I cannot find any psychosocial event in my life triggering being transgender. I theorize some type of hormonal influence, in utero (in the womb). I.e. hormonal communicating signals were disrupted at a critical point during my early development. After all, hormones are the body's regulatory substance, transported in tissue fluids such as blood, to stimulate/curtail specific cell actions.
My mother's pregnancy was at a time when DES (diethylstilbestrol) was given to women to prevent miscarriages or premature deliveries. DES is a strong man-made (synthetic) estrogen. My mother's pregnancy was in her early 30's, somewhat later in life. I have no way of ascertaining if I was her first pregnancy or if she took DES, although I believe it was possible. It is estimated that about 5 to 10 million babies are thought have been exposed to DES during pregnancy between 1938 and 1971. A staggering number which points to DES being widely prescribed.
What is known is that my mother was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer along with other cancers, six years after I was born. According to Harvard Health Publishing, the breast cancer risk factor is 30% higher than for non DES prescribed mothers.
The American Cancer Society has done extensive research on DES daughters; however not as much is know about sons. The potency of the drug is documented in that it is clear that even children born to DES-exposed daughters and sons (second and third generation) have a greater health risks than other children not exposed.
Daughters of DES exposed mothers have a greater risk of cancer of the vagina and cervix, known problems getting pregnant, premature birth, breast cancer and others. The drug was banned in 1971.
There is also a strong suspicion by many researchers that exposure to DES before birth might cause transgender identity disorders.
Wikipedia reports under DES birth defects:
Dr. Scott Kerlin, a major Diethylstilbestrol research scientist and founder of the DES Sons International Research Network in 1996, has documented for the past 20 years a high prevalence of individuals with confirmed prenatal DES exposure who self-identify as male-to-female transsexual, transgender, or have intersex conditions, and many individuals who report a history of experiencing difficulties with gender dysphoria.
By: Sabrina Rubin Erdely
What causes people to be transgender in the first place? The prevailing theories used to be psychosocial: That early traumas like dysfunctional family dynamics or childhood sexual abuse were responsible. “That is absolutely not true at all,” says Dr. Johanna Olson, medical director of the Transgender Clinic at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “But I still get people in my clinic who are trying to unravel what the traumatic incident was, that caused their kid to be trans.”
Rather, a growing body of research is pointing to biological origins. The 2008 discovery by Australian researchers of a genetic variation in transgender women—their receptor gene for the sex hormone testosterone was longer, making it less efficient at communicating signals—set off speculation that insufficient uptake of male hormones in utero contributed to a “more feminized brain.” And the brains of trans people do look different.
Recent Spanish imaging studies have shown that the white matter of untreated trans men look much like those of biological males, and that the patterns of trans women’s white matter fell about halfway between those of biological male and female control groups. But it’s premature to draw conclusions from those studies, warns Olson, since “those parts of the brain are shaped by performance and experience,” and so may be a product of nurture, not nature. And despite the big genetic finding, it’s unclear what precise role genetics plays, since a recent survey of identical twins found that only in 20 percent of cases did both twins turn out transgender, despite having identical DNA.
“Trying to identify causes, whether they be genetic, hormonal, or something else entirely, those studies are underway,” says Olson. “The question is, what contributes to the formation of gender identity? It’s really complex.”