DNA and Transgenderism: A Reply to Christopher Damian

By Janet E. Smith
May 13, 2015

What Christopher Damian achieves in his article "The Absurdity of Non-Transgenderism," meant to be a criticism of Carlos Flores’ article in Public Discourse, is unclear. Granted, he does show some flaws in Flores’ use of analogy but that does not seem to be Damian’s primary purpose.

It appears Damian wants to do something more: He seems to want to establish that not all transgenderism is the result of psychological disorders or of mental illness but could be the result of physiological anomalies at the DNA level (such as mosaicism). But he has done little to that end.

First, even if some transgenderism is caused by physiological anomalies, that does not mean that even that form of transgenderism is not also a psychological disorder or mental illness—albeit caused by physiological anomalies rather than by distorting life experiences, for instance.

Second, while it is not unreasonable to suppose that DNA-based sexual anomalies could cause transgenderism or be a contributing factor, Damian has offered no evidence to establish or even suggest that it does. He provides links to various articles that speak of different ways that the development of a person’s sexual make-up can go awry, but that doesn’t tell us much. A recent author reports that there are no studies that establish links between mosaicism and transgenderism. (See Thomas E. Bevan, Ph.D., The Psychobiology of Transsexualism and Transgenderism: A New View Based on Scientific Evidence, an e-google book, Nov. 17, 2014, pp. 95-96.)

Third, the story that Damian tells of Natalie/Jack (NJ)—the individual with transgenderism who had absorbed DNA from a “vanishing twin”—does not serve to explain NJ’s transgenderism. The comment that NJ had a “happy and normal” childhood and parents who held professional stable jobs seems intended to convey that we should not look to family-of-origin problems to explain NJ’s transgenderism. But we learn that while Natalie had presented herself as a male named Jack in school since the fifth grade, the parents did not find that out until NJ was in high school. We can only conclude that something was drastically wrong in that household. Could the parents have gone to any school events or met any of NJ’s friends?

Certainly it is not impossible that some instances of transgenderism are caused or influenced by DNA-based on physiological anomalies, but likely those are a small percentage of an already extremely small demographic.

If Damian is trying to justify sexual reassignment surgery in this article for at least those whose transgenderism is caused by physiological anomalies, he fails. For, if a person’s sexuality is ambiguous at the chromosomal level (or at some other basic “level”) and if this ambiguity results in gender dysphoria, there may be other suitable ways of resolving the ambiguity, such as hormonal therapy.

There is a great deal more to learn about the causes of transgenderism and it is certainly true that if some cases are caused by physiological and not psychological factors, the proper treatment might be very different. But Damian’s article does little if anything to establish that DNA-based anomalies cause or contribute to transgenderism, or what the right treatments might be.