|Children, Adolescents, Family|
Puberty and Metamorphosis
Boys are girls are most alike in the first decade of their lives. Body shape is similar and physical abilities are comparable. Girls tend to grow faster than boys and may be bigger and more confident as puberty begins.
At puberty, sex hormone production increases and children of both sexes undergo a complete transformation. Childhood ends with the onset of puberty. Teenagers undergo profound changes in mental tendencies and abilities as their brains change during and after puberty. The metamorphosis of a child into a reproductive adult is comparable to the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Body size, shape and mind are transformed. Females stop growing in height but gain weight as they store fat in breasts, buttocks and thighs. Boys continue to grow taller, reaching higher average heights than females.
While children naturally form male and female groups and are somewhat segregated, they are more innocent, versatile and adaptable. Social rules often exaggerate this natural tendency and in many societies male-female separation is strictly enforced. The emergence of male and female sexual maturation ends the relative innocence of children and adolescents developed complicated social groupings with strict inclusion/exclusion rules. Males and females face each other across boundaries that are both abstract and real.
There is a mix of longing, tension and misunderstanding. Sometimes conflict erupts at the gender interface. Sexual attraction eventually wins over gender differences and for unsupervised teenagers, sexual intercourse begins soon after puberty. There is a recent trend for earlier onset puberty in girls.
The physical metamorphosis that begins with puberty is obvious. The sexual characteristics of each gender emerge over months to years. A 14-year-old girl with an early start can appear to be a sexually mature woman; she will attract and may confuse adult males who may misjudge or ignore her age and seek sexual contact.
Males grow larger and more muscular. They develop facial and body hair. The penis enlarges and becomes erect more often. Increased production of male hormones in both sexes leads to the growth of facial and body hair and acne develops as sebaceous glands overproduce their oily secretions. Many adolescents are disfigured by skin infections in plugged sebaceous gland ducts that are stimulated by male hormone.
Sisk and Foster suggested that: “…attainment of adult reproductive status involves both gonadal and behavioral maturation through a series of brain-driven, developmentally timed events, modulated by internal and external sensory cues… The brain initiates gonadal steroid hormone production at puberty; hormones in turn activate neural circuits mediating reproductive behavior during adolescence”
As puberty progresses, parents face challenges related to gender identity and sexual behavior. The best way to understand sexual preferences and behavior is assume that each person is adaptable but has a set of innate preferences that both guide and limit the choice of a long-term sexual partner. Preferences are built on a foundation that is enduring but not fixed and learning experiences can redirect these innate tendencies to some degree. These innate preferences begin with the bodybrainmind blueprint laid down in DNA, but it is wrong to say that “innate sexual preferences are genetic.” A more correct description is to say that:” Innate preferences are biologically determined by the interaction of DNA/RNA programming with the physical and social environment.” Part of the change is a predictable program sequence that takes an individual through childhood; transforms him or her during adolescence for reproduction; sustains reproductive interest for two or three decades and then retires each individual from reproductive duties. While aging humans may continue to have sex, their interest and ability usually declines and the frequency of sexual encounters decreases.
The development of psychic gender identity is not an on and off affair but involves a mix of semi-independent variables with many possible combinations. Gay and lesbian hangouts tend to gather diverse individuals with many body-psyche gender variations. While each individual may feel that he or she or she-he is choosing a lover or mate, his or her choices, like all human choices, are directed and constrained by programs built into the brain and modified by hormones and environmental determinants. An increase in man-made estrogens in the environment interferes with male embryo development and promotes female behaviors in males.
Females with more male hormone act like males. Males with more female hormone develop breasts and act more like women. A concern has been voiced about the high level of estrogens in Soya beans, for example. Soya in the diet appears to protect women against breast cancer but no one knows how estrogens will affect infants fed soya milk formulas. Will the males develop female psyches or will girls rush into puberty before their time?
Gender subtypes can be understood by allowing different mixes of six sexual identity and preference programs in the brain:
1 An inner sense of sexual identity - male or female or both
Each person is sexually adaptable but has a set of innate preferences that limit the choices of a sexual partner. Preferences are built on a foundation that is enduring but not fixed. Learning experiences redirect these innate tendencies. Given the opportunity, most humans will experiment with a range of intimate contacts and will satisfy their sexual urges in a variety of ways. Some humans are more open and experimental than others. Some humans have more opportunity to have varied relationships and some are strictly limited by local rules to just one kind of relationship.
Transgender children have the genitals of one sex, but the mind of the opposite sex. Increasing recognition of the biological determinants of gender identity have opened doors for children who act contrary to their physical gender. They can be assisted by sympathetic parents and physicians to follow their own inclinations. If they persist in developing their gender identity, a staged treatment program will allow them to progress along their psychic gender path. Their physical gender will emerge at puberty and can be postponed by the administration of a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogue. Dr. Safer stated:”TheGnRH analogues blocks the development of permanent secondary sexual characteristics until a child is secure in his or her gender identity and is ready to start hormone therapy. Patients transitioning from female to male receive testosterone, while male-to-female individuals receive androgen blockers and estrogen. The final step includes surgery as desired. For female-to-male individuals, that includes mastectomy and creation of a male chest. In male-to-female transitions, surgery includes orchiectomy, breast augmentation as desired and facial feminization. Phalloplasty (creation of a penis) or vaginoplasty (removal of the penis and creation of a vagina) happens last.”
Veronica Hackethal . Paradigm Shift Occurring in Transgender Care. Medscape Medical News. Conference News. Endocrine Society Hormones & Health Science Writers Conference. December 21, 2015
Persona Digital Books