The Scientific Opinion Regarding Gender Specific Brains Is Mixed


Written by Joseph Dunsay. After earning a Masters of Science in Ecology and Evolution, Joseph Dunsay became a science writer for international audiences. For more Jewrotica writing by Joseph, check out The Disadvantages of Polygyny Make Couples Choose Monogamy.

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At its biannual conference in Orlando, Florida, the Union of Reform Judaism recently declared its support for transgender individuals. The declaration called on congregations to embrace transgender people and advocated for public policy changes that would make it easier to update passports and birth certificates with the genders that transgender people want on those documents.

Much of the news about transgender people this year mentioned that a transgender person is born with the brain of one gender and the reproductive system of another gender. According to this theory, sex reassignment surgery changes a transgender person’s outward looks to match the gender of his mind. This theory begs one to ask if there is such a thing as a gender specific brain. That question made the headlines in 2005 after an infamous speech at Harvard.

Gender specific brains were big news when Lawrence Summers suggested there were innate differences between male and female minds. According to a CBS report inspired by the speech, the area of the brain responsible for doing geometry matures more quickly in boys, but the area of the brain responsible for language matures more quickly in girls. A post on ABC in response to Summers’s talk mentioned sex related differences in functional MRI scans from men and women. It went on to say that most researchers believe the variation among brains within a sex is greater than the differences between the sexes.

Not all experts agree that men and women are destined from birth to have different minds. A researcher at Purdue University found little difference between the communication styles of men and women. Entire books have been written to challenge the idea of gender specific brains. Myths of Gender, which got a stamp of approval from NYU, uses biological arguments to discredit that concept. In her book, Same Difference, a woman’s studies expert at Brandeis insists that biology does not cause psychological differences between men and women.

Today’s popular scientific theories about transgender people, like theories about many biological phenomenons, may not be true. Although summaries in textbooks and articles normally present scientific facts as immutable, a more detailed survey of expert opinion often reveals much debate. There is no shortage of experts who reject the notion that anyone can be born with a gender specific brain. Given the lack of consensus on the topic, arguments for tolerating transgender people will be stronger if they are made on moral, not scientific, grounds.

After earning a Masters of Science in Ecology and Evolution, Joseph Dunsay became a science writer for international audiences. His LGBT erotic e-book launched in the summer of 2015.