Sexual identity: Our bodies tell us who we are

(First posted October 1, 2007)

Warning: Long post…

This post could be part three of the series on sexual identity therapy and neutrality but I chose this title because I want to focus on one specific issue, at least in my mind, with telling psychotherapy clients that “our bodies tell us who we are.” Saying something like this to a client is the expression of a natural law argument that is expressed by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi in his article “Why I Am Not a Neutral Therapist.”

Our Bodies Tell Us Who We Are

Philosophically, I am an essentialist — not a social constructionist: I believe that gender identity and sexual orientation are grounded in biological reality. The body tells us who we are, and we cannot “construct” — assemble or disassemble — a different reality in which gender and sexual identity are out of synchrony with biology.

The belief that humanity is designed for heterosexuality has been shaped by age-old religious and cultural forces, which must be respected as a welcome aspect of intellectual diversity. Our belief is not a “phobia” or pathological fear.

Natural-law philosophy says this view derives from mankind’s collective, intuitive knowledge; a sort of natural, instinctive conscience. This would explain why so many people — even the nonreligious — sense that a gay identity is a false construct.

Clients who already believe a natural law argument would most likely look for a therapist who believed as Dr. Nicolosi does. In that case, I do not see how he could be accused of imposing his values on the client; clients who are committed to this perspective (many conservatives, for example) might not work well with a therapist who did not articulate a similar view. On the worldview front, I suspect many people are directed by their spiritual advisors to look for counselors who are amenable to the teaching of their church. I also suspect, that feminists look for feminist therapists and so on. This will no doubt continue no matter what the professions pronounce.

What I want to raise now are some issues with the natural law argument. Specifically, I propose that if we know who we are via our bodies, then a fairly solid argument can be made against Dr. Nicolosi’s conclusions. He argues that genitalia and procreative capacity is the definer of correct identity. However, there is more to body than genitals and secondary sex characteristics. Brain is a part of body. As an organ of the body, the way the brain functions and is organized must be important as well. I am not here talking about psychological constructionism or the constructed opinion of a person that he/she is gay or straight, male or female. I am talking about the automatic response of the brain to triggers both sexual and otherwise that differentiate gay and straight people. In the research available, brain reactions differentiate people based on sexual preferences. In other words, if the body tells us who we are, and brain is body, then our brains tell us whether we like the same sex, the opposite one, or both. And our brains do this well before we have time to think about it.

I have written before about the pheromone studies conducted by a team led by Ivanka Savic from Sweden. Here is what I wrote about their study of lesbians:

This study shows that sexual orientation at the extreme (5-6 Kinsey scale) differentiates how the brain responds to a putative pheromone. The response from lesbians is not as clear cut as gay males. Lesbians process estrogen derived pheromones both in the normal olfactory fashion and via the hypothalamus (a link in the sexual response). The participants did not experience any sexual response so it is interesting that these lesbians’ brains registered the pheromones in a different way than did straight women. Lesbians were somewhat like straight men but not exactly like them. The reference is: Berglund, H., Lindstro”m, P., & Savic, I. (2006). Brain response to putative pheromones in lesbian women. Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Science, Early Edition (www.pnas.org).

I also reviewed their initial study of males:

• The study does show involuntary hypothalamic response associated with self-assessed sexual orientation

• The study shows that gay males do react to the estrogen condition but in a different manner than they react to the testosterone condition

• The study cannot shed light on the complicated question of whether sexual orientation of the participants is hard wired.

• The brains of these participants may have acquired a sexual response to these chemicals as the result of past sexual experience. In other word, the response described in this study could well have been learned.

• If these results hold up, this could explain why varying sexual attractions seem so “natural.” Also, such conditioning could give insight into why changing sexual attractions is often experienced by those changing sexual preferences as a process of unlearning responses to environmental triggers.

There are other lines of research that also find large involuntary differences in brain response or perceptual response associated with sexual attractions. I could add the brain imaging work of Michael Bailey which I referenced recently.

As noted above, whether these differences are innate in some way, learned early, or learned gradually through life, they appear to be real, substantial and involuntary. Furthermore, many ex-gay and ex-ex-gays testify to the perceived naturalness of the attractions to the same sex. For these individuals, if their bodies tell them who they are, I suspect they are experiencing mixed messages.

So what are we to make of the research on brain differences? Clearly, for those who are at the extreme ends of sexual orientation continuum, their brains tell them one thing and if they believe natural law, the rest of their bodies tell them something else. Here is one element of dissonance: which part of body to believe? I suppose in an interesting irony, those who go with brain are also following a naturalistic argument — if I feel it or experience it as natural, it must be supposed to be that way. Isn’t that what natural law arguments do? Read again, Dr. Nicolosi:

Natural-law philosophy says this view derives from mankind’s collective, intuitive knowledge; a sort of natural, instinctive conscience. This would explain why so many people — even the nonreligious — sense that a gay identity is a false construct.

For Dr. Nicolosi, what seems natural according to anatomy must be so. For the person arguing from brain research, what seems and feels natural surely must be so as well.

Now it does not seem to me that science can resolve this dilemma of belief and intuition. Science can collate stories of how people feel about their anatomy and inner worlds and report those results, but ultimately, it is up to the individual to weigh the evidence (which certainly includes brain reactions and body make-up) and make a decision. For reproductive anatomy to win out over brain response, one would have to argue that environment, during development, packs a pretty powerful punch in wiring the brain for sexual response. Of the two main theories (reparative drive and exotic becomes erotic), I would say EBE has more empirical support but neither describes the differentiation of brain from neutral (EBE) to gay or straight; or in the case of reparative drive theory, from basically straight to gay. Although I am not arguing for an inborn orientation, I am neither able to describe at the neurological level how the brain differences get there.

Reasoning as I am here, I suppose it might be accurate to say values tell us who we are or more precisely, we get data about who we are from what we value. From this point of view, sexual orientation could be more than what the brain does in response to triggers. It certainly would incorporate brain response and anatomy, but the guidance for action comes from chosen values and beliefs.

Here I am very close to a school of psychological thought known as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Steven Hayes is often considered the founder of ACT and has been the subject of several popular articles on the subject. Regarding values as reflection of self-direction, Dr. Hayes says:

Values are like directions on a compass. They’re never achieved, but in each and every step they influence the quality of the journey. Values dignify and make more coherent our life course—and they put pain in a proper context. It’s now about something. Let me go back to that movie A Beautiful Mind. It’s only when the hero has to decide between what he values and entanglement with insanity that it’s possible and sensible to accept the delusions; to notice them; and to abandon trying to control them—all in the service of being a husband, father, and a mathematician. In the same way, we only put down our avoidance, addictions, and mental wars because it’s costing us something dear, whatever it is that we want our lives to be about. Without that cost we would be lost.

It’s amazing how often people have never really thought about what they want in their lives. They’ve been fighting a mental war, waiting for life to start, and have never really asked or answered the question of what kind of a life they’re waiting to live. The joyful vision of ACT is that you can start living that very life NOW, with your thoughts, feelings, memories, and sensations. You start that journey by asking what it is that you really want your life to be about.

Where there is conflict between givens, we step up and choose meaning. For some, there will be a synthesis of religious beliefs and sexuality; for others, the conflict will seem like competing sides where one side wins out.

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  • Mary

    Warren?

    What do you think of neuroplasticity and the whole sexual idendity / sexual attraction issues?

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    All I can do is quote two abstracts, which, although they over-simplify, capture the essence.

    As regards the over-simplification, first you have to realise that neither sex nor gender are strict binaries. They are multi-dimensional, and with each aspect a continuous not a discrete variable. Thus someone can be “somewhat masculine”, “quite masculine”, “very masculine”, “stereotypically masculine” in one area, yet “neutral” or even “slightly feminine” in others. Moreover, “masculine” has no absolute meaning, it just means “this characteristic is more typically found in those we call men as opposed to those we call women”.

    An example: size.

    Men are larger than women. That’s something we can easily observe every day, it’s not something controversial, or subject to ideological debate. Men are taller than women, and weigh more.

    But… not everyone above average height is male; not everyone who weighs less than the average is female. Someone may be tall and skinny, or short and solid, so “male” in some respects, “female” in others. What do we do for such cases?

    No-one seriously proposes defining sex as based on height, or weight, or some combination such as “size”. Yet there are obvious differences between the sexes here, objectively measurable. We don’t talk about “male” height though, or insist someone is “really” male just because they’re tall.

    So bear this in mind when you see “male” and “female” in the abstracts below.

    Sexual Hormones and the Brain: An Essential Alliance for Sexual Identity and Sexual Orientation Garcia-Falgueras A, Swaab DF Endocr Dev. 2010;17:22-35

    The fetal brain develops during the intrauterine period in the male direction through a direct action of testosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hormone surge. In this way, our gender identity (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and sexual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. However, since sexual differentiation of the genitals takes place in the first two months of pregnancy and sexual differentiation of the brain starts in the second half of pregnancy, these two processes can be influenced independently, which may result in extreme cases in trans-sexuality. This also means that in the event of ambiguous sex at birth, the degree of masculinization of the genitals may not reflect the degree of masculinization of the brain. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender identity or sexual orientation.

    Biased-Interaction Theory of Psychosexual Development: “How Does One Know if One is Male or Female?” M.Diamond Sex Roles (2006) 55:589–600

    A theory of gender development is presented that incorporates early biological factors that organize predispositions in temperament and attitudes. With activation of these factors a person interacts in society and comes to identify as male or female. The predispositions establish preferences and aversions the growing child compares with those of others. All individuals compare themselves with others deciding who they are like (same) and with whom are they different. These experiences and interpretations can then be said to determine how one comes to identify as male or female, man or woman. In retrospect, one can say the person has a gendered brain since it is the brain that structures the individual’s basic personality; first with inherent tendencies then with interactions coming from experience.

    The situation is thus: hormones “organise” the future development of the brain in foetu, dictating a path of future development. How broad or narrow that path is is debateable, we need more data. Furthermore, different parts of the brain may be set on a more or less masculine or feminine or just plain anomalous pathway, depending on all sorts of issues – hormone concentration over time, susceptibility of cellular receptors to hormones, and so on.

    This leads to instincts, senses, emotional response and so on that correspond to a greater or lesser degree to that of others that are met after birth. Gender Identity is then formed by a process of “matching” – “do I think like a boy?” for example, though it’s my belief that “do I emote like a boy?” is closer.

    This gender-recognition in one’s self and others also plays a part in sexual orientation. In order to be classed as “androphillic” – attracted to men – it’s first necessary to recognise what a man is. I believe sense of smell plays a far greater role than commonly recognised, but I digress.

    It’s complicated. If the superior parietal lobule is “feminised”, then the body map, the body image, will contain female anatomy, and if the body is masculinised, then great distress will result. Male and Female neuro-anatomy differs at the cellular level, with more or fewer receptors for various neuro-transmitters, so a cross-sexed post-natal hormonal bath will also cause distress.

    That’s the reason why HRT – hormone replacement therapy – is often effective at treating transsexuality on its own, if the SPL is unaffected or less affected, while in other cases, surgery is imperative. All of these things have degrees, they’re not binaries.

    Sexual differentiation of the human brain in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation D.Swaab & A.Garcia-Fulgaras Functional Neurology, Jan-Mar 2009:

    One person we studied had untreated male gender dysphoria (S7), took no hormones and kept his transsexual feelings under wraps. He appeared to have a large INAH3 volume – in the male range – but a female INAH3 number of neurons (68) and a female BSTc somatostatin neuron number (95). Hence, this individual’s hypothalamic characteristics were mid-way between male and female values

    I’ve concentrated here on gender identity rather than sexual orientation, since this is the area that I know most about. Sexual orientation is, if anything, more strongly evidenced in neurological anatomy.

    This isn’t so much a case of “what should be”,. but what is. In the extremes, there is a binary. But outside those extremes, whether one is straight or gay or bisexual in behaviour, if not in feeling, isn’t just dependant on anatomy, but environment. When it comes to higher brain functions, outside the lymbic nucleus, then there’s some neuroplasticity. Moreover, exposure to sex hormones also affects gross brain structures, size in particular, though not the type of cells nor their distribution.

    It’s complicated, sorry.

    Cases like this one result.

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    Just to remind everyone – I’m one of “Nature’s Experiments”, which makes me useful as an investigative tool, but hopelessly inappropriate for determining what is “usual”.

    Some people change apparent sex, due to various Intersex conditions. In 1985, my diagnosis was “undervirilised male”, in 2005, “severe androgenisation of a non-pregnant woman”. Both diagnoses were made on the best available evidence at the time, I had a partial puberty in 2005.

    But my gender identity had always been female, we have objective evidence of that – I picked the name “Zoe” somewhere between May and August 1968, at age 10.

    How well does my own situation map to that of Diamond’s theory? Here’s what I wrote before becoming aware of the details of it:

    “Up until age 5, I was a child. No real concept of gender.

    At 6, I went to school, and noticed something was wrong. I was dressed as a boy, I looked like a boy, but I didn’t think like “other boys”. I still liked toy guns, and Meccano rather than dolls, but I was different.

    At 7, I knew I wasn’t a boy, but didn’t know what I was. I thought boys were puerile, and girls too silly and sissy. A classic Tomboy in retrospect.

    At 8, I got to play hopscotch with other girls, and I felt at home. They thought like I did, they cried like I did. I still didn’t see myself as more than an honourary girl though. Even if my favourite toy car was Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls-Royce.

    At 9, more by a process of elimination than anything else, I realised I was female. Boys could just as well have been an alien species. Girls were just like me, in feelings and values.

    At 10, I was in a boys boarding school then, and I was able to make up boardgames of astounding complexity when it rained. I had my own secret garden in the nearby woods, with flowerbeds I’d planted. I could sit and read amidst the flowers, and was terribly happy. It was then I picked the name Zoe, and planned what I was going to do with my life. I wanted children, a husband, the white picket fence etc, but also to be a Rocket Scientist and to travel the world, things that Wives and Mothers Just Did Not Do in the 60′s.

    Even though it had been obvious since age 7 that I’d never be “svelte” or “petite”, that I’d be the girl “with the wonderful personality”. I didn’t cry about that – much. And not where anyone could see me. I was more worried about the practical problems I’d be having when I started having a female puberty. And vaguely concerned that boys didn’t interest me at all. I was no naive I thought that was part of the package of being a girl. Was I a defective one?

    It came as a terrible shock when I learnt that boys and girls are born looking different, and that my body was boy.

    I didn’t take it well.

    Basically, I failed my SAN roll, and convinced myself I had to be a boy, no matter how I felt inside. That meant forgetting a lot, suppressing memories, but it was either acquire a minor psychosis, or sink into despair, depression, and death.

    A part of me still knew, but that part was in a box in a safe in the hold of a sunken ship at the bottom of the ocean on a planet circling a distant star.

    I tried to be the best Man any woman could be. I did that for 47 years. It helped to be Asexual, mildly lesbian if anything. Sex was for having children, a form of cuddling and pleasing someone you loved, albeit a bit tiring after the first hour. Not something instinctive or natural.”

    While it would be a mistake to universalise what is objectively a very anomalous situation, this does provide powerful evidence that Diamond’s theory is correct in at least some circumstances.

    I tried to make myself into the kind of man I should have married, in the normal course of events. There’s a limit to neuroplasticity though, and 47 years wasn’t enough to make any detectable difference whatsoever.

    Now I’m not the most feminine of females, my neuro-anatomy atypical of either male or female in many ways, but I’m me. No matter how screwed up my biology is from 3BHDD (which can throw the whole endocrine system into Chaos), I fit rather neatly into the socially-constructed box marked “Geek Girl Frumpy Female Academic”, without having to compromise myself. I’m home at last.

    Really interested in how I got here though. The Geekdom is stronger even than gender identity.

  • Teresa

    Sexual orientation is, if anything, more strongly evidenced in neurological anatomy.

    Zoe, are you saying that from everything you’ve read, which appears to considerable, that sexual orientation is more biology/physiology than environmental, much like intelligence? I think from my readings that intelligence can be stimulated, enhanced, increased somewhat from environmental factors, but the foundational intelligence of an individual is present at birth. The ability to process the stimuli presented from the environment is part of the biology of the individual.

    Is sexual orientation a foundational construct at birth within the given neurological anatomy, and if so, how much does external stimuli (positive or negative) alter that? Is homosexuality a neurological miscue in development, or rather a naturally occurring event, though less common in presentation?

  • Sal

    I think Swaab is too biased to take without skepticism. I don’t know how he can make a statement like this: “There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender identity or sexual orientation.” It doesn’t follow from any of the research he performs but he always feels the need to throw it into his reports.

    The original post is a good read. But it seems to me that anatomical differences and brain chemistry are too different to compare. It sounds like “I think, therefore I am” which is problematic to say the least.

  • Lynn David

    Philosophically, I am an essentialist — not a social constructionist: I believe that gender identity and sexual orientation are grounded in biological reality. The body tells us who we are, and we cannot “construct” — assemble or disassemble — a different reality in which gender and sexual identity are out of synchrony with biology.

    The belief that humanity is designed for heterosexuality has been shaped by age-old religious and cultural forces, which must be respected as a welcome aspect of intellectual diversity.

    Natural-law philosophy says this view derives from mankind’s collective, intuitive knowledge; a sort of natural, instinctive conscience.

    Forgive me if I’m just stupid or something but if Nicolosi is not a social constructionist; then what’s up with those last two paragraphs? The two wherein he says religion and cultural forces – ie. social forces – have to be given consideration. Then there is the ‘natural-law philosophy‘ which is exactly a social construct as he defines it. It becomes the pseudo-instinctual, totalitarian viewpoint of 97% of humanity.

    None of what Nicolosi mentions in the two final paragraphs is real science. It does not in any way support that he is an essentialist. What he says in the first paragraph is. But it is rather simplistic science; and Nicolosi allows his social presuppositions to rule his “science.” Thus he fails to truly study the natural world beyond them.

    Eh….

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    Zoe, are you saying that from everything you’ve read, which appears to considerable, that sexual orientation is more biology/physiology than environmental, much like intelligence?

    Yes.

    That’s a very good analogy – because “intelligence” is also a pretty fuzzy concept. There’s different kinds of intelligence – logic, mathematical ability, visio-spatial relationship perception, linguistic ability, memory… some of which is sexually dimorphic, but most of which (contrary to popular belief) is not.

    Is sexual orientation a foundational construct at birth within the given neurological anatomy, and if so, how much does external stimuli (positive or negative) alter that? Is homosexuality a neurological miscue in development, or rather a naturally occurring event, though less common in presentation?

    Is red hair a miscue? How about left-handedness? Colour-blindness? Where’s the divide between disorder and difference?

    Yes, it appears that for some at least, androphilia or gynaphilia is set in the neurology, long before birth. I prefer using androphilia/gynaphilia – attracted to men/women – rather than hetero/homo-sexuality, as the neuro structural anatomies are similar, one for androphilia, a different one for gynaphilia, regardless of the rest of the brain and body.

    But that’s a huge over-simplification, correct in the main, hopelessly wrong in detail, like saying the Earth is spherical, rather than an oblate spheroid.

    Think about it: most people are straight. While sexual orientation appears to be more fluid in females, still the majority of women are neither overtly bisexual or lesbian, far too many for social construct to account for without a biological basis. Animal experiments show the same kind of thing, even amongst Bonibos.

    What we don’t have a good handle on is what “androphilia” means, how much of that is socially constructed, how much instinctive. We know that straight women who are ovulating are attracted to more extreme male faces for example, so hormone levels play a part, sexuality is not a constant.

    As regards environmental effects – I think that rather than a single path, the neurology determines the range of possibilities. Sometimes a narrow trail on a cliff face, sometimes a 12-lane highway. Sometimes environmental effects are zero, often negligible, sometimes significant. But we need more data here, and please remember, sexual orientation isn’t my specialty.

    I think bisexuality – even if 2-6 on the Kinsey scale rather than 4 – is more common than usually realised, but is 2 or 6 “really” bisexual? I don’t know.

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    Alas, I can’t even use my own sexual orientation as a model to work from. I didn’t really have one until 9 months after my body changed, I was asexual but situationally lesbian, with no apparent attraction to guys at all. I was, and am, in love with someone; she’s female too. But there was no “chemistry”, or very little.

    When I suddenly started being aware of being instinctively attracted to men, it came as a real shock. Suddenly being within a metre of a freshly bathed, slightly sweaty male caused objectively observable reflexive reactions in my body, not to say the subjective psychological ones. The effects were not subtle, and nothing like I’d ever experienced before – unmissable, I would have noticed!

    I didn’t want to be straight… it would make my life too complicated. But it’s not something I had control over.

    I suspect that this was an awakening of a pre-existing potential, but whether due to hormonally-induced changes in the cortex, changes in neurotransmitters (the time lag is consistent with either), or removal of a psychological block, I can’t say. Possibly a combination of all three. I’d dismiss the psychological block conjecture, except for one thing – I had a very sexually repressed adolescence (not that there was anything to repress). I might have spoken on ten occasions to someone female of my own age between age 12-17, but probably didn’t.

    Hmmm… that reminds me… probably the longest occasion – I was on the school debating team, and lived too far away from school to get home, change out of cadet uniform, and make it back to the school in time for the start. When I was 15, we debated against a girl’s school – the one I attended was a boy’s school. I wasn’t a great looker, but the other two on the team were gay, and I think I must have looked a bit tasty in my jungle greens and slouch hat. Very confusing for me, I appreciated being admired and the object of physical attraction… yet they were like sisters, girlfriends, not, um, girlfriends, if you get my drift.

    Isn’t it a cliche – a female wants to be wanted?

    “We all want to be an object of desire- the kind of woman that men talk about, dream about and long to be with. We all want to be chased and admired by men and to be appreciated, respected and admired for our existence, appearance, personality and accomplishments. “

    Obvious in retrospect, not at the time.

    Now, in a marriage with someone I love, with a boy nearly ten to bring up…. OK, I have a sexual orientation now. Pretty strongly too. But celibacy is really the only option I have, I value other things more highly – and am also still pretty scared, I think.

  • Teresa

    Zoe, I’ve enjoyed, studied, reread with interest your comments in this thread. Lots to consume, for sure. For me, it’s just such a delicious experience to communicate with others without all the

    Lisa Diamond would say, you fit her conclusions that gynaphilia to androphilia is rather spontaneous, and actually not wanted by the women she studied. I realize your situation was far more complex in some ways, but the spontaneity of the sexual attraction to men in your life experience resonated with me and her studies … still somewhat apples and oranges, though … but who knows, maybe not.

    Anyway, homosexuality was always considered under the paraphilias, wasn’t it, until 1973? I’m not inclined so much to use the ‘philia’ suffix as it is associated with lots of DSM-IV disorders. It sorta makes me squeamish, but that’s just me. Since you prefer to use those terms, I’m happy to accommodate.

    I’ve been under the impression that neural plasticity or neural pathway remediation or malleability was less likely as one grew older … just the whole aging process. However, your experience seems to not fit that picture, am I right? Anyway, the reason I’m asking your opinion is that SOCE for adolescents seems to me to be a valid therapy, if in fact the very real possibility exists to achieve this goal.

    Another question along these same lines is how about hormonal or biochemical intervention. It appears that sexuality lies more in the neural-chemical physiology than an explicit genetic one; although, genes certainly play a part of the neural-chemical. Do you think it possible to interrupt or retrain neural pathways, brain stimuli through such interventions?

    I’m not being a Dr. Mengele here, just a point of interest to me as to the how and why of stuff. As a scientist, you would certainly understand this.

    Thanks, again, for the intriguing comments.

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    Teresa – I think I’m over-thinking this. Looking at what I wrote – I went through puberty, is all. Something nearly everyone else on the planet does between age 8 to 15.

    I did it as an adult, at age 47, and with all the scientific training that went with that, but I’m not sure what I went through is any different from any girl of 11 or 12 who suddenly discovers that boys are no longer icky, but really rather cute.

    Maybe others could help me out here – how *they* felt when they went through the usual kind of puberty?

    It appears that sexuality lies more in the neural-chemical physiology than an explicit genetic one; although, genes certainly play a part of the neural-chemical.

    Exactly.

    Do you think it possible to interrupt or retrain neural pathways, brain stimuli through such interventions?

    Possibly yes, within the limits set by the organisation of the brain before birth. For many people, the amount of possible change would be negligible. Some may become more bisexual though, especially women.

    I’m speculating here though on very little evidence. Everything up to this point is pretty solid, but now I’m in the realm of conjecture, rather than fact. That’s par for the course in psychology, but I prefer something grounded a bit more solidly in objectively observable facts, repeatable experiments.

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    Of course some girls of 11 or 12 find other girls kinda cute instead…. which seems only sensible to me.

    You must remember that in addition to the usual threats all women face of rape, people like myself face additional ones when engaging in the complex dance that is the human mating ritual. That *has* to colour my perceptions.

    [–]GorillaJ 0 points 1 day ago

    Absolutely. What benefit is there to risking myself? If I wanted to hurt someone, there are plenty of smarter ways to do it. For a transsexual who tricked me? Easiest way would probably be finding some brutish transphobes and alerting them. If I stayed on good terms with the transperson in question, I could probably get them to come out on a date with me to wherever.

    Yes, otherwise sane people can calmly and openly discuss a plan for pre-meditated murder of someone like myself, see nothing wrong with it, and expect to get a large degree of support from those of like mind. They tend not to make fine distinctions between Intersexed, Transsexed or Transgender women, and view anyone in the above categories who doesn’t appear different from the norm as engaging in deception.

  • Teresa

    Maybe others could help me out here – how *they* felt when they went through the usual kind of puberty?

    Hey, Zoe, I’d like to know this, also.

    I would like to know the difference between sexual attraction and the ability to emotionally bond with persons of the opposite gender. Is emotionality concomitant with sexual attraction? I think not. Should it be … it sure makes the coupling more complete, if so.

    You must remember that in addition to the usual threats all women face of rape, people like myself face additional ones when engaging in the complex dance that is the human mating ritual. That *has* to colour my perceptions.

    Thanks for sharing this. We give little thought to the difficulties of others in our self-centered little worlds. So much to learn, so little time.

  • Mary

    So much to learn, so little time

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    Mary quoted

    So much to learn, so little time

    Yes.

    I’m home here too.

  • Richard Willmer

    Warren said:

    “… there is more to body than genitals and secondary sex characteristics. Brain is a part of body. As an organ of the body, the way the brain functions and is organized must be important as well.”

    Who in their right mind could argue with that?

    What worries me most about the likes of Nicolosi’s position is the apparent confusion between biology (which is primarily a ‘given’ for a particular person) and morality (which is primarily about ‘making choices’ – usually within the context of whatever ‘reality’ pertains). Such confusion leads to the kind of nonsense that says that it is somehow better to be ‘straight’ and leap from bed to bed, rather than be ‘gay’ and in a loving partnership. Worse still, it can lead to the diminution, or even dehumanization, of persons who are transgendered or intersex; such dehumanization is totally anti-christian and utterly indefensible.

  • Mary

    Such confusion leads to the kind of nonsense that says that it is somehow better to be ‘straight’ and leap from bed to bed, rather than be ‘gay’ and in a loving partnership

    Who is supporting this idea?

  • Teresa

    What worries me most about the likes of Nicolosi’s position is the apparent confusion between biology (which is primarily a ‘given’ for a particular person) and morality (which is primarily about ‘making choices’ – usually within the context of whatever ‘reality’ pertains).

    Richard, in my opinion, I think Nicolosi is doing what a concerned Christian therapist should do, insofar as trying to help same-sex attracted persons. I think the difficulty arises when that rightful, compassionate, moral concern doesn’t allow for new, unbiased information to help inform the therapeutic process. Instead of allowing science to be the proper handmaid to morality/ethics/faith beliefs, it instead is misused to assist in staying in the old ruts. Sort of, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. Harder still, if careers and reputation are at stake.

    Such confusion leads to the kind of nonsense that says that it is somehow better to be ‘straight’ and leap from bed to bed, rather than be ‘gay’ and in a loving partnership.

    Richard, I can understand why you’d say this; but, I think in actuality no one, at least Christian, would say there’s anything good about leaping from bed to bed; in fact, it’s probably roundly condemned. Whether anyone moves to the comparison you’ve presented with the conclusion you’ve reached, I’m not sure. It all goes back to the ‘naturalness’ of the activity. No matter the egregious behavior of a str8 person leaping from bed to bed, the average Tom, Dick and Harry; Jane, Sue and Mary can understand it … they get it, insofar, as it’s what makes ‘the world go round’. The committed gay partnership is hard for them to understand in the most basic way of how the male/female dance should be. It’s ‘un’natural … it’s icky, yucky, how could they, kind of a thing.

  • Jayhuck

    No matter the egregious behavior of a str8 person leaping from bed to bed, the average Tom, Dick and Harry; Jane, Sue and Mary can understand it … they get it, insofar, as it’s what makes ‘the world go round’. The committed gay partnership is hard for them to understand in the most basic way of how the male/female dance should be.

    I understand what you are trying to say, and I think this might have been true 20 or even 10 years ago, but it is much less true today. The ick factor that some have with gay people is, and has been, declining for some time. Thank God :)

  • Richard Willmer

    “Such confusion leads to the kind of nonsense that says that it is somehow better to be ‘straight’ and leap from bed to bed, rather than be ‘gay’ and in a loving partnership.”

    Yes, I admit that this statement was overdrawn, but it submit that there is more truth to it than people realize. After all, when did the ‘let’s-criminalize-gays’ lobby in either sub-Saharan Africa or the United States last suggest criminalizing straights who are promiscuous and/or unfaithful?

    Teresa is quite correct to suggest that the ‘I don’t like it’ factor has nothing to do with proper moral judgment. People are behaving amorally when they condemn something simply because they ‘don’t like/understand it’.

  • Mary

    People are behaving amorally when they condemn something simply because they ‘don’t like/understand it’

    This can be said of many people from all walks of life.

  • Richard Willmer

    I agree, Mary.

  • http://wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Sal – I don’t understand why brain organization and anatomical organization cannot be considered body. Why do you dismiss this as too different? I am not simply referring to neurotransmitters and transient moods, but real differences in brain hemispheric symmetry and the amygdala. Surely, these are differences that are important just as genital differences are important. To say that the outside is all that matters is reductionistic, it seems to me.

  • Sal

    I wasn’t rejecting it altogether, just suggesting that the comparison was lacking. Anatomy strikes me as more binary (penis/vagina) whereas brain chemistry is more degree (larger/smaller). That’s all. Sorry, I try to keep things simple.


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