Similar, but not the same

In her response to my previous post, my sister wrote the following.

So here’s my struggle trying to understand you. I love you dearly and I don’t ever want to loose you. But the thing is, we are so similar that I really have trouble understanding this. Believe me or not, although so many things are similar, the thought of a transgender never even occurred to me. And I just know that I’m a woman, I have no desire for a transition.

Also important to note is that she addressed me as her twin, which strictly speaking we are not, but it is true – we are so alike, we might as well have been twins.

So what’s really going on here? Is she somehow subconsciously confusing similar with same?

The things she mentions in her response, the books, the cutting of our hair, the ju-jitsu – all true. We’d do so many “boy-things” together, it was as if I had a little brother instead of a little sister, and this made life quite a bit easier for me. Though I did envy her for the nice car she had. A sturdy, green wooden army car. Handmade by Mum’s father, if I remember correctly. It was the only toy car in the entire household, and it was hers. Not mine.

And let’s not forget to mention she broke the only doll I ever really liked. My talking doll. I was fascinated by that doll, and loved to make her talk. Even though she said really stupid things, like “Mummy, will you comb my hair?” So yes, my little sister definitely had a knack for ruining dolls as well.

I asked mum if I could join a judo club when I was six or seven. The answer was an unequivocal no. Because girls didn’t fight. I knew better than to try and get my way, so I never asked again. But boy, was I thrilled when my little sister managed to make her change her mind and allow us to take ju-jitsu classes! Heck, that was even better than judo.

I would ask if I could have my hair cut short. The answer was always no. It would be such a shame to cut that gorgeous hair. The best I ever got from Mum, was shoulder-long hair. That’s what she called short. I didn’t think so, but I was a wussy. Little sister was not so craven. She got her hair cut short and then I saw my chance as well. If Mum was gonna give us a bollocking over our hair, at least we’d be in it together. We had each other’s backs.

So yes, the similarities are there. They cannot – and should never – be ignored. They are what created this bond between us. A bond, stronger than that between most siblings, I’m sure. And sod the five-year age gap.

But similar does not equal same, as I’m sure our niece – who’s mum to a set of identical twins – can confirm. Her twins share the exact same genes and are strikingly similar. But they’re not the same. They each have their own personality and will develop differently. As young as they are, we can already see some definite differences between the two of them.

And before anyone assumes that the differences between two identical twins will never be so strong as one of them being cisgender and the other transgender, think again. I’ve seen footage of identical twins, one of whom was homosexual, and the other heterosexual. Now, I’m not 100% sure of there being identical twins where one of them is cisgender and the other transgender, but I would not be surprised at all.

Why? Because, as Dick Swaab and other scientist will tell us, whereas a foetus develops either into a physical male or female during the first stage of pregnancy (and things can and do go wrong even here!), the sexual differentiation of the brain doesn’t take place until the later stages of pregnancy. This is how it’s possible for a female child to develop a male brain, and for a male child to develop a female brain.

This is at least partly due to hormonal influences during pregnancy. Maybe the mother had a lot of stress or had to take certain medication which disrupted the normal hormonal balance. Or maybe something in the child itself caused it to react differently to its mothers hormones – or its own hormones.

(Just recalling all this from memory, so there might be some hiccups here.)

If this hormonal disbalance can cause one of two identical twins to develop a homosexual orientation, whereas the other twin develops a heterosexual orientation, there is no reason why the same should not be true for the development of their gender identity.

So yes. We are strikingly similar, my little sister and I. But we are not the same. We never have been and never will be. For one, she is (and correct me if I’m wrong, sis) a heterosexual cisgender woman. I, on the other hand, never felt attracted to men. And yes, I know I married one. I had my reasons – societal pressure being one of them. I never felt like I was a real girl, and when I grew up I never felt like a woman. This is where my brain developed differently.

That’s the difference. It’s not in our behaviour. It’s between our ears.

Literally.

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4 Responses to Similar, but not the same

  1. janitorqueer says:

    Yes, there definitely are identical twins where one is cisgender and one is transgender! I’m close friends with one such person, and am acquainted with another as well. Also, you might be very interested in this documentary, about this very subject: http://redwithoutblue.com/home.php
    It’s very intense, but so insightful as well…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. George Davis says:

    The subject of twins fascinates me, too. A review of case studies found that in 60% of the cases where one identical twin had gender dysphoria, the other did not. For fraternal twins, there were no cases where both twins had gender dysphoria. This was true when the fraternal twins were the same sex as well as when they weren’t. The study was relatively small and only looked at cases that had been reported on, so it has some limitations.

    It looks like there is a definite genetic component, but that something in the environment matters as well.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22146048

    Liked by 1 person

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