Today we are exploring what causes one to be transgender. There are many theories out there. Some are psychological theories while some of the more promising ones are physical. We have read countless science journals and articles in order to obtain the material we are about to present here. We will do our best to cite all of our sources so you can search for the information yourself should you choose. Our goal is to provide some clarity as to the causes of the transgender condition. As time goes on we are beginning to understand more about what causes one to be transgender; however there is much more that has yet to be learned. So let’s dive in.
Now called Gender Dysphoria, the transgender condition was originally known as Gender Identity Disorder. The original thought was that it was a psychological condition. Today’s science has since proven that being transgender is not a psychological condition. Though your psychological upbringing will have an effect on your personality there is no medical basis for transgender or any identity within the LGBT spectrum being caused by psychological factors.
The information was muddled by a doctor named Ray Blanchard and his Autogynephilia Theory, also known as BAT. Blanchard defined autogynephilia as “a male’s propensity to be sexually aroused by the thought of himself as a female”. This theory was later discredited by Dr. Charles Moser in 2010. Though it is noted the condition of autogynephilia does indeed exist in some cases, it is not the cause of the transgender condition. There are children who know they are transgender at very early ages. To claim being transgender is based on a sexual arousal related to homosexual or non-homosexual behaviors is not credible. It cannot be applied to young children or female to male individuals.
The David Reimer Story
David Reimer was a Canadian man born biologically male but raised female following medical advice and intervention after his penis was accidentally destroyed during a botched circumcision in infancy. Though Reimer was treated with estrogen he began to identify as male between the ages of 9 and 11 and ultimately transitioned back to his male identity at the age of 15. He went public with his story with the hopes of preventing what occurred with him from happening to anyone else. He later committed suicide after suffering years of severe depression, financial instability and a troubled marriage. The case showed the physical body had nothing to do with gender. The story is now known as the “John –Joan –John” case. This also helped put an end to the theory that gender identity was a social construct.
With the scientific community having moved on from the concept of Gender Dysphoria being rooted in psychosis, the first transgender brain study to yield results was done by Zhou et al in 1995. In studying the stria terminalis in the brain (known as BSTc), Zhou found cissexual men had larger BSTc volumes than cissexual women and that transgender women had volumes similar to those of cissexual women. They were dissimilar to those of cissexual men. This work was further expanded by Kruijver et al in 2000 when it was confirmed adult hormone exposure (HRT) had nothing to do with these brain differences. It was concluded that though it is one of the areas affected, BSTc differences were not the only cause of the transgender condition.
A study of the hypothalamus (INAH) by Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab (2008) yielded very similar results to those in the BSTc: cissexual men had more neurons and volume than cissexual women and transgender women were similar to cissexual women. This along with the 1995 and 2000 studies have suggested a biological basis to the transgender condition.
Berglund, Lindstrom, Dhejne-Helmy and Savic (2008) did a brain image study on odorous sex steroid responses and found the activation patterns of transgender women mimicked cisgender women and not cisgender males.
So what this means is that there is science proving transgender individuals have parts of their brain that match up with the gender they identify with. Male to female individuals have differences compared to cisgender males that coincide with cisgender females. Most importantly this is before any hormone treatment was received.
According to the research of LJ Gooren in 2006 as cited in an article by Transascity.org, testosterone production and the conversion of some testosterone to dihydrotestosterone between weeks 6 and 12 of pregnancy is critical for the initial development of male features, such as the penis, prostate gland and scrotum. Brain development, however, does not occur in earnest until the second half of the pregnancy term after the genitals have been developed. The continued presence of male hormones results in a brain which has subtle, but critical physical differences from the female brain (Bao).
The fact that the brain and the genitals develop at different times in the womb mean that a misalignment between the genitals and brain may develop. This leads to either an intersex condition or a transgender individual.
Gender Dysphoria is a physical condition. It is caused when the brain and body do not match on a physical and hormonal level. The previously classified “mental” issues are a result of this physical disconnect. The only known effective treatment for Gender Dysphoria is to transition to the correct gender identity.
So the facts are Gender Dysphoria is real. It is not a mental disorder. It is a physical issue that happens as a result of what did or did not occur in the womb. The mental problems are the result of the physical condition. For male to females they did not get enough testosterone during a critical period of brain development in the womb. For female to males they received too much of it. There are also all the variations of those who are in between on the identity spectrum. We will have to wait for the science to catch up with us but this is what we know today. Regardless of the causes we just know who we are. We don’t have to justify that to anyone else.