University of Hawai`i at ManoaJohn A. Burns School of MedicineDepartment of Anatomy & Reproductive BiologyPacific Center for Sex and Society Honolulu, Hawai`i 96822
For Publication inFeminism & PsychologyVolume 10 (1): 46-542000
Mary Crawford, EditorUniversity of ConnecticutWomen's Studies Program354 Mansfield Road, U-181Storrs, CT 06269-2181
Sex and Gender: Same or Different?
As scientists we are forced to ask "Why does the mind take precedence?" I think it is because the brain template for sexual identity is forged by more significant forces and events (Diamond, 1965; 1979). These early engrams are more potent than the later ones activated by rearing. This, for instance, was the force telling John/Joan and other males who had been sex-reassigned they were not girls although they had no penis and were reared, rewarded and reinforced as girls (Diamond & Sigmundson, 1997).
John/Joan was an individual widely written about in dozens of psychology, sociology and women's study texts. According to the original reports (Money, 1975; Money & Ehrhardt, 1972) John was a male twin who, due to a surgical accident wherein his penis was burned off, was subsequently sex reassigned as a female. The thinking was it would be better for an individual without a penis to be raised as a girl with a constructed vagina than to be a boy without a phallus. John was thus castrated, had a vulva prepared and given estrogens and reared as a girl, Joan. Contrary to the early reports of success, however, Joan never did accept the transition (Colapinto, 1997; Diamond, 1982; Diamond & Sigmundson, 1997).8
John, and other males sex-reassigned as females, "knew" they were not girls despite their castration, absence of male genitalia, female rearing, and the administration of estrogens. The gender that was attributed to them was not in accord with their sexual identity. In trying to understand the discrepancies they saw in their lives, they attended to and recognized it was the characteristics of males in general and females in general, and the realities they saw of both sexes around them in every day life, that led them to recognize, in their cases, the male in themselves (Diamond, 1997; 1999). This works similarly, on the other side of the coin, for those individuals mal-assigned as males who discover the female in themselves (Diamond, 1997a; 1997b).9