Nature versus nurture has been a longstanding debate in psychology. Which factor has a more substantial influence on our character, the genes comprising our being or the home environment, or lack thereof, rearing us? I think most psychologists agree that there is a complex combination of the two. For example, there could be a genetic predisposition to addictive behavior like alcoholism.1 But the parents may keep no alcohol in the home. And the parents provide the child with a worldview that considers the casual consumption of alcohol sinful. Thus, these two environmental factors create a person who is not an alcoholic despite being genetically predisposed.
Is It Genetics?
But what of transgenderism? Is this genetic, a product or environment, or a combination of the two? Despite long being considered “gender dysphoria,” a psychiatric illness, popular culture currently seeks to redefine all transgenderism as nature’s product. I say “all” since there are cases in which an intersex offspring (once identified as hermaphrodites) may have parents who decide a child’s gender contrary to how the child identifies. Yet, this is an extreme example that proves the rule. Those born truly intersex comprise only 0.018% of those cases labeled as intersex.2
A “Transgender Boom”
It isn’t just “cis-gendered” people who question what I call a “transgender boom.” Clinical psychologist Erica Anderson, who herself began to transition in her late fifties, has expressed concern that some are “falling under the influence of their peers and social media.”3 Indeed, a study at Brown University conducted by Dr. Lisa Littman pointed to the “rapid onset of gender dysphoria.”4 Despite these observations, questioning transgenderism has become verboten. Dr. Lee Jussim identified two concerns he saw with the outrage inspired by Littman’s study.5 First, she was set upon by an offended mob of trans activists whose fury caused Brown University to backtrack in promoting her findings. Second, those publishing her paper made Littman issue a non-correction correction. It wasn’t that Littman needed to correct anything; she needed to acknowledge her findings were preliminary and exploratory.
Nature Vs. Nurture
So, how does this fit in with the nature versus nurture debate? Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed a law that critics called the “Don’t-Say-Gay” bill.6 The actual title is “The Parental Rights in Education” bill. A careful reading of this legislation reveals no mention of “gay” whatsoever. Instead, the law prevents instruction or discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida public schools until children become a certain age. When the pandemic shut down schools and forced students to study online, parents became more involved in their children’s instruction. Some parents discovered they disagreed with the curriculum taught by their children’s schools, including education or discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity. And parents began pushing back since they believed that they should be responsible for instruction in these matters.
Does Nature Need to Be Taught?
If every case of transgenderism arose naturally due to genetics, being “born that way,” why would there need to be such instruction at an early age when children frankly have no understanding of even their biology. Maybe little Johnny has bathed with his mother and recognizes the anatomical differences but cannot grasp what it means that he is chromosomally a male and his mother a female. You can teach him the medical terms for genitalia, and he is sure to repeat them in a public forum to your embarrassment. Still, without the hormones of pubescence, he has no clue why he may feel attracted by certain anatomical features.
We Will Call It Nurture, Not Grooming
So, when Johnny’s library subjects him to “drag queen story hour” and he has a teacher tell him that it is “natural” for him to feel like a girl despite having male sexual characteristics, he becomes confused. If Johnny’s social media idols and friends create a positive feedback loop for this self-doubt, Johnny may begin to question himself. And now that our culture is so encouraging of this type of diversity, Johnny concludes he is Janie. And if anyone questions “Janie’s” decision, they are automatically bigots, and he needs only find support within the transgendered community. I do not want to misrepresent Erica Anderson’s beliefs. Still, she did say that it appears some youths are becoming transgender because it is “trendy.”7 One would think that if it is naturally occurring transgenderism, questioning will come before puberty without the aid of external influence.
But as things now stand, there seems to be a lot more nurture to the growing numbers of those identifying as transgender than nature.
1 Edenberg, Howard J, and Tatiana Foroud. “Genetics and Alcoholism.” Nature Reviews. Gastroenterology & Hepatology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4056340/.
2 Sax, Leonard. “How Common Is Intersex? A Response to Anne Fausto-Sterling.” Journal of Sex Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2002, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12476264/.
3 Jarvie, Jennie. “A Transgender Psychologist Has Helped Hundreds of Teens Transition. but Rising Numbers Have Her Concerned.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 12 Apr. 2022, www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-04-12/a-transgender-psychologist-reckons-with-how-to-support-a-new-generation-of-trans-teens.
4 Littman, Lisa. “Parent Reports of Adolescents and Young Adults Perceived to Show Signs of a Rapid Onset of Gender Dysphoria.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, 16 Aug. 2018, journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0202330.
5 Jussim, Lee. “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 20 Mar. 2019, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/rabble-rouser/201903/rapid-onset-gender-dysphoria.
6 Alfonseca, Kiara. “Florida House Passes Controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 24 Feb. 2022, abcnews.go.com/Politics/florida-house-passes-controversial-dont-gay-bill/story?id=83090590.
7 Jarvie, Jennie. “A Transgender Psychologist Has Helped Hundreds of Teens Transition. but Rising Numbers Have Her Concerned.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 12 Apr. 2022, www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-04-12/a-transgender-psychologist-reckons-with-how-to-support-a-new-generation-of-trans-teens.