gender dysphoria, & gender identity
Is transexualism genetically
determined at conception?
Is transsexualism genetically determined?
As noted elsewhere in this section a transgender person is a
person who experiences Gender Dysphoria (formerly called Gender Identity Disorder), 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,
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:
|Many 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.|
Religious conservatives generally believe that
transsexuality is a chosen lifestyle to which a person can become addicted.
The solution is therapy and prayer.|
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
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
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
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:
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."
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
"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
"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."
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
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:
Over 50% of transsexuals are left-handed -- many times that of
the general population.
Transsexuals had distinctive styles of ridged finger prints, and
Transsexuals had more aunts than uncles on their mother's side.
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
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.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Rama Kant Mishra, "Research reveals biological basis of Trans-sexuality,"
Ground Report, 2008-OCT-27, at:
- "Transsexual gene link identified," BBC News, 2008-OCT-26, at:
- "Genetics linked to transsexuality: study," Sydney Morning Herald,
- "The traits of transsexuality," BBC News, 2000-JUL-07, at:
- "Most transsexuals are left-handed, says researcher," Press for Change,
- Helen Carter, "Transsexual study reveals genetic link," ABC Science,
Copyright © 2007 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2007-JUN-08
Latest update: 2011-APR-18
Author: B.A. Robinson