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Transgenderism, transsexualism,
gender dysphoria, & gender identity

Is transexualism genetically
determined at conception?


Sponsored link.


Is transsexualism genetically determined?

As noted elsewhere in this section a transgender person is a person who experiences Gender Identity Disorder (a.k.a. Gender Dysphoria), Their genetic gender is different from their perceived gender. Some describe themselves as a woman trapped in a man's body, or vice versa.

This disorder is rare. It generally causes serious personal conflicts and depression, often starting in pre-school children. Their level of frustration and anxiety is often so high that many become suicidally depressed. The rate of completed suicide for transsexuals was once believed to be about 50% by age 30. Since then, gender reassignment surgery (GRS) has become more widely accessible. Many transsexuals can now have their physical appearance modified to make them appear more like the gender that they feel they are. This surgery has been shown to be generally effective, and the suicide rate among transsexuals has apparently been greatly reduced.

Beliefs about the cause(s) of transsexuality differ:

bulletMany transsexuals, therapists, human sexuality researchers, religious liberals, and others believe that transsexuality is determined before birth. Some believe that it is determined by one's DNA at conception. others hold to the theory that it is caused by irregular levels of sex hormones to which the fetus may be subjected. These beliefs are grounded in research into genes and traits of transsexuals.

bullet Religious conservatives generally believe that transsexuality is a chosen lifestyle to which a person can become addicted. The solution is therapy and prayer.

The opinion of some gays, lesbians, and bisexuals towards the causes of transsexuality may be influenced by a desire to support their belief that sexual orientation is similarly genetically determined.

Australian DNA study during 2008:

Australian researcher Professor Vincent Harley has led an Australian-American study of transsexuality. He acknowledges that the cause(s) of transsexuality have been debated for years. He said:

"There is a social stigma that transsexualism is simply a lifestyle choice. However our findings support a biological basis of how gender identity develops."

He was the lead researcher in the an Australian-American genetic study of transsexuals -- the largest to date. Included were several research groups in Melbourne Australia and in the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA). It was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia, and the National Institutes of Health in the U.S.

They compared DNA from 112 MTF (male-to-female) transsexuals with DNA from 250 males who did not experience gender dysphoria. Results of the study were published in the 2008-OCT-27 edition of the journal Biological Psychiatry.

The researchers found that the transsexual subjects were more likely to have a longer version of the androgen receptor gene in their DNA.

Lauren Hare, a researcher at Prince Henry's Institute said:

"We think these genetic differences might reduce testosterone action and under-masculinize the brain during fetal development."

Professor Harley said:

"Studies in cells show the longer version of the androgen receptor gene works less efficiently at communicating the testosterone message to cells. Based on these studies, we speculate the longer version may also work less efficiently in the brain." 1

Commenting on the lives of transsexuals, Prof. Harley said:

"It's a very tough condition. These people are often on the margins of society, are ostracised, poor, unemployed. It's not something you would want to choose yet still some people think it's a choice when it's more likely transsexuals are born like that." 6

The report stated:

"It is possible that a decrease in testosterone levels in the brain during development might result in incomplete masculinisation of the brain in male to female transsexuals, resulting in a more feminised brain and [later] a female gender identity."

Terry Reed from the Gender Identity Research and Education Society said:

"This study appears to reinforce earlier studies which have indicated that, in some trans people, there may be a genetic trigger to the development of an atypical gender identity."

"However, it may be just one of several routes and, although it seems extremely likely that a biological element will always be present in the aetiology of transsexualism, it's unlikely that developmental pathways will be the same in all individuals."

Researcher Trudy Kennedy, director of the Monash Gender Dysphoria Clinic, said the study supported previous evidence that genetics and brain gender were important in transsexuality. She said:

"This is something that people are born with and it's certainly not a lifestyle choice as some have suggested."

A Ground Report article commented on the conflict over the causes of transsexuality:

"People develop an inner sense of being male or female from an early age but transsexuals identify with a physical sex opposite to their biological sex. Some theories suggest some causes that include psychosocial factors including dysfunctional family dynamics and traumatic childhood experiences. But research is increasingly implicating biological factors including family history and genetics."

"The present study would disapprove the social stigma that trans-sexualism is simply a lifestyle choice; the findings support a biological basis of how gender identity develops." 2

Julie Peters is one of the MTF transsexuals who took part in the study. She said that at the age of three or four years, she was aware that she did not behave as a typical boy. She said:

"I have always had the personality of a girl, I suppose is the way I perceive it and even from a very young age, three or four, I was really mad at people for making me a boy. ... I personally think it (gender) is a combination of both (nature and nurture). You are born with a predisposition to have a certain personality and then depending on the culture you are brought up in your personal situation it becomes active in a particular way." 3

Researchers are now planning to replicate the study with twice the number of volunteers. It will also examine investigate whether other genes are involved.

Demetris Taylor, a reader of the Ground Report article, posted his concern over this type of research:

"It is truly amazing that this research is upon us. My fear is those 'mad scientists' may take this information and begin to play God will begin to find ways of CHANGING the "TRANS-baby" and perfect the child according to what society says is NORMAL............I would love to see more conclusive information about this study and read the DEFINITES they conclude." 1 (Capitals in the original).

Studies of fingerprints, left handedness, and ancestry of transsexuals:

During 2000-JUL, Professor Richard Green, visiting professor of psychiatry at Imperial College in London, UK discussed transsexuality at the annual meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. His presentation was based on a study of 400 male-to-female (MTF) and 100 female-to-male (FTM) transsexuals in the late 1990s at the gender identity clinic in Charing Cross Hospital in London. His group determined that:

bullet

Over 50% of transsexuals are left-handed -- many times that of the general population.


bullet

Transsexuals had distinctive styles of ridged finger prints, and


bullet

Transsexuals had more aunts than uncles on their mother's side.


bullet

Male transexuals had more older brothers than average.

The Electronic Telegraph news source reported that:

"Prof Green said the developing foetus could be affected by the number of boys born previously to the same mother and suffer an influx of 'anti-male' antigens from the mother.  The high number of aunts could be explained by genetic imprinting in the mother?s family which was then passed on to the male sons despite their sex, he said.

" 'A distorted sex ratio in one generation could result in distorted psychosexual differentiation in the next,' said Prof Green."

The number of maternal aunts is, of course, normally determined before conception. Hand use and fingerprints are determined during the first 15 weeks after conception.

All of these findings argue for the tendency towards transsexuality being determined before birth. That is, it is not a decision that a person makes later in life, as has been argued by many social and religious conservatives. 4,5

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Rama Kant Mishra, "Research reveals biological basis of Trans-sexuality," Ground Report, 2008-OCT-27, at: http://www.groundreport.com/
  2. "Transsexual gene link identified," BBC News, 2008-OCT-26, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
  3. "Genetics linked to transsexuality: study," Sydney Morning Herald, 2008-OCT-26, at: http://news.smh.com.au/
  4. "The traits of transsexuality," BBC News, 2000-JUL-07, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk
  5. "Most transsexuals are left-handed, says researcher," Press for Change, at: http://www.pfc.org.uk/
  6. Helen Carter, "Transsexual study reveals genetic link," ABC Science, 2008-OCT-27, at: http://www.abc.net.au/

Copyright © 2007 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2007-JUN-08
Latest update: 2011-APR-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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