Thursday, March 25, 2010

It's All About Testosterone

This post is part-two of a post titled "God Doesn't Make Mistakes." If you haven't yet read it, click here.
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A baby in the NICU was recently born with female genetalia but also a "Y" chromosome, which indicates male gender. After an enthralling discussion with one of the NICU doctors, Doc W, I learned that for babies to develop as males it's all about testosterone. This baby's delima is that while he is genetically a male, he isn't developing as one.
There are basically three possible causes to a situation such as this:
1. The baby is failing to produce testosterone or enough of it. This is the easiest to treat.
2. The baby does not produce a certain other chemical which actually converts testosterone into a usable form.
3. The baby's receptors, which take in and use the testosterone, are not doing there job. I.E. He can't take in testosterone.
In the case of the third cause, there is little or nothing that modern medicine can do in order to help the baby develop as male (it's genotype). Luckily Dr. W says it looks like this baby's cause is the first: he's just not producing the hormone.
Once the tests confirm this, they can start giving the baby testosterone. At that point it sounded like he will develop a penis and the feminine genetalia will dissapate. Upon puberty, he will be as normal as the next. Whew, I'm glad to hear that this child will have a chance at a "normal" life.
Dr. W also said that today in parts of India the legal documents have three options for denoting gender: male, female and trans. Medicine is not as far advanced or nearly as accessible, so there's an entire sub-culture of people born with ambigious gender who simply develop naturally.
The Native American Indians had a word for trans-gendered individuals: "two spirits." They were neither hunters nor gatherers. They indeed had two spirits. And they were often revered as shaman. (Thnx Vicki for this last part!)
I'm also glad we now have medical advancements to figure out such things. In the old days (1950's) the belief was that in the battle between Nature vs Nurture, the latter always wins. In cases such as this one 50 years ago, doctors would have instructed parents to raise the boy as a girl and all would be well. Luckily, we've learned better than this, sadly due partly to the number of distressed individuals who've committed suicide or changed their gender later in life because of being raised contradictory to their biology.
Truly, the brain is our most powerful sexual organ.

1 comment:

Vicki Hesse said...

fantastic discoveries!

here's a link re: Two Spirits
http://www.ne2ss.org/2008/11/06/two-spirit-people-embody-both-genders/

good questions - keep asking