I didn’t choose to be a non-transgender heterosexual female. I simply am. I am convinced that no one chooses their preferred gender, or their sexual orientation. Who deliberates about instinctive matters such as these, then reaches the conclusion s/he will relate to masculinity, or femininity, and will choose a specific sexual orientation? No one that I personally know. Boys Don’t Cry and A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Storyare films about young transgender people (Brandon being a trans man and Gwen, a trans woman), and their struggles with gender identity crisis. Both films are highly informative and offer an insightful look into learning to live with gender dysmorphia. I don’t apply that term in the sense that transgenders are mentally ill, because they aren’t. I believe in the science behind the psychiatric term. That is, I believe in the conflict between the brain anatomy of a transgender and that person’s sexual biology. fMRIs (functional magnetic resonance imaging) has shown startling results in the brains of transgender people.
There are known brain differences between homosexual and heterosexual persons. Many studies prove that male-to-female transsexuals (sometimes called homosexual MtF transsexuals – a controversial term) show a shift towards the female direction in brain anatomy. In 2009, a German team of radiologist compared 12 androphilic transsexuals (sexual attraction to males or masculinity), with 12 biological males and 12 biological females. Using (fMRIs), they found that when shown erotica, the biological men responded in several brain regions that the biological women did not, and that the sample of transsexuals was shifted towards the female direction in brain responses.
Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was used by another research team to compare 18 male-to-female transsexuals with 19 gynephilic (sexual attraction to females or femininity) males and 19 typical (heterosexual) females. DTI is used to detect white matter in the brain; white matter structure is one of the differences in neuroanatomy between men and women.The androphilic transsexuals (sexual attraction to males or masculinity), differed from both control groups in many brain areas. The authors concluded that androphilic transsexuals are halfway between the patterns exhibited by male and female control groups. Gynephilic male-to-female transsexuals (MtF) also show differences in the brain from non-transsexual males, but in a pattern different from being shifted in a female direction. Let’s get this straight: using DTI, researchers discovered that 19 FtM gynephilic people were compared with 19 heterosexual females. You with me? Alrightee. The results were that androphillic transsexuals (they seemed to suddenly jump out of nowhere in this study) differ in results from the heterosexual females and the gynephilic males. The brains of androphilic transgenders are “halfway” between the patterns seen in male and female control groups. This certainly is a unique result in that the androphilic transgender person fully displays neither the patterns of the heterosexual female brain patterns nor the patterns of the gynephilic FtM brain.
MRIs were also used to compare 24 gynephilic MtF transsexuals with 24 non-transsexual male and 24 non-transsexual female control brains. The researchers found sex-typical differentiation between the MtF transsexuals and non-transsexual males, and the non-transsexual females; but the gynephilic transsexuals “displayed also singular features and differed from both control groups.” In this case, it is the gynephillic transexual who displays unique brain matter traits. It would appear that both gynephillic and androphillic transexual brains do not merely emulate the brains of non-transexual males and non-transexual females. Rather, the network of neuroanatomy in both of these transgender groups is far more complex than that.
In 2008, a study was performed to find a link between genes and transsexuality. The researchers compared 112 male-to-female transsexuals, mostly already undergoing hormone treatment, with 258 cis-gendered males (self perception matches the person’s sex). The male-to-female transsexuals had longer receptor genes for the sex hormone androgen or testosterone. The research suggests reduced androgen contributes to the female gender identity of male to female transsexuals. The authors say a decrease in testosterone levels in the brain during fetal development might result in incomplete masculinization of the brain in male to female transsexuals, resulting in a more feminized brain and a female gender identity.
Scientists claim the question “Is the transsexual homosexual?” must be answered “yes” and ” no.” “Yes,” if his anatomy is considered; “no” if his psyche is given preference. What would be the situation after corrective surgery has been performed and the sex anatomy now resembles that of a woman? Is the “new woman” still a homosexual man? “Yes,” if pedantry and technicalities prevail. “No” if reason and common sense are applied. However homosexual and heterosexual labels ignore the individual’s personal sense of gender identity as taking precedence over biological sex. This is an insult, not to mention, an oddity. I am convinced this is the same as questioning a biological female as to whether or not she is a lesbian because she is sexually attracted to men.
Transgender people vary greatly in choosing when, if, and how to disclose their status to family, close friends, and others. Discrimination and especially violence against the transgender community makes coming out risky. Fear of being removed from the parental home while underage is a cause for transgender people to not come out until adulthood.Parental confusion and lack of acceptance of the child’s transgenderism is often met with an effort to change their children back to “normal.” They mistakenly utilize mental health services to alter the child’s sexual orientation and what is seen as a “phase,”, rather than taking the child, and the family, to a supportive and informative mental health clinic for transgender children and youth. This causes considerable trauma in the transgender child. Transgender teenagers are known to commit suicide in such families.
After watching and reviewing the films about Brandon Teena (Teena Brandon) and Gwen (Edward) Araujo, I understand far better the significant emotional challenges young people endure while struggling with gender identity issues. The final scene in Gwen’s life, a beautiful piece of fiction, where she runs from her death while looking over her shoulder, emphasizes her desire to escape her own fear and pain about being a transsexual female in a largely discriminatory, binary gender world. That she doesn’t remain in this world is hardly a surprise: her sister summarizes halfway through the film when Gwen lies weeping in her arms, “God didn’t make you girl or boy because you’re too special. Mommy found it in the bible.” It would appear we have found it in genetic science, too.