One More Time – The New Brain Study Does NOT Refute Current Neurobiological Models of Being Transgender

I’ve been challenged elsewhere by people about my contention that this new “no female or male brain” does not invalidate the older neurobiological studies that show a neurobiological link to being transgender. I asserted it did not. Others flatly asserted it did.

So, I went directly to Professor Daphna Joel, one of the authors of this study. Below is my query, and below that is the screenshot of her reply.

She agrees with me that this study does not invalidate the neurobiological model of gender identity. Read that again. And then read that again.



Here is here response.



In fact, she agrees with me that it is very possible that just a few key structures control our sense of gender identity. So the next time some gender critical feminist tries to cite this study and say that being transgender is a “social” phenomenon only, refer them here. The truth is we still do not know, and while the body of evidence is growing, the important point is this study does not invalidate the neurobiological model of why we are transgender.


9 thoughts on “One More Time – The New Brain Study Does NOT Refute Current Neurobiological Models of Being Transgender

  1. Thank ypu for writing this and following it up. I saw your altercation elsewhere and I felt you were totally correct and just being bullied. I find it deplorable the way science is misrepresented to support radical feminist political ideologies.

    Of course there is a difference between male and female brains… they have different average weight for a start. The really sad thing is that they consider the difference as “misogyny” rather than complementary and of equal merit.

    • The critical things from that study are, to me, twofold.

      1. Male and female brains are very very very similar.
      2. The implication now is that you don’t have to have a male brain to feel male or female brain to feel female. Rather, the entire problem now reduces to an much smaller domain which will likely make it easier to understand, verify, and thus treat.

      As for the woman elsewhere, she is a radical feminist and was trying to latch onto something through her own lens of interpretation. Hence why I wrote to Professor Joel for her opinion. And she generously gave it, for which I subsequently thanked her.

  2. yes I am delighted that you followed it through and got a reply too… arguing with radical feminists i futile in my experience. I was all the more concerned that they usurp what is ostensibly a transgender website to try and erase us transwomen and I just referenced this in my traNZgender Facebook forum: as I want to make more transwomen aware of what is going on with feminism, rather than then just thinking it’s that misogynistic Angelica again… ;o)

  3. *

    I would not yet go so far as laying blame throughout the Feminist cause; by definition, ‘Feminism’ is the equal value of the sexes. At least so far as when I was most active during the first half of the 1980s, Feminism was a great social endeavour.

    Unfortuneately, yes there were women involved who wanted to flip the balance, place women on top of the social hierarchy, and subject men to second class citizen status. I opposed that role reversal; I was fighting for equality.

    I also knew of the elements of Feminism who were antagonistic toward transsexuals. That really hurt personally; I could see and observe who were those women from my guise as a male since I had not transitioned to female among them and this was among the reasons why I was reluctant to come out to anyone. They would have ostracised me. Or would personally knowing someone – especially with my crazy physiology – have changed things early in the game? Sometimes knowing someone harms the relationship rather than personalises it.

    The problem then, and apparently still, is the hurt when someone proclaims a person can’t be one sex or the other because they fail to meet some strict definition, such as a person can’t be female if she does not have XX, ovulate, and give birth. But wait, there are perfectly normal females who are XY, have never ovulated, and therefore could never give birth. And I am not yet even mentioning the transsexual / transgender to this mix. And what of the near future when vestigial Mullerian (or Wolffian in the F-M) system will be restored and the M-F transsexual will indeed ovulate and give birth by her own anatomy and not transplants.

    People find themselves drawn into a corner who draw one solid line to create differentiation when there is a matter of shades of grey. The ‘Bell Curve’ is no accident. Male and female are not separated to absolute opposites but meld somewhere in the middle. We are all alike in the gross anatomy and find our uniqueness in our micro anatomy.

    So it saddens me to learn the efforts are splintering rather than consolidating.


    • This is not general feminists, Sharon. There is a tiny hateful group of feminists who are often referred to as Transgender Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs). TERFs are completely hostile to the idea of trans anything. On the one hand they say gender is all social yet on the other hand they claim anyone born with a penis can’t be a woman. The woman I was engaging in that link appeared to be a TERF. I consider myself a feminist and know many other women who consider themselves feminists as well. So it’s not all feminists. TERFs have been around since the 1970s. They’ve even committed physical violence against trans women.

  4. I just want to thank you for your ongoing contributions to science education in this area.

    There’s many of your articles where my immediate reaction is “I wish I’d written that.. she gives the whole picture, without over-simplification or too much complexity”,


    (Zoe Brain, speaking in my role as a member of SAGE – Sex And Gender Education Australia)

    • I began looking into the medical basis for this because I’ve received so much hate and rejection from my sons and one in particular. But despite the research, I soon learned that facts were the least of his interests, and that his radical right wing religious beliefs now took precedence over any scientific information that contradicted his “faith”. Once interested though, I stayed interested for my own curiosity. Thanks for the compliments! I try, and that’s all I can do. I sometimes wonder if I could have been clearer or simpler about some things, but I seem to be managing to get the point across where needed most of the time.

  5. I met Dr. Joel at Stanford about a year and a half ago, attended her presentation, and also had an email exchange with her. My impression of her findings were:

    1. She was unable to find differences in male and female brains that she could associate with gender identity.

    2. She thus concluded that gender is a social construct. She pointed out that when she is at work she is more aggressive and critical, and when at home she is a nurturing mother to her children.

    I wasn’t very happy with this, and although she kindly responded to me, I felt she was disingenuous. My main points:

    1. My gender dysphoria came out in my earliest memories, about 4 or 5. I wasn’t really aware of genitals. I just felt more comfortable playing with the girls (if they’d let me) and uncomfortable with the boys.

    2. I believe that gender identity is inborn and biological. And if it’s not in the brain “programming” where is it? If Dr. Joel didn’t find differences, then, A) her diagnostic tools lack sufficient resolution, B) she couldn’t look thoroughly enough (she readily admits that she could only scan very small and only a few brain areas, C) her data analysis and correlation algorithms may be broken.

    Now, I’m no neurologist! Just an engineer by training and that was a long time ago. I think Dr. Joel and I never did resolve this, and now that I read your post I wonder if I misunderstood her presentation. Maybe we just miscommicated?

    • Her comment to me was that her research was focused on the “whole brain”, not on specific structures. She acknowledged that is it possible that there are a few very critical structures that might align based on sex/gender and thus provide keys to our gender identity, while 99% of the brain is a mosaic of male/female structures for everyone. She seemed interested in the idea of looking into the transgender neurological research and seeing if specific structures did align that way.

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