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Nature or Nurture?

Chapter Five

Maybe he felt reassured by the fact that I’d listened quietly, but clearly he was still very afraid. “Dad, you haven’t said much, but I know this must be a terrible shock and disappointment. I’m wonderfully happy for myself but I’m so, so, sorry that I’m doing this to all of you. And even if you are accepting, Dad, how will it be for Mum and Chris ? One of the books I’ve read, “Crossing”, by a university professor called Deidre McCloskey, is the story of how she transitioned from Donald to Deidre. The reaction of Donald’s wife, his mother and his sister was one of absolutely hateful rejection. And I know of others like that. I’m afraid that may happen with us.” And his voice tailed off.

My mind was in a turmoil. He had absolutely no idea how closely this touched me. “Ronnie,” I said, “after all you’ve told me I don’t think there’s any chance of me — or Mum, or Chris — changing your mind. And I don’t think we would want to try. Your choice is going to make you encounter prejudice and intolerance, but I don’t think it will come from us. Why ? Because there’s something we’ve never told you about. I guess it’s now time to tell you. But I want to say this first. You really have me wondering about the nature or nurture thing. You’ve said that there was nothing we did that might have caused this to happen. In other words, you don’t believe nurture could have been a factor. If you’re right, then it must be nature — something always in you. And I think that may be it.” Ronnie now had a puzzled frown, wondering where I was going with this. “Look” I said, “ I’ve always believed there may be something called genetic memory, where someone’s experiences can somehow become physically captured in his or her genes and then get passed on to future generations. Stay here. I have to show you something.”