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What scientifically makes us a particular sex or gender

Discussion in 'Physical & Life Sciences' started by tansy, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. tansy

    tansy Senior Member

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    I've posted this question under physical and life sciences as I don't know if there is a more suitable place.
    As transgenderism is coming to the fore so much nowadays, I just wondered what, if any research has been done on this? I don't want any discussion as to whether it's against God's will or whatever, I simply want to understand from a scientific pov.

    From what I understand 'sex' and 'gender' are two different things (I'd always assumed they were the same thing before).

    I am a woman (female) and I definitely don't feel like a man and wouldn't want to be one (except for practical reasons, such as it would be really handy when taken short to be able to 'go' behind a lamp-post LOL). But what a pain to have to shave! How awful not to be pregnant and give birth! I think it must be awful being a man. But, of course, conversely men might think they'd hate to be a woman.

    But what makes a man feel like a man? What makes a woman feel like a woman? What makes a person, born male, feel female...and vice-versa?

    I know some women who one might say, have more 'masculine' traits, and some men who have more 'feminine' traits, but so far as I know, they still see themselves as male and female. So, does it depend on some hormonal or chemical thing, or the way the brain's wired up?

    One thing I don't understand is why men who 'become women' (sorry, not well put probably), from what I've seen seem to want to wear high heels, do their hair, put on make-up etc. Do they like doing that? Or is it because they feel that is what a woman does? I mean, as a woman, I've never been particularly into make-up and 'prettying myself up'. I've always tended to like practical hair cuts and practical clothes...men's clothes tend to be far more practical than women's (that's not to say that I wear men's clothes , just that I tend go for women's practical clothing like jeans etc...just wish women's clothes had sensible pockets). I suppose what I'm saying is that I don't think it's a prerequisite to being female that one wears make-up etc.

    If there are any transgender people here, as well as medical or science people, if you would give any insight as well, that would be great.
     
  2. TX_Matt

    TX_Matt Theological Mutt

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    I've written a blog series about this...

    Part 1, which is all about the basics about gender, sex, the difference, and how both progressive and conservatives are partially right and partially wrong: The Great Gender Blog Series 1: The Basics | Christian Forums

    Part 2, which explains gender dysphoria and the whole transgender thing: The Great Gender Blog Series 2: Gender Dysphoria, Transgender, Transsexual | Christian Forums
     
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  3. tansy

    tansy Senior Member

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    Oh brilliant, thanks :). I will read those...but not tonight as it is now gone midnight, but I will in the next day or two when I have a bit more time.
     
  4. TX_Matt

    TX_Matt Theological Mutt

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    You're welcome
     
  5. Rubiks

    Rubiks God's little autistic boy! :)

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    Its however society as a whole chooses to define it.
     
  6. durangodawood

    durangodawood Dis Member

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    I know one transgender person. A young girl. This is anecdote, not science, but from the earliest she was choosing really traditionally feminine toys, traits, aesthetics, even though she was "born a boy" (or whatever the right way to say it is.)

    As time went on she developed really troubling self-destructive behaviors that seemed to be connected to identity. Obviously this alarmed her parents, and though they had told here she could be whoever she wanted to be, nothing really changed until they told her explicitly you can be a girl if you want. Then it was like a dam broke when she realized this is actually possible and not just talk. Since then she has really come into her own.

    Based on knowing this family, I'm convinced that the change in gender identity is 100% real and necessary for many people, even IF there may also be cases of simple confusion or rebellion out there.
     
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  7. Radagast

    Radagast wonders what's going on around here

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    We understand the biology that makes somebody physically one or the other. We don't understand feelings, because they are hard to investigate scientifically.
     
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  8. tansy

    tansy Senior Member

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    Yes, I understand that from some stuff I've read and a bit I've seen on tv. I'm merely trying to understand whether there is some reason hormonally, chemically or whatever. I don't know what makes us female or male gender-wise, not sex-wise.
    I did read some article recently that some research they've done shows that some people whom I think were gay, (I think gay, not transgender) had something going on in their brain...can't remember where the article was now.
     
  9. tansy

    tansy Senior Member

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    Well, I guess that's true enough :)
     
  10. tansy

    tansy Senior Member

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    I'm not sure that I quite agree with that. I think that there are definitely masculine and female traits. For example, it has been shown scientifically, if memory serves, that men tend to think more with one side of the brain and women with another...this is why women tend to be more 'garrulous' and men think women are 'illogical'. It's merely that we tend to approach thing in different ways.
    Actually, that would perhaps be an interesting line of research, to see whether transgenders' brains function more like that of the opposite sex, as it were.
     
  11. joshua 1 9

    joshua 1 9 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    According to science organisms want to reproduce. The battle of the sexes has to do with women trying to preserve female genes and men trying to preserve male genes in their offspring. Perhaps in some situations boys may side with their mother or girls with their father to try to preserve genes from the opposite sex. This is all based on Dawkins selfish gene theory. He writes a whole chapter on this but the point is he is looking at this from a conflict viewpoint, not one of harmony or working together for the sake of the species. So conflict theory & selfish genes is the liberal approach to the question.
     
  12. tansy

    tansy Senior Member

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    Hmmm...Interesting take on it. But in my most unhumble opinion, that sounds like balderdash. Surely that would be counter-productive? It also sounds like it would be more a psychological thing than anything else. But I am not a scientist and don't know an awful lot about this sort of thing
     
  13. jayem

    jayem Naturalist

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    Transgender identity is almost certainly is a variation in brain circuitry. The linked article is a pretty good summary of what is known so far. And it isn't overly technical.

    Between the (Gender) Lines: the Science of Transgender Identity - Science in the News
     
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  14. FrumiousBandersnatch

    FrumiousBandersnatch Well-Known Member

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    That's not quite what the studies I've seen suggest - there are differences in connectivity and lateralization of brain function between males and females, but in different brain areas. The left-brained - right-brained thing is popular myth; the reality is a lot more nuanced.
     
  15. FrumiousBandersnatch

    FrumiousBandersnatch Well-Known Member

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    I agree. If I understand Joshua's suggestion correctly, the Fisher Principle contradicts it (as does common-sense) - a 1:1 male-female ratio is, in general, optimum.
     
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  16. tansy

    tansy Senior Member

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    Thanks...yes, I didn't think that it was quite as straightforward as what I put...and of course, I couldn't remember all the exact details of what I had read. But I do think it is fair to say that women's and men's brains do seem to 'work' slightly differently...or at least we tend to be different in the way we think or approach things. For example, I have noticed (but of course this my subjective observation, not a scientific study), that men seem to be much more direct than women (I am aware this is a generalisation). Lots of men seem to look straight ahead and want to get from A to B by the most direct route and don't seem to notice anything peripherally. Whereas women seem to think around things more and perhaps notice other things. Perhaps this is why men can drive women bonkers and vice-versa (I know I drive my husband bonkers and vice-versa LOL. He tends to say (kind of jokingly) that I 'm not looking at something logically. But I tell him that my way of thinking or working things out is perfectly logical to me...it's just perhaps that I take a more roundabout route - perhaps men 'cut to the chase' more).
    What I do find interesting is that, apparently, sometimes when people get some kind of brain damage, often the neural 'whatevers' can kind of reroute and reconnect somehow, so that the person can carry on functioning (or at least get some function back).
     
  17. Motherofkittens

    Motherofkittens Active Member

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    It is pretty complicated and not fully understand yet. Although we do have an understanding. I am going to try to link some sites and books that can dive fully into it. I think that would be very helpful for you. Just give me a day or two. But basically the body and the brain can "miscommunicate", I guess you could call it.

    However, right now I wanted to point out that there can be and are transwomen who are more or very "masculine" and transmen who are more or very "feminine". The media likes showing and doing extreme before's and after's. So usually what is shown there is for example, a greasy stain wearing truck driver born male that spits and swears and farts "to" a female that wears short mini skirts, 6 inch hot pink high heels and a pound of make up and is now a nurse, etc., and vice versa.

    There are also people who physiological are a mix, to various degrees of the genders to neither. There are people who are very happy with a penis and big breasts and others who don't want any sexual indicating body parts. I think it would be helpful for you to look into gender roles and societal pressures too.

    Here is a quick tidbit. Blue used to be considered a female color in the west. You can still see the virgin Mary and some other female saints in blue dress and/or veil. And then blue was considered a male color and pink a females color. That seems to be changing though, because I have been seeing more and more males wearing items of pink. Even athletes and sport commenters and other males considered "macho" and "manly".

    So obviously we know that and probably other things aren't due to genetics or differences because of biological features but because of culture that treats males and females differently. Please don't think I mean to say that there are no average differences between biological sexes. As, of course there is. But we need to take culture and societal pressures into account.

    Also, you probably know that there are more than just two sexes. But I thought I'd mention just in case you, or others posters didn't know.
     
  18. tansy

    tansy Senior Member

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    Thank you for your reply. :) I would disagree a bit though about blue for a boy and pink for a girl in the west. Nearly thirty years ago I lived in Luxembourg and Belgium. The new baby cards were pink for a boy and blue for a girl, and similarly the baby clothes they wore. So obviously that is a cultural thing.
    Also, over the centuries, including the 20th, men have worn what on the face of it could be called quite 'feminine' clothing...that is the patterns and decorations on them were....frilly cuffs etc. I think perhaps the difference is partly 'cut' and styling. They still looked really masculine, even when clothed in flowery patterns, as it were...and in the Middle Ages, there 'manhood' was rather accentuated by the codpiece! So, OK, that is culture perhaps, and simply fashion.
    Perhaps also, fashion has much to do with it...if all that is in the shops is what to buy, unless one can make one's own clothes or can afford a dressmaker, then one's stuck with what's there. I mean, a woman could dress in men's clothes, but she probably wouldn't look good in them, because they will not fit her properly...same goes if a man dresses up in women's clothes. (Obviously T shirts and jeans are more or less unisex, though even jeans are cut a certain way to flatter and fit a woman's shape...nonetheless, a woman can quite easily wear men's jeans and not look 'out of place').

    Yes...hmm...gender roles. Nearly one in the morning now, so won't go too much into that right now. But obviously in different times, places and cultures gender roles have and do vary considerably, partly at least for practical reasons. Many of the practical reasons are not necessarily so valid any more. Years ago, if a woman, for example, worked in a shop, then when they got married they had to leave...and that was basically because they were pretty much bound to get pregnant (without reliable contraception). So without nurseries, baby formula (though they did have wet nurses) etc, then for all practical purposes, the woman would really have to leave that line of work at least (though they may have been able to do other things).
    Times have greatly changed from a century or more ago (at least in Britain and other countries), so obviously gradually things get shaken up and the status quo is changed..sometimes for the better, sometimes perhaps not quite so good.
    I watched a documentary recently about a woman in either the '20s or '30s (can't remember which now). It was about a female artist, who always dressed in men's clothes and I believe had several affairs with women. But apparently, she could 'get away with it' partly because there was a lot of women's fashion at that time (they showed pictures) where the women were dressed in male type suits and hats etc (though tailored to fit them). Also, I don't think they were perhaps so generally aghast at the thought of, say lesbian relationships (especially if conducted more or less discreetly), as they were at homosexual relationships. Apparently homosexual acts were against the law, but not lesbian ones.
     
  19. Motherofkittens

    Motherofkittens Active Member

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    Thank you for that really informative post tansy! I was being a bit sloppy and generalized because I had to go out, but I didn't realize it changed so much many, many times in such recent times, even. Have you been seeing males wearing pink now, where you live? It is quite common here (but I see it most often on males younger than about 35 or so). I was at work and the TV was on and I saw two of three spots commenters wearing pink. One a pale pink dress shirt and socks and the other a darker semi hot pink jacket and tie. It looked great on both of them.

    Anyway, I will be a little bit because I want to make sure I read everything before I recommend it for you to read. Just to make sure it is as accurate as can be and is informative. I do read slow though. I have dyslexia and ADHD and some carpool tunnel as well as some other things.

    Learning is one of the greatest things in life though. :oldthumbsup:
     
  20. FrumiousBandersnatch

    FrumiousBandersnatch Well-Known Member

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    There are differences between male and female brains, but it's very difficult to determine which behavioural traits are innate and which are the result of cultural influences - or the effect of cultural influences on innate predispositions; not forgetting that cultural influences also affect brain development.

    You may be right in your assessment, but personal experience can be an unreliable guide, due to restricted sample type & size, and also cognitive biases - e.g. the things you notice and don't notice about people, and the way you interpret what they say and do, can be influenced by personal biases and expectations of which you're not consciously aware.

    Just worth bearing in mind...
     
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