Several recent media reports have highlighted a study on “Understanding the Genetic Basis of Transgender Identity.”

While the study concludes only that genetic variants were identified that might play a role in transgender identity, the Times of London declared in a headline “Science pinpoints DNA behind gender identity.”

LGBT activists in the U.S. were a little more cautious, stating scientists have discovered DNA “that could be responsible for gender identity.”

Now, Walt Heyer, who has been there and back on the transgender issue, and runs, has written a commentary pointing out that the study’s conclusions are uncertain because the issue never has been defined.

“No absolute conclusions can be made about a genetic basis for transgender identity,” he explained.

“Some of the difficulty in fashioning a study to find a biological link to transgender identities arises from the definition of the term ‘transgender.’ Medically speaking, a transgender person is defined as someone who has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress arising from a mismatch between their biological sex and internal sense of gender identity.”

He continued: “The problem is that transgender identity is based solely on subjective criteria. There is no objective, robust physical test to prove whether ‘transgender persons’ exist beyond a person strongly insisting that he or she is a transgender person.”

And that’s only part of it.

“It’s difficult to even discern who truly has gender dysphoria. Those who self-identify as ‘transgender’ represent a challenging cross-section of individuals. They may be simple cross-dressers, transvestites, or drag queens, yet they may or may not have gender dysphoria,” he wrote. “Many transgender persons are suffering emotionally, psychologically, or psychiatrically, sometimes due to early childhood trauma or co-existing mental disorders. Studies have shown that nearly 70 percent of people diagnosed with gender dysphoria also suffer from a wide variety of co-existing disorders that often go undiagnosed and untreated.

Walt Heyer

Walt Heyer

“With no medical proof to help diagnose gender dysphoria, and with most who identify as transgender having other issues that need treatment, one could argue that too many people are being gathered under the blanket term ‘transgender’ and being inappropriately directed toward cross-gender hormone therapies and surgeries.”

Of the recent study, he said the Times “should have paid more attention to Dr. John Theisen, the lead researcher, who said the genes they identified pointed to a ‘possibility, not a fact.'”

Theisen “cautioned that his research, still in its early stages, used only a small sample size (30 people) and has yet to be peer reviewed – both reasons for exercising major caution when interpreting the results.”

Heyer pointed out the study didn’t aim to find a genetic basis for transgender identity, it was meant only to identify genes that might point to a potential biological basis.

He testified of his own experience: “As a young person, I was correctly diagnosed with gender dysphoria and then approved for hormones and surgery by Dr. Paul Walker, the original author of the ‘Harry Benjamin International Standards of Care.’ The treatment was not effective.

“I discovered firsthand that society wasn’t the cause of transgender suicide and suicide attempts. The cause was an unfulfilled expectation that cross-gender hormones and surgery would effectively resolve gender distress,” he said.

Two years ago, he wrote in another column that research already suggest that there are links between psychological disorders and the transgender population.

“A study published in JAMA Pediatrics in March 2016 shows a high prevalence of psychiatric diagnoses in a sample of 298 young transgender women aged 16 through 29 years old,” he wrote.

“More than 40 percent had coexisting mental health or substance dependence diagnoses. One in five had two or more psychiatric diagnoses. The most commonly occurring disorders were major depressive episodes and non-alcohol psychoactive substance use dependence.

“Yet, transgender individuals are never required to undergo any objective test to prove their gender dysphoria – because no diagnostic objective test exists.”

No lab results, brain scan or DNA review can document it, he said.

“Research studies from 2013 and 2009 looking for a ‘transgender gene’ showed not a smidgeon of abnormality in the genetic make-up that causes someone to be transgender,” he said.

“No alterations in the main sex-determining genes in male-to-female transsexual individuals were found, suggesting strongly that male-born transgender persons are normal males biologically.”


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