The Science Behind Being Trans: An IRJE for “What’s The T?” by Juno Dawson

“What’s The T?: The Guide To All Things Trans and/or Nonbinary” is a new non-fiction book about the history, science, culture, and personal stories of transgender/non-binary people. It is written by Juno Dawson, a trans woman from the UK, and the book is the sequel to her best-seller released in 2015, “This Book is Gay.” In chapter five of “What’s the T?”, Dawson dives deep into the science behind being transgender, specifically how transgender children are developed in the womb:

Okay, it gets even more science-y now: testosterone production and the conversion of some testosterone to something called dihydrotestosterone between weeks six and twelve of pregnancy are critical for the initial development of external male genitalia. In the absence of these male hormones, however, doesn’t really take place until the latter half of pregnancy, after the genitals have developed.

So you can probably predict the twist. Given that the hormonal impact on brain development happens at two stages, what if SOMETHING GOES AWRY between these two steps, leading to a mismatch between bodily sex at birth and the gender that gets wired into a brain? Boom! You have a trans baby, baby!

There is a wealth of evidence for the notion that we’re all a product of hormonal cocktails in utero. Scientist types Bao, Swaab, and Gooren, often working with a multitude of intersex people with varying conditions, point at how being exposed to too many or too few testosterone-based chemicals in the womb are likely to create this disparity–or dysphoria–between body and mind.

I suppose what they’re suggesting is that all transgender people are on the intersex spectrum, if you like. In some of us, it affected our bodies and, in others, only our brain development. (pp 98-99)

Although many people–especially straight, cis people–might not find this information that significant or interesting, to me this new knowledge is revolutionary. It’s the scientific evidence that proves that my existence as a trans person is real and valid, and that trans people aren’t just “going through a phase” or “doing it for attention”. Baby, we were born this way.


Leave a Reply