Don't expect a brain scan to tell you if you're "transgender" or not

Since it’s a topic that never seem to fall very far out of the news these days, I was interested to see an analysis at the Washington Post on the subject of “transgender” Americans and how their status has changed under the current administration. Titled, Obama’s quiet transgender revolution, the piece tells a rather sad story of a politically motivated, populist deep dive into the confused end of the pool as our own government moved the goalposts of reality back in marked increments.

Years before the White House was lit in rainbow colors celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage, President Obama used a routine bureaucratic tool that ended up significantly changing the government’s understanding of gender and how it can be changed.

The process began during Obama’s first year in office when he issued a memo in June 2009 instructing agencies to extend to same-sex couples some benefits that the spouses of federal employees receive. Over time, that directive led to a decision by the Social Security Administration to greatly lower the threshold requirements for changing one’s sex on official government documents, a change that would determine how a person’s gender is recorded on passports, tax returns, marriage licenses and other documents.

Since June 2013, someone wishing to change their sex classification on their Social Security card has needed to provide only a doctor’s note guaranteeing that “appropriate clinical treatment” is underway.

It’s true that this simple act of the Pen & Phone presidency changed the ground rules, but the process had already been underway for quite a while. Prior to this loosening of the guidelines, you could already change your gender on your Social Security card if you had surgery to alter your genital region (read: permanently mutilate yourself) to match the gender you were “identifying” with. Now you apparently just need a sympathetic doctor to sign a card for you indicating that you’re “in process” in some fashion, probably indicating that you’re taking hormones or perhaps even just undergoing therapy.

I seem to get dragged into these discussions a lot on various shows and in online chats and it’s always been disturbing. Previously I’ve maintained that you are, quite simply, the gender indicated by your 23rd pair of chromosomes and that’s just the way of the world if you didn’t like it. I do believe that there are many people in this world who, for one reason or another, are extremely unhappy with their gender. (I’m unhappy that I didn’t wind up being 6′ 6″ too, but there’s no surgery or special political class for that.) There are also, I’m sure, some people who are extremely confused about the whole gender thing. This may be from the flood of SJW media they are constantly exposed to or some sort of mental disconnect which I will never fully understand, not being a psychiatrist. But none of this changes the apparently unpleasant fact that you are the gender you were born to. There are very rare, unfortunate exceptions of people with a genetic mutation who exhibit the physical attributes of both genders to one degree or another, but that’s not some new class of human. That’s a biological error. They deserve all the same rights as everyone else and should be able to “pick one” at some point if they wish, but they’re also not the topic of this discussion. We’re talking about clearly defined, normal (yes, I said “normal.” Go ahead and throw stones) boys and girls with the usual set of chromosomes and the body parts to match.

In the past, while struggling with this question as it relates to high profile stories in the media, I’ve tended to offer the benefit of the doubt to people who actually go so far as to have surgery. In those cases I began using the opposite pronoun for them because, well… that’s one heck of a lot of dedication on display if you’re going to get your essential bits lopped off and I figure they deserve it at that point. But short of that, I use the pronouns appropriate for the gender they were naturally born to.

Still, I’ve had opponents argue with me and claim that there’s some science behind this whole “misgendered” thing. The most common one I see thrust into the argument is a few older, very dubious studies indicating that the brain waves of the “transgender” individual are different than normal folks and match the opposite gender. Such studies have been widely disputed, primarily because we still know so little about the human brain and what all those squiggly lines on the EEG readout actually mean. Others have offered up “evidence” that the brain of the transgender subject is actually different in a physical sense. That didn’t seem terribly conclusive either to say the least.

Medics are keen to find concrete physical evidence to help those children who feel they are trapped in the body of the opposite sex. One key brain region involved is the BSTc, an area of grey matter. But the region is too small to scan in a living person so differences have only been picked up at post-mortem.

But now a new study has caught my eye, detailed at NBC News. Curiously enough, this one had nothing to do with transgender studies in specific, but simply an analysis of the brains of men and women to see what the real, physical differences were. They also did an number of tests on the same scanned subjects to examine their preferences and feelings about various things. Guess what they discovered? Even the doctors couldn’t tell a male brain from a female brain to begin with.

Scientists who tried very hard to find differences between male and female brains said they couldn’t do it — not with brain scans and not even by asking seemingly obvious questions such as whether someone likes boxing or worries about his or her mother.

They couldn’t find any single pattern that distinguishes between a male brain and a female brain, and say only a very small percentage of people fall under clear all-male or all female brain patterns.

“Our study demonstrates that although there are sex/gender differences in brain structure, brains do not fall into two classes, one typical of males and the other typical of females, nor are they aligned along a ‘male brain-female brain’ continuum,” Daphna Joel of Tel Aviv University and colleagues wrote.

Falling back on the unfathomable intricacies of something as unbelievably complicated as the human brain isn’t going to make some scientific case that you were born in the wrong type of body. The fact is, we still only have a few obvious things to go on when determining your gender: an examination of your private parts and a chromosome analysis. Once those results are in, we have our answer. As far as I’m concerned, there is no such thing as “transgender” in a normally formed and developed human being and the government needs to stop trying to deny abject reality in the name of winning liberal votes by catering to the SJW.

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Jazz Shaw 8:31 AM on March 18, 2023