Thursday, 4 June 2015

Epigenetics influences gender identity, societal stigma harms transsexuals and more

Heya everybody,

I have been able to add some more articles and studies. The upload will follow soon; here are the summaries of the most relevant additions:

  • It is interesting how much public discourse and perception can differ from the current scientific consensus. While many people are still not accepting that an innate mental gender identity exists (thereby negating the lived experience of pretty much all transsexual people), scientists are getting ever closer to finding out how gender identity is established in the brain.
    In an article by Leslie K. Feinberg (in Science Signaling, 2015), the mechanism of how epigenetics influences gender identity in rats is laid out. Altering the epigenetic mechanism in female rats produced “neuronal morphology, protein marker patterns, and adult anxiety-related and sexual behavior more typical of male mice”. And, even more remarkable, this process is not restricted to the sensitive perinatal period, suggesting that enduring DNA methylation maintains the female phenotype in the brain. This means we have evidence for a biological mechanism that shapes brain gender and is ongoing throughout adult life!

  • In a 2015 article in The University of New South Wales Law Journal, Felicity Bell perfectly sums up the situation of gender-dysphoric children: [Gender dysphoria] involves ‘clinically significant distress’. Unfortunately, children with gender dysphoria (and indeed many gender diverse young people) are almost by definition at a high risk of depression and anxiety, as well as social isolation, self-harm and suicide. This is unsurprisingly often connected to the discrimination and abuse suffered by these groups.

  • Iranian researchers Azizi, Karimi and Iravani (in the International Journal of Review in Life Sciences, 2015) come to the conclusion that life skill training can improve the quality of life for transsexuals.

  • In the Acta Otorrinolaringológica Española in 2015, Casada, ÓConnor et al. find that the surgical technique of Wendler glottoplasty is effective in feminising the voice of male-to-female transsexuals.

  • Yang, Manning et al. contributed another study (in LGBT Health, 2015) to the question of whether psychological difficulties of transsexuals are directly related to transsexualism or indirectly via societal stigmatisation.
    They find that Higher levels of exposure to [transgender-related stigma] were independently associated with higher levels of depression […] and anxiety […], adjusting for self-reported health and sociodemographic co-variates.
    This adds further evidence to the claim that “transsexuals are not tormented by their condition: it is their condition, which prompts society to torment them“ (Sarah Seton).

  • Spanish researchers Guzmán-Parra, Sánchez-Álvarez, et al. have looked at a larger number of transsexual individuals in Andalusia and found highly interesting results (in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2015).
    Firstly, the social adjustment of male-to-female transsexuals was lower than that of female-to-males, secondly, depression was high in both groups (and personality dysfunctional traits and unemployment status were associated with depression). This adds yet more evidence to the theory that the suffering of transsexuals is caused by society.
    Thirdly, and lastly, they confirm the shockingly high figures of suicide attempts for transsexuals, which have been reported in many previous studies. In their study, they find 22.8 % had attempted suicide and 52.3 % had suicidal thoughts. This underlines the urgent need for support transsexuals have. I’m always surprised how many people don’t get this simple fact – here is a group of people that is suffering, and that’s why society should help.

  • In a large and interesting study published in 2014 (in Psychology and Sexuality), authors Joel, Tarrasch et al. find that the internal feeling of gender identity is on a spectrum and not binary. Sexual orientation was not a major contributor to the perception of gender identity […]. This further underlines the usefulness of separating the concepts of sex, gender, gender role and sexual orientation.

There’s more to come, I promise ☺