Brian Nelson’s January 5 letter purports to address the issue of when discussion of gender orientation with children should begin, but he has the wrong address, so to speak. The choices we deny our youngsters by law all have documented negative outcomes to one degree or another. But gender orientation, which is not the same as biological gender assignment, begins in childhood, and has to do not with just simple XX or XY chromosome inheritance, or whimsical choice, but with the brain’s unconscious interpretation of a much wider array of genes on those and other chromosomes.
While the vast majority of people have a gender assignment-orientation match from the beginning, a certain minority does not, and forcing those people into perceived normalcy causes lifelong psychological problems. Of course there must be close monitoring and scrutiny of any program to educate the student and adult population about this reality-based phenomenon, and of any program to evaluate and make decisions about childhood gender orientation problems among individuals, but such monitoring and scrutiny must be done by people unfettered by out-of-date preconceptions of these matters.
There is no excuse for forcing a person with a genuine “alternate gender” orientation to maintain a facade that for them is false, no matter how young they are. There have been “alternate gender” people throughout history; it is not a new phenomenon. Gender orientation, like political bent and religious beliefs, does not (or at least should not) interfere with a person’s ability to work, play, or contribute to or function in society. I, personally, am as straight as they come, but have had a number of friends, colleagues, and relatives who are not, and I have been and still am comfortable with all of them.
We used to shun left-handed people, people with albinism, and several other “unusual” characteristics (some primitive societies still do), practices we now accept as complete nonsense. Mr. Nelson’s take on gender orientation is another example of the same kind of muddied thinking.