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How genes and evolution shape gender – and transgender – identity

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How genes and evolution shape gender - and transgender - identity

How genes and evolution shape gender – and transgender – identity

Mismatch between biological sex and gender identity, culminating in its severest form as gender dysphoria, has been ascribed to mental disease, family dysfunction and childhood trauma.

But accumulating evidence now implies biological factors in establishing gender identity, and a role for particular genes.

Variants – subtly different versions – of genes linked with gender identity might simply be part of a spectrum of gender and sexuality maintained throughout human history.

How genes and evolution shape gender - and transgender - identity

Transgender and gender dysphoria

Some young boys show an early preference for dressing and behaving as girls; some young girls are convinced they should be boys.

This apparent mismatch of biological sex and gender identity can lead to severe gender dysphoria. Coupled with school bullying and family rejection, it can make lives a torment for young people, and the rate of suicide is frighteningly high.

As they move into adulthood, nearly half of these children (or even more when the studies are closely interrogated), continue to feel strongly that they were born in the wrong body. Many seek treatment – hormones and surgery – to transition into the sex with which they identify.

Although male to female (MtF) and female to male (FtM) transitions are now much more available and accepted, the road to transition is still fraught with uncertainty and opprobrium.

Transwomen (born male) and transmen (born female) have been a part of society in every culture at every time. Their frequency and visibility is a function of societal mores, and in most societies they have suffered discrimination or worse.

This discrimination stems from a persistent attitude that transgender identification is an aberration of normal sexual development, perhaps exacerbated by events such as trauma or illness.

However, over the last decades, growing recognition emerged that transgender feelings start very early and are very consistent – pointing to a biological basis.

This led to many searches for biological signatures of transsexualism, including reports of differences in sex hormones and claims of brain differences.

How genes and evolution shape gender - and transgender - identity

Sex genes and transgender

In the 1980s I was swayed by the passionate advocacy of Herbert Bower, a psychiatrist who worked with transsexuals in Melbourne. He was revered in the transgender community for his willingness to authorise sex change operations, which were highly controversial at the time. Aged in his 90s, he came to my laboratory in 1988 to explore the possibility that variation in the genes that determine sex could underlie transgender.

Dr Bower wondered if the gene that controls male development might work differently in transgender boys. This gene (called SRY, and which is found on the Y chromosome) triggers the formation of a testis in the embryo; the testis makes hormones and the hormones make the baby male.

There are, indeed, variants of the SRY gene. Some don’t work at all, and babies who have a Y chromosome but a mutant SRY are born female. However, they are not disproportionately transgender. Nor are the many people born with variants of other genes in the sex determining pathway.

After many discussions, Dr Bower agreed that the sex determining gene was probably not directly involved – but the idea of genes affecting sexual identity took root. So are there separate genes that affect gender identity?

Evidence for gene variants in transgender

The search for gene variants that underlie any trait usually starts with twin studies.

There are reports that identical twins are much more likely to be concordant (that is both transgender, or both cisgender) than fraternal twins or siblings. This is probably an underestimation given that one twin may not wish to come out as trans, thus underestimating the concordance. This suggests a substantial genetic component.

More recently, particular genes have been studied in detail in transwomen and transmen. One study looked at associations between being trans and particular variants of some genes in the hormone pathway.

A recent and much larger study assembled samples from 380 transwomen who had, or planned, sex change operations. They looked in fine detail at 12 of the “usual suspects” – genes involved in hormone pathways. They found that transwomen had a high frequency of particular DNA variants of four genes that would alter sex hormone signalling while they had been developing in utero.

There may be many other genes that contribute to a feminine or a masculine sexual identity. They are not necessarily all concerned with sex hormone signalling – some may affect brain function and behaviour.

The next step in exploring this further would be to compare whole genome sequences of cis- and transsexual people. Whole genome epigenetic analyses, looking at the molecules that affect how genes function in the body, might also pick up differences in the action of genes.

It’s probable that many – maybe hundreds – of genes work together to produce a great range of sexual identities.

How genes and evolution shape gender - and transgender - identity

How would “sexual identity genes” work in transgender?

Sexual identity genes don’t have to be on sex chromosomes. So they will not necessarily be “in sync” with having a Y chromosome and an SRY gene. This is in line with observations that gender identity is separable from biological sex.

This means that among both sexes we would expect a spread of more feminine and more masculine identity. That is to say, in the general population of males you would expect to see a range of identities from strongly masculine to more feminine. And among females in the population you would see a range from strongly feminine to more masculine identities. This would be expected to produce transwomen at one end of the distribution, and transmen at the other.

This occurrence of a range of differing identities would be comparable with a trait such as height. Although men are about 14 cm taller than women on average, it’s perfectly normal to see short men and tall women. It’s just part of the normal distribution of a certain human characteristic expressed differently in men and women.

This argument is similar to that which I previously described for so-called “gay genes”. I suggested same–sex attraction can readily be explained by many “male-loving” and “female-loving” variants of mate choice genes that are inherited independently of sex.

Why is transgender so frequent then?

Transgender is not rare (MtF of 1/200, FtM of 1/400). If gender identity is strongly influenced by genes, this leads to questions about why it is maintained in the population if transmen and transwomen have fewer children.

I suggest genes that influence sexual identity are positively selected in the other sex. Feminine women and masculine men may partner earlier and have more kids, to whom they pass on their gender identity gene variants. Looking at whether the female relatives of transwomen, and the male relatives of transmen, have more children than average, would test this hypothesis.

I made much the same argument to explain why homosexuality is so common, although gay men have fewer children than average. I suggested gay men share their “male loving” gene variants with their female relatives, who mate earlier and pass this gene variant on to more children. And it turns out that the female relatives of gay men do have more children.

These variants of sexual identity and behaviour may therefore be considered examples of what we call “sexual antagonism”, in which a gene variant has different selective values in men and women. It makes for the amazing variety of human sexual behaviours that we are beginning to recognise.The Conversation

Jenny Graves, Distinguished Professor of Genetics, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Health

5 best booty exercises for men to strengthen and shape their glutes

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5 best booty exercises for men to strengthen and shape their glutes

We all know that big, round butts have made a resurgence in popularity in the last few years, thanks in no small part to social media and physique-envy. Where once people craved small booties like runway models and having a “big ass” was the worst insult one could muster, we’re now a society proud of some extra junk in our trunks.

And if you’re like many people who exercise regularly, on a quest for a plumper peach (and health and overall fitness, of course), then you aren’t alone.

5 best booty exercises for men to strengthen and shape their glutes

But did you know that aside from filling out your pants easier, the advantages of having strong glutes are actually quite innumerable? For example, strong glutes can decrease your risk of injury in your knees, hamstrings, groin, and lower-back.

If you’re looking to up your “booty gains” and round and firm your butt, we’ve put together a list of the 5 best exercises to do just that with examples of strength training.

1. Squats

The benefits of squats are many, especially because they’re great for targeting all kinds of muscle groups. They’re especially effective, however, when it comes to rounding out and shaping your butt muscles.

There are plenty of variations of squats, but the barbell squat “allows you to hit the glutes and hamstrings with more volume…”

5 best booty exercises for men to strengthen and shape their glutes

When you squat, you want to make sure you have proper squat technique, while focusing on your stance and always putting safety first.

Check out the video below to see how to do a squat:

If you’re looking for different kinds of squats, you can also try out the goblet squat and bottoms-up squat.

2. Hip Thrusts

While fun to do because they’re quite sexually suggestive, hip thrusts are a definite must when building your butt muscles. The barbell hip thrust, as demonstrated in the video below, involves sitting with a bench behind you and placing a weighted barbell across your hips.

These are also known as Bridge and Weighted Hip Extensions.

3. Lunges

Honestly, lunges are the exercise I hate the most but always leave my legs feeling the best afterward. Lunges focus heavily on your quads, but it’s your glutes that help you “return to a standing position.”

They’re fairly simple to execute, as you can see in this video below on how to properly squat.

But make sure you avoid a few common lunge mistakes, like the “tightrope lunge,” the “heel pop,” the “upper-body drop,” and more.

5 best booty exercises for men to strengthen and shape their glutes

4. Deadlift

Referred to as “the king of mass gaining exercises” by Bodybuilding.com, I’d think that’s enough of a ringing endorsement to convince you to add deadlifts to your gym routine.

In fact, deadlifts aid in developing core strength because it assists your body “in almost every movement and position.” It’s also the best movement for developing strong glute muscles.

If you’re curious to try this exercise out, watch the video below to see how to properly do a barbell deadlift:

5. Bulgarian Split Squats

According to Bodybuilding.com, positioning is key when it comes down to how to do a Bulgarian split squat properly because the farther your front leg is in front of you, “the more emphasis you place on your glutes.”

Extra

Strength training is a vital part of any fitness routine. Why? It reduces fat, increases lean muscle mass, and burns calories more efficiently. According to Mayo Clinic, the benefits of strength training include developing strong bones, managing your weight and chronic conditions, and more.

Before you start, make sure you’re prepared and educated and that you understand the science and practice of strength training. Always speak to a doctor or fitness professional who can guide you and assist you in creating a strength training workout plan. For yourself, learn about how much weight is best for strength training, which strength training exercises are best, and anything else you might not be certain of.

Note: The tips in this article should not be taken as medical or professional advice. Always consult a doctor or fitness professional before engaging in any fitness activity.

This article was originally published on January 27, 2019.

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Lifestyle

This Grindr chat between two bottoms is all kinds of right

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This Grindr chat between two bottoms is all kinds of right
Featured photos: Pexels

Not all Grindr experiences are horrible. This chat between two bottoms on the gay social app prove just that.

In screenshots shared by Twitter user @dps_moira, two gay men exchange the quickest of messages that, while simple, have upped my belief that there is humanity on an app that’s typically more of a stomping ground of “masc4masc” action.

Along with the Twitter caption, “I really hope he is doing ok,” the chat went like this:

#1: Hi. Are you a top?

#2: Hey

#2: No sorry

#1: Never. never ever apologise for being yourself – that’s how the straights kept us down for a hundred years

Related | A pilot used Grindr to hit on one of his passengers mid-flight

To no one’s surprise, the tweet was a hit online, quickly amassing nearly 100K likes and over 16K retweets, with one user replying, “hope he found his top.”

And that’s that on that. Kindness is alive and well. Gay rights!

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Health

5 basic reasons sleeping naked is the way to go

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5 basic reasons sleeping naked is the way to go
James Barr/Unsplash

We all know how good sleeping naked feels and anyone who tells you they hate it is probably lying. But as it turns out, bedtime without the extra layering of pants and underwear can mean a few really good things for your body.

A survey from Mattress Advisor has found that 65 percent of millennials prefer sleeping naked, while 69 percent of people say sleeping naked is more comfortable, 54 percent say it’s far more relaxing, and 54 percent say they sleep better overall.

5 reasons you need to be sleeping naked

1. Protect your sperm and your testicles

So apparently we can all just throw our underwear away because according to Atlantic City-based urologist Brian Steixner, M.D., sleeping in your underwear can actually increase your likelihood of getting an infection. Since bacteria thrive in warm, moist, areas, your underwear that keeps that heat and moisture in need to go.

Plus, Allan Pacey, a leading fertility expert and researcher at the University of Sheffield in England, told the New York Post, “We have known for some time that men who increase the temperature of their testicles, either through the heat exposure at work or by wearing tight underwear, have poorer semen quality compared to men whose testicles are cooler.”

 

2. Better sleep quality

We all know how hard it is to fall asleep if you’re too hot, right? Since your core body temperatures need to drop by about half a degree or so for you to fall asleep, shedding those briefs before bed means that your body can cool down quicker. And while you may not lose sleep overall if you’re too warm, you will notice you’re lacking in that really important deep sleep that leaves you feeling refreshed when you wake.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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3. Burns calories

A 2014 study in the journal Diabetes found that sleeping in a cold bedroom may activate brown fat cells (a healthy fat that’s stored in your neck and burns calories in order to generate body heat).

Two months into the four-month study, in which five healthy, young men slept in a climate-controlled bedroom for four months, brown fat volume had almost doubled. Those same men burned more calories throughout the day and their insulin sensitivity improved.

Related | Oh look, Colton Haynes is naked and covered in pain in new Instagram photos

4. Increase oxytocin production

It’s no secret that laying naked with your partner is a good thing. But it can actually have some physiological benefits. Skin-to-skin contact can trigger the release of oxytocin, which can protect the heart by lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety, and boosting your immune system.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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5. Give your love life a boost

According to a survey of 1,000 British adults, couples who sleep in the nude tend to have happier love lives. The survey found that “57 percent of nude sleepers were happy with their relationship, compared with 48 percent of pajama-wearers.”

Article originally published November 18, 2018
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