Why are we trans? And why so diverse?

  • Creator
  • #80137

    Questions of “why we are the way we are” are really big for me right now.

    I feel that if I’m ever to come out to friends and family properly then I need to be able to explain myself. It is going to help to explain trans people in general and how I know I’m one of them.

    So I spent a few weeks reflecting, reading round and comparing my experiences to others. And I think I’ve finally got it, and that other trans people here might like my explanations too.

    So here goes. This will be long, and I’ll break it into parts. Part 1 is the psychology of gender, where the concepts of masculinity and femininity come from at all, and why they often line up with biological sex but not all the time.

    I’ll start with something called the “Bem Sex Role Inventory” though it is much more about gender roles. It is a test created by Sandra Bem in the 70s for psychological masculinity and feminity. Despite the usual caveats and criticisms about cultural bias and stereotyping, it seems to be holding up reasonably well (short-form better than long-form).

    Each of masculinity and femininity is characterised as a set of “strengths” and it is of course possible to have both sets of strengths.


    Around half of men tested come out as “masculine” , around half of women as “feminine” and most of the rest are “androgynous” (strong in both) or “undifferentiated” (strong in neither). You might like to take it yourself. I came out as “feminine” which is not really surprising.

    More interesting there was a variant which looked at behaviours and preferences: things you do or enjoy doing


    I came out as feminine on that too, but also noticed a bunch of behaviours that I hadn’t even considered doing, but when I reflected on them thought I might well enjoy (or that I was doing something very similar).

    Here are my thoughts. Brains get wired up before birth to respond positively or negatively to various “stimuli”, some of which are closely associated with masculine or feminine behaviour. Positive responses lead to enjoyment and learned behaviours to recreate those stimuli: this then results in developing  strengths in those areas (no baby is going to be strong in any of them at birth). Imagined stimuli provoking positive responses lead to enjoyable fantasies.

    This is all mediated by upbringing : children may be required to do things they don’t enjoy (still leading to learned behaviours and habits) or prohibited from doing things they do enjoy (which may well block the learned behaviour, but won’t block the fantasy… and the behaviour can still emerge in secret anyway). Or the stimulus may simply be withheld from the child”s environment.

    Androgyny is in general rather good because both sorts of strength are needed for successful reproduction and child-rearing, particularly in hostile and competitive ancestral environments (small villages constantly in danger from raids, killing of men and children and rape or seizure of women). But it is difficult to be strong in everything: a good choice of reproductive partner will be strong in the areas where you are weak. So those missing strengths are attractive in a prospective partner or fantasy partner.
    <p style=”text-align: left;”>Gender stereotyping arises in competition for mates, or in preparation for that competition. Males want to be attractive to females, females will tend to be attracted to masculine strengths (where they don’t have these themselves) and so males try to develop their masculine strengths to make themselves more attractive. Since no-one has time for everything, males either don’t develop or atrophy their feminine strengths</p>
    <p style=”text-align: left;”>Vice versa for females, although probably less so in behavioural femininity. The mating  pressure here is much more on looking feminine than acting feminine, though of course looking feminine is strongly correlated with reproductive ability and strength as well (fertility, childbearing, breast feeding) and there will be a strong feedback on learned feminine behaviours which help enhance appearance (cosmetic skills, exercise and diet programmes, clothing selection etc).

    This is further  reinforced by friendship conformity : females become friends with females (because of shared behaviours, stimuli and easier empathy) and then want to do more of what their friends do. Similarly males friendship-bond with other males and reinforce each other’s masculinity. In both sexes, high strength is high status but only of that sex’s perceived strengths (which are the ones that other members of the sex are trying to strengthen further, often by imitation or requests for tuition). Then there is a further feedback loop in that perceived high status is *also* a very attractive feature in a mate, especially in males trying to attract females.</p>
    <p style=”text-align: left;”>Anyway, initial biological differences in wiring and preference get amplified by all this, and wihout countermeasures, society as a whole can become thoroughly sexist.</p>
    <p style=”text-align: left;”>This creates our first clue. Some brains in male bodies are going to happen to have dispositions towards mostly “feminine” stimuli and strengths; some brains in female bodies will be disposed towards “masculine” stimuli and strengths. Kids like that are going to have trouble fitting in, and trouble will start early.</p>

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  • Author
    • #89061

      Gosh I dunno either. The gender binary does exist for the reasons you say Sophie, but as to why some are born (or somehow become) wired to opposite gender stimuli… maybe it’s different for every trans person, with the results being the only common betwixt the lot of us. A brain being born of a different shape, a trauma that reset the stimuli in early childhood…

      I think it’s the brain realizing it isn’t getting any positive gender stimuli of one identity (due to any number of situational conditions) and just flip-flops to the other gender at some point.

      I know it does this for the eyes. If one is ‘lazy’ and isn’t responding properly to motor control, the brain learns to ignore it and focuses the stimuli on the one good eye.

      Additionally if someone puts on special goggles that flip the field of view upside down, and wears them for a week or so nonstop, the brain actually figures it out and rotates its optical signal interpretation.

      Maybe the same sort of adaptation can happen from gender stimuli causing confusion or simply not being reinforced in a positive manner. A kid’s growing environment can try too hard to force masculinity/feminine stereotypes, or not be engaging enough at all, and whoops, the kid’s trans via subconscious switcheroo.

      The key factor in this hypothesis is that transgenderism is an adaptation to the underlying problem. It’s not the problem itself, which could be severe dissociation, depression, low empathy and so on, but rather it’s the brain’s subconscious solution to it.

      Dunno how accurate that is though. It just helps me to think all this since my family’s been treating it as an issue they can’t solve (they’re supportive, they just don’t get it or like talking about it). So, doing research on the ‘why’ question may help you explain to your friends and family, but even having all the answers to where transgenderism comes from won’t explain the euphoric healing it brings.

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    • #89058

      Good question, for me I all ways new I was different growing up. But it wasn’t till last April things really began to take a bad turn for me, In desperate need to find help, to give me reason to keep living, I made that first call. that call got me here today. Being sent to the right doctors and have the right tests done. Finely gave me hope and understanding of who or what is going on with me. test results showed I am male. I was born with xxy syndrome also known as klinefetler syndrome. I know very little of this, only what my doctor has told me. and What I have researched online. I do not know if this is the case for all transgender persons, But I do find it interesting to know this does happen more often then people are aware of. It takes place in fetal development, the extra chromosome in my case caused my body to develop as female  thou my true gender is male. maybe if this had been found when I was a child I would have had a much better life. On saying that, I don’t regret my past. Just thinking my mental well being would have been much more healthier.


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    • #89054
      DeeAnn Hopings

      At this point I don’t believe that is a definitive answer as to why we are transgender. Same applies to being gay. I think it will eventually get to something deep in our brains and there has already been some preliminary evidence to suggest that. But, these are things completely out of out control. I do think people can see some commonality, but the question is how did these things come about. What happens to make twins growing up in the same household to be different? One is gay and the other straight. One is trans and the other not. To me there is something else at work; another layer, hidden perhaps. Anyway, I don’t believe there is a “Why”, at least not yet. It’s just an “Is”…

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