Understanding the Terms
By Barrington H. Brennen
May 3, 2016
this article today I am simply defining terms that have been
used widely in the public these past several weeks. I have
noticed that many do not understand the terms and are using
them out of context. A clearer understanding of these terms
should facilitate a healthier discussion and hopefully
better treatment of these individuals.
First, let me say that I have never been so torn regarding
writing an article. Should I write or should I not write?
This year I celebrate twenty consecutive years of writing
in the Nassau Guardian and have never felt this way about
writing on a topic. On one hand I feel really compelled to
write about this topic but the atmosphere is so saturated
with vitriol, misunderstanding, negative politics,
confusion, etc, regarding the Constitutional Referendum and
the sex topics, that I am not sure how this article will be
interpreted or used. Secondly, this discussion should not
be linked to the referendum debate. The bills are simple
about equality between male and female citizens of The
Bahamas which I fully support without reservations.
Thirdly, I am not a medical doctor or an expert in all of
these topics. But I feel with my training, experience, research and
writing skills, I should share on these topics if only to
help us begin to understand them better. Although I have
decided to write this article, I will not publish it the
newspaper (at least not at this time) but only share it via
email and on my website. Doing this also allows me to be
more extensive and not be limited to a certain amount of words.
It is a long article so be patient and read right to the
I will seek to clarify and define the terms transgender,
transsexual, intersex, hermaphrodite, transvestites,
homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, LGBTQ. I will seek to give a
simple, accurate definition of each term with little
The term transgender has been the most misused and most
misunderstood word within the past few months in our
country. One expert says that “For transgender people, the
sex they were assigned at birth and their own internal
gender identity do not match.” Bahamian psychologist, Dr.
Edrica Richardson, an American certified marriage and family
therapist, who teaches the subject of sex and gender
identity in a Florida college states that “Transgenders are
not homosexuals by definition. Transgender persons feel
they are psychologically born in the wrong body. Yet they
are fully biologically male or female. Transgender is not
about sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is about who
you are attracted to sexually. Transgender is about gender
identity—whether or not one biologically feels like a male
or female.” It is also imperative to understand that a
transgender person is not interssex or transvestite. Note
the definitions later in this article.
As indicated earlier many are confusing transgender with
homosexuality (gay). Joanne Herman, retired transgender
advocate in the United States, wrote an article in the
Huffington Post in August of 2011 entitled “Some
Transgender People Are Not Gay.” I think it can
give some clarity on the topic and why help us understand
why so many, even transgenders and homosexuals themselves,
are so confused. Here’s the quote:
“Back in the 1990’s, lesbian and gay organizations started
adding transgender people to their missions. It seemed to be
a reasonable expansion — transgender people face many of the
same prejudices that gay people do.
But much like the general population, most people in the gay
and lesbian community did not understand that, while the
prejudices were similar, the underlying issue is quite
different. Many still don’t understand this.
So when the missions were expanded, many gays and lesbians
innocently continued saying that their organizations “serve
the needs of all gay Americans.” Many still do say this.
The result is that many Americans who have heard the word
transgender think it means another kind of gay.
The problem is that some transgender people are not gay.
Take Chaz Bono for example. Chaz came out as a lesbian in
1995 because, living as a female since birth and being
attracted to other females, that made him a lesbian in
society’s eyes. It took Chaz until 2008 to realize that he
was truly a man. Now, living as a man who is in a
relationship with a woman, Chaz is considered by society to
Often the terms transgender and transsexual are used
interchangeably by some. As stated earlier a transgender
is biological male or female who feels the opposite. A
transsexual is one who goes through the sex re-assignment
surgery to match the gender identity. Note that this is
different from homosexuality or lesbianism. Transgender
is about what someone feels or think he or she is. Being a
homosexual/lesbian is about whom or what gender one is
The Wikipedia Online Dictionary states that a transvestite
is a “person who sometimes wears clothes traditionally worn
by and associated with the opposite sex; typically a male
who cross-dresses occasionally by habit or compulsion.” One
author states that Transvestite/Cross-dressers don’t
associate with the LGBTQ community and don’t see themselves
as anything but straight/heterosexual. Understand clearly
that some transgenders dress to match their gender identity
(the way they feel sexually) and not their biological sex.
These are not transvestites.
The term intersex is relatively new in medical science.
Centuries ago medical science used the word hermaphrodite.
Now it correctly called intersex. One dictionary states
that “Intersex” is a general term used for a variety
of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive
or sexual anatomy that doesn't seem to fit the typical
definitions of female or male. Medline Plus online states
“Intersex is a group of conditions where there is a
discrepancy between the external genitals and the internal
genitals (the testes and ovaries).” Further definition is
intersex is an infant born with tissues from both sex
organs. The older term for this condition is
hermaphroditism. This is of Greek origin. The Greeks
taught the persons with both sex had mysterious powers.
We have all heard about
It is imperative to understand that chromosomes determine of
sex. They are known at “X” and “Y” Chromosomes. “XX” is
the female genotype. “XY” is the male genotype. More
explanation: “In humans the sex chromosomes comprise one
pair of the total of 23 pairs of chromosomes. The other 22
pairs of chromosomes are called autosomes. Individuals
having two X chromosomes (XX) are female; individuals having
one X chromosome and one Y chromosome (XY) are male.”
This helps us to under the topic of intersex. Thus
I cannot help but share the entire explanation from
Medline Plus. It helps us to understand the
complexity of the subject. Here it is:
“Intersex can be divided into 4 categories:
Each one is discussed in more detail below. Note: In many
children, the cause of intersex may remain undetermined,
even with modern diagnostic techniques.
46, XX INTERSEX--
The person has the chromosomes of a woman, the ovaries of a
woman, but external (outside) genitals that appear male.
This most often is the result of a female fetus having been
exposed to excess male hormones before birth. The labia
("lips" or folds of skin of the external female genitals)
fuse, and the clitoris enlarges to appear like a penis. In
most cases, this person has a normal uterus and fallopian
tubes. This condition is also called 46, XX with
virilization. It used to be called female
pseudohermaphroditism. There are several possible causes:
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (the most common cause).
Male hormones (such as testosterone) taken or encountered by
the mother during pregnancy.
Male hormone-producing tumors in the mother: These are most
often ovarian tumors. Mothers who have children with 46, XX
intersex should be checked unless there is another clear
Aromatase deficiency: This one may not be noticeable until
puberty. Aromatase is an enzyme that normally converts male
hormones to female hormones. Too much aromatase activity can
lead to excess estrogen (female hormone); too little to 46,
XX intersex. At puberty, these XX children, who had been
raised as girls, may begin to take on male characteristics.
46, XY INTERSEX--The
person has the chromosomes of a man, but the external
genitals are incompletely formed, ambiguous, or clearly
female. Internally, testes may be normal, malformed, or
absent. This condition is also called 46, XY with
undervirilization. It used to be called male
pseudohermaphroditism. Formation of normal male external
genitals depends on the appropriate balance between male and
female hormones. Therefore, it requires the adequate
production and function of male hormones. 46, XY intersex
has many possible causes:
Problems with the testes: The testes normally produce male
hormones. If the testes do not form properly, it will lead
to undervirilization. There are a number of possible causes
for this, including XY pure gonadal dysgenesis.
Problems with testosterone formation: Testosterone is formed
through a series of steps. Each of these steps requires a
different enzyme. Deficiencies in any of these enzymes can
result in inadequate testosterone and produce a different
syndrome of 46, XY intersex. Different types of congenital
adrenal hyperplasia can fall in this category.
Problems with using testosterone: Some people have normal
testes and make adequate amounts of testosterone, but still
have 46, XY intersex due to conditions such as
5-alpha-reductase deficiency or androgen insensitivity
People with 5-alpha-reductase deficiency lack the enzyme
needed to convert testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
There are at least 5 different types of 5-alpha-reductase
deficiency. Some of the babies have normal male genitalia,
some have normal female genitalia, and many have something
in between. Most change to external male genitalia around
the time of puberty.
AIS is the most common cause of 46, XY intersex. It has also
been called testicular feminization. Here, the hormones are
all normal, but the receptors to male hormones don't
function properly. There are over 150 different defects that
have been identified so far, and each causes a different
type of AIS.
TRUE GONADAL INTERSEX--The
person must have both ovarian and testicular tissue. This
may be in the same gonad (an ovotestis), or the person might
have 1 ovary and 1 testis. The person may have XX
chromosomes, XY chromosomes, or both. The external genitals
may be ambiguous or may appear to be female or male. This
condition used to be called true hermaphroditism. In most
people with true gonadal intersex, the underlying cause is
unknown, although in some animal studies it has been linked
to exposure to common agricultural pesticides.
COMPLEX OR UNDETERMINED INTERSEX DISORDERS OF SEXUAL
Many chromosome configurations other than simple 46, XX or
46, XY can result in disorders of sex development. These
include 45, XO (only one X chromosome), and 47, XXY, 47, XXX
- both cases have an extra sex chromosome, either an X or a
Y. These disorders do not result in a condition where there
is discrepancy between internal and external genitalia.
However, there may be problems with sex hormone levels,
overall sexual development, and altered numbers of sex
Wow! That’s heavy
“Bisexuality is romantic attraction, sexual attraction, or
sexual behavior toward both males and females, or romantic
or sexual attraction to people of any sex or gender
identity; this latter aspect is sometimes alternatively
termed pansexuality.” Wikipedia
orientation describes a person's enduring physical,
romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person (for
example: straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual), while gender
identity describes a person's, internal, personal sense of
being a man or a woman (or someone outside of that gender
Many know the meaning of the acronym LGBTQ. However, many
do not know what “Q” stands for.
“The “Q” can stand for Questioning and/or
Queer: Questioning refers to individuals who are unsure
of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Queer is
an umbrella term encompassing a variety of sexual
orientations and gender identities excluding
heterosexuality.” Heartland Alliance International
MY LAST WORDS:
We do have all of these kinds of individuals in our country. I could
remember as a teen my father sharing with us about intersex
persons. That’s over fifty years ago. Homosexuality is
not in the closet anymore in our country. Individual
homosexuals might be. However, transgenders and
transsexuals are still in the closet. Could it be because
they fear that they will not be treated
fairly? Today we
do have a more open society. Technology and free speech are
opening the floodgates of information. This is good. More
people are feeling free to express themselves or their views
openly. We must learn to live harmoniously with all of
these individuals and views. This is a part of a
pluralistic, free, democratic society. The healing of our
society is not by the removal of these individual but
instead embracing the difference among us. We do not have
to “accept” or “agree” with the behaviors, but we can be
civil and respect the rights of individuals. All human
beings in The Bahamas have the right to be treated with
respect, fairly, access to services, protection, free from
harm and harassment.
Christians have a mandate to love unconditionally. If
there is anybody who should show unconditional acceptance
and unconditional love, it should be the Christian.
All people are deserving of this even if we disagree with
their lifestyle or behavior.
imperative also that Christians do not insist that the
constitution is a moral document or religious document.
It is to be a neutral, secular document. Yes,
there are certain principles that are morally or spiritually
parallel. However, the constitution is a tool
for civil society to function by allowing equity for
appeal to Christians is that we avoid making the gospel
toxic. I appeal to everyone that we make the
gospel attractive by our loving lifestyle and not a pain in
the following articles for more insight.
Let’s love one another.
1242 327 1980
1242 477 4002
Barrington H. Brennen, MA, NCP, BCCP, JP, is a marriage and
family therapist and board certified clinical
psychotherapist, USA. Send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or
write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org
or call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002.