Genetic basis of gender found. Again.

There is a social stigma that transsexualism is simply a lifestyle choice; however, our findings support a biological basis of how gender identity develops.
(Dr. V. Harley, Prince Henry Inst. of Medical Research, Melbourne)

Again researchers claim to have found the cause of male to female transsexualism. As usual it would be a genetic deviation. But even this is presupposing too few androgens makes you female (or gay!). But how realistic is this discovery? Does it really provide the answer to where trans* comes from?

Dr. Vincent Harley of Melbourne’s Prince Henry Institute states that male-to-female transsexualism is caused by chromosomal under-masculinisation because of a defective AR gene. He analysed the DNA analysis of 112 transsexuals, and came to the above mentioned conclusion.

Picture of the Androgen Recpetor gene NR3C4

Even if Dr. Harley can convince the sceptics, there are a couple of problems with his idea. His statement “There is a biological basis for gender” needs clarification. Does he then say trans* is a form of gender in its own right, and not an “error” that needs to be fixed? Does he mean with “gender” the difference between men and women? But what difference then? We already know that genes and hormones play a role with gendered development.

Would he mean difference in abilities and behaviours then? That would be a trickier statement. Quite some scientists from different branches of science  (neuroscientists,  psychologists, biologists already have disproved the significance of these differences.

The fundamental differences between men and women, and between male and female bodies are hardly big enough to say that differences are absolute. Slowly we come to recognise there is virtually no absolute difference between men and women, males and females. Recent research shows many many differences between men and women  are bigger within the respective groups than between the groups. Further what makes a man, a woman? Are there non-transsexual males with serious lack of testosterone in the womb? Do they all identify as women then? But to most medical, biological or genetic scientists this has not yet trickled down. They still think the holy grail of gender lies in the genes, or in the brain. *Bzzzt*. *Wrong*. There is no Holy Grail. Even the church recognizes more than one grail, so ….

Since Dr. Harley talks not just about trans*, but also about gender, it is perfectly justified to talk about more than trans*, about the suspected base of transgender.

What does science talk about when it talks about sex (if we take that as the next barrier to take in order to analyse what makes men and women, thus also trans* people – in common parlance). Sex thus. But which element of it? Chromosomes? Gonads? Genitals? Hormones? As prof. dr. Annemarie Mol says “science doesn’t know what it is talking about when it talks about sex”.

Of course Dr. Harley isn’t that bold in his scientific findings, and more research must be done to find out the full consequence of the finding. But in his media appearances he is more adamant. And then I am under the  impression he doesn’t know the difference between sex and gender.

Cover of the book Brain Storm

And with Brain Storm by Rebecca Jordan-Young who debunks a lot of brain sex science, we have enough reason to doubt the quality of thís research.