When I read a study on 45 female-to-male transsexuals at the end of 2016, I concluded that gender dysphoria had to be caused by social factors. Since the vast majority of the participants were attracted to women and had homophobic attitudes, and two-thirds of them had also been abused as children, I decided that this couldn’t be a mere coincidence. If gender dysphoria tends to strike same-sex attracted women with internalized homophobia who have been abused, then clearly there are social factors involved in the development of dysphoria. As I said back in December:
“First of all, if gender dysphoria had nothing to do with internalized homophobia, then wouldn’t this condition randomly strike women in proportional amounts across all sexual orientations? Women in the general population are somewhere around 90% heterosexual. If gender dysphoria is a condition that strikes randomly, then wouldn’t the percentage of FtMs who are attracted to men be somewhere around 90%, keeping in line with the general population? Why is same-sex attraction so overrepresented among FtMs if people are just randomly born with dysphoria for no reason? In addition, a lot of the participants in this study had extremely homophobic attitudes. One third of participants did not act on their sexual attraction to women during adolescence, and common reasons given for this is that they did not think it was possible for two women to have sex, and that they believed homosexuality was wrong. Is this just a coincidence too? Women who are same-sex attracted and have negative attitudes toward homosexuality are overrepresented among FtMs for just no reason? I tell ya, it doesn’t feel like a coincidence to me. It feels a lot like homophobia.”
Since reading this study I have firmly believed that gender dysphoria is not innate, although I do think that the tendency to develop dysphoria could be innate, and it gets activated when living in a sexist and homophobic society.
The blog 4thWaveNow has been writing posts on the correlation between gender dysphoria and other conditions such as autism and giftedness. The interesting thing about autism and intelligence is that they are both innate. A commenter on 4thWaveNow, responding to my comment about gender dysporia being acquired rather than innate, gave me some interesting food for thought:
“I think it can definitely be innate, or at least an innate (with biological factors) tendency (possibly gender/sex dysphoria represents only one possible manifestation, though). Co-morbidity is common enough with neurological conditions/mental illness, with evidence for genetic factors. With autism and the concept of ‘gifted’ there’s significant overlap already, as Lisa discusses. To me the lack of randomness points towards it being innate/down to innate factors in some cases (autism is of course itself an innate factor), rather than the opposite.”
This is a really excellent observation, and it appears to prove me wrong. If gender dysphoria tends to correlate with the innate conditions of autism and giftedness, then that points to dysphoria being innate too. Even though there is no scientific proof of a “gay gene,” homosexuality too is widely held to be innate, in the sense that it’s stable over time and cannot be changed.
This week I have been pondering whether this new information changes my theories. I don’t think it entirely does though. If people with autism, giftedness, and non-heterosexual orientation have a higher chance of developing dysphoria, that still could be due to social factors. The common theme across these three different types of people is feeling different and not fitting in. People with autism have a hard time understanding social cues, people who are gifted have minds working on another level than other people, and gays and lesbians often don’t think or behave the way straight people do. All of these characteristics can cause alienation from one’s peer group, a feeling of being “wrong”, and intense discomfort.
We can’t state that gender dysphoria is an integral part of being autistic, gifted, or gay, since there are also people who are these things without dysphoria. If dysphoria came innately with these other characteristics, then all people who are autistic, gifted, or gay would be dysphoric. Instead they are just statistically more likely to be than the general population.
In my conclusion post on FtM Transsexuals In Society, I concluded the following:
“It seems reasonable to say that some people are more susceptible to developing gender dysphoria than others due to their innate personality, but it doesn’t follow that there is a one-size-fits all cure for that, and it doesn’t follow that body modification is inevitable.”
I still believe exactly this. It seems entirely plausible that some people have an innate tendency to develop dysphoria, and being autistic, gifted, traumatized, or gay can increase the likelihood that the dysphoria will activate. That’s because these characteristics can lead to feelings of discomfort, for different reasons according to the condition. When you have a tendency to feel discomfort, and something happens to make you uncomfortable, then you feel discomfort. However, just because someone feels uncomfortable with their body, it doesn’t follow that body modification is the only cure, or that they are literally the opposite sex. It makes more sense to follow the normal strategies that those with the above characteristics use to feel more comfortable, rather than rushing right into medical transition.