Gender is not strictly a social construct

I just had cause to have to type this yet again for someone else, so I thought I’d place this answer here, where it can be easily referenced and seen. I’ve used the image in this reference before but it’s good to have the full reference too.

Gender is not solely a social construct. It is, in fact, partly biological. If I can show you just one image that demonstrates this (and there are dozens of scientific studies about this now), will you believe me?

This link contains pictures of actual brain scan results done during autopsies. Please note the image partway down the page. That image is a stained cross sectional slice of the central section of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis in the hypothalamus (BSTc) in the brain.

Please note that the upper left image is the BSTc of a heterosexual adult male. Then lower left image is the BSTc of a homosexual adult male. They are almost identical, aren’t they?

The upper right image is the BSTc of an adult heterosexual female. It is very different from that of the males, isn’t it? And the lower right image is the BSTc of a male-to-female transsexual. Her BSTc is very similar to the adult heterosexual female BSTc. It is also nothing like the male BSTc, is it?

This is just one of nearly a dozen different physical brain differences between transsexual individuals and the rest of the population. I, we as transsexual women, literally have a female brain inside a male body.

Most people do not realize that there is this duality inside them. They don’t realize it because their brain and their bodies match. So to them it seems like one uniform whole.

But to those of us born this way, it is a constant clawing pain inside. It’s horror as your body becomes something that your brain isn’t intended to work with.

And we don’t know how to fix the brain. These brain structures form and set between the 8th and 16th week of pregnancy. Once set, they can never be changed. No amount of testosterone will change my brain into male. In fact, more testosterone usually makes us more depressed.

So no, gender is not solely a social construct. That is a myth promulgated by Dr. Money and Dr. McHugh (who recently wrote a pile of crap in the Wall Street Journal) back in the 1960s at Johns Hopkins. And their assumptions have all been disproved. Gender really does have a partial biological component and when that component is mismatched to person’s body, significant psychological trauma can occur. This is why we take hormones and undergo surgery – to align our body with our brains, because we have no idea how to do the reverse.

For more information on how hormonal levels in the womb impact individuals, please review this 2011 AMA Webcast. It is about an hour long but contains important medical information that relates to how transsexual brains come to be the way they are.


3 thoughts on “Gender is not strictly a social construct

  1. I have read this before and I once thought that this was conclusive evidence to show scientifically that trans women are born with a brain more like a cis female than a cis male. The problem is this. Science requires that when a scientist postulates a theory, and then applies the scientific method to perform experiments to support the theory, he must try as he might to prove his theory wrong instead of right. If he stops at a few experiments that supported his theory then his bias toward wanting it to be right will bring him to conclude his theory is right. That is not the scientific method.. For this study that means you need a hell of a lot more brains from which to collect the data and you must use the double blind method. Many different people need to record the sizes of the BSTc in a sufficient number of samples across all racial types and genders not knowing anything about the origin of the samples or what the study is trying to prove. After all the data is compiled the theorist then can compare the data with the known samples to see if the data concurs with the theory or not.

    • Hi Deanna! Some comments below! 🙂

      1. They did not set out to prove anything specific in this study, but instead found this during the study. They were simply looking for relationships in the BSTc since we know the BSTc in other animals has roles related to gender and sexuality.

      2. The number of brains examined was statistically significant. You can’t examine all brains nor should you be expected to do so.

      3. Already proven was “In experimental animals, however, the same gonadal hormones that prenatally determine the morphology of the genitalia also influence the morphology and function of the brain in experimental animals in a sexually dimorphic fashion.” That’s proven, not hypothesis any longer. So we know that is true in animals, via extensive experimentation, many of which we cannot and will not perform on human beings.

      4. The hypothesis behind this study was: “This led to the hypothesis that sexual differentiation of the brain in transsexuals might not have followed the line of sexual differentiation of the body as a whole.” There was no assumption of what that differentiation might have looked like at all.

      5. The level of abstraction that you are suggesting be assessed doesn’t test anything. Scientists always have a hypothesis that you are testing and trying to disprove. Your counter example provides none. However, this study did try to disprove that sexual differentiation from hormones in the brain did not follow the line of sexual differentiation in the body. The negative test failed, ergo, the hypothesis was supported.

      I state the above things as a scientist myself. The study is valid. There are also dozens of additional studies of the BSTc and other regions of the brain and the majority of those show that those additional regions of the brains of transsexuals exhibit structural differences in similar fashion here. The single area of the brain where MtFs in particular still exhibit more male structures has nothing to do with gender identity or sexual orientation. The grey matter includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control. That’s from yet another study that I didn’t link here but is one of the few of many studies I’ve read that cover this topic and is one of the few brain structures in MtFs that are similar to the average heterosexual adult male’s grey matter.

      This is not new. These studies have been going on for most of the last 18 years and the cumulative data is quite extensive. The AMA did not take their position on whim or political correctness but adopted their position after long and careful consideration of exactly this sort of scientific evidence – transsexuality is a proven medical condition and we know what it is – this, these brain structure differences, are the cause of transsexuality. This also explains why transition helps so many people who suffer the most strongly from gender dysphoria – it aligns their body and their biochemistry with what their brain expects. It also shows that, since we have no concept of how to “fix” the brain, that the transitional approach, HRT plus gender confirming surgeries to adapt the body to the brain, is in fact the most effective therapy possible for severe sufferers of GID.

  2. *
    Of course the simplest reply, Cara, is what we know 100% and you allude to it in your blog::

    – sexual identity in the brain is set during the second month of gestation

    – sexual morphology (Mullerian or Wolffian) does not establish until the end of the third month of gestation.

    Thus a female brain can have a male body and a male brain can have a female body. No one need die to do an autopsy. No one needs a brain scan. It is a fact of life.

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