Dr. Milton Diamond is an expert on human sexuality and a researcher with the University of Hawaii. He is the Director of the Pacific Center for Sex and Society. He is widely known for the John/Joan case, where he followed up on David Reimer, a boy raised as a girl after he lost his penis in a failed circumcision. He tracked down the adult Reimer and found that efforts to turn him into a girl had not worked as was falsely reported in the scientific literature. This case has become one of the most cited in all if psychiatry. Dr. Diamond graduated from University of Kansas in 1962 with a Ph.D. in anatomy and psychology.
What do you mean when you say, “nature loves variety?”
Nature when it makes its products, whichever they are, either human beings or animals or plants or whatever, makes them in many different forms. In fact, we wouldn’t have evolution if that didn’t happen. So, nature loves variety. The problem is, it’s unfortunate that many societies don’t like variety, they want everybody to be the same. They want everybody to think the same and have the same religion, have the same thoughts. Well, I think that wouldn’t be reality. It’s reality for the society that they want things the same. It’s not the same for nature. Nature wants variety. And that’s the way it progresses.
Do genes play a role in sexual orientation and gender identity?
First, let me start off by telling you about some research we’ve done. We’ve done research on individuals early on some years ago, I did with some colleagues with homosexuals. And we asked individuals who were homosexual twins. We asked them to tell us if they and their brother or sister were also homosexual or heterosexual. Well, it turned out if they were identical twins, in our study, between 50-60%, I don’t remember the exact numbers, turned out both of them were gay. Now, there is what they call a Kinsey Scale. Which basically rates individuals on a continuum. In other words, zeros on the scale are heterosexuals, complete heterosexuals. Six on the scale is completely homosexual. Three on the scale or anywhere between that would be individuals that have both same-sex and opposite partners occasionally.
Well, what we found with our study, was not only the twin within one number of that scale of their brother or sister. So, in other words, one might have been a three, in the middle, and the other one was a four or a two or something like that. Which shows the high genetics. It means that’s the way they were born.
Now, we did a similar study with transsexuals. So, the study contains over one hundred sets of transsexual twins both males and females. In the cases, it’s about one-third of those who are identical twins, both of the males transitioned to live as females. With females it doesn’t happen as often. And if they are fraternal twins, it happens almost never. Almost zero. Again, showing the high effect of the way they were born. The genetics that are involved. Now, we are doing a current study now with a colleague, Nancy Siegel. We are studying a set of twins where they were reared apart. And both of them transitioned, again.
Now, that’s has to be genetics, because no family raises their kid to transition. No family wants their daughter or son to switch over. But these individuals, following their own life biases have changed. And they did this independently of each other — in fact living in different countries.
Talk about adjustments to the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel (DSM), where the term “Gender Dysphoria” has replaced “Gender Identity Disorder.”
Because nobody wants to be known as having a disorder. That sort of has a stigma with it. The term we now use is gender identity dysphoria, which is supposed to mean that the individual is uncomfortable with their situation. That discomfort leads to the dysphoria. For many of the transsexuals, they call it euphoria — they call it a wonderful situation because they are either able to manifest what they consider both male and female features. Or live the life they want to and they are happy with it.
What is a transsexual or transgender individual?
Many people are aware that they have features which society tells them are of their opposite gender. So, somebody may be so-called rough and outdoorsy and love very masculine things. But also love things like flowers or art, which is considered feminine in our western society. Or, on the other hand, somebody could be a woman who loves children and loves to take care of them, but also wants to be a professional boxer. So, that individuals can have many so-called male or female traits within their own complexion, their own life. So, when an individual wants to make a dramatic change, by saying, “I would be happier living as a female, if I were a male,” “I want the world to react to me as a female,” that’s a transsexual. Vice versa the female who says, “I want to be a male. My feelings are more like males. My interests are more like males. I think more like males. I would be more comfortable as a male.” That is a transsexual.
What advice do you have for parents who are realizing that they might have a transgender child?
The number one thing to tell a parent who is concerned about whatever their child is doing is, “I love you.” That is the first thing. And find out why the individual or try to understand what the individual is doing. If the girl picks up the Tonka truck and prefers that to the Barbie doll, that means she is getting some pleasure out of that. And you as a parent ought to feel good that your daughter is getting some pleasure out of this. And the same thing if the boy picks up the Barbie doll rather than the Tonka truck, and he’s happy playing with the Barbie doll, be thankful, be happy that child is happy doing what they are doing. But, if you are a real parent and doing parenting, you are also, I know, concerned with how that child will be treated by society. Will that child be bullied because he or she is different? Will that child be able to get a job? Will that child be able to be accepted in the religion, whatever it is? Those are the things a true parent, a real parent should be worried about. How can they help that child get along in life?
What advice would you tell a young gender variant teenager who is being harassed or bullied by peers, religious institutions, or ever their own parents?
If you are the individual himself, if you are a teenager, there is an expression you hear among the gay groups, “things will be better” and they generally are getting better. More and more society is learning to be accepting of differences. And, if you are proud of yourself, be confident in yourself and do the best you can, whatever you decide to do in life, people will come to respect you for it. And accept you for yourself.
Nature loves variety. And being different is not something to be ashamed of. Being different may be something to be proud of. And, even though society doesn’t always agree with that. Be confident in yourself and good luck.