The DNA Transgender Difference
Is Gender Confusion Real? Scientists believe it is!
Bruce Jenner identifying as a woman and becoming Caitlyn Jenner focused worldwide attention on transgender issues. Some have welcomed this attention.
Gender confusion is intriguing as not too many people know how to really define it. Some wonder whether it’s real or not. Like the term suggests, it’s really shrouded with confusion on all levels. Same sex preferences seem to have found their definition but not gender confusion. Recently Bruce Jenner brought the issue to the forefront when he admitted at 65 that he self identifies as a woman to ABC’s Diane Sawyer. Yes, I was one of the 17 million people who watched. That story grabbed much attention away from newsworthy events like the horrific earthquake in Nepal, continuous racial protests and world unrest. Is it because Jenner didn’t fit the stereotype of someone who’s having a gender identity issue? Is it because he’s a celebrity, an Olympian, a father and a husband? Well but how did we come up with that stereotype in the first place?
I had met Jenner years ago as a journalist and I remember him as that buff athletic man. Yes, far from the stereotype. I hadn’t thought of Jenner in the last few years and I don’t think I’ve ever watched any of the Kardashian reality shows. I’m sure Kim and the clan don’t need me as a fan for the survival of their multimillion dollar social and marketing empire. I wasn’t interested in the story because of his celebrity, but because he had given me one of my first at home interviews as a journalist. And, I remember that day as if it was yesterday. He was nice, attentive, genuine, and my perception of him was mostly that of a doting husband and father. I was stunned by his announcement and so I’m not surprised that people don’t know what to make of his candid coming out.
I simplify it this way for myself: We humans basically physically identify each other based on different visual markers, as either men or women. We weren’t really taught as kids to identify each other via emotional aspects as if blindfolded. What would happen if we ‘transcended gender’? Would we then identify each other based on behaviors, activities and attributes that our society considers appropriate for one gender or the other? Would we place more importance onto inner longings to preferences of identification?
I remember driving up to Bruce Jenner’s secluded Malibu house back in 1985. He was married to beautiful singer and actress Linda Thompson. Thompson was on the TV series HEE HAW and had just finished producing and starring in an exercise video with her husband. Bruce, Linda and their sons, Brandon and Brody lived in a huge multilevel hideaway surrounded by waterfalls and prairies. It was so isolated that you forgot you were close to the city of lights. I guess this was pre-Kardashian and pre-Kardashian social media mill machine.
I remember asking about the seclusion and about Bruce’s answer. “Far from Hollywood and in this seclusion is how we want it. I work in Hollywood but most of my friends are regular people who like to have a good time. I wonder sometimes what people think when they see the portrayal of Hollywood in movies like Malibu and the Hollywood Wives.”
I also remember how he described his pre-Olympic days, “Training for the Olympics and becoming the best I could be was the only thing on my mind for 12 years.” And, it’s kind of hard to make those words, the image of him as a husband and doting father fit with the image of a confused identity person.
I recall the haunting words that Linda used to describe how much Bruce helped her get her own life on track, “Bruce helped me in a very special way……. He helped me become more in tune with my body (they had just produced an exercise tape together at the time). My life is full now and I wouldn’t want to change anything, I know the value of balancing all aspects of our being-the emotional, spiritual, physical and intellectual.” Now, I can’t help but see a little prophetic irony here. Did really Bruce teach her that? Did he really believe in these words then? Why didn’t he do something about his gender confusion until the age of 65? Whatever was going on with him then or not, his recent interview has served to bring ‘gender confusion’ to the forefront as many children do suffer from it and it is a real issue. And, no matter what the motive, it still is a courageous step for him to take.
Years later, I represented a leading pediatrician, Francine Kaufman, MD, A Pediatric Endocrinologist. A parent who is in the midst of a gender issue dilemma would need to seek someone with her credentials. She specializes in treating disorders of the hormone-secreting glands that regulate countless functions, from thyroid to pituitary diseases. Some pediatric endocrinologists specialize in gender reassignment surgery. Here are few things I learned from her:
• Sometimes families struggle with real issues of gender confusion. Patients have come to her in their early pre-teens. Sometimes chemical imbalances and hormone deficiencies tilt identifications. Sometimes it’s a combination of medical and emotional issues that trigger gender confusion. I didn’t know that our mere chromosomes transcend the gender norms assigned to us by our sex. And, believe it or not, even though hushed, sometimes, even to the birthing doctor, gender isn’t clear at birth as babies can show up with female and male gender identification markers.
• Dealing with possible gender confusion isn’t easy. Frequently families will hide whatever is going on with their children in that regard. Not knowing who you really are has a strong stigma attached to it. But the way a family deals with that confusion is important because it either scares or helps their children. She had shared with me how dismissal of those early signs and shaming had resulted in tragic results. Sometimes the agony is so intense with these kids pushing them to suicide. Any early unusual behavior should be observed and the appropriate professionals consulted
• Try not to expect masculine and feminine behaviors to manifest in the lives of your children by the division of household responsibilities.
• Some parenting pros recommend for children to take part in activities that enhance their individuality and self-esteem especially if skills and talents are unique or evident.
• Have an open mind. Don’t panic. Sometimes it’s a phase and sometimes it isn’t. You will need help to assess the seriousness of it. Even if it’s serious, there is help out there. A good pediatrician will be able to guide you. Trust your instincts and what your child is really trying to tell you and show you and go from there.
• After observing unusual issues as with these few: 1-racing through puberty (we’re talking days and months not years) 2-early fascination with the other gender’s attires and activities (some cross-dressing is sometimes present but not always) 3-some physical changes, a consultation with a doctor can either be a simple visit or a major blood work-up to include hormone tests. I remember Dr. Kaufman stating that just because a child’s hormones are running wild is no indication that they will be too. “Kids who are different or enter puberty early are still kids!”
Finally, I guess we owe Jenner a thank you for bringing attention to gender confusion and hopefully a kid out there who was feeling lost and alone is feeling a little better about his gender confusion. A parent can use Jenner as an example to comfort him or her on their journey.
Recently Linda Thompson stated in an interview with CNN that, she can “breathe a little easier” knowing her ex-husband has found the strength to publicly declare he is transgender.” But admits candidly, “that she would not have married if she had known about his “gender issue” when they first met. But she’s glad she didn’t know because she would have missed the chance to share a life with him, including their two sons”.
And, it seems fitting to end with these words, “Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.” -bell hooks