Through extensive reading, I have learned that some transgender folks are not concerned about the answer to the title question. It doesn’t matter to them whether the development of their brain had been disrupted while forming in the womb, if mother might have taken a medicine to cause it, whether it is a genetic thing. Neither are they concerned to learn if it might be a thing of nurture instead of nature: their home environment, or parenting (or lack thereof). What’s done is done, the past is past. Their focus is on today.
Others argue that gender dysphoria should not be classified as a psychological disorder. They are vexed that those, who wish to transition, need a therapist’s letter of recommendation to begin hormone replacement therapy, that they have to live in their desired sex for a minimum of a year before they can have the ultimate surgery, and that they require two therapist’s recommendations for that. They feel they were born the way they were born and everyone is born in a unique way.
I respect them; I feel completely the opposite. My entire life, I did not have a clue why I felt as I did. I had no idea there might even be an answer. When, in 2013, Julie found a study, which might answer the question, I began to devour everything I could and became a student of the science of this.
The study considers the drug, diethylstilbestrol (DES), which was given to mothers to prevent miscarriages. In this study of about 500 males, 60% were certain their mothers took the drug and 40% highly suspected. Of these 500 males, nearly half—47%—report some level of gender dysphoria or transgenderism.
My mom died in 1986, so I would fall in the 40% who highly suspect his mother took the drug. The peak years the drug was prescribed were when Mom was pregnant with me. After my sister, before me, she had two miscarriages.
When I read the report, I cried, “You mean someone did this to me?” I was angry. It didn’t last a minute. I quickly became thankful to finally have the inroads to some answers.
I never knew that the forming brain undergoes three hormone washings in the womb. It is believed the DES, in some or many cases, disrupted the process, creating the disconnect between brain and body, gender and sex.
That study led to the topic of the male hormone, androgen, and a condition called Mild Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (MAIS). I see significant signs in me, like the fact that I went through puberty way after my peers. That I do not have an Adam’s apple is evidence that androgen was not working when it could have been. And—I love this one—there is a significantly higher incidence of left-handedness in trans people. Yes, I am left-handed. The point? Things to demonstrate that I have a physical condition.
Some intriguing effects. Men with MAIS often try to rid themselves of their gender dysphoria through typical male activities (check). They are almost always heterosexual (check), therefore they get married and have children (check). They hold advanced educational degrees (check) and get involved at high levels of corporate (in my previous career: check) and academic cultures (check). They remain invisible (check), keeping their gender dysphoria deeply secret due to shame (check) and the risk of ridicule should they be found out (check).
Another suspect is when an expectant mother experiences excessive stress. A study found a significantly higher incidence of the sons being homosexual or gender dysphoric when the pregnant woman was under extreme stress. When pregnant with me, Mom and Dad were in the process of making my oldest brother, Jim, who is profoundly retarded, a ward of the state, because Mom could not care for Jim and three other children. Mom always said it was the hardest thing she ever did.
Cortisol, a steroid hormone, is affected by stress and has a wide-ranging and potentially damaging impact on a fetus. Our endocrine system is not made of steel. Medical science is discovering all manner of endocrine disrupters.
Why do we have so many maladies, diseases, malformations? It is obvious why some are gluten intolerant; we know how we have genetically modified wheat. Why would we not think that all of the chemicals in our world are not guilty of every type of disruption to brains forming in the womb?
Some think that so many more people now identify as trans or gay because it is safer and more acceptable. Certainly, acceptance assists in making oneself known. Yet, I would argue that there actually is a higher incidence because, yes, people are being born this way.
I have an appointment scheduled with an endocrinologist, to whom I will appeal to learn the science of gender dysphoria, to determine if there can be a way to treat people like me whose greatest desire is both to live in his genetic sex and to have some consistent level of comfort doing so. I have come to believe I was born this way, but I do not have to accept it.
Getting to the bottom of many maladies and diseases, we have found cures and ways to keep them from occurring. This is my hope with gender dysphoria, so that no one ever has to experience the horrible disconnect between brain and body, gender and sex.
I have hope. When I have hope, I am able to fight the good fight.