported in  2014 in The Journal of Neuroscience that  transsexuals were structurally different in their brains than their desired gender. In fact, transgender people have a structurally different brain than a binary nontransgender male or female — a place that falls on the continuum in between men and women.

In utero, sexual differentiation  happens during the second half of pregnancy, after the genitals are already sexually determined. Therefore it is possible to have a mismatch “between gender-specific brain development and that of the body.”

This crucial study and the open minded journalism that writers, researchers and journalists are tackling today brings these issues into new light and the exploration of gender is now coming out of the shadows.  We are seeing the fluidity of gender in a new way and the way we see what it means to be a man, a woman, or something in between may change everything.

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