Review article provides evidence on the biological nature of gender identity

February 13, 2015

Medical care of transgender patients, including surgical and hormonal treatment, has largely been met with resistance by physicians in favor of psychiatric treatment, owing to misconceptions that gender identity can be changed. According to a review article in Endocrine Practice, there is increasing evidence of a biological basis for gender identity that may change physicians' perspective on transgender medicine and improve health care for these patients.

The article was led by researchers at Boston University School of Medicine.

Disorders of gender identity affect as many as 1 in 100 people. Transgender individuals are those who identify with a gender that differs from their natal sex. Different etiologies have been suggested as the cause of transgender identify however none have been proven definitively.

The researchers conducted a literature search and reviewed articles that showed positive biologic bases for gender identity. These included disorders of sexual development, such as penile agenesis, neuroanatomical differences, such as grey and white matter studies, and steroid hormone genetics, such as genes associated with sex hormone receptors. They conclude that current data suggests a biological etiology for transgender identity.

"This paper represents the first comprehensive review of the scientific evidence that gender identity is a biological phenomenon," explains corresponding author Joshua D. Safer, MD, FACP. "As such it provides one of the most convincing arguments to date for all medical providers to gain the transgender medicine skills necessary to provide good care for these individuals," he added.

According to the researchers the article does have some limitations due to the small numbers of individuals studied and therefore conclusions should be drawn with caution. Safer recommends that further research focus on specific biologic mechanisms for .

Explore further: Transgender medical research and provider education lacking

Related Stories

Transgender medical research and provider education lacking

December 11, 2013
As a result of the limited transgender medical training offered at medical schools, very few physicians possess the knowledge needed to treat transgendered patients. This circumstance is the topic of a paper in this month's ...

Transgender kids show consistent gender identity across measures

January 29, 2015
A study with 32 transgender children, ages 5 to 12, indicates that the gender identity of these children is deeply held and is not the result of confusion about gender identity or pretense. The study, led by psychological ...

Networks of the brain reflect the individual gender identity

January 8, 2015
Our sense of belonging to the male or female gender is an inherent component of the human identity perception. As a general rule, gender identity and physical sex coincide. If this is not the case, one refers to trans-identity ...

Better care for transgender youth

July 30, 2014
A fact sheet on ways to improve the wellbeing of transgender youth in New Zealand has been developed at the University of Auckland.

APA task force recommends treatment guidelines and position statements on transgender persons

July 2, 2012
A report from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Task Force on Treatment of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) recommends the development of clinical practice guidelines for psychiatrists caring for patients who are transgender. ...

Recommended for you

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

d_micheletti
not rated yet Feb 25, 2015
I am MTF but also intersex to some degree. The question is 19 years ago my right testes became malignant but proved to be an Ovotestes, mostly an ovary. Yes I had Ovarian cancer and was treated for such. In addition I had several extreme teratoma removed.
The other testes was small and a little under developed but normal. Even though I don't wish to fully transition because I am married I would like to take some female hormones at some point in time before I die. Doctors where reluctant to offer me hormones because of the complications they could cause. Are they being too careful or is there some health issues I need to look out for?
What issues could intersex people have related to this?
We live in Northern Minnesota and have limited access to intersex groups or medical care directed to us. Frankly much of my care has been substandard early in my treatment. Even now I find this is often beyond the scope of those who treat me, even though the do their best.

Hannah

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.