Laverne Cox (AP/Frank Micelotta)

Transgender experience isn't caused by a hormone imbalance so just give it up already

A new study confirms what researchers have long been saying: Gender dysphoria isn't physiological


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Jenny Kutner
July 21, 2015 9:35PM (UTC)

Scientific researchers and LGBTQ advocates alike have been repeating the same mantra for quite some time: Being queer is not something that can be "fixed." (Unless, of course, the fix involves retooling society and allowing individuals to live as they feel most comfortable, but that's not typically the approach "healing" methods such as "conversion therapy" tend to take.)

Being gay is not something that can be prayed away. Bisexuality will not be erased by "picking one and sticking with it." And transgender experience cannot be "treated" as if it were a physiological issue -- because, as researchers recently confirmed, it's not.

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Backing up earlier research on the role of hormone imbalances in the development of gender dysphoria, a group of doctors at Children's Hospital Los Angeles have concluded that trans identity is not the result of an abnormality in a person's sex hormones, and therefore cannot be "cured" by striking a balance that matches one's genitalia. Lead researcher Dr. Johanna Olson summed up the findings well: "We've now put to rest the residual belief that transgender experience is a result of a hormone imbalance. It's not."

Olson and her colleagues studied 101 patients who identified as transgender, just over half of whom had been assigned "male" at birth and identified as transfeminine; the other near-half of participants were assigned "female" at birth and identified transmasculine. The participants overwhelmingly displayed sex hormone levels consistent with their respective assigned genders, yet still experienced damaging feels of gender dysphoria at some point in their lives. Via a study press release:

The classification of "boy" or "girl" given to babies at birth--their assigned sex--is typically based on external genitalia. Transgender individuals have a gender identity different from the sex they were assigned at birth. The persistent distress and anxiety that may result from this dissonance is called gender dysphoria. Young people with gender dysphoria are seeking medical care at a younger age and in greater numbers than ever before. [...]

Participants, who were 12 to 24 years old, identified a discrepancy with their gender of assignment on average at about 8 years of age but disclosed it to their families much later (17.1 years). Living with this "secret" for such a long period of time may have a negative impact on mental health. Thirty-five percent of participants experienced depression within clinical ranges. Over half of the youth reported having considered suicide and 30% had made at least one attempt.

"My goal is to move kids who are having a gender atypical experience from survive to thrive," Olson said. "With this study we hope to identify the best way to accomplish that."


Jenny Kutner

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Conversion Therapy Gender Gender Dysphoria Lgbtq Issues Research Study Transgender

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