Gender identity research gets a boost
There is a going to be a major effort in terms of gender identity research to determine if transgender people are born the way they are.
Geneticists from a consortium of five research institutions in the US and Europe are working to unlock the mystery of gender identity through the person’s genome, or their complete set of DNA.
This is the largest-ever study of its kind: to search for a genetic component that would explain why people assigned a gender at birth identify as the other, even at the start of childhood.
Gender identity research: DNA will tell
This project will include researchers from US institutions like Vanderbilt University Medical Center, George Washington University, and Boston Children’s Hospital.
The other consortium members are from Europe: Vrije University in Amsterdam and the FIMABIS institute in Malaga, Spain.
For this project, researchers will extract DNA from blood samples of 10,000 people. Of this set, 3,000 will be transgender and the rest non-transgender, or cisgender.
Currently, the project is waiting for grant funding for the next phase of testing of about three million markers or variations across the genome for all of the blood samples.
The researchers will then study the common variations of transgender people and compare those to cisgender people in the study.
“If the trait is strongly genetic, then people who identify as trans will share more of their genome, not because they are related in nuclear families but because they are more anciently related,” said Lea Davis, study lead and assistant professor of medicine at the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute.
Gender identity research: Trans worries
However, this research has made some transgender people wary on the possibility that if a “cause” is found, some may possibly push for a “cure” similar to so-called reparative therapies.
Likewise, there is the concern for the rights of those who identify as trans but don’t have biological “proof.”
“It’s an idea that can be wielded against us, depending on the ideology of the user,” said Kale Edmiston, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Pittsburgh. Kale is also a transgender person.
However, Dana Bevan, a transgender woman and psychologist said: “I don’t believe that science can or should hold back from trying to understand what’s going on.”
Davis defended their study, saing it would not produce a genetic test for being transgender and it wouldn’t be able to.
She added that the data would hopefully lead to better healthcare for transgender people, who suffer from wide health disparities as compared to the general populace.
“We can use this information to help train doctors and nurses to provide better care to trans patients and to also develop amicus briefs to support equal rights legislation,” Davis said.