Sunday 11 January 2015

Gender identity is part of the brain

In a blog post in November I mentioned a new study by the University of Vienna (Kranz, Hahn, Kaufmann, Küblböck, et al.) called “White Matter Microstructure in Transsexuals and Controls Investigated by Diffusion Tensor Imaging”.

I listed this study on my reference pages in sections 1.b (Brains of transsexuals show characteristics that are part-way between male and female controls) and 5.a (Hormone exposure, especially before and around birth, can influence the development and sexual differentiation of the brain, including gender identity/Human studies).

This study is now gaining some traction in the media: An Austrian article in “Der Standard” reports that neuronal correlates of the perception of identity were found in the network of the brain. The scientists in Rupert Lanzenberger’s group found significant differences in microstructure of the brain connections between males and females, with transgender people in-between both genders.

“ScienceDaily” adds in “Networks of the brain reflect the individual gender identity” that “these results suggest that the gender identity is reflected in the structure of brain networks which form under the modulating influence of sex hormones in the course of the development of the nervous system”.

Take care and have a good Sunday ✨

Saturday 10 January 2015

Je suis Charlie

Two quotes that express my thoughts.

“It takes one hell of a coward to bring a sword to a pen fight.”

Je suis Charlie

“If your religion is worth killing for, please start with yourself.”

Saturday 3 January 2015

Brains of transsexuals resemble brains of their experienced gender and more

Heya everybody!

Finally, before it’s back to work next week, I managed to do some housekeeping and summarised the articles I have added over the previous weeks. Here are the highlights:

  • More evidence is collected that gender-dysphoric persons have undergone atypical sexual differentiation of the brain. Burke, Cohe-Kettenis, et al. (in “Frontiers in Endocrinology”, 2014) looked at the responses of the hypothalamus (a part of the brain) when patients were exposed to an odour which evokes sex differences in brain activation in adult heterosexual men and women. “We found that the sex difference in responsiveness to androstadienone was already present in pre-pubertal control children and thus likely developed during early perinatal development instead of during sexual maturation. Adolescent girls and boys with GD both responded remarkably like their experienced gender, thus sex-atypical.” Again, this means that the brain of transsexuals at least partly resembles the brain of their experienced gender, providing more proof that male-to-female transsexuals really are women and female-to-male transsexuals really are men.

  • Holt, Skagerberg and Dunsford find (Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 2014) that difficulties associated with gender dysphoria in children and young people are bullying, low mood/depression and self-harming. The difficulties increased with age.

  • Bartolucci, Gómez-Gil, et al. report in the “Journal of Sexual Medicine” in 2014 that about half of transsexuals report their sex life as being poor or very poor before sex reassignment surgery. Hormone therapy is associated with a better sexual quality of life.

  • Brown and Jones find in a very large American study (published in “Breast Cancer Research and Treatment”, 2014) of transgender veterans that hormone therapy does not increase risk of breast cancer. This finding is consistent with European studies.

  • An Australian study by del pozo de Bolger, Jones, et al. finds that for trans men, “going through a masculinisation process and coming out reportedly led to improved mental health”. Published in the “Australian Psychologist”, 2014.

  • A German study, published by “Deutsches Ärzteblatt International” in 2014 by Hess, Neto, et. al. looks at the long-term satisfaction with life after sex reassignment surgery. Satisfaction rates were very high at 90.2 %. However, the drop-out rate was also high, with less than 50 % of former patients returning the questionnaire.

  • Baranyi, Piber and Rothenhäusler write in the “Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift” (2009) that their literature search of the last 22 years found a regret/doubt rate of up to 8 % after sex reassignment surgery.

  • Selvaggi, Monstrey, et al. study the genital sensitivity after sex reassignment surgery (Annals of plastic surgery, 2007). They find that 100 % of female-to-male and 85 % male-to-female patients reported the ability to orgasm.

  • “The Journal of Neuroscience”, 2014 published a study by Clarkson, Busby, et al. about the sexual differentiation of the brain of mice. They found a signaling mechanism that drives the male-specific surge of testosteron which masculinises the brain, and is therefor essential for male brain development.

  • Amend, Seibold, et al. (in “European urology”, 2013) look at 24 patients having had male-to-female sex reassignment surgery and find no major complications: “gender reassignment can be performed with minimal complications”. “All patients reported satisfactory vaginal functionality.” “Neoclitoral sensation was good or excellent in 97% of patients”.

  • Brunocilla, Soli, et al., having studied the pelvis of male-to-female transsexuals after surgery by magnetic resonance, report in 2012 in the “International Journal of Impotence Research” that „the anthropometric parameters measured in our patients were comparable with those of [cisgender] women”.

  • In 2012, Furtado, Moraes, et al. studied the link between gender dysphoria and disorders of sex development (Nature Reviews Urology, 2012). They find that between 8.5 % to 20 % of individuals with disorders of sex development (DSD) also suffer from gender dysphoria with some types of DSD exhibiting up to 63 % patients with gender dysphoria. This strengthens my opinion that gender dysphoria should be classified as DSD.

  • Bandini, Fisher, et al. publish in 2011 (International Journal of Impotence Research) that more than quarter of of male-to-female transsexuals reported childhood maltreatment. “Maltreated subjects reported a higher body dissatisfaction and display a worse lifetime mental health.”

  • In 2014 in “LGBT Health” Blosnich, Brown, et. al. report that the suicide rate among transgender veterans “is higher than in the general population, and they may be dying by suicide at younger ages than their veteran peers”.

  • In an article in the “Journal of Clinical Psychology”, 2014, Robles, Fresán, et al. report that a large share of clinicians wants to remove gender identity disorder from the medical classification as mental disorder.

  • Meyenburg, Kröger and Neugebauer find in the “Zeitschrift für Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie und Psychotherapie”, 2015, that young transsexuals reported little psychopathology and that low-frequency supportive treatment appears sufficient. After hormonal/surgical treatment, most patients were satisfied with the results. All patients showed less psychopathology on follow-up, independent of role change or intensity of psychotherapy.

Phew – that was a lot!

I don’t know what people like Leelah Alcorn’s parents say to the huge body of evidence that exists on gender dysphoria. Perhaps something like they said on CNN: “we don’t support that, religiously” – with “that” meaning facts, evidence or reality?

Peace and light.

Thursday 1 January 2015

The suicide of Leelah Alcorn

The suicide note of 17-year old Leelah Alcorn, born Joshua Ryan Alcorn:

If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue.

Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better. The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living in … because I’m transgender. I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is. To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I’ve felt that way ever since I was 4. I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally ‘boyish’ things to try to fit in.

When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.

My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.

When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.

I formed a sort of a ‘fuck you’ attitude towards my parents and came out as gay at school, thinking that maybe if I eased into coming out as trans it would be less of a shock. Although the reaction from my friends was positive, my parents were pissed. They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. They wanted me to be their perfect little straight christian boy, and that’s obviously not what I wanted.

So they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends. This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed, and I’m surprised I didn’t kill myself. I was completely alone for 5 months. No friends, no support, no love. Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.

At the end of the school year, my parents finally came around and gave me my phone and let me back on social media. I was excited, I finally had my friends back. They were extremely excited to see me and talk to me, but only at first. Eventually they realized they didn’t actually give a shit about me, and I felt even lonelier than I did before. The only friends I thought I had only liked me because they saw me five times a week.

After a summer of having almost no friends plus the weight of having to think about college, save money for moving out, keep my grades up, go to church each week and feel like shit because everyone there is against everything I live for, I have decided I’ve had enough. I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say ‘it gets better’ but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.

That’s the gist of it, that’s why I feel like killing myself. Sorry if that’s not a good enough reason for you, it’s good enough for me. As for my will, I want 100 % of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don’t give a shit which one. The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say ‘that’s fucked up’ and fix it. Fix society.


(Leelah) Josh Alcorn

What her mother, Carla Wood Alcorn, wrote:

My sweet 16 year old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn went home to heaven this morning. He was out for an early morning walk and was hit by a truck. Thank you for the messages and kindness and concern you have sent our way. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.

Leelah Alcorn was born 15th November 1997 and died 28th December 2014.