UPDATE: This article appeared in various versions in the following publications: Lexington Herald-Leader, Frankfort State-Journal, UK's Kentucky Health News, Daily Independent, AOL News, Yahoo News/Sports, LINK Northern Kentucky, and Forward Kentucky. SB150 is an omnibus anti-transgender bill which bans all medical services to trans youth except mental healthcare, bans education about sexual orientation and gender dysphoria, prohibits pronoun mandates for teachers, bans school transgender bathroom use corresponding to gender identity, and criminalizes physicians who provide trans healthcare. Governor Beshear did veto SB150, and the legislators did override that veto. The ACLU of Kentucky has filed suit.
Most of us witnessed with horror the passage of anti-transgender bill SB150 by legislators who ignored overwhelming opposition. Since Governor Beshear is expected to veto it, our only recourse is to convince legislators not to override that veto.
If you’re dubious, hear me out: We’ve left critical info out of the conversation, namely the growing evidence that Gender Dysphoria (GD) has a basis in biology. Skeptical that would work? Well, research shows that when people understand this, their support for trans people increases.
Many in the trans community bristle at the idea of discussing GD as if it were a defect. But I believe we can be sensitive; and I take inspiration from researcher Dr. J. Graham Theisen of Augusta University, who describes it as a “variant,” like blue eyes or brown hair, that doesn’t cause disease but makes us individuals.
Plus, we must meet the opposition where they are, if we hope to bridge the gap. I’ve heard awful comments about trans people; but I look for common threads, like the belief it’s a choice or lifestyle, or that it ignores what God intended. Evidence of a biological basis discounts these arguments and might persuade more legislators to push the PAUSE button on anti-trans legislation.
So here’s a sample: First, decades of research have confirmed that male and female brains are different. Second, during fetal development, hormones influence the gender of the external and internal sex organs during the first trimester; hormones program gender development in the brain, where gender identity is experienced, later in the pregnancy. Research in the Netherlands from 2014 found that in some cases, physical development in utero was subject to a hormonal mismatch from brain development, “so that the body was masculinized and the brain was feminized, or the other way around.” This corresponds with transgender people’s reported experience of their gender identity, which occurs before age seven for three-fourths of the trans population.
Research in the Netherlands from 2014 found that in some cases, physical development in utero was subject to a hormonal mismatch from brain development, “so that the body was masculinized and the brain was feminized, or the other way around.”
In 2018, an Australian study comparing transgender women and cisgender men (both born male) found statistically different variations in four genes. In 2020, both a US and a UK meta-analysis (compilation of multiple studies) found that “people with gender dysphoria have a brain structure more comparable to the gender to which they identify” rather than to the sex assigned at birth. Yet a 2020 German study found that the brain structure of trans women was different from both cisgender males and females. In view of this, researchers suggest that we view gender as a “spectrum” rather than a binary construct.
Theisen clarifies that “once someone has a male or female brain, they have it and you are not going to change it. The goal of treatments like hormone therapy and surgery is to help their body more closely match where their brain already is.”
Proof of transgender biology indicates that SB150 will invite a civil rights lawsuit. Thus Kentucky taxpayers will pay to defend legislation that 71% of Kentuckians don’t want—potentially costing hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars; just ask Floridians the price tag for defending controversial legislation.
We must share this information and keep this conversation going, in order to make more noise than the voices of bigotry.
Support the ACLU of Kentucky's legal fight to overturn this legislation!