Explanation for Transgenderism Continues to Elude Scientists

Saturday, October 20, 2007

If some theologians are troubled by the implications of transgenderism, scientists seem to be equally mystified by its origins.

The American Psychiatric Association labels transgenderism a "disorder" but notes that "many transgender people do not experience their transgender feelings and traits to be distressing or disabling, which implies that being transgender does not constitute a mental disorder per se."

Moreover, it says, "there is no generally accepted explanation for why some people are transgender," listing genetics, prenatal hormones and early-life experiences as possible influences.

The absence of a concrete explanation for transgenderism, as well as the cultural norms it upsets, can alarm those accustomed to dealing with fixed gender categories.

"What's the first question people ask when a baby is born?" said Melissa Wilcox, an assistant professor of religion and director of the gender studies program at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash. "They need to know whether it's a girl or a boy."

Conservative Christians tend to treat transgenderism as an extreme form of homosexuality. It's a disorder to be overcome, a cross to be borne.

-- Daniel Burke

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