Hey Trump! Yet Another Study Proves Trans People do Exist

The Trump administration might be trying to define away the reality of trans lives, but this month scientists released yet another study affirming trans identity, this time looking at the biological indications of gender dysphoria.

Researchers at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne recruited 380 transwomen (sex assigned male at birth) and 344 control males (birth sex and gender aligned) to look at whether there are genetic clues for the state known as gender dysphoria – discomfort, sometimes to the point of triggering mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, surrounding a mismatch between a person’s birth-assigned sex and their gender.

Gender dysphoria is a medically recognized term and refers to a particular medical problem. It should not be conflated with being trans, which is not a mental health issue but rather a state of being. Not all people who are trans suffer gender dysphoria, however gender dysphoria appears to be linked to emergent identity about a gender-birth sex mismatch.

Previous research has shown marked differences in brain activity for people who experience gender dysphoria, which has led researchers to believe there may well be other biological components to this problem.

The researchers in this study found that when they compared the genetics of transwomen to those of typically “male” people there were a number of differences. Of particular interest were differences in several genes that signal key hormones for in-utero masculinization (the process of becoming male) in developing babies.

The study can not tell us exactly how this causes gender dysphoria, but the researchers have offered a best guess: these genetic differences contribute to changes in estrogen and androgen release while babies are developing. Estrogen and androgen are two of the key hormones that shape our physical sex characteristics.

Lead researcher, Professor Harley, was quick to characterize this kind of theorizing as just that, ”We know so little about what makes us feel male or female and our gender identity,” Harley told SBS. “We don’t know what part of the brain participates; you know what region in the brain or what processes it participates yet. So we’re a long way away from that.”

This research, therefore, is meant as a step along that road, and not as a final word.

Some trans people have welcomed the study. Others, however have been more cautious. We might ask why, and that caution really comes down to one major thing:

When it comes to basic freedoms this kind of research is beside the point.

Scientific understanding of trans people and gender variant identity is a relatively new field — at least as we understand it today. It is critical from a number of standpoints.

Anything that expands our knowledge in a meaningful way has value — for example the study showing us that trans children experience gender in a way that is markedly consistent. More specifically for this topic, if we understand how gender dysphoria happens we can create better interventions to help those who do suffer live aligned with who they really are earlier and better.

It is also useful to clap back at people who claim “you can’t deny biology” when we talk about trans identity. This is often peddled out as a reason to rally against gender affirmed public accommodations, suggesting that trans people aren’t really the gender they know themselves to be.

Except, as science is showing us, our experience of gender isn’t purely psychological or environmental; our experience of our emergent gender has roots in the deepest parts of our biology, even down to how our brains function. As this latest study shows, it’s maybe even part of our DNA. It is as real as any of our other experiences of the world around us. That’s interesting, and it’s certainly worth while exploring.

But it shouldn’t matter. Not for a fight over basic civil rights. To understand why, it’s worth taking another example: religion.

We grant religious people a wide plethora of extra accommodations based on an asserted religious belief. This, by its nature, requires no factual basis. Religious people do not have to prove God exists in order to be granted rights to, for example, regulate behavior in their organizations or even receive tax breaks.

Their sincerely-held belief of their relationship with a supernatural being is taken at face value. This occurs despite the fact that religion has a checkered history. It certainly can lead to manifest good, such as prompting people to be more charitable, people creating strong communities and lifting others out of despair. It also can be a driving force for real harm, including psychological and sexual abuse, ostracization and anti-democratic laws.

Despite this, we do not require religious people to prove they are “one of the good ones”, nor do we regulate against religion because of the potential for abuse. Yet what President Trump and his cohorts are suggesting is that we do precisely that for trans people, despite the science that is manifestly on their side. More science, in fact, than religion can ever lay claim to.

A person’s experience of their gender is no one else’s business and certainly not the government’s. Furthermore, trans people are far more likely to be victims of violent sexual crime than to carry those crimes out, and no locality that has provided public accommodations protections for trans people has suffered wide scale or systematic abuse of those protections.

Trans people exist, and it’s trans people who need protecting, President Trump, not the other way around.

Take Action!

Sign our Care2 petition today to prevent the Trump administration rolling back vital recognition for millions of trans Americans.

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You’ll find Care2’s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

 

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

58 comments

Sophie A
Sarah A4 months ago

Thanks

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Louise R
Past Member 4 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson4 months ago

Thank you.

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Dave f
Past Member 4 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Caitlin L
Past Member 5 months ago

Thank you

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Leo C
Leo C5 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Tabot T
Tabot T5 months ago

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danii p
danii p5 months ago

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danii p
danii p5 months ago

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danii p
danii p5 months ago

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