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Biologically, the anatomy of a male and female are very different; from sexual and physical characteristics, such as genitalia and reproductive organs, to the differences in brain organization. Sexual dimorphism, or the difference between the male and female anatomy, is an essential component to maintaining genetic diversity in a population such as the human species. The variation between males and females promotes sexual reproduction and keeps the population constant. A transgender individual’s gender identity does not match one’s ‘assigned gender’ as a male or female. A transgenderist is a person who lives as gender opposite to anatomical sex, for example a person with male genitalia living as a woman (1). More recently, the term transgender has expanded to encompass a much greater range of different types of people, such as cross-dressers, drag queens, androgynies, transsexuals, and many more.


Evidence of the origin of transgenderism is seen very early on cave paintings in the habitats of early Homo sapiens where pictures of men wearing skirt-like clothing were common images drawn in the scenarios. Currently although there is no certain information, it is estimated that about 1 in every 80,000 people identify as being a male-to-female transgender individual while 1 in every 125,000 people identify as being a female-to-male transgenderist (2).


In the Netherlands, studies have been done that have compared the size of the hypothalamus of male and females, as well as male and male-to-female transgender persons. The scientists dissected the brains of six transgender individuals and discovered that the hypothalamus, or the master gland of the brain, could have a role in determining what sex and individual associates themselves with. The hypothalamuses in the brains of the males were over 50 percent greater than the hypothalamuses in the females, while the hypothalamuses of the examined transgendered individuals were over 60 percent greater than the males (3). Initially, it was not thought that the hypothalamus had a large role in influencing what gender an individual associates with, but with this new evidence it could be said that the hypothalamus does indeed have a greater influence on gender association. Since the hypothalamus of the male is greater than that of the female, and less than that of the transgender individuals, there would be a possibility that the male-to-female transgender could, hormonally, be more female than in individual female. Although the act of associating with a certain gender is done by a combination of many neural networks in the brain, the hypothalamus could potentially be the primary influence of understanding how one identifies him or herself as a specific gender.


Theories have been proposed that transgenderism is defect caused at birth by the sex chromosomes (4). Scientists are close to determining whether or not the SRY gene, or the sex-determining region Y gene, influences whether or not an individual is transgendered. The SRY gene, which is present in males, encodes for the gene that determines whether or not an organism will have testis, and therefore be male. In a transgender individual, the SRY gene is mutated, and therefore produces male genitalia in females or female genitalia in males. The portion of the SRY gene that codes for determining the gender of an organism has not been found, but scientists are very close to isolating the gene.


My high school was a co-ed public school in a relatively suburban area, and I was not exposed to any individuals who were transgendered. When I came to Bryn Mawr College, I became more aware of the presence of these individuals, and was very curious as to if their lives were different from their peers. I had questions such as, which bathroom they use, or if after they underwent a sex change, how could they graduate from an all-women’s college. Recently, Wesleyan College attempted to create a gender-blind residence hall on their campus for individuals who identify themselves as transgender and individuals who have underwent surgery. Unfortunately, after one year, the university closed down the dorm because of the opposition and the negative stigma that was associated with the dormitory itself. Also, Smith College, one of the seven sister schools, lets transgender individuals who have undergone surgery and identify themselves as the male gender, to graduate with a degree from an all-women’s college (5).



Works Cited

  1. ; Transgenderism
  2. ; FAQ - Transgenderism
  3. ; Are Transsexual’s Brains Different?
  4. ; Transgender DNA and Chromosomes
  5. ; A Class Apart: Transgender Students at Smith College