Are Transsexual Brains different?

I’ve seen a lot of transsexuals talking about how they were born with different brain chemistry.  For example a biological male saying he was born with a female brain.  I haven’t seen much research on this, but here is an article that examines it, and the conclusion is that there isn’t enough evidence to support the claim that transsexuals are born with a brain that is different in that way.  I thought it was an interesting read.

It is called – Are transsexual brains different? – By Neil Whitehead, Ph. D Lower Hutt, New Zealand

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21 comments on “Are Transsexual Brains different?

  1. Robyn says:

    What is fascinating is that this study says, “Yes, BUT…” The study makes it clear that the brain differences are NOT because they are born that way but because of repetitive thought processes over time changed their brain. It makes sense to me…

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  2. Ralph says:

    I don’t know if I can entirely agree with his conclusions. Unless they compare the *same person’s* brain at an early age (before the “repetitive thought processes”) vs. current, they’re just speculating like everybody else. The second sentence outright says “… PROBABLY due to years of repetetive thinking” (emphasis mine).

    This theory doesn’t explain children who begin expressing an inclination to “girly” behavior before puberty, and it certainly doesn’t explain the biologically intersexed. If a person can be born with a mixture of genitalia, why can’t that person also be born with a mixture of neurological sex differentiation?

    Of course I say all that without the slightest whit of education or experience to back it up. More likely the answer lies somewhere in between — I’ve long believed that gender dysphoria isn’t just nature OR nurture, but a little of both. That would also explain why some people have felt from the moment they could tell the difference between girls and boys that they were something other than what their outer plumbing suggested, and why others go through life unsure whether they are male or female. Perhaps there is a very small biological “leaning” from birth, and once the person has made up his or (and) her mind, those repetetive thought processes and cultural cues reinforce what otherwise would have been a minor personality difference.

    For example, suppose a guy likes weepy romantic movies and wearing pink. People notice this and keep telling him he must be gay… eventually he starts to believe them and convinces himself it must be true. Then he starts actively pursuing a gay lifestyle, and those repetetive thought processes feed back on him to make it seem more “obvious” that he really is gay. When from the start he just liked romantic movies and the color pink.

    I dunno, I’m just making this up as I go along 🙂

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  3. thorin25 says:

    All this is really interesting stuff, but the big question is whether it changes anything. Suppose those who are transgender are really that way because of being born with a different type of brain. Does that entail that they should start living as the opposite sex? I would still say no. They would just be a man with a brain pattern more common in females, but they are still a man. Just like all men have different physiques and some are much closer to the physique of a woman than others. Just like all men have different temperaments, and some men have temperaments much closer to the normal temperaments of women, but they are still men.

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  4. Joshua says:

    I’m trying to understand why it matters in the first place. Trying to understand the source of these human variations is going to be about as fruitless as pondering the meaning of life. Unless you are willing to step into a speculative realm of Gods and Angels and Demons then you are going to walk away empty handed. Science wants nothing to do with self-loathing, apologetics, or any other sort of attempt to make homosexuals, the transgendered, or any other group of so-called “sexual deviants” appear “better” or “worse”.

    SEX is your biology. You can be XX, XY, or anything else. (Hermaphrodism happens. Does GOD cause that? Or is it sin? Or is it just random genese? Who are we to say?)

    GENDER is your identify. You can be a Man, a Woman, or anything else. Personally I usually identify as a male but choose to dress in a more or less androgynous fashion just to make the point that using gender as an identifier can lead you into weird scenarios.

    ORIENTATION is your sexual-preference. You can like Men, Women, or anything else. Personally I feel like I am not really sexually attracted to anyone based on their sex but rather upon who they are and what they do. I believe that’s called Pansexuality but whatever, labels are lame.

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  5. thorin25 says:

    Well I disagree right up front with your 2nd sentence. I don’t think pondering the meaning of life is fruitless. If you don’t know why you exist, that sounds like a pretty hopeless depressing pointless life. I believe we exist to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

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  6. Eric says:

    Thorin, which is more important — your mind or your body? If your mind says female and your body says male, why do do we give preference to the temporary object instead of the eternal? Which is easier to change — mind or body? We can change the body, no one knows how to cure gender identity dysphoria (GID). Theologically, what’s the difference between a trans woman and a eunuch?

    These are the kinds of questions I’m struggling with. I’ve found no active TS Christian non-transitioning sites. I’m here instead lurking on this and your fellow fighter sites. I want to make it clear I appreciate you tackling TS. I’m just trying to add some information to the conversation. I think the church has abandoned the LBGT community and needs to start reaching out to it. That’s obviously not your site’s mission, so I don’t want to derail you.

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  7. thorin25 says:

    Eric, I’m glad for any input, even from those who disagree, and maybe you and I can agree on a lot. I’m not an expert on transsexual issues by any means. Here is my thought on how the church should respond to the issue in general terms – https://healingcd.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/churchs-response-to-homosexuality-crossdressing-transsexualism/ I think the church needs to reach out to the LBGT community as well, with love and grace, but not with saying that whatever they want to do is “okay.”

    I also really like this statement by Exodus International – http://exodusinternational.org/2010/01/gender-identity/#.T4L1utUxCE8

    If you check my links page, there are a lot of testimonies I’ve found for those who found healing from gender identity disorders, without transitioning. I have many more yet to add from other websites I’ve found.

    As far as your first question. That’s a tough one. I guess I would want to say the mind is more important than our body (since we can live without a limb, but not really without our mind). But I don’t think that logically entails altering our body to match how our mind feels.

    If our mind says we are female but our body says we are male, then one of them is lying to us or we are confused. The transsexual community seems to think that we cannot be just confused or lying to ourselves. If you feel and think you are a woman you must truly be a woman even if your DNA and chromosomes are 100% male. I disagree. If our body is clearly male (not intersexed or hermaphrodite by birth), then we must be confused, or deceiving ourselves.

    Think about it like this. Your proposed argument sounds really good. But let’s take it to its logical conclusion. What if I feel like a cat in my mind, but my body is human. My mind is more important. So I alter my body to match how my mind feels. Do we just let someone do that? Do we let our child do that? No, we say they are confused and need psychological help. (although scarily there are people out there who have been surgically altered to look like a cat). Now, I would say the confusion is to a much less degree for those who feel like they are truly the opposite sex of their body type. But it’s still confusion and surgery is not the answer.

    I would propose that most of the time the confusion is the result of not fitting into the gender stereotypes of our culture and over our childhood upbringing and the years beyond that can really weigh on a person and mess with their perceived identity. I experienced that to some degree myself. You have to ask. Why does a certain person “feel” like a woman rather than a “man?” Well to answer that question you first have to figure out what their view is on what it means to be a “man” and if they are using the culture’s definition and stereotypes of it. My view is that there are not very many definite differences between men and women besides our biological differences and even then you end up with some women who are stronger than men or taller than men, etc. Most of the other differences are just generalities with many exceptions. We need to have a wider view of what it means to be a man or woman, get rid of the dumb stereotypes, and then I think we would have a lot less people feeling confused about their sex.

    On eunuchs, I think this is mutilation as well, and in biblical times at least, it was forced mutilation on them that they didn’t have a choice about. But they did not try to live as women and pretend to be women. They just lived as the mutilated men that they were (and were viewed differently and in some ways inferior to other men of the society).

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  8. Eric says:

    Thorin, You make good points. I’m working through a lot of gender stereotypes and past experiences right now.

    I do wonder if the church asks too much of LGBT before they attend. That seems more of a cultural problem on our side. We don’t do the same with divorcees, parents with disobedient children, or even atheists.

    I started by asking the type of questions I asked you, but now my focus has changed to drawing closer to God and relying on Him to provide direction in His perfect timing.
    Right now, I’m reading Celebration of Discipline by Foster. In dealing with TS, I’ve seen God’s hand in my life and in my marriage. It’s fostered a hunger to grow closer to Him.

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  9. thorin25 says:

    I agree, I think many churches are uncomfortable and want the LGBT people to change before coming to church and meeting with Jesus. I think churches should only expect big life change after a person has been transformed by Jesus. In the scriptures, people have a radical encounter with Jesus, experience forgiveness and grace, and only then do they change their life and fight sin. Why did Zacchaeus give back his corrupt money to the poor? Because Jesus already showed him grace. With LGBT people I would love them to come to my church. I would welcome them. But once they turned to Jesus and started growing in him, then we would have to talk more and more about disciplesip and what it means to follow Jesus. But I wouldn’t expect them to change before becoming a Christian or before coming to church. That would be works-righteousness. Open wide the doors to adulterers, murderers, thieves, porn addicts, drug addicts, gluttons, prideful judgmental people, gossips, atheists, and LGBT people. Open wide the doors so that they meet Christ and hear the good news. Don’t expect the change to come first as many churches do.

    In your struggle with TS, I hope I have not said anything insensitive, arrogant, ignorant, or unloving. I am outspoken about what I believe, but I don’t want to come accross as bullying people. I pray God lets you find healing and wholeness in him, and fulfillment in your marriage. I will pray for you right now. Thank you so much for your conversation and keep challenging me and interacting please!

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  10. thorin25 says:

    Eric, you are also welcome to join our email prayer chain if you think it would be helpful

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  11. Eric says:

    Thanks Thorin. I have not been offended by anything you have said. Thank you for your prayers.

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  12. John says:

    I’ve found no active TS Christian non-transitioning sites.

    Eric, have you looked at this one-http://www.lightinthecloset.org/

    Perhaps it is not active but it appears to be an attempt to minister to the Christian dealing with CD/TG issues. I know their message board section is virtually inactive. Thorin, hope you don’t mind my posting this here. I’m guessing this ministry is less concerned with stopping or encouraging Crossdressing and more concerned about welcoming. May not be theologically in line with your views, but I’m not entirely sure about their’s.

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  13. thorin25 says:

    Hi John, thank you for the post. Always glad for your input. I’ve glanced at that site before, and it’s on my to-do list to look more in depth at their views. Their lack of any clear statement about what they believe on these controversial topics I find troubling. It would be more helpful for everybody if they were more clear about what they believed about crossdressing. What I’ve read on their site so far I find frustrating. For example, in question and answer section, they respond to the question of whether crossdressing is sinful. They just talk about how people focus on the sins of others more than their own, and how we are all sinful, etc. Those are obvious facts, but that’s not answering the question. Oh wait, looking at some of the links it appears the author of the site had sex reassignment surgery or is at least living as a woman. So maybe they are not so unclear as to their views after all – http://www.clgs.org/files_clgs/TranSummit%20IV,%20Mainstream,%20Stewart%20and%20Klein%20%281C%29.pdf
    Anyway, it looks like I disagree with them in many ways, but it doens’t hurt for people to go there and read their material, as long as they read it with their eyes open and think it through biblically. I’ll have to read more of their stuff later on.

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  14. thorin25 says:

    Here is a new website starting that might have some good information on this topic of why or how transsexuals’ brains are different. I don’t know. We will see.
    http://biologicaltheoriestrans.wordpress.com/

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  15. leguest says:

    Actually, brain differences have been found for TS people, which I’ll note since this blog post comes up prominently on Google searches: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20032-transsexual-differences-caught-on-brain-scan.html

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  16. thorin25 says:

    Interesting article thanks. Even if they can prove that transsexual brains really are different from normal, they still to prove causality. Does living as the opposite sex and taking hormones, etc. cause your brain to be different, or is your brain different causing the behavior, or is it both at once? Our brains are constantly changing all the time as we behave in different ways and learn new things, that is proven beyond doubt.

    If they can prove that transsexuals have different brains that are like the opposite sex, from birth, that would be a very significant finding. However, I’m still not sure what that would mean for how we would react to it. Right now I don’t think it would do anything to change my view that people with gender dysphoria should not get a sex change or live as the opposite sex. They can still be a man and just be more like women than the average man. I don’t know what my brain is like, but I know that I am more like most women than most men (in the way I think and act etc.), but I can still function well as a man.

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  17. Ralph says:

    Bear in mind, Thorin, most people with sex and gender issues (including homosexuals, transsexuals, and crossdressers) claim to have felt these urges in pre-puberty, years before living the lifestyle and certainly well before taking hormones. The only way to prove this definitively would be if they happened to have brain scans of someone from early childhood who later was revealed to have some form of GID, but I’m leaning towards a biological cause.

    My theory is that when the developing fetus got a bath of hormones during development, we different folk got a slightly different mix than the rest. Like true intersexed people but without the additional hardware, only software changes.

    Since I also believe with all my heart that God absolutely does NOT make mistakes, I’m left puzzling over why we were “blessed” with such a different life.

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  18. thorin25 says:

    Just because God allowed it, it doesn’t make it a good thing or a blessing. People born with mental disabilities or physical disabilities don’t usually think of them as blessings. If a biological cause is part of the reason for gender dysphoria (which it probably is), I’d count that as similar to a physical disability, and one that can be dealt with in a healthy way besides getting a sex change or crossdressing.

    But then again, I’m not sure I’d want to call it a disability at all. I’ve had struggles with my gender since early childhood. But I’ve come to realize that I’m just a unique man, not a man trapped in a woman’s body. I would assume that my brain is different from normal men, but that doesn’t make me any less of a man, and I guess I wouldn’t call that a disability at all.

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  19. thorin25 says:

    Now, choosing to act out in strange ways because of this brain difference, that is a different thing entirely. Having a different brain pattern (and we are talking small differences here) in no way entails how we have to act.

    Think about this. If people today who call themselves transsexuals were born with a different brain pattern, were they really born as the wrong sex? No, not necessarily. It could just as easily be that since they were born with such a different brain from normal men, they felt more at ease among women who had more similar brain patterns and so feel more akin to women and think that they actually are one. But having a brain structure like that that is more similar to how most women think, does not make one a real woman. If our culture allowed for more variability between men and women and the ways they think and their personalities, the people born with such brains might not feel any tension or dysphoria at all.

    What if all of us have variability in this brain regions that they are looking at?

    These studies are used by people to argue that transsexuality is natural and sex changes should not be condemned. But I so no logical reason to take the argument there. There are so many other ways to look at it, even if these brain studies are proven.

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  20. Ralph says:

    Oh absolutely, I was just commenting on your suggestion that the brain studies are correct, based entirely on my (admittedly non-scientific) observation that the behavior changes take place long before any physical or lifestyle changes follow.

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  21. thorin25 says:

    Yeah and I was just rambling 🙂 haha. I don’t have much scientific knowledge about this either. But as my comment shows, I think that is okay. Science doesn’t give us a moral judgment about it one way or the other, so I think you and I can talk about ramifications of the science, even if we don’t completely understand the science.

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