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2014-07-05 Twenty-two new studies: brains of transsexuals have similarities with those of their experienced sex; hormone therapy is safe; ... and more!

posted 5 Jul 2014, 11:50 by Cake Kidd   [ updated 30 Jul 2014, 04:55 ]

Phew, a big update almost done…

The dishonest article by Paul McHugh (mentioned in my news post from 2014-06-25) in the Wall Street Journal created some attention, and many blogs and media outlets have written about it. See the Transadvocate for a good summary: http://www.transadvocate.com/worlds-experts-condemn-the-mchugh-hoax_n_13924.htm.

I added two great resources to the links page: One is the guideline booklet of the Endocrine Society for the treatment of transsexual persons. The guidelines comprehensively run down the current diagnostic and treatment process, a great manual for both transsexuals and clinicians. Another one is a nice list of care facilities for transgender children youth and children in Canada and the USA.

Aaannnd… I added 22 studies, most of them newly published. Many of them concern discrimination and victimisation (these words are hard to write!) and their impact on well-being, mental health and suicide attempts (most of these studies are listed in the other references section). They provide yet more evidence that it’s not gender dysphoria itself that torments transsexuals, it is society’s cruel reaction to it.

So much unhappiness and tragedy caused by intolerance, by sticking to cultural norms that evolved in times when we didn’t have the knowledge we have now… it’s very sad and very stupid… why can’t people just be themselves (obviously, always provided they cause no harm to others)? Why all this judging?

  • Leinung et al. wrote in “Endocrine Practice”, 2013, that gender dysphoria interferes with successful lives. The study looked at 240 transsexuals and found that starting therapy at an earlier age may lessen the negative impact on mental health and leads to improved social outcome. Yay!

  • Another ground-breaking study: Sarah M. Burke, together with famous researcher Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis, et al. published a study in “Frontiers in Endocrinology” (2014) looking at the brain’s response to smelling the steroid androstadienone. Apparently, it has been shown that the hypothalamus of the brain reacts differently to this steroid in men and women. Interestingly, the hypothalamic responses of adolescent transsexual boys and girls were remarkably similar to their experienced gender; i.e. the brains of male-to-female transsexual girls showed a similar reaction to that of cisgender girls, and behaved differently from the brains of cisgender boys. Clearly, evidence that shows brains of transsexuals have undergone atypical sexual differentiation is more hard proof for physiological cause of the feelings experienced by transsexuals.

  • In a small study of eighteen transsexuals published in “The Counseling Psychologist”, 2013, Stephanie Budge et al. finds that transition lessens emotional hardships and leads to affirmative emotional experiences.

  • Radix and Silva state in the “Pediatric Annals” (2014) that a mounting body of evidence confirms that medical transition results in improved health outcomes.

  • In a literature review in the “Journal of psychosocial nursing and mental health services”, 2014, Nicholson and McGuiness state that preliminary studies suggest that early medical interventions improve the quality of life for young transsexuals.

  • In the same vein, Olson and Garofalo write in the “Pediatric Annals”, 2014, that puberty suppression drugs seem to be very helpful in improving behavioural and overall functioning outcomes.

  • Hank Asscheman is in the news (see http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/827713#1) with results of a huge study of more than 2000 patients finding that hormone therapy is remarkably safe. I don’t think the study has been published yet, but you can find preliminary results and an abstract of his presentation at the recent congress of the Endocrine Society on my other references page.

  • Oh, and last but not least, one of the very rare studies claiming that medical treatment does not help transsexuals. I am on the lookout for these studies, and I put them up on this website whenever I find one, but there are hardly any. This is one is by Lithuanian researchers Kristina Zamarytė et al., published in the Lithuanian “Medicina” in 2012. Strangely, it is not a clinical study, it was a literature review of the years 1979 to 2011 using search terms that don’t seem wholly adequate (e.g. they used the term “gender dysphoria” which officially replaced the older “gender identity disorder” only in 2013). I’ll try to get in contact with the authors and see whether they actually evaluated the hundred or so studies that do provide evidence for the benefits of medical treatment… this is a strange one…

Anyway, in summary the picture that emerges from all these clinical studies becomes clearer and clearer… the brains of transsexuals have developed sex-atypically; they have similarities to brains of their experienced gender and differences to brains of their natal gender. As a result, transsexuals feel they belong to other gender from what they have been assigned to at birth. Society penalises such feelings and resulting behaviour and actions, so transsexuals face discrimination, which in turn causes psychological problems and reduces quality of life. However, the good news is that there are treatments available: Hormone therapy, transition and surgery can cure gender dysphoria, peer support, societal tolerance and respect minimise the negative effects.

Take care, stay healthy and be yourself!