What is wrong with me. That’s usually the question most of us start with, when it becomes evident that our desires are out of synch with the rest of society we assume there’s something wrong with us. For an outsider the question is always ‘what’s wrong with them,’ ‘why must they act in that way.’ The default assumption tends to be the least charitable.
So let’s explore the science a bit. Some speak of the gender binary in absolute terms, while others feel that gender is more like a broad spectrum. Both concepts serve a purpose but the reality is much more complex. There are currently over 7 billion configurations of human, each one is unique and becoming more so with every moment lived, and this doesn’t even scratch the surface of what’s possible.
Genetics are pretty complicated, I won’t pretend to understand them. The experts certainly don’t, seriously the first thing any researcher worth their salt will tell you is that our ignorance of the human machine vastly outweighs our insight. That said there are a few things we do know when it comes to gender. The first is that while there are noticeable differences between male and female, we are all built from the same parts, and there are an inconceivable number of parts.
Hormones tell those parts what to do, but these instructions are given to different parts at different times, it’s been proven that it is absolutely possible for those instructions to go off track. Concrete examples of this include but are not limited to intersex conditions. This is no accident, from a secular standpoint nature thrives on diversity, from a theological standpoint God doesn’t make mistakes.
Heads up I’m going to talk about body parts now 🙂 We know that every fetus begins in a female state, we know that there is one tiny part of one chromosome that determines whether the gonads become testicles or ovaries. Testicles produce testosterone and eventually the rest of the body gets reconfigured into a male state, no testosterone and the body stays female. Usually.
As stated earlier we know that there is a lot of room for variation. What we don’t know is precisely what effect these variations might have. This represents a knowledge gap but not an insurmountable one. After all there may be over 7 billion configurations of human but there are trends we can observe.
Numbers vary depending on who you ask but even with a conservative estimate there are hundreds of thousands of people in the US alone who identify as transgender. Everyone’s journey is a bit different but there are several consistent elements among personal accounts. For example most claim severe distress at living in their assigned gender. Many, though not all claim to have known or at least suspected from a young age. Very few accounts claim that these feelings have changed much over their lifetime.
It has been established that male and female brains operate differently from one another. It has also been observed that transgender brains operate differently than cisgender brains, and that a transgender brain more closely resembles that of their identified gender. There have been a number of studies with varying conclusions, most support this idea, a few are inconclusive but none refute it.
This doesn’t necessarily rule out other possibilities, once again 7 billion configurations of human, each one is different. But if someone is going to state that transgenderism simply isn’t a thing I expect them to bring more to the discussion than hollow rhetoric about how a person is not a dinosaur just because they think they’re a dinosaur.
And really why does it matter what causes it, why can’t we all just accept one another for who we are? Below are some links in support of the facts I’ve stated. I tend to read a lot…
Cercor Oxford Journals – Structural Connectivity Networks of Transgender People
Medical University of Vienna – Networks of the brain reflect the individual gender identity
Science Daily – Transgender: Evidence on the biological nature of gender identity
PsyPost – Researchers unravel mechanism that plays key role in sexual differentiation of brain
acadamia.edu – What’s in a Gender? Studies of Brain Structure Find Evidence for Neurological Basis of Transgender Identity
Pub Med – Regional gray matter variation in male-to-female transsexualism.
Here is another study that doesn’t deal with transgenderism per se, but focuses on the effects of attempting to socialize someone into a gender that doesn’t match their actual gender identity.
New England Journal of Medicine – Discordant Sexual Identity in Some Genetic Males with Cloacal Exstrophy Assigned to Female Sex at Birth
This is a Huffington Post article that elaborates on some misconceptions regarding transgender research.
Huffington Post – Myths About Transition Regrets
Here is an article from TransAdvocate, admittedly a biased source but it’s quite thorough and contains several helpful links.
Trans Advocate – Clinging to a dangerous past: Dr Paul McHugh’s selective reading of transgender medical literature