It seems that every year or two there is an article somewhere that some scientist or doctor has identified a biological "cause" for being gay or transgender. These kinds of things seem to get a significant amount of attention and then fade into obscurity until the next bombshell discovery is made. In 1993 there was much fanfare over an article published in Science magazine about the discovery of a "gay gene." Did that settle the question of whether or not sexuality is biological or learned? Of course not. That investigation continues today.
The most recent revelation in this regard is a report out of Australia that scientists there have found a genetic link for transsexualism. This kind of research is looking to provide conclusive proof about something that many of us already know - that there is a biological connection to development of gender identity. Although many of us get excited and get our hopes up when we see this kind of news, I doubt any of us are naive enough to believe that this will be the be-all, end-all of research in that regard.
Specifically, this report says that their research showed a group of transsexual volunteers were more likely to have a longer version of the androgen receptor gene. This genetic difference may cause weaker testosterone signals and therefore have other implications regarding the development of gender identity.
It should come as no surprise that, like many other topics dealing with transgender issues, this discussion often inflames passions. I'll admit that I gave up looking for the causes of my own dissonance several years ago recognizing that the causes were less important than the actions to address it. However, there is a large segment of the community for whom finding causes is very important. There are any number of legal, medical, insurance implications that may be justified if and when a biological "cause" is found.
One article reporting this research is titled "Transgender People Validated By Aussie Research."
Hopefully these findings will not only help better educate society, but also those in the medical profession who treat those born with gender dysphoria.
Many transgender people have believed for the longest time that biology had been the cause. I myself believe this as my earliest memories were that of wanting to be a girl even before I learnt to spell. Hopefully further studies like this will prove beyond a shadow of doubt that the phenomenon is a natural occurrence, leading to social acceptance of transgender people.
Although I applaud this research and hope the it leads to the kind of broader acceptance that the article describes, I can't help but chafe at the notion that any of us need to be validated by medical research. Our validation comes in many ways, and certainly identifying some sort of concrete biological link would help in that regard, but that's not our only hope. In this day and age of 21st century marvels, simple concepts like "I think, therefore I am" still apply.
The title of this article is an example of the dangerous notion that somehow science or medicine needs to be involved in order to make something "real." Whether we find definitive proof or not doesn't negate, lessen, or invalidate things that we know to be true about ourselves. There's no test for "Love," yet nobody questions as to whether it's real or not. And to question the existence of God because there is arguably no scientific proof of some supreme being is to invite attack from all directions. The point is that, although there may well be some biological connection for many of us, that's not all there is.
One of the challenges is that there is no one "cause" for being transgender. Although it's a self-diagnosed condition it's far more complicated than having a single universal cause. In fact, if they somehow developed some kind of a litmus test where you could pee in a cup and determine whether or not you had this transgender "gene" I'd urge that people be very wary of taking it. What would you do if you knew yourself to be transgender but the test indicated otherwise?
The underlying concept here is one of validation. Many of us want to be validated in a way that provides physical proof for our situation. Without it we find ourselves constantly on the defensive about whether or not this is a "choice," or a "lifestyle," or some sort of mental illness. Without hard undeniable evidence many feel unable to effectively blunt attacks that continue to stigmatize and undermine efforts to integrate into broader society. However, none of us can be so naive as to believe that acceptance is going to magically happen once definitive proof is found. Proof is in the eye of the beholder, and there will always be those who choose to doubt.
Still, this kind of thing is another step in the movement towards broader acceptance. One thing I do find interesting, however, is that all of the internet news reporting on this is out of India, Australia and the UK so far. There has been very sparse US-based reporting of it yet. Coincidence? I think not.