Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

These are two long words for "Gay or Straight?" and "do you think of yourself as male or female?" ?" At church today we were told that these questions are of great interest to the Powers that be in the diocese and are to be the focus of debate. I am not sure quite what this means, but assume we shall be called to meet  and discuss our attitudes to LGTB people.

After hearing Father Stafford's sermon, someone in the congregation suggested to me that I might be interested to meet some gay friends of hers. I didn't want to be discouraging, but I couldn't see much point in such a meeting. I have friends who go in for in dog training, bird- watching,creative writing or poetry. They are my friends because of our shared interests and because they are people I like. Some of these friends are gay. It is just something I accept about them like the colour of their eyes. When I was young my parents numbered several same-sex couples among their friends. So I was aware of differences in sexual orientation from a very early age.

However, I am aware that gay people are often subject to prejudice and discrimination and I am willing to join in any discussions that may be instigated by Father Stafford. To this end I decided to look up the subject on Google. I battled my way through some rather heavy scientific articles and came up with some most interesting nuggets of information.

Firstly it seems that our gender identity and sexual orientation are an integral part of who we are. They are both permanently programmed in the brain while we are in the womb. In other words we are born that way.  There is no evidence that the way we are brought up or our social environment  can influence our gender identity or sexual orientation.

At conception we receive either two X chromosomes or one X and one Y chromosome. The embryo with a Y chromosome will develop male organs and male physical characteristics and the  one with two X chromosomes will develop female sex organs and female physical characteristics.But the story doesn't end there. Hormones are produced in the mother's body which have an effect on the baby's growth. The amount of testosterone during the development of the foetus determines the sexual differentiation of the brain; a testosterone surge causes the brain to become more masculine, a lack of testosterone causes it to become more feminine. So a baby may be born with the body of a boy and the mind of a girl or vice versa.

It has been found that female animals that have been affected by high testosterone behave like males and choose other females as mates and male animals lacking testoterone before birth behave like females.

So nobody chooses to be gay.  Being born that way is  challenging, It is harder for them to  accept themselves, find their place in the world and to find love.  Those of us who were born "straight" are challenged too. Our challenge is to find ways of being more accepting and inclusive of those who are different from ourselves.