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The atypical brain development of transsexuals


The atypical brain development of transsexuals

ENG_trans.jpgTranssexuals are convinced that they were born in the body of the opposite gender and would do almost anything to change that fact. This transformation occurs step by step, by first taking on the social role of the other gender, then taking hormones and then undergoing a series of major operations, after which just 0.4 percent express regret later.

The gender team of the Vrije Universiteit Medical Centre in Amsterdam has been a pioneer in this field for many years, initially under the leadership of professor Louis Gooren and now of professor Peggy Cohen-Kettenis. This is unusual because the Bible, on which the VU is founded, states in Deuteronomy 22:5-6: “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.”


In the womb

Male-to-female (M2F) transsexuality occurs in 1 in 10,000 men, and female-to-male (F2M) transsexuality in 1 in 30,000 women. Gender problems are often expressed early in development. Mothers describe how from the moment their son could talk, he would wear his mother’s clothes and shoes, he was exclusively interested in girls’ toys and mostly played with girls. But not all children with gender problems want to change gender later. If necessary, puberty can be delayed for a while with a hormone inhibitor to gain additional time to make a decision about whether to undergo treatment or not.

All of the data indicate that gender problems develop in the womb. Small changes have been found in genes involved in the effect of hormones on brain development, which increase the chance of transsexuality developing. Abnormal hormone levels in the fetus in the womb and medicines that the mother takes during pregnancy that disturb the breakdown of sex hormones can increase the chance of transsexuality developing.

Sexual differentiation of our genitalia occurs in the first few months of pregnancy while sexual differentiation of the brain takes place in the second half of pregnancy. As these two processes occur at different times, it is theorised that in transsexuality these processes are influenced independently of each other. If that hypothesis is true, then we would expect female structures in the male brains of M2F transsexuals and vice versa in F2M transsexuals.

Brain and hormones

In 1995 such a reversal of the gender difference was published by us inNature. It involved the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTc), a brain structure implicated in sexual behaviour. The BSTc was found to be  twice as large in men and contained double the number of neurons than in women. In M2F transsexuals we found a female BSTc. The only F2M transsexual we  could study did indeed have a male BSTc.

We could exclude the possibility that the reversal of the gender difference in transsexuals was caused by changed hormone levels in adulthood. Reversal must therefore have taken place during development. When a researcher finally does publish something interesting, the nicest comment that colleagues can come up with is: “This must first be confirmed by an independent group.” That can take a while, as it took me 20 years to collect the brain material for this study.

Thus, I was delighted to hear that Ivanka Savic’s research group the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm published a study last year of functional brain scanning of living M2F transsexuals. They had not yet been surgically altered nor had they started taking hormones. They were stimulated with male and female pheromones, scents that you pick up unconsciously. These scents produce different stimulation patterns in the hypothalamus and other brain regions in control men and women. The stimulation pattern in M2F transsexuals lay between that of men and women.

Last year Ramachandran, a psychologist and  neurologist in the United States presented an interesting hypothesis and preliminary results on transsexuality. His idea is that in M2F transsexuals the representation of the penis is lacking in the cerebral cortex and in F2M transsexuals the region for breasts during development is not mapped onto the cerebral cortex, which is why the brain does not consider the organs as its “own” and wants to get rid of them.

Everything indicates that during the early stages of development, the sexual differentiation of the brain occurs atypically in transsexuals, and not that they are “simply” psychotic, as a psychiatrist from Limburg recently dared to assert.

In Massachusetts, people can get an “F” in sex early

This won’t have an impact on me since I’m about to embark on my excellent adventure, but it’s really cool, and it’s about time:

Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles releases policy change for changing gender markers

January 26th, 2009 by gunner in AnnouncementNews


The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) is pleased to announce that the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles has amended its policy regarding changing gender markers on state issued identification such as driver’s licenses or Massachusetts ID.

The new policy requires a person who wishes to change the gender marker on their state issued identification to submit an updated application together with a Gender Designation Change Form, signed by him or her and a medical provider attesting to the gender that the individual considers himself or herself to be. The policy no longer requires a person to submit medical proof of sex reassignment surgery or an amended birth certificate. The next edition of the Registry of Motor Vehicles Driver’s Manual will reflect the agency’s policy amendments.

In the coming weeks, MTPC will provide a comprehensive “how to” guide for changing gender marker that reflects this new policy as well as the requirements of other State and Federal agencies.

MTPC has been working collaboratively with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), MassEquality and Representative Carl Sciortino advocating for this policy change with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.

The Hero Pilot

Pilot praised for ‘masterful’ landing

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger has been a pilot with US Airways since 1980
  • NEW: Former Air Force fighter pilot has worked with NASA as safety consultant
  • NYC mayor says pilot checked plane twice for passengers before leaving
  • “I’ve flown in a lot of planes and that was a phenomenal landing,” passenger said

(CNN) — Passengers on the US Airways flight that crash-landed into the Hudson River Thursday afternoon praised the actions and courage of the pilot, a safety consultant with 40 years of experience in the aviation industry.

Sources tell CNN that Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger was piloting US Airways flight 1549 from New York’s LaGuardia airport to Charlotte, North Carolina, when at least one of the plane’s engines failed.

Passenger Jeff Kolodjay offered “kudos” to Sullenberger for a landing that minimized damage to the aircraft and its 155 passengers and crew.

“All of a sudden the captain came on and he told us to brace ourselves and probably brace ourselves pretty hard. But he did an amazing job — kudos to him on that landing,” said Kolodjay, who was sitting in seat 22A.

Sullenberger’s wife told CNN that she was stunned to hear the news from her husband after it was all over.

“I hadn’t been watching the news. I’ve heard Sully say to people, ‘It’s rare for an airline pilot to have an incident in their career,’ ” said Lori Sullenberger of Danville, California.

“When he called me he said, ‘There’s been an accident.’ At first I thought it was something minor, but then he told me the circumstances and my body started shaking and I rushed to get our daughters out of school.”

US Airways said all 155 passengers and crew are alive and safely off the plane.

The crash-landing has also earned the former fighter pilot and private safety consultant accolades from state and government officials.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg commended the pilot for not leaving the plane without checking to make sure every passenger had been evacuated.

“It would appear that the pilot did a masterful job of landing the plane in the river and then making sure that everybody got out,” Bloomberg said at a press conference Thursday.

“I had a long conversation with the pilot. He walked the plane twice after everybody else was off and tried to verify that there was nobody else on board — and assures us there was not.”

Sullenberger apparently was forced to make an emergency landing after geese were sucked into one or both of the jet’s engines. An eyewitness working on the west side of Manhattan said the belly of the plane touched the water first.

An official who heard tape recordings of the radio traffic from Flight 1549 reported the pilot was extraordinarily calm during the event.

“There was no panic, no hysterics,” the official said. “It was professional, it was calm, it was methodical. It was everything you hoped it could be.”

The pilot and air traffic controller discussed options, including landing at Teterboro airport in New Jersey, the official said. Then there was a “period of time where there was no communications back, and I’m assuming he was concentrating on more important things.”

Sullenberger’s background in aviation appeared to have prepared him for such a situation.

He has been a pilot with US Airways since 1980, following seven years in the U.S. Air Force.

His resume — posted on the Web site for his safety consulting firm, Safety Reliability Methods, Inc. — lists piloting procedures, technical safety strategies, emergency management and operations improvement, as areas of industry expertise.

He served as an instructor and Air Line Pilots Association safety chairman, accident investigator and national technical committee member, according to a biography on the site. He participated in several USAF and National Transportation Safety Board accident investigations, and worked with NASA scientists on a paper on error and aviation, his site says.

For the passengers on flight 1549, Sullenberger’s skill and expertise were apparent.

“I’ve flown in a lot of planes and that was a phenomenal landing,” said passenger Fred Berretta said.

Berretta was sitting in seat 16A right over one of the engines when it failed and the pilot turned the plane to align it with the Hudson River. He described silence in the plane as the passengers waited to hear from the crew.

A few moments later, the direction to brace for landing came.

“It was an amazing piece of airmanship,” said Peter Goelz, a former NTSB managing director.

All AboutUS Airways Group Inc. • LaGuardia Airport • Charlotte (North Carolina) • Michael Bloomberg

Links referenced within this article 

US Airways
Michael Bloomberg
US Airways Group Inc.
LaGuardia Airport
Charlotte (North Carolina)
Michael Bloomberg

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Crap, they’re onto me…


Yet another way that people fear and hunt for “men posing as women.” Is this really a problem? Or is it just another way that people express their fear of and disdain for transwomen?


Sex determination lab at Olympics

From correspondents in Beijing

July 27, 2008 08:18pm

Article from: Agence France-Presse

OLYMPIC host Beijing has set up a sex determination lab to test female Olympic athletes suspected to be males, state media reported today.

Experts at the lab, located at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital, will evaluate dubious cases based on their external appearance and take blood samples testing sex hormones, genes and chromosomes, Xinhua news agency said.

Sex testing has been routine at the Olympics and other sports events for decades, triggered by fears that male athletes sought to cheat by posing as women.

Indian athlete Santhi Soundarajan was stripped of an Asian Games silver medal in 2006 after failing a gender verification test.

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