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Chicken or the Egg: Nature vs. Nurture



From what I've read the Nature vs. Nurture question remains open, except perhaps for those who always knew. Throughout my investigation into the roots of my transgender nature I wanted the result to be that I was just born that way. Then I could easily say to my wife, the world and myself, "I am what I am, those were the cards I was dealt." And then they could take me or leave me, and if they left I'd at least know that because it was in my genes it just is what it is and move on.  In case you're wondering, I still haven't figured it out.

Recently my therapist suggested I read Living Like You Mean It: Use the Wisdom and Power of Your Emotions to Get the Life You Really Want. It essentially goes like this:

  • Babies are born with emotions that are like little flames that need to be nurtured. If they are not, the babies learn to suppress those feelings so as to get along in life.  For example, the baby feels anger, expresses it, is then rejected or isolated, and the baby then turns it on herself, as if to say (to herself) "I must be bad if I have emotions, therefore I have to suppress my emotions."  But this results in sadness.
  • This behavior may result in behavioral patterns (e.g., depression, flat-line emotional control, dissatisfaction) of adults who don't really know how to feel. Because when they do they defensive feelings emerge to counteract the genuine feelings which perpetuates the cycle.  

Upon finishing this book last weekend I got terribly depressed. It was as if the rug of "I was born this way" was ripped out from under my feet. You see, the book thoroughly describes my home environment. Without getting into too much history my mother was terribly depressed herself, hospitalized a couple of times, electroshock therapy, and when I was 24, committed suicide.

Throughout my childhood I was alone when at home even if my mother or father was there. My mother might have been at home, often in bed or otherwise disconnected, and my father was at work, nights and weekends, on various space flight programs. Without getting into details, I was well and truly taught to be seen and not heard. 

When I met with my therapist last Thursday I recalled for him that I'd always admired girls, their unfettered expression of emotion: joy, love, sadness. And after reading this book I wondered: perhaps my transgender nature results more from my envy of girls' "allowed" to express emotion where, as a boy in my family, I was not?

This morning I happened across this: I Am A Girl! - Ik ben een meisje! on YouTube. I'd seen it before but it really touched a nerve. She is so pretty, happy and, at 13, so grounded! I think you'll love seeing her. Clearly, she is transgender by nature.

So now I wonder: 

  • Nature: was I born like Joppe in the video, but my natural needs and desires were suppressed into smithereens by my family environment?
  • Nurture: If the former isn't correct then maybe I have an envy that arose from my upbringing, a desperate need to express and be myself which I saw as only available to females?

Or maybe it's a combination of the two? 

Why does it matter? I guess I just really want to figure myself out. As if, like my wife, I was adopted and just want to know the truth of my background. 

I have fragmentary memories of early childhood that support either or both theories.  No one to ask, since my father also died about ten years ago and I don't have siblings.  

Hmm, maybe I should return to my therapist's advice and just Stop Thinking! Just accept myself, follow my feelings. I am trying. But on Saturday mornings when I'm not consumed by career it's hard to ignore these thoughts.  Oh I remember now what he'd say: "Get mindful, take a step back and consider your thinking from afar.  What would you say to yourself as a child, if you could, today?" 

I think I'd say this: "IT'S OKAY TO BE YOU!"


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Thanks Emma for sharing "I am a Girl" and could not be in more agreement about her.

In regards to "Stop Thinking!", that was me at one point in time but could not accept myself as the feelings were relentless and overpowering that acceptance was impossible. Of course everyone is different whether they can or can't just be content at a particular "place" per-say.

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Dear friends,

Thank you for your thoughts and support. Really, you help me a lot. Together, we help each other. We're perfect the way we are or the way we're becoming. 

Karen, you're a beacon. You're truly remarkable the way you've navigated to your truth. 

Veronica, you're a North Star. I love hearing how you're coming into your own. 

I don't really know which direction I'm headed. Onward, and a lot better than I was before I joined TGG about a year and a half ago. Keep peeling back the onion. No idea how many more layers I'll find. Tonight I'm feeling like I may be nearing the center. 



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