Why Do Trans People Exist?

| May 23, 2016
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In previous blogs I provided the scientific evidence that being transgender in our Western culture requires three ingredients.

  • Biological gender behavior predisposition.
  • Culture that is binary, cisgender and does not allow movement between gender behavior categories.
  • Knowledge of gender behavior categories that most all children get by the age of 2-3.

There is not much you can do about the culture you are born into and learning about gender within a person’s culture is almost an automatic thing for children.

So where does the remaining ingredient come from?

The idea of a biological gender behavior predisposition means there is a subconscious mechanism that makes one gender behavioral category feel more “natural” than the other. It is like preferring your right or left hand to do particular things. As a child witnesses gender behavior and learns about gender, they recognize which gender behavior category “fits” them best and/or which one is the most comfortable. For non-transgender people, that best-fit category is in alignment with their sex — they are cisgender.

Biological gender behavior predisposition is permanent and never goes away. It may be temporarily outvoted by other subconscious mechanisms but it always gets a vote. This accounts for the “late-blooming” transgender people who ignored their gender behavior predisposition for long periods. To some it is like a “splinter in your mind, driving you mad” as the Wachowski sisters described a subconscious mechanism in The Matrix. Yes, you read correctly, they are now the “Wachowski sisters”, Lana and Lilly, both late-blooming transsexuals. They are no longer the “Wachowski Brothers.” To write such a line, they must have had experience with “splinters in the mind,” in their case gender behavior predisposition.

The scientific evidence indicates that biological gender predisposition is inherited through DNA genetics. Twin studies indicate that both transsexual and transgender identical twins tend to have, respectively, transsexual and transgender identical twin siblings. If one is transsexual or transgender, then the likelihood that the other will also be the same is far greater than the population frequencies. This result occurs for transgender people even if family environment is considered in the statistics. The most recent studies indicate that the inheritability rate among identical twins of being transgender is 60-70% which is high. By comparison, the highest known inheritability rate that has been observed is around 70-75% (for physical height).

If only DNA genetics were involved in forming biological gender predisposition, then the inheritance rate could be higher but there are epigenetic mechanisms at work beginning with conception. These mechanisms modify or influence expression of the information contained in the DNA. Most people assume that identical twins are truly identical because they start with the same DNA but that is not the case. Science tells us that by the time that identical twins are born, there are many differences. My daughter delivers babies for a living and she can tell you that this is true. So although the identical twins started out with transgender genes by the time they are born one or both may not be able to express their original transgender genes.

So how does DNA get that way? Just like other traits, DNA is shaped by evolution. So why would evolution allow a “mismatch” between sex and gender behavior predisposition? The short answer is that sex and gender are independent from one another which maximizes diversity. Diversity in nature is a good thing because it is integral to evolution and survival of species.

There are two competing theories of gender evolution. The fact that transgender people exist supports one of these theories over the other. The results of this competition are important beyond being transgender. The results impact the basis for culture, feminism, and government policies. The two theories are:

  • Traditional Sex-based theory
  • Kinship Theory

The Traditional Sex-based theory postulates that because humans had two sexes with different physical characteristics, that a division of labor developed in hunter-gatherer societies. Division of labor just refers to the tasks and behaviors assigned to people. So the theory goes, gender behaviors evolved to support this division of labor. The theory continues, evolution worked in both ways with males developing high testosterone levels to support their societal gender tasks of finding meat and defending the group. Because males could not prove paternity, they engaged in sex with as many females as possible. Because females were either pregnant or engaged in childrearing, they did not stray too far from base camp. Because females could prove which children were theirs, they evolved nurturing behaviors. They evolved hormones which supported affiliation with other group members. The genetic adaptation of males and females to this system resulted in genes which were passed on to offspring. The Traditional Sex-based Theory features the idea that sex and gender are genetically linked.

The Kinship Theory is quite different. The Kinship Theory postulates that because humans lived gregariously in groups with similar DNA that it was the “intrinsic fitness” of the group, not the fitness of the individual that determined which genes were passed on. This theory assumes a division of labor between the sexes that is more flexible and less based on physical strength and more based on predispositions and talents. Groups and therefore their shared DNA had a better chance of being passed on if the group efficiently used all of their resources. This was particularly important when these groups were near subsistence levels. Even if a person in the group did not themselves reproduce, that person had a better chance of their shared genes being passed on. This theory argues that there was genetic pressure for people in the group performed needed tasks regardless of sex. The Kinship Theory features the idea that sex and gender are genetically independent.

Well, what is the evidence that supports one theory over the other?

First, the anthropological evidence indicates that both historic and current hunter-gatherer societies were much more flexible in gender behavior than predicted from the Traditional Sex-based Theory. The females that stayed near camp were involved in hunting as well as the males who went on longer expeditions. When the area around the base camp was over-hunted, they simply moved the camp. Both males and females gathered vegetable food and engaged in childrearing. From the anthropological studies, it appears that women produced more calories for the group than the men did. Both males and females engaged in military defense (and some offense). These primitive hunter-gatherer groups simply could not afford to have inflexible gender behaviors because they lived at the subsistence level and could be easily wiped out by environmental factors.

Second, during the past 200 years, there has appeared to be a social revolution with females taking on the traditional roles of the masculine gender behavior category. I say, “appeared” because females in the Western culture have never consistently stayed within the feminine gender behavior category. Today it is more obvious that they do not do this. During World War II and for two decades thereafter, the “Breadwinner myth” was still in effect. The idea being that men would provide monetary support for the family while the women kept the house.

The truth was that the breadwinner idea was just a myth based on ideas compatible with the Traditional Sex-based Theory. It is likely that the Traditional Sex-based Theory was based on cultural ideas about what is “natural,” not the other way around. It would not have been the only time that culture influenced science. Truth be told, females have always worked on farms, engaged in warfare or performed work as part of the economy. During World War II, public relations campaigns included the character “Rosie the Riveter” to show that everyone was contributing to the war effort, even if through manufacturing. The history of Israel shows that females were involved in military defense from the beginning of the country because they needed involvement by every citizen to keep their country from being destroyed. Females never really left the workforce after World War II and today they are just more visible because today many can express outstanding talents that are valued in societies. In our current culture, males are now more able to express their talents as well.

I never bought into the “Breadwinner” myth. My parents both worked outside of our home. My mother, but not my father had a college degree. In my family group, all of my aunts worked outside the home and more of them earned college degrees than my uncles. Most of my female cousins work outside the home and several have advanced degrees.

Third, the fact that transgender people exist seems to support the Kinship Theory. Diversity in human beings is the engine that drives evolution that in turn determines success as a species over the long haul. Diversity allows humans and other life forms to adapt to new environments. The groups with the right characteristics will be able to adapt and pass on their “winning” DNA. Gender diversity is no different from other diversities of physical anatomy and behavior. Being transgender is part of the natural diversity of nature. The existence of transgender people indicates that sex and gender behavior are independent, diverse and free to evolve differently from one another.

So the next time you hear a preacher or a politician attack transgender people based on their idea about what is “natural” you will know that they are using the Traditional Sex-based Theory, whether they know it or not. You now know that the scientific evidence does not support this theory. You will know that there is an alternative theory, Kinship Theory which is supported by the evidence.

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Category: Transgender Body & Soul


About the Author ()

Dana Jennett Bevan holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University and a Bachelors degree from Dartmouth College both in experimental psychology. She is the author of The Transsexual Scientist which combines biology with autobiography as she came to learn about transgenderism throughout her life. Her second book The Psychobiology of Transsexualism and Transgenderism is a comprehensive analysis of TSTG research and was published in 2014 by Praeger under the pen name Thomas E. Bevan. Her third book Being Transgender was released by Praeger in November 2016. She can be reached at [email protected]

Comments (2)

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  1. GR8LegsNJ GR8LegsNJ says:

    I have thoughts about transgender folks and higher intelligence. I attempted to contact Dr. Bevan but her email does not work.Is there another way to reach her?