Sensuous in Satin

Reflections on Transgender life

Brain Sex - does it exist?

Posted by Adrian • Tuesday, December 23. 2014 • Category: Gender Diversity

Without wishing to curtail the fun we can have taking 'tests' to demonstrate we have a transgender brain - the serious question remains "Is there such a thing as a female or male brain".

Brain sex is a lovely concept - after all it leads to the prospect of a diagnosis that confirms one is gender diverse. But do we all want it to exist more than the evidence supports?

A few months back I went on an Internet search triggered by a forum post where someone asserted:

Research from the recent WPATH conference that is coming out of Amsterdam, indicates neuroscientists have proven beyond doubt the existence of two completely different organs; that being the female and male brain. Their research was not based on the actual physiological construction, but more realistically on its neurological functioning.

My doubts about this "fact" lead me to this summary web page which certainly provides a challenging alternative view:


The web page contains a summary/reference to a number of other sources - some of which I have extracted below to entice you into further reading.
It is hard to believe that people continue to support these antiquated “brain sex” theories without reproducible and unambigious scientific proof.

There is little evidence of real differences between the male and female brains, writes Catherine Armitage.

Neuroscience is methodologically flawed. Even when an effect is objectively measurable, small sample sizes and poor statistical significance plague brain imaging studies. Most results are not replicable and, often, the alleged “findings” are not even based on human research. Extrapolating functional or behavior qualities from these studies is logically tenuous at best.

When females topped the state in maths doctors were surprised. When a bloke scooped the pool in languages, they couldn't believe their eyes

It seemed to defy not just stereotypes but brain science when girls topped the state in every mathematics course in the NSW Higher School Certificate last year, even though more boys than girls studied maths.....

Hyde, one of America's leading academic psychologists, concluded that ''78 per cent of gender differences are small or close to zero''.

''When you think of it'', says Connell, ''all the biological-essentialist ideology depends on the idea there are natural bases - hormones, brains, genes, take your pick - that produce big mental differences between men and women, and these explain the social differences.

''If it is not true that there are big psychological differences, the whole argument that there is a fixed biological basis for the social differences collapses.''

So why, if the evidence is so thin, does the idea of a biological basis for difference in male and female abilities persist? No prizes for guessing Fine's answer: ''It helps to make the status quo seem fair, natural and inevitable. It's comforting to be able to look around at the considerable sex inequality that still exists and blame different brains, rather than sexism, socialisation and discrimination.''

A Critique of the Brain-Sex Theory of Transsexualism

The brain-sex theory was never helpful in explaining clinical observations; now it has become irrelevant to explaining neuroanatomical observations. It is time to abandon the brain-sex theory of transsexualism and to adopt a more plausible and clinically relevant theory in its place.
The brain-sex theory of transsexualism has never been easy to reconcile with clinical reality: Homosexual and nonhomosexual MtF transsexualism are so different clinically that it is almost impossible to imagine that they could have the same etiology. Nevertheless, for a time the Zhou/Kruijver data gave the brain-sex theory a certain superficial plausibility. In 2002, Chung et al. reported new data that raised serious doubts about the brain-sex theory, but the authors were able to explain why the theory might still be plausible. The new data reported by Hulshoff Pol et al. in 2006 did not invalidate these explanations, but it rendered them largely irrelevant. The simplest and most plausible explanation of the Zhou/Kruijver findings is that they are attributable, completely or predominantly, to the effects of cross-sex hormone therapy administered during adulthood. There is no longer any reason to postulate anything more complicated.

Delusions of Gender

Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience and psychology, Cordelia Fine debunks the myth of hardwired differences between men’s and women’s brains, unraveling the evidence behind such claims as men’s brains aren’t wired for empathy and women’s brains aren’t made to fix cars. She then goes one step further, offering a very different explanation of the dissimilarities between men’s and women’s behavior. Instead of a “male brain” and a “female brain,” Fine gives us a glimpse of plastic, mutable minds that are continuously influenced by cultural assumptions about gender.

Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences

In this compelling book, Rebecca Jordan-Young takes on the evidence that sex differences are hardwired into the brain. Analyzing virtually all published research that supports the claims of “human brain organization theory,” Jordan-Young reveals how often these studies fail the standards of science. Even if careful researchers point out the limits of their own studies, other researchers and journalists can easily ignore them because brain organization theory just sounds so right. But if a series of methodological weaknesses, questionable assumptions, inconsistent definitions, and enormous gaps between ambiguous findings and grand conclusions have accumulated through the years, then science isn’t scientific at all.