Originally posted at Sexology Today
In Scientific American Mind, journalist Francine Russo takes on a fascinating research question: “Is there something unique about the transgender brain?” She reviews some of the relevant brain research on transsexuals and concludes that transgenderism is indeed a phenomenon of the brain. Although I agree with Russo that transgenderism is a phenomenon of the brain, I believe Russo over-focussed on gender identity, which led her away from the better explanation of the data:
These brain scans don’t reflect gender identity, they reflect sexual orientation.
The research that Russo examined she explained correctly: Biological males and females differ from each other on certain subtle, non-learned features of the brain and body, and some samples of transsexuals are in-between on these features. That is, they were shifted away from what is typical for their sex-at-birth and towards the other sex. Taken by itself, this would indeed seem like strong evidence that transsexuality in biological males is caused by having “feminine” or “feminized” features of the brain, and ditto for females/masculine/masculinized.