Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Understand Gender

Everyone in a while I come a really good article explaining gender dysphoria and this one comes from Harvard.
Between the (Gender) Lines: the Science of Transgender Identity
By Katherine J. Wu
October 25, 2016

Think of your most noticeable feature. Maybe it’s your radiant smile, or your long, piano-playing fingers. Maybe it’s your stellar jump shot, or the way you recite Shakespearean sonnets at the drop of a hat. Or maybe it’s your penchant for scientific knowledge. But whatever it is, for better or worse, it is probably not your most salient feature to the world around you. To others, our most salient feature is one that doesn’t make any of us very salient at all – a feature in which none of us had any say in, which was assigned at, or prior to, birth: are you male or female?

Gender identity haunts every aspect of our lives, dictating the outcomes of our conversations, our workplaces, our relationships – even our bath products. Before most infants are named, they are assigned a sex based on the appearance of their external genitalia by a third party. These decisions are dolled out in a typically binary fashion, with no expectations for ambiguity. This is the norm – but has this simplicity led us astray?
[…]
The transgender identity has long been associated with poor mental health, particularly the diagnoses of “gender identity disorder” and “gender dysphoria.” However, the World Health Organization is actively working towards declassifying transgender identity as a mental disorder, a change partially prompted by a recent study uncoupling the mental and physical health problems experienced by transgender people from their gender identity. Rather, those who had suffered ailments could vastly attribute their afflictions to societal stigma, discrimination, and violence.
The article then goes into the science of gender identity…
First and foremost, is gender identity genetic? It seems the answer is yes – though, as with most traits involving identity, there is some environmental influence. One classic way for scientists to test whether a trait (which can be any characteristic from red hair to cancer susceptibility to love of horror movies) is influenced by genetics is twin studies. Identical twins have the exact same genetic background, and are usually raised in the same environment. Fraternal (nonidentical) twins, however, share only half their genes, but tend to also be raised in the same environment. Thus, if identical twins tend to share a trait more than fraternal twins, that trait is probably influenced by genetics. Several studies have shown that identical twins are more often both transgender than fraternal twins, indicating that there is indeed a genetic influence for this identity. So, what genes might be responsible?

Transgender women tend to have brain structures that resemble cisgender women, rather than cisgender men. Two sexually dimorphic (differing between men and women) areas of the brain are often compared between men and women. The bed nucleus of the stria terminalus (BSTc) and sexually dimorphic nucleus of transgender women are more similar to those of cisgender woman than to those of cisgender men, suggesting that the general brain structure of these women is in keeping with their gender identity.
The article goes on to discuss the natal environment, genetics, and the brain, it also has a number of good references used in the article.

Well worth reading!

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