As LGBTQ+ people we’ve lived our lives under constant scrutiny with people questioning our validity. Whether it’s because we must transition in varying degrees from one binary gender to another or exist somewhere in between while identifying as neither or both and express that with pride to live a healthy, productive life, people who don’t understand are eager to challenge us.
The same has been asked of gay, bisexual and lesbian folks since we, as a modern culture, built a scaffolding around gender and sexuality. There isn’t a single gay man or lesbian who hasn’t had to dodge biblical bullets from religious extremists determined to save their souls. A byproduct, for me, growing up different from everyone else was learning the bible inside and out so I had an intelligent comeback when scripture was weaponized against me. It’s not that I had an unbridled passion for bible stories; I had to familiarize myself intimately with the sword of my enemy.
I believe we all come to a crossroads in our evolution, much in part due to that relentless scrutiny, where we wanted to know why, ourselves. It would have been so much easier if we had a reason that we could point to and have universally accepted rather than be locked in a perpetual dispute and finding ourselves having to justify our existence, often before we hit our teens.
For myself and most of my transgender friends, we were gay or lesbian before we found the word trans, much in the same way young gay kids would ease into their gayness by claiming to be Bi, as if it were, at best, a neutrality we believed the world-at-large could live with. Less offensive. More palatable; It was less risky as long as those we care about believed there was still a chance we wouldn’t be all-the-way-gay. A lot of folks forget that no matter where our paths of self discovery eventually led, to our critics spewing hatred, we were all “Fags.” In fact, it was that very word that was spray painted across my mothers car by my bullies when I was 14 years old and far too effeminate to be the wallflower I wanted to be.
LGBTQ+ kids were subject to condescending excuses whispered by their elders and peers. “The don’t have a strong Father figure.”
“Their Mother never disciplined them.”
“They’re just acting out for attention.”
“This is just a phase.”
That’s not the reality we lived, but it’s the reality our outside influences wanted, perhaps because they thought they had all the answers. They had something they could point to and say definitively, “This is why!” They were all wrong, let’s face it. Most straight women will readily admit that if being a lesbian is a choice, the world would would be full of men with no other option than to be gay.
In the more current era, we’ve accepted the mantra “Born this way.” It is the truth we know and celebrate, but for our detractors, it’s a point still widely debated, mostly with the the rather sick ideology that conversion is still a possibility. The “Be Like Me” syndrome is far more damaging to LGBTQ+ youth than being queer has ever been. And if we’re honest, the vast majority did try, to our credit, to conform to societal gender and sexual expectations to avoid being othered, to avoid being a mockery, an embarrassment to our loved ones, to avoid the shaming by peers and the unwavering resistance at every turn in life that we’d seen others suffer the debilitating consequences of.
Many have forgotten that our plight as the acronym was rooted in the same bed of soil. Before we bloomed, we were afraid, insecure, full of dread over the cost such an admission would fetch. For all of our differences, we are branches of the same tree, our leaves are different colors, our branches have taken different shapes and a unique trajectory, but we all just wanted to reach for the sun and lead a fulfilling life. One in which we could thrive, rather than be encumbered by the internalized, taught self-loathing and uncertainty.
Answers, to some degree, would come from beyond the meddlesome, speculative murmurings of observers on the outside looking in. It was, for some of us, a relief when we found that Scientists went on the search for the elusive “Gay Gene.” They even speculated they found it in 1993 with researchers stating:
“The gay gene was first identified in 1993 as a correlation between the genetic marker Xq28 and gay male sexuality. he results of this original study were never replicated, and the biological reality of such an entity remains hypothetical. However, despite such tenuous provenance, the gay gene has persisted as a reference in science news, popular science writings, and in press releases and editorials about biomedical research. An examination of the life of the gay gene in U.K. news media demonstrates that the gay gene has become an assumed back-story to genetic sexuality research over time, and that the critique of its very existence has been diminished.”
So, the best we were offered back then is this: Maybe it is the gay gene, maybe it isn’t.
Two decades later, in April of this year, a massive scientific study featuring 500,000 participants and using the 23&Me technology concluded, once and for all, that there was no “Gay Gene.” For some gay folks hoping to finally have an inarguable platform from which to validate their gayness, well, they felt defenseless once again. It meant the religious could still come out swinging with scriptures from their ancient book while everyone from politicians to traditional puritans could cling to their dismissive stance.
But now we finally have some indisputable answers, and it’s really quite simple. Being gay is natural. It has existed since the dawn of man. It has been recorded in every civilization, in every society, in every species on earth. And it appears to be due to pheromones and an inherent, predisposed response to them. It terms of biology, it is as it should be. Some men are predisposed to responding with sexual arousal to other men. Some women are predisposed to responding to other women. We can’t control it. We can’t change it. We can now say beyond a shadow of a doubt;
Baby, we were born this way.
The same can be said of Transgender people. After decades of research studying the brains of trans men and women, research finally produced the conclusion that our brains, when observed via MRI technology, more closely resemble that of our preferred gender, not of our physical sex, demonstrating the two in conflict.
During development in-utero, our brains develop before our sexual organs, thus our gender is determined before our sex. The hormonal downrush kicked off by kisspeptin (Kisspeptin (KISS1), a recently discovered neuropeptide that acts upstream of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons, is critical for maturation and function of the reproductive axis.) when it comes full circle when estrogen and testosterone travel back to the brain, it is responsible for imprinting neural circuits with female and male characteristics.
In rare events, such as seen in transgender individuals, our mental mapping does not match our biologically assigned sex. This is a result of brain development and reproductive development being mismatched.
I am not trans because I want to prey on innocent women or young girls in bathrooms. I am not trans because I fetishize female attire or find feminine things arousing. I am trans because, like everyone else, I was born this way.
While we shouldn’t have to offer anything more than this; I was born this way. Far too many times the external world demands verifiable explanations for why we are the way we are, mostly because they want to preserve the right they believe they have to debate it, as though it is opinion rather than fact.
But, what of non-binary folks. In this day and age, it is non-binary people experiencing the greatest push back from the chorus of dissent, trying desperately to discredit their identities.
Interestingly, decades before the scientific studies that gave us the gift of the ultimate clapback in the face of glib critics, non-binary folks had been proven to be in a natural state of existence all along. Gender has always existed on a spectrum. It was never intended to be taught or accepted as binary and unmoving. Similarly to sexuality which exists on a scale, with some leaning toward predominantly heterosexual and others toward predominantly homosexual, there is an enormous chasm in the middle where, believe it or not, the majority of human beings exist. They may still identify as totally gay or totally straight, but to find someone who pings the far end of the spectrum on either end is like finding a needle in a haystack. Others are more sexually fluid, and they’re not afraid to unapologetically claim that middle-ground territory no matter where they fall, pansexual, demisexual, asexual ect. This is partly due to our peeling away at the restrictive societal constructs and hard-line definitions of sexuality and gender that we were taught through indoctrination and believed we must fall between the goal posts of.
Gender fluidity follows that same concept. Not everyone possesses a gender that is 100% male or 100% female. Feminine and masculine characteristics, as they are assigned by “The rules” were never supposed to be a matter of fact. It’s the same rules made up by people who want girls to wear pink and boys to wear blue, or boys to play with trains and girls to play with dolls. What they want is irrelevant and never indicative of our actual gender. Non-binary people break rules that should have never existed in the first pace, and they break through those archaic, narrow world views manufactured by, mostly religion. Prior to that, in all other cultures throughout history, non-binary identities were a functional part of every day society, accepted without dispute, as natural.
While some transgender people prefer to transition from one binary gender to the opposite binary gender to bring themselves into alignment, others don’t feel it’s necessary to go to those medical extremes to find themselves satisfied with themselves presenting as they prefer, sometimes that’s with facial hair and a flowing dress, sometimes they experience no gender dysphoria and are comfortable in their sex, but by virtue of their very existence, their truth, break down gender barriers- and those genders between the binaries are just as authentic, if not more accurately representative of the human condition when it comes to gender.
Ultimately, while we owe no one an excuse or an explanation, one thing is for certain: Every human being has the right to express their physicality in ways that make them most happy- that is, after all, the ultimate pursuit. No one should be setting any more rules or debating the validity of another- we’ve had enough of that for centuries.