This morning was one of those times when I really wish that the times and circumstances had allowed me to stick with biology. I was scanning Sunday’s Washington Post about a 5-year-old transgender boy. “Tyler” decided at the ripe old age of 2 that she was really a boy instead of a girl. Now this was not a simple case of a child showing an interest in some aspects of the other gender nor was it a case of someone railing against the inequities that our culture enforces on both males and females. No, in this instance, it was a case of a child saying the pre-school equivalent of “What part of ‘I’m a boy, dammit’ do you not understand?”

I’m not going to re-tell the whole story here. You can read it, if you are so inclined, in the Washington Post online. What I am interested in is a statement made by Norman Spack, director of  the gender identity medical clinic at Children’s Hospital in Boston, MA. Spack said: “There’s no question that everybody is seeing more of this now.” This is something that I’ve noticed as well. Post college, there was the occasional story of an adult male or female declaring that they were in the wrong body and that they were going to try & fix things. This became more and more frequent and stories about teenagers being in the same fix began to surface. Now, we are hearing more and more about children of tender age saying flat-out that they are really the opposite gender.

I suppose that transgender people have always been with us and historical tales of men’s excessive heroics or women’s over-the-top motherhood/femininity have sometimes been about a person who found themselves in the wrong body and thought that being more manly or womanly would solve the problem. Then too, there were those who joined the homosexual community where they could act out the gender role that they felt was truly theirs. Experiments in gender reassignment surgery began in the 30’s and there was, of course, the tale of Christene Jorgensen switching sides in the early 1950’s which caused many a snigger. Nowadays, it is happening more and more often. Of course, some of this is due to the fact that “we” – meaning parents, etc. – are more open to discussing this and the internet bringing all sorts of information to our doorstep as well. But still, there are more and more instances of little Johnny declaring that his name should be ‘Jane’ and Denise announcing that she’s really ‘Dennis’.

My own theory is that this increase is a result of the increasing amounts of hormones and chemicals that mimic hormones in the environment. First, there were fish who either showed both the male and female traits of their species or even switched gender. This same mixture of male and female was also observed in other animals  and now the effects are being felt in the human environment as well. While median age for the onset of puberty in girls has remained the same – boys have been to experiencing  puberty at a somewhat younger age – there are increased instances of  girls starting to develop around the age of t 10 and others menstruating in the 3rd grade. Of course, there could be some other factor(s) involved but my bet is that the cause or causes will be found in the food we eat and the water we drink.

There’s at least a thesis in there and probably a dissertation as well. Now if I could just get the funding . . .

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