A breakthrough presentation by University of Liège researcher Julie Bakker on transgender biology made international headlines this week. The presentation, which was misleadingly called a “study” in dozens of articles, boasts about having “possibly” discovered the cause of transgender identity through MRIs (popularly called “brain scans”).
“GD [gender dysphoria] might be caused by an atypical sexual differentiation of the brain […] during development,” Bakker said in an email to INTO. The presentation most closely relates to Bakker’s earlier co-authored 2017 publication, “Brain functional connectivity patterns in children and adolescents with gender dysphoria: Sex-atypical or not?”
Bakker described the study as nothing short of revolutionary. “Personally I believe that it would help to accept transgenders [sic] if it is shown that it is developmental and not a choice made by people later in life," she said in an email. "I remember having this conversation with some Americans back in 1995 about sexual orientation. They told me that if it was shown to be ‘biological,' they would be better accepted, because it would not be seen as a choice.”
Of the dozens of headlines garnered by the research, perhaps Inverse’s was the most alarming: “Brain Scans of Transgender Youth Could Put an End to Gender Dysphoria.” What does it mean to end gender dysphoria? An attempt to end the transgender community itself? While the article itself was friendly to the trans community and suggests that they can identify transgender identity earlier to provide hormones, the costs of this research are dire.
The rapid sharing of this study brings us to a slew of ethical questions about the validity and consequences of these sensationalistic headlines. First, contrary to the article titles, the presentation does not actually show an inherent connection between cisgender and transgender brains of the same gender. Secondly, the articles supporting the results of this research are promoting nothing short of eugenics. This prominent support will do more harm than good for the trans community. Read more via INTO