Hard-wired 1

July 30, 2008

To add to my earlier post (Hard-wired), I’ve just spotted an interesting article in the New Scientist (link here) which reports on another piece of research which appears to add to the growing body of evidence suggesting that transsexuality may (at least in part) have a biological origin:

A gene variant has been identified that appears to be associated with female-to-male transsexuality – the feeling some women have that they belong to the opposite sex.

While such complex behaviour is likely the result of multiple genes, environmental and cultural factors, the researchers say the discovery suggests that transsexuality does have a genetic component.

It must be noted that there are, I think, genuine concerns that – when a neurological basis for transsexuality is finally confirmed (as I believe it will be, eventually) – this may encourage research to try to find a “cure”. I have to say that the potential for some or all of the very scary concepts of eugenics to re-emerge as a result of such a search is really rather frightening.

As Janett Scott, former president of the Beaumont Society, says in the article: “Nature may have made us the way that we are, but nurture is what gives us a problem”.

However, Clemens Tempfer (of the Medical University of Vienna, who discovered the gene variant) strongly denies any such motive for his research: “That is completely out of the question,” he says.

Nonetheless, he says, if other gene variants with a stronger association to transsexuality are identified, establishing a diagnosis might become easier. This might allow gender reassignment surgery or hormone therapy to start earlier in life.

Which is actually not an unreasonable stance, or at least it would appear so. But it’s interesting that he assumes such decisions about the aims and intentions of the research are his to make and enforce, particularly in the medium to long term.


©2008 Helen G


3 Responses to “Hard-wired 1”

  1. belledame222 Says:

    Yeah, I’ve always been leery of the whole “gay gene” thing for similar reasons. More so, I just think: it’s beside the point, it’s buying into the bigot’s framework; and as soon as it’s established that okay there IS some biological component, a lot of them just shift the goalposts anyway. If it’s a religious justification, it’s “their cross to bear, the BEHAVIOR is still a sin,” and in fact a number of ’em have already shifted to just that.

    I don’t necessarily have a problem with looking into this stuff just on the level of basic research–sure, these are -interesting- questions; it’s just, I’m always at least somewhat leery because there’s -never- a time when it’s not all bound up in someone’s political agenda.

  2. Helen G Says:

    Yeah, it’s… difficult. I do have this strange desire to know why I’m transsexual – although it’s probably more of an angst-in-my-pants thing, rather than falling to my knees in the dust and letting out an anguished wail to some mythical god, "Why meeeee? Oh gahhhhd"… To which any god worth its salt would reply, "Well, why not you? Might as well be you as anyone else; just frickin deal, mmkay?"…

    But – getting a bit sideways here – I’m not 100% convinced about the ‘gender is a construct’ thing because if so, then surely my transsexuality would have been deconstructed out of me, long before I reached the attempting suicide stage… So that theory doesn’t add up (at least, not for me) – so there must be some other reason(s)…

    Zöe has done some really good research and I’m with her completely about transsexuality most likely having – at least in part – a neurological basis… But, when all’s said and done, the fact is: nobody knows – and that’s where I get angsty… I suppose I’m just hoping for the day when Teh Science can conclusively prove the whys and wherefores – I think I probably just want the comfort of being able to stick a label on it, put it in a box, categorise it… Not that that would make it go away, I’d just like to know, is all…

    But also I have to face the idea that "somebody" (be they crackpot scientist or tinpot dictator) would then say that, hey now we know what causes it, we can eradicate it… And that is the point when my oestrogen-powered hot flushes turn into cold sweats and I start to think maybe it’s best that we don’t know how/why it happens.

    And anyway, I’d never hear the end of it from the cultural feminists: "Now who’s the essentialist, eh? Eh eh eh? Ha! Hahahahaha! Helen is Teh Stupid! Hah! We win!"…

    So yeah, all things considered, maybe it is for the best if we never really know for certain sure what causes it…


    *goes back to working on "transitioning is a lifelong work-in-progress" theory*

  3. Helen G Says:

    Belle posted a comment which I stupidly deleted… D’oh! Thankfully I still had the email notification, so here it is, faithfully recreated:

    I think sexuality, never even mind internal sense of gender, is probably an incredibly complex thing in humans, part “hardwired,” part…post-birth/external influences, I guess. I doubt it’s any one thing. It -is- interesting; I really wish it wasn’t always heaped with all this cultural and political baggage.

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