It's All In The Mind


BSc., RGN, Psychologist. Conference Organiser. Chairperson, Beaumont Trust
Gendys Conference, 1990


The idea of a male vs.a female mind is one which I, as a feminist don't like but have to accept. It is still true to say there are more males working as engineers, doctors, scientists and composers whilst more women are carers and work in less scientific or creative employment. Women, it would seem, employ more of both sides of their brain and are less specialised in brain laterality. Females make up for this by using more subtle methods of communicating and thinking; the famed women's intuition. Men are often more ambitious and have less distractions to pursue their main goals. Part of this is superimposed by society and the roles it expects from men and women - boys and girls.

Studies completed at Sussex University, demonstrate that boy babies receive much more overt stimulation than girl babies by both their parents and others. Boys are prodded and are romped with - girls are cuddled and encouraged to be passive. There is obviously a nurture device superimposing stereotypical thinking and acting on both boys and girls, together with natural inborn differences between the sexes. Nature and nurture both operate here.

It has been thought that brain lateralisation as an expression of maleness vs. femaleness is a possible explanation for transexualism in utero. The developing fetus 'thinks' it is a 'boy' or 'girl' despite the chromosomes and body indicating otherwise.

Females have a similar range of IQ's to males and often do better in arts related subjects at school than their male counterparts, who develop their scholastic abilities slightly later and with more specialisation. Educationalists have tried to offer boys cooking and home economics with little success but they do usually make more convincing chefs and economists than do women. Male nurses become managers. Most females are not expected to make a career, but to go off and have families and to suffer menstruation and the menopause. The distribution of successful people using the criteria of promotion prospects, innovative work and seniority, are stacked in favour of men, whilst women have to be twice as good as men to be even considered for a job. These seem to be popular mythologies but the statistics seem to bear them out. There are obvious questions of culture and biology. One result is the Judeo-Christian patriarchal stereotype at one end and the strident feminist at the other, with the truth somewhere in the middle. The fact is that stereotypes do exist and that women (mothers) are as much to blame for this as men.

If creativity and IQ are measures of output of intellectual ability, then it is interesting to note that in the case of transexuals, there is a marked 'take off' of abilities once their life has been established.

Transexuals themselves, are often accused of being stereotypical. The rationale for this could be that in order to 'prove' that one is a woman or a man, one embraces that which is feminine or masculine as felt to be appropriate, to an unhealthy degree. Certainly, the idea that a woman's life is all pretty clothes, flowers and tenderness, and a man cannot show his feminine side is outmoded and irrelevant to the twenty first century. A woman's life has never been easy - if anything, it is harder than a man's. Women are rarely taken seriously save on criteria of appearance and attractiveness, which, sadly, transexuals do not always have in their favour. Men nowadays, are fortunately excused the requirement to be cave men, but they too have unfair pressures upon them. Most of the TS chaps have beards and the women rarely wear trousers, and neither usually likes to admit that they are good at anything they feel to be stereotypical of their original gender. A part of this is not so much the need to conform to an unreal stereotypical view of 'woman' or 'man' but is because it is often necessary to confirm by all means available that they 'belong' to their expressed gender.

In a sense there is an advantage in being a TS. There is the possibility of using both hemispheres of the brain, both life histories and experiences; of being in fact, more balanced as a person rather than stereotypical of a man or woman. Increase in intellect here, is a measure of freedom of use. Perhaps this accounts for their improvement.

The hypermasculine man is depriving himself of the same balance, for men have inherent femininity in addition to masculinity - which their upbringing tends to subdue to latency or even total eradication. Once this element is released in a man, he too may improve his general health and performance which may be greatly impaired by suppression of components of himself as a whole person.

What is clear is that a rounded view and a liberty of thinking and behaving 'enables' a person. Fighting stereotypes in oneself is more vital than perhaps realised. Conformity allows society to function with few ruffles - however, the individual personality needs expression. This should only be judged in the light of how it affects others and the person concerned rather than as a cultural 'norm'. The English love eccentrics and hate a fuss. Perhaps that is why we are so far behind legally in accommodating the needs of transexuals, gays and lesbians or any other minority. It is only recently that the needs of women have been taken seriously.

As individuals, we all have different abilities and gifts. It would be madness to suppress a particular gift because one feels 'a woman shouldn't do this'. A woman can do anything! Post operative transexuals should think of themselves as women or men; not as TS's.,nor as stereotypes of women or men. They too deserve the same liberty as other women and men.

Citation: Purnell, A., (1990), It's All In The Mind, Beaumont Trust International Gender Dysphoria Conference, Manchester England.
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