A recent review article by Reinisch (1974) attempted the difficult task of collating much of the pertinent literature in regard to the organizing effect of endocrine parameters and human psychosexuality. It would be worthwhile to this extensive historical review to make the coverage more complete and of value to those less familiar with the field, to add citation to the works of several others, particularly Benjamin, Stoller, and myself. This is particularly true since the manuscript attends primarily to those perinatal endocrine parameters which affect sexuality. All of us have contributed to this area with either theoretical orientation or data or both.

Benjamin (1964) strongly inferred endocrine influences on sexual orientation particularly in regard to the transsexual phenomenon. He presented an extensive amount of clinical material and discussion and reviewed several of the theories possibly accounting for sexual orientation. He summarized his conclusions thus:

our organic constitution, that is to say, the chromosomal sex, supported and main- tamed by the endocrine, form the substance and the material that make up our sexuality. Psychological conditioning in early life would determine its final shape and individual function. (Benjamin, 1964, p. 85)

Stoller extensively discusses the concept of a biological force in human gender orientation and manifestations of sex differences. He presents pro and con arguments for such factors being involved in sexual orientation. He himself remains open on the finality of the question, but his contributions to the field are many and his writings should be read and reviewed. For example, in an extensive volume dealing with sex and gender, Stoller in 1968 wrote:

A sex-linked genetic biological tendency toward masculinity in males and femininity in females works silently but effectively from fetal existence on, being overlaid after birth by the effects of environment, the biological and environmental influences working more or less in harmony to produce a preponderance of masculinity in men and of femininity in women. In some, the biological is stronger and in others weaker. (Stoller, 1968, p. 74)

As for my own contributions to this area, at least two papers should be mentioned. In 1965, a critical review paper essentially addressed itself to the same question posed by Reinisch. In 1968, the theoretical question was expanded to be answered with pertinent additional clinical cases. It is comforting that Reinisch’s findings and conclusions echo mine, considering the additional material accruing in the ensuing years. The theoretical interpretation posited in 1965 still holds and the data continue to support the conclusion that, for every individual from birth, an endocrine-mediated psychosexual bias exists with which that individual interacts with the environment. The concept of bias was summarized thusly:

primarily owing to prenatal genic and hormonal influences, human beings are definitely predisposed at birth to a male or female gender orientation. Sexual behavior of an individual, and thus gender role, are not neutral and without initial direction at birth. Nevertheless sexual predisposition is only a potentiality setting limits to a pattern that is greatly modifiable by ontogenetic experiences. Life experiences most likely act to differentiate and direct a flexible sexual disposition and to mold the prenatal organization until an environmentally (socially and culturally) acceptable gender role is formulated and established. (Diamond, 1965, p. 167)

during fetal development hormones can act to organize the nervous system with a sexual bias for future sexual behavior. During adulthood, hormones act to instigate or “make manifest” this built-in bias. (Diamond, 1968, p. 427)

It is hoped that the usefulness of the excellent Reinisch article will be enhanced for those investigators interested in historical and theoretical completeness by these minimal additional references.

 

REFERENCES

Benjamin, H. (1964). The Transsexual Phenomenon, Julian Press, New York.

Diamond, M. (1965). A critical evaluation of the ontogeny of human sexual behavior. Quart. Rev. Biol. 40: 147-175.

Diamond, M. (1968). Genetic-endocrine interactions and human psychosexuality. In Diamond, M. (ed), Perspectives in Reproduction and Sexual Behavior, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Ind., 417-443.

Reinisch, J. (1974). Fetal hormones, the brain, and human sex differences: A heuristic, integrative review of the recent literature. Arch. Sex. Behav 3: 51 -90.

Stoller, R. J. (1968). Sex and Gender, Science House, New York.


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