Gender identity is an issue that some have trouble understanding. It’s not always about male or female, because gender can encompass more than those two options. When a person refers to themselves as transgender, it means that they identify with a gender that is different than their “genetic sex” which is the chromosomal allotment of X and Y that happens about seven weeks after an egg is fertilized. The SRY gene is carried on the Y chromosome and triggers testosterone and the development of male gonads. This gene is absent when a fertilized egg has two X chromosomes.
Sexual differentiation in the brain is apart from the chromosomal process. The brains of males and females do have structural differences; however, studies have shown that the brain of a person who is transgender shows more similarity to their experienced gender, that is the gender they live as and identify with, than the gender they were born with chromosomally. Specifically in cortical thickness and the size of the hippocampus, in transwomen, that is women who perceive themselves as female but were born male genetically, their brains are quite similar to those who were born and live as women. The pheromone androstadienone is also involved in masculinization and feminization and studies in patients identified as having gender dysphoria show that levels of it correspond to a person’s perceived gender rather than genetic gender. While it’s a complex topic, it’s important to remember that those who are transgender often have a higher risk for suicide or self-harm and treating everyone with respect should transcend gender, whether perceived or genetic.