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Intersex Brain, Transsexual Brain

evidence is still inconclusive

Forum: Intersexed_Society list
Date: 04/02/2003

On 4/2/03 6:56 AM, "prophecyspirit" wrote:

As my prior post indicated, a TS brain is different from an IS brain.

There's no such thing as "TS brain" or "IS brain," as there are many ways to be trans, and there are many ways to be intersex. You wouldn't suggest that all intersex people have similar brain structure that is discreet from "male" and "female" brains, do you? Perhaps people who have the same condition do indeed have a similar brain structure, but I just can't accept that there is such a thing as "intersex brain."

And ISs who understand themselves quit IDing as TS. Some Iss temporarily ID as TS to get surgery, then reject it afterwards.

Actually, lots of transsexual people do the same: they don't really feel like they want to identify as "transsexual," but do so anyway just to get what they want.

I'd IDed as female from babyhood to no avail. Just becase some ISs as adults get surgery of some kind doesn't make them TSs!

In general, someone who has been raised as one gender and wants to live as another gender, whether or not s/he requests surgery to help achieve this, are called transsexuals.

That said, a couple of clarifications:

- Not all people who could be described as transsexual accept that as part of their identity. Among them are some intersex people who think they can't be transsexual if they are born intersex. Their identifying as non-transsexual is no more or less valid than non-intersex people who reject the label also.

- Under the medical taxonomy, "gender identity disorder" excludes people who are born with intersex conditions. That doesn't mean that intersex people can't be transsexual: the same medical taxonomy provides "Gender Identity Disorder Not Otherwise Specified" to be used to diagnose such persons.

To say that intersex people who transition gender or sex has a more legitimate claim to being non-transsexual than non-intersex people doing the same is wrong. And not only is it wrong, it encourages non-intersex people to "wish they were intersex," which annoys the hell out of me.

Intersex people as a group are not part of "transgender," but of course one can be intersex and trans. You can "identify" as whatever you want: if you don't identify as transgender, I respect that--but I do the same for non-intersex people doing the same, simply out of courtesy, and not because there is a scientific evidence that they are different from other transsexuals.

Emi K.
Intersex Initiative Portland

Forum: Intersexed_Society list
Date: 04/03/2003

Hi everyone,

On 4/2/03 4:02 PM, "prophecyspirit" wrote:

In 1995 a study was made of M2F transsexuals brains. It was found they were virtually female brains, but not exactly. So they had M2F TS brains.

I believe that the study you are referring to is this:

Zhou JN, HofmanMA, Gooren LJG, Swaab DF (1995). "A sex difference in the human brain and its relation to transsexuality." Nature, 378:68-70.

Their research was also published here:

Kruijver FPM, Zhou JN, Pool CW, Hofman MA, Gooren LJG, Swaab DF (2000). "Male-to-female transsexuals have female neuron numbers in a limbic nucleus." Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 85(5): 2034-2041.

In the latter paper, Kruijver et al. wrote:

Taking into account the aforementioned limitations of our studies, the present study of SOM neurons in the human BSTc provides unequivocal new data supporting the view that transsexualism may reflect a form of brain hermaphroditism such that this limbic nucleus itself is structurally sexually differentiated opposite to the transsexual's genetic and genital sex.

So is transsexuality biologically determined? Not so fast. The same research group reported in 2002 an evidence that questions this theory:

To determine at what age the BSTc becomes sexually dimorphic, the BSTc volume in males and females was studied from midgestation into adulthood. Using vasoactive intestinal polypeptide and somatostatin immunocytochemical staining as markers, we found that the BSTc was larger and contains more neurons in men than in women. However, this difference became significant only in adulthood, showing that sexual differentiation of the human brain may extend into the adulthood.

Here's the citation for this article:

Chung WCJ, De Vries GJ, Swaab DF (2002). "Sexual Differentiation of the Bed Nucleus of the Stria Terminalis in Humans May Extend into Adulthood." Journal of Neuroscience, 22(3):1027-1033.

In other words, while it is true that there are sex differences in brain structure, and male-to-female transsexuals have brain structures similar to females, but it has not been determined that any of these differences are determined at birth. It could well be that gender identity caused the sexual differentiation, rather than the other way around. There is also a chance that a third factor influenced both gender identity and the size of BSTc in the brain. Any of these is far from conclusive.

But, since IS have characteristics of both sexes in their bodies and plumbing,

Not necessarily. Intersex bodies are different from the standard male or female, which is not to say that they are somewhere in the middle. But I suppose that depends on what you consider male and female: for example, I don't consider a mildly large clit to be between a "normal female clit" and "normal male penis"; it's just a large clit. Nor do I view absence of vagina in otherwise female body as a "male" thing; it's just a female body that doesn't have a vagina.

the same goes for their brains, as their choices and thinking processes prove. So their brains have to be IS brains.

If you know of any studies analyzing "choices and thinking processes" of intersex people in general, please give me the citation.

In general, someone who has been raised as one gender and wants to live as another gender, whether or not s/he requests surgery to help achieve this, are called transsexuals.

A pure thoroughbread TS has a normal body and plumbing. Only their brain is different. So it's wholly inaccurate to call ISs TSs! Or visa versa.

So, are you suggesting that person with disabilities or "deformities" can't be transsexual because their bodies aren't "normal"? Surely, you aren't saying that. If one can have a differently shaped body parts and still be transsexual, then why can't that differently shaped body parts be reproductive organs? It doesn't make any sense.

Sure, it's wrong to call intersex people transsexuals or vice versa--but why can't there be people who are both? That, of course, is not to say that you must identify as such; I respect your identity however you choose, again, out of public courtesy and not because of some scientific evidence.

Emi Koyama
Intersex Initiative Portland