OPINION | This article contains political commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
As we told you when making our announcement about site changes, we’ll be accepting submissions from our readers for possible publication. We’re super excited about this, and are currently reviewing a number of submissions we’ve already received.
One in particular was really compelling to me. When we first started accepting applications for interns, we got one from a retired physician who is transgender, who we’ll call Anna Collins. Anna was born male, but chooses to live (at least some of the time) as a woman.
Here is Anna’s story:
Transgender…what is it? Quite simply, it is a made-up word for a made-up condition, a neologism if you will. Now, I do not come at this lightly or with the slightest animus or ill will because I am one of those who are labeled – using today’s vernacular – transgender.
I also come at this from another perspective, I am a retired physician having spent some 40 years in the neurosciences area of practice, so I have an interesting perspective from both the personal and medical points of view. It might be more instructive to note what a transgender (if there were such a thing) isn’t. It isn’t a female who once was a male or a male who was once a female. It isn’t some female “trapped” in a male body (or vice versa), nor is it a male with a female brain. I’ve heard all these expressions over the years ad nauseum.
A high school freshman’s understanding of basic biology would inform that in the human mammalian species there are males and females with the exception of a few rare individuals born with a birth defect and known as intersex. No manner of hoping, wishing, or trying can transform a male into a female. If someone asserts that they were born male but are now female, ask them to prove it. Ask for a blood test that shows their blood cells possess a female genotype. Ask for an X-ray that shows a female pelvis. Obtain a CT scan and demonstrate where the uterus and ovaries are. In short, lack of a penis and possession of breasts, with the addition of some hair and makeup do not a female make.
To be sure, a person born male can elect to live life as a woman and that’s perfectly fine if that’s what makes them feel happy and complete. And if cosmetic surgery transforms his body to one more in line with that of a female, all is well and good. But despite all that, he is not a female, he is still a male living as a woman and if labels are important (and I think they are not always so important), he is ultimately a trans-female or I suppose a transgendered female. But as noted in the beginning, there really is no such thing…it is simply a word….a label.
What does exist is a condition known as gender dysphoria. Yup, it’s another made-up word but it describes a real condition. Is it contagious? There are some indications that it may be. Is it lethal? Definitely it can be. There are legitimately individuals who are saddened (dysphoric) because of their natal gender. From a medical perspective, one has to wonder why a person would be unhappy with the gender to which they were born. I don’t suppose there will ever be a convincing answer to that question. There are large numbers of individuals who are simply depressed for any number of reasons but the genesis of these depressive episodes is often a mystery. From a purely biological point of view, one could say that it is because of an imbalance of neurohormones; for example, not enough of the neurotransmitter serotonin or norepinephrine. In fact, most of the antidepressant medications on the market work by addressing these imbalances of neurohormones. But that only treats the depression and not necessarily the cause of that depression. We can say that some depressions seem to be genetically transmitted from generation to generation but in fact just about all illnesses are based in genetics somewhere in that great human codex. And as the human genome is being better and better understood and unraveled, new treatments are forthcoming that address the specific genetic flaws. Is there a gene for being transgender? How about a group of genes? Who knows what the future will reveal.
As I also noted in the beginning, I was born a male and I will die a male, but for some portion of my life I have elected to live my life as a woman. Notice I did not say…live my life as a female. There is no possible way I could become, convert, transition from an XY male to an XX female. But, I can elect to live as a woman. Why I want to do this is a deep, dark secret – one which even I have never been able to completely understand. Long ago I dispensed with the nonsense that I had a female brain in a male body. Get real! Again, I would ask those who espouse this idea to prove it. As soon as I would ask that, someone would trot out those poorly controlled PET scans that shows some transgender male to female (M2F) brains “light up” on a scan similar to a genetic female’s brain. Whoopee – human brains are similar, who’d have thunk it! In fact, those areas of the brain that are similar between M2F persons and genetic females are the more plastic areas of the brain…the speech and similar processing centers. But so what? There are lots of men who are more feminine in thought and mannerism than the average male but who are not trans-anything. And vice versa for females.
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I have been told by some of my trans friends that they were “hardwired” to be trans from birth. Really? To be sure, there are some parts of the brain that are hardwired…the autonomic nervous system is pretty hard wired to maintain one’s blood pressure, respiratory drive, heart rate, etc. But hardwired to make them a female…what does that even mean?
From my own personal experiences and education, I have come to believe that there well may be some genetic predisposition to cause a person to decide to be the sex opposite one’s natal sex. And then along comes some psycho/social trigger and sets things into motion. I like to say that nature loaded the gun but nurture pulled the trigger. What those “triggering” events are vary from person to person. I know that I was raised by my mother, grandmother, and aunt while my dad was off in the war (WWII). So all of my basic needs such as hunger, warmth, safety, love, bonding, etc were all supplied by females. Was that my trigger? I have no idea and at my somewhat advanced age I’ve come to learn to just enjoy the omelet and not worry too much about where the eggs came from.
I have told the Chicks that I would write a few articles for their site from time to time from my own perspective. After all, I’m kind of a chick. As I noted in the beginning, I am not trying to be harsh or uncaring. I suppose readers will find fault with this and I am open to discussion and other viewpoints. I would just like to keep it a pleasant discussion dealing with reality not what we might wish were reality. I’ve personally had several trans patients over the years for various illnesses not related to their trans status, and I have always tried to assist them in their transition if that was their desire; however, I have always been totally honest with them and yes, sometimes they have rejected that honesty. An associate of mine had a trans woman actually die of prostate cancer because he refused to address the issue. After all, females do not have a prostate. Reality can dish out some hard lessons. But more often than not, individuals have accepted the reality of the matter and still elect to deal with their gender dysphoria by living as their chosen gender. I’m happy for them if that is what makes them happy. Life is too short to be unhappy.
Fascinating take, amirite?