LGBT activists previously argued gender dysphoria may be affirmed by discoveries about individuals’ genetics and brain development. Harvard University researchers, for example, explored this viewpoint in depth in a 2016 article titled “Between the (Gender) Lines: the Science of Transgender Identity.”
In studies published in 1995 and 2000, researchers looked at specific areas of the brain in both transgender adults and those who accept their sex. They found that male to female transgender people had specific brain areas more closely resembling that of gender-natural women, and the same for transgender men (females living as men).
The researchers also studied transgender people not taking hormones, and found similar results. They argued this indicates transgender people may be born with brains somewhat akin to those of the opposite sex, either due to genetics or hormone exposure as a fetus.
Further exploration into questions like this should greatly benefit medical personnel in helping effectively treat transgender patients. However, LGBT activists seem to have made a drastic ideological shift towards opposing efforts.
The University of California at Los Angeles’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior was preparing a National Institute of Health-backed study to better understand brain structures and responses among people living with gender dysphoria. The study was titled, “Gender identity and own body perception – implications for the neurobiology of gender dysphoria.” Its researchers were seeking transgender participants when LGBT activists demanded the study be shut down.
According to the physicians attempting to conduct the study, “We want to understand the neurobiology of gender dysphoria and the interactions between sex hormone therapy treatment, the brain, and the body phenotype.” However, the executive director of the local activist group Gender Justice LA objected, claiming the study “opens the door for advancing the highly disregarded and dangerous practice of conversion therapy.”
Gender Justice LA claims the study is designed to “trigger” gender dysphoria in those who have not begun treatment and therefore would be psychologically harmful to the participants. They asserted that because the study could be used “for the creation of therapeutics to treat gender dysphoria as one would treat anorexia” it could be used as a method of conversion therapy.
The California LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network circulated a letter to local LGBT communities urging transgender and gender-nonconforming people to stay away from the “dangerous” study.
“We object to the view that transgender people have an aberrant body image condition or that brain imaging of traumatic response could ultimately ‘help’ trans people,” the group wrote in the letter. “It is suggestive of a search for medical ‘cure,’ which can open the door for more gatekeeping and restrictive policies and practices in relation to access to gender-affirming care. At a time in which trans lives are under attack, we find this kind of research to be misguided and dangerous.”
Seemingly shocked by the backlash, the leading physician has paused the study until meetings with local LGBT groups can be conducted to better understand the objections and adapt the study to address their concerns. However, this is unlikely to be effective. The California LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network named the lead doctor, Jamie Feusner, M.D., in their press release.
They complained that Feusner primarily studies eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder, which is offensive to LGBT ideology, which wholly rejects the idea gender dysphoria is problematic. The organization claimed this study is proof all similar studies must first go through research review boards by TGI (transgender, gender-nonconforming and intersex) organizations.
Part of their demands of the university is to, “Create clear research guideless that include the participation of transgender researchers and policy advocates on scientific advisory boards and community advisory boards for any trans related research.” This would ban any independent research that transgender activists do not wish to be conducted. Rather than open research as broadly as possible to better understand the condition, LGBT activists want to carefully control and monitor research to ensure preferred outcomes.
How would understanding the chemical responses in the brains of people living with gender dysphoria, with or without hormone therapy, be harmful to transgender people? It appears to come down to LGBT movement stances about the erasure of biological sex distinctions in favor of gender identity.
The American Civil Liberties Union’s list of “facts” about transgender athletes argues, “There is no one way for our bodies to be. Women, including women who are transgender, intersex, or disabled, have a range of different physical characteristics. Biological sex and gender are not binaries. There are no set hormone ranges, body parts, or chromosomes that all people of a particular sex or gender have.”
The movement seems to be focused exclusively on pushing affirmation and transition rather than understanding the cause or nature of gender dysphoria any longer. The Daily Wire helpfully debunked the ACLU’s “facts.”
Additionally, more and more emphasis has been placed on early and aggressive social transition with the use of puberty blockers in children. As LGBTQ Nation reported, “A new study found that transgender teens who are prescribed puberty blockers want to take them and then later undergo hormone replacement therapy.”
Many critical of gender-transition therapy have observed that early social transition causes later physical transition, especially once puberty blockers are introduced. The messaging from these groups is clear that identity matters more than biology.
Based on the arguments being made and opposition to a better scientific understanding of gender dysphoria, it is clear LGBT activists worry that science may become a barrier to gender identity advocacy. A reliable brain scan demonstrating a female brain in a male body, which was once used as evidence of the inborn nature of gender dysphoria, could become a test for the condition. In the eyes of activists, this could restrict or limit access to transition if research suggests gender dysphoria should be medically diagnosed before transition can be justified.
Rather, the LGBT movement prefers the argument that gender is, quite literally, what the individual says it is. The assertion that a transwoman is a woman requires no evidence, and is expected to be accepted at face value. Scientific research narrowing the causes or nature of gender dysphoria could upset this argument.
Rather than evaluate their views based on what science finds, LGBT activists instead are simply shutting down study that threatens their beliefs. The influence of this population over medical science and study should be greatly concerning to everyone interested in pursuing scientific truth wherever it leads, rather than using it solely as a tool to obtain a preferred outcome.