In some ways I suppose this was inevitable, but a big old Pandora’s Box could be cracked open in the near future in terms of the ongoing debate over “transgender issues” in America and elsewhere. Medical research facilities in both the United States and Europe have begun an extensive project to determine if there’s some sort of genetic clue which determines a person’s “gender” (which they’re attempting to treat as something unrelated to sex) when it comes to the big trans question. The potential pitfalls of such an undertaking are almost too numerous to count. (Reuters)
While President Donald Trump has thrust transgender people back into the conflict between conservative and liberal values in the United States, geneticists are quietly working on a major research effort to unlock the secrets of gender identity.
A consortium of five research institutions in Europe and the United States, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center, George Washington University and Boston Children’s Hospital, is looking to the genome, a person’s complete set of DNA, for clues about whether transgender people are born that way.
Two decades of brain research have provided hints of a biological origin to being transgender, but no irrefutable conclusions.
The Reuters coverage is entirely slanted in the language it uses, replete with “cisgender” references and all the rest. (Not surprising since those directives come straight from the AP stylebook in its latest edition.) But that’s the least of the problems with what’s going on here.
One of the first questions for them to answer is how the need for this study was identified in the first place. Impossible to say, but we have some hints. The article introduces us to Lea Davis, “leader of the study and an assistant professor of medicine at the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute.” Oh! An assistant professor of medicine and a professional from Vanderbilt, one of the centers leading this research Sounds good, right? You’ll want to have some top notch, unbiased scientists heading up a project such as this to keep it on the up and up. But you need to scroll down to the bottom of the article and then do some additional online research to discover that Lea Davis isn’t just some genetics science geek locked up in a lab full of test tubes. She’s also the head of the Vanderbilt Gender Health Clinic, where they support the “Trans Buddy Program” and work on a range of “LGBTI health services.”
Here’s what we need to know on that score. Is this a pure science project which has identified a question and seeks to rigorously determine an answer relying on the scientific method? Or is this a partisan exercise where the answer they want has already been identified and they’re now going to start flushing data through the system until they arrive at their preordained conclusion? Only time will tell.
But even with all of the questions of motive covered, what is it these researchers hope to learn? They make reference to previous “brain research” which provided “hints” as to some sort of biological origin of transgenderism, but admit that “no irrefutable conclusions” could be reached. That’s putting it charitably at best. There were some early studies of physical brain structure which sought to show that transgender people’s brains were more similar in certain, tiny variations, to the opposite sex. There was also a single study of brain waves which tried to pitch the same idea. Both have been widely discredited as other researchers were unable to reproduce the results. So perhaps a fishing expedition deep in the genome will succeed where they previously failed.
This all sounds tremendously unlikely to anyone who isn’t coming into the conversation wedded to the definitions provided by social justice warriors. We’ve never suspected that people with Cotard’s Syndrome are actually dead nor that sufferers of clinical lycanthropy might truly be turning into wolves with the coming of the full moon. But what if they’re right? What if there is some magic key hiding inside our mostly unidentifiable genetic map which points to a biological basis for believing that your sex is the opposite of that indicated by reality and science? Katy bar the door, because then things get really complicated.
Imagine the implications of a genetic map which can define someone as being transgender. Almost immediately people attempting IVF and other prenatal screening programs might have options available to “deselect” any fetuses with those markers if they wished. (This is the same reason that people have fought so vigorously against any sort of genetic “gay test” in the past.) Also, in other, less enlightened countries (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, etc.) there could be another sort of testing program going on, with those showing positive indicators being unceremoniously invited up to the tops of tall buildings for an express ride to the pavement.
This is some seriously slippery ground we’re walking into here. I seriously doubt it will turn up anything repeatable, but just in case it does… be careful what you wish for.