The thalidomide connection

I suspect you have heard of the drug, thalidomide, and its impact on fetuses. If it is unknown to you, click this link. The picture at the top of the page speaks volumes.

Thalidomide was given to pregnant women from the late 1950s to early 1960s to help with nausea and vomiting. You know, that thing that plagues pregnant women: morning sickness. When thalidomide was administered early in the pregnancy, the fetus sometimes formed wrong, with some babies born with no arms or legs, or deformed ones. It is estimated that, worldwide, 20,000 to 100,000 babies were affected. Once they figured out what was causing it, they stopped giving the drug to pregnant women.

Another thing plagues pregnant women: miscarriage. My mother was prone to them, having experienced two immediately before becoming pregnant with me.

As thalidomide helped with morning sickness, diethylstilbestrol was beneficial for preventing miscarriages. It was prescribed heavily at the time my mother was pregnant with me, which was 1956-57.

Diethylstilbestrol—known as DES—as thalidomide, also harmed fetuses. DES is an artificial form of the hormone, estrogen. The hormones of the body are called the endocrine system. Things that interrupt the workings of the body’s hormones are called endocrine disruptors.

It was the study about DES sons, which Julie found in the summer of 2013, that finally told me I had a real condition, with a real cause. In the study of five hundred males, whose mothers were given DES or it is highly suspected they were—I do not know that my mom was given it; I assume she was based on so many pieces I have put together—47% report being gender dysphoric or transgender.

Here is what I now believe happened to me. During the three hormone washings, which the fetal brain undergoes, DES worked in my brain as an endocrine disruptor so that the estrogen did not allow male hormones to form my brain fully male, or even formed it female. Since I have to be dead to learn the full answer, as they have to be able to physically cut my brain open to find out, I am left to a degree of speculation. Away from speculating, I have some proofs in me. This is why I don’t have an Adam’s Apple, why I went through puberty a year or more after the last boy in my class, perhaps why I am left handed, and more.

Another sign is fleshy breasts. I always thought mine were too fleshy for a male. Now, on hormone replacement therapy, my breasts are growing at a rate way more than I expected. Most trans women in their fifties experience very slight breast growth. That mine is significant causes me to wonder if my body is predisposed to breast growth because of how my brain is formed, just as a properly formed female grows breasts at the time of puberty.

I have physical proof that androgen (one of the male hormones) production was disrupted while I was in the womb, but if I had not suffered gender dysphoria none of my “deformities” would ever have been noticed. Taken by themselves, they are unremarkable. Put together with my gender dysphoria, my mother’s history, and the affects of DES, they become remarkable.

As we all know, conditions that are located in the brain—forms of depression, Alzheimer’s, and the like—are way more mystical than those in the rest of the body which can be X-rayed or MRI’d or simply seen with the naked eye.

With thalidomide, the impact of the drug was obvious; with DES, it was not, but the affects are every bit as real.

Every bit as real. Every bit as harmful. Every bit as justifying medical treatment.

This is the origin of my gender dysphoria. It is not the origin for all, though my study has led me to believe that it is endocrine disruptors, of which there are many—certain drugs, plasticizers, pesticides, and more—are the chief culprit behind gender dysphoria.

Not everyone cares to know why they are trans. Not everyone agrees with me that it is a condition—a dis-ease, as I like to call it—to be lumped with maladies and illnesses. Not everyone who is trans feels anything is wrong with them. I respect their feelings, but their notions do not alter mine.

I want two things to happen: 1) that we figure out the physical cause of gender dysphoria, so that 2) we might stop it.

No one should be born with a mismatch of body and brain, just as no one should be born with malformed or no limbs. We figured out what thalidomide was doing and stopped it. Let’s do it for the sake of us who hate that our gender dysphoria has driven us to transition, and the families and others who suffer with us in our transitioning or, for various reasons, reject us.


2 thoughts on “The thalidomide connection

  1. Thank you for not making this a bash of the pharmaceutical industry. It is caught among a number of limitations. First, a drug manufacturer’s goal is to make a profit for its stockholders. If it doesn’t, it won’t stay in business, and won’t conduct research on new drugs. I can hear the answer to that of, “Let the government do it.” The government doesn’t have nearly as much money as a private company, nor does it have any incentive to produce anything. One doesn’t have to look far into our history to find the stories of corruption and self-aggrandizement by politicians to know that government won’t do any better, and probably will do worse.

    Second, the patent laws are a two-edged sword, or, probably better, a sword on one side and a dagger on the other. The term of a patent plus renewal does not allow sufficient time for a drug to be tested in clinical trials for a generation. For testing to be done that long, the patent is long expired, leaving little incentive to research and produce a drug which can be copied by anyone else, thus not recouping the research and testing costs. On the other hand, if the duration of patents were increased, it would protect us from generic drugs produced as soon as they are now, thus increasing medical costs even faster.

    Third, the Food and Drug Administration, which must approve all drugs, has no incentive to approve drugs. It gets a bad name when supposedly good drugs are approved, like thalidomide, but turn out to be bad in the long run in certain circumstances. Each time a supposedly bad drug slips through, standards are tightened, and the approval process takes longer and is more difficult.

    So, what’s the solution? I don’t see one other than continuing the same course as we now follow. Sure, bad drugs will get through, but so do bad air bags, faulty ignition switches, and flammable nightwear. We’re good at hindsight, and we should be reasonable before overreacting.


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