Sex Dif Research: Concepts & Methodology

Teresa Binstock binstoct at essex.hsc.colorado.edu
Sun Jul 2 14:15:55 EST 1995


                SEXUAL- and/or GENDER-ORIENTATION RESEARCH:
                           TOWARDS A METHODOLOGY

ABSTRACT: The following discussion presents some backgound notions
concerning flaws in the traditional Sex Differentiation Paradigm and
offers a recommendation to improve the SD paradigm, and also offers two
conceptual guidelines for future research (i) that males and females may
have different causes of crossed-sexual and/or crossed-gender
orientations, and (ii) that in both males and females, heterosexuality is
a complex integration of numerous substrates, thereby suggesting that many
possible dysregulations may be able to induce crossings of sexuality
and/or gender. 

                  ***   ***   Copyright 1995   ***   ***
                     ***    Teresa C. Binstock    ***

I. SD & CONCEPTUAL INCONSISTENCY:  The phrase and concept "sexual
differentiation" (SD) have implicit ambiguity. 

A. Although all researchers acknowledge that X,X and X,Y embryos have
different chromosomal material, most researchers write as if all "sexual
differentiation" is based upon (i) the earliest gonadal development in the
embryo, and (ii) subsequent hormonal processes that differ between males
and females.

B. Certainly, sexual differentiation of the gonadal/hormonal type (g/h-SD)
is important, yet to equate SD with g/h-SD is erroneous because at the
level of the genome, chromosome, and cell there are male/female sex
differences which are neither gondal nor hormonal; and most if not all of
these differences occur prior to the first observable signs of the nascent
gonadal ridge in mammalian embryos and thus occur before subsequent
hormonal differentiations.
     A probably incomplete listing of studies documenting such non-g/h yet
genomic sex differences can be found in my Internet "mini-papers" entitled
(i) "Sex Differentiation: Modifying the Paradigm", and (ii) "Sex Diff
Paradigm: Revised Posting, with References" or by e-mail request to me.

                          ***       ***       ***

II. RAMIFICATIONS:  Very important is the fact that g/h-SD is a subset of
SD; and to erroneously equate SD with g/h-SD has ramifications that affect
Nature/Nurture discussions as well as Sexuality/Gender Research:

A. MIS-SHAPINGS of the Nature/Nurture (N/N) Debate and of the "Complex
Interplay" truce:

     Generally speaking and with a few exceptions (eg DES), the overall
conclusion from decades of hormonal studies in humans and higher primates
is that although hormonal factors influence a number of human traits,
hormonal dysregulations do not induce crossings of sexual-orientation and
do not induce crossings of gender-orientation.
     Similarly, decades of asserting that environmental influences can be
psychogenic causes of crossed sexual- and/or gender-orientation (i.e.,
crossed S/O and/or G/O) have failed to establish such factors as causal in
the etiologies of homosexuality, transvestism, or transexualism (HS, TV,
TS).
     This intellectual dilemma is usually resolved by invoking the
"complex interplay" construct, wherein the causes of crossed S/O and/or
crossed G/O are said to be the result of a complex interplay between (i)
in-utero events (hormonal dysregulations) and (ii) psychogenic factors in
the environment. 

     NOTE that although the "complex interplay" rationale sounds
     good, it is rendered inaccurate by the fact that the Nature side
     of the Nature/Nurture debate has generally been conceived and
     expressed in accord with the scientifically invalid presumption
     that "SD = gonadal/hormonal SD", a construct made invalid due to
     the non-gonadal genomic-level sex differences described
     hereinabove.

     NOTE that if the "complex interplay" rationale is to regain
     scientific, societal, and religious validity for understanding
     the etiologies of S/O and G/O, then a third element needs be
     added -- albeit to the Nature side of the N/N argument. Namely,
     the complex interplay involves three factors: 
          1. gonadal/hormonal influences upon SD.
          2. psychogenic influences upon SD.
          3. aspects of SD that are genomic and are neither
             gonadal nor hormonal. 


B. MISLEADING Research Methodologies: 

     For S/O and G/O research to move beyond the "N/N complex interplay"
construct wherein SD is erroneously equated with g/h-SD, then researchers
are going to have to ask questions like:
          1. How many non-gonadal/hormonal yet genomic and cell-
          level sex differences are there among humans?
          2. If dysregulated or if mis-integrated into a
          person's physiological processes, might and how might
          such genomic and cell-level differences alter the
          development of S/O and/or G/O?

     Until such concerns are integrated into our understanding of
male/female sex differences and into our attempts to identify etiological
pathways for heterosexual S/O and G/O and for crossings of S/O and/or G/O,
the "Nature/Nurture debate and its complex-interplay truce" will be less
than fully valid.

                          ***       ***       ***

III. DIFFERENT PROCESSES, DIVERSE VARIATIONS, two guidelines:

A. BASICS: 

     Usually, an X,X zygote becomes a heterosexual female who tends to
have feelings, attitudes, interests, and presentation-styles like those of
most X,X individuals within our society.
     Usually, an X,Y zygote becomes a heterosexual male tending to have
feelings, attitudes, interests, and presentation-styles like those of most
X,Y individuals within our society.

     However, many X,X zygotes develop as females with crossed-S/O, and
many X,Y zygotes develop as males with crossed-S/O. Similarly, some X,X
zygotes develop as females with crossed-G/O, and some X,Y zygotes develop
as males with crossed-G/O. In some individuals both crossings occur,
whereas in other individuals one or the other crossing occurs. 

B. GUIDELINE #1:  Differing Substrates, Different Causes:

     For the moment not considering psychogenic contributions, the
     causes of crossed-S/O and/or crossed-G/O in X,X individuals may
     well differ from the causes of crossed-S/O and/or crossed-G/O in
     individuals with X,Y constitution. 

     In other words and for example, the physiological causes of HS
     in females may be different from causes of HS in males; and the
     physiological causes of TS in X,Y individuals may be different
     from the physiological causes of TS in X,X individuals. 

Regarding the postnatal development of persons who began as X,X zygotes,
in cases where there are crossings of S/O and or G/O, the causes of such
crossings are likely to be different from those of similar crossings known
to occur postnatally in persons who began as X,Y zygotes.


C. GUIDELINE #2:  Complex Pathways, Many Possible Disruptions:

     Whether manifested by a person with X,X chromosomal constitution
     or by a person with X,Y chromosomal constitution (again leaving
     aside psychogenic contributions) fully expressed heterosexual
     behavior is the integrated result of participations of numerous
     physiological substrates in the same individual.

     In each individual (whether he began as X,Y or she as X,X) there
     are probably numerous ways that dysregulation of one or more
     sexuality and/or gender substrates can induce S/O and/or G/O
     that is other than traditionally heterosexual.

                          ***       ***       ***

IN CLOSING: 

This writer and researcher believes that understanding the substrates (i)
of sexual orientation and gender orientation and (ii) of crossings thereof
will proceed more rapidly and more accurately:

1. If the traditionally held Sex Differentiation Paradigm is modernized to
include genomic, chromosomal, and cellular sex differences that are
neither hormonal nor gonadal.

2. If, in seeking to understand crossings of sexual- and/or gender
orientation in males and in females, we include two working premises:

     a) Causes may be different in males and in females.

     b) In males and in females, there may be multiple causal factors
     any one or more of which can induce crossings of sexual- and/or
     gender orientation. 

                                   *****
                                    ***
                                     *

                  ***   ***   Copyright 1995   ***   ***
                     ***    Teresa C. Binstock    ***


Teresa C. Binstock, Researcher                         first posted:
Developmental & Behavioral Neuroanatomy                7.2.95



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