Brain Scans Reveal Trans Brains

(EDGE) Science agrees with lived experience: Researchers using a combination of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and another scanning technique, diffusion tensor imaging, have shown that trans people - including children - have brain structures that resemble that of the gender they innately know themselves to be, UK newspaper The Telegraph reported.

"Analysis of around 160 participants showed that biological males with gender dysphoria - the experience of discomfort or distress due to their biological sex - had a brain structure and neurological patterns similar to biological females, and vice versa," the Telegraph's article said.

The new research was presented this week in Barcelona at a meeting of the European Society of Endocrinology.

Professor Julie Bakker headed up the research, which took place at Belgium's University of Liege. Bakker spoke of how the new technique could be used diagnostically for trans people at early ages. 

"We will then be better equipped to support these young people, instead of just sending them to a psychiatrist and hoping that their distress will disappear spontaneously," Bakker told the media.

It's not uncommon for very early childhood to be the time trans people start expressing an awareness that their body and their gender identity do not align. 

This is not the first time brain scan research has pointed to measurable structural differences between the brains of cisgender and trans people. In 2011 New Scientist reported on two papers published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research that showed how trans men showed brain structures that were masculine in four regions of their brains' white matter, while trans women, for their part, had brains that were more like those of cis women. 

Likewise, Scientific American wrote in 2016 about how research done three years earlier uncovered evidence that "the brain structures of the trans people were more similar in some respects to the brains of their experienced gender than those of their natal gender."

If biology is physiologically determined, as anti-trans equality individuals and groups like to claim, then it would seem to be in the biology of the brain - and only a personalizing in their own body can say for sure to which gender they belong.

But don't expect the science around trans brains to make a dent in the beliefs of claims of those who are anti-trans. As reported in EDGE in 2011, researchers demonstrated how gay and straight brains lit up in the same ways when people were shown photos of their loved ones. Whether those photos showed someone of the same sex or the opposite sex didn't matter; their brains responded in the same way, indicating that love really is all the same. That, however, has not dispelled the persistent myth, peddled still by anti-gay religious and political forces, that gays somehow "choose" to love people of the same gender.

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