It’s all in your head: the brain and being LGBTQ

You know how some people claim that queer sexual orientation/gender identity is a choice? Yeah, I thought you did. Let’s bring some (more) awesome Real Science™ to bear against that thinly-veiled theological fluff.

New Scientist tells us that MRI scans of untreated female-to-male transsexuals (i.e. no hormone treatments) show that particular parts of their brains are structured more like those of bio-males. Furthermore, MRIs of untreated male-to-female transsexuals showed neither distinctly male or female structures in those brain areas, but somewhere in the middle.

The researchers caution that this information alone doesn’t indicate the role that these structures play in gender. It also doesn’t address the differences between people who recognize they are trans very early in life, or later on. But it is an interesting research advance, and the article speculates that toddler MRIs could give some insight into the gender identities children will develop into. Queerty proposes that “If doctors can identify trans brains in kids before puberty, there can be a better informed decision about medically delaying puberty as to help a gender reassignment procedure years down the road.”

Meanwhile, New York Magazine dives into the biological clues that orientation is something you’re born with, and it’s a goldmine. Does the whorl of hair on your scalp go counterclockwise? Are you left-handed? Gay men are more likely to have both those traits than the general population.

Quiverfull parents ought to take heed, too: the more boys you birth, the more likely the next one is to be gay. Consider that irony before bringing the tenth kid into your theological bubble. Hormone levels and immune system responses in the womb are probably involved; genes might play some part in it, too; it’s likely a combination of these and other factors. Oh, and the brain structure thing? Just like for trans vs. cisgender folk, gay and straight brains are different in particular areas.

(On a side note, what does this say about bisexuals? The article doesn’t address that. I would guess they have a mix of the biological characteristics associated with hetero- and homo-sexuals. If you noticed I haven’t said much about lesbians, either, there hasn’t been nearly as much research done on them. NY Mag also reports an interesting contention that the nature of female sexual attraction is somehow fundamentally different from that of males, and so far it’s defied such straightforward study.)

Realizing that yes, you can prove you didn’t choose to be who you are (choosing only to embrace it honestly), you may speculate that the “gay gene” — or really, the “gay factors” — can be made into a double-edged sword. Maybe parents will someday be able to root out the gay fetuses, or prepare in advance to convince kids to accept the genders stubbornly assigned to them. For most, I think, the indisputable truth of queerness as biological destiny must lead to the admission that queerness is not a disability. (The polls bear this thought process out, we’re told on page five.) Then it comes down to practicality: if it isn’t broken, don’t “fix” it. We’ve stopped trying to change the left-handers, even the gay ones.

If you still want to reject something that’s a choice, reject homogeneity!

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