Alessandro Strumia, needs to have had a five minute talk with the late great Ben Barres.  Dr Barres was fond of telling a story where he heard how much his work was “better than your sister’s”.   Ben was a female to male transguy.   For those unfamiliar with the lingo started out a woman … then transitioned to living as a man.    This is a clumsy and non-PC way to put it I know… but when preaching to people one must speak their language.   Transgender scientist can tell you all about how different gender-based stereotypes and assumptions affect us.   More importantly, the latest science comparing transgender brains to cisgender brains can illuminate the basic premise of talks like the one given by Alessandro Strumia.  Are male and female brains different in a way that is relevant to the ability to be a scientist?  Lets take a look at the information. MRI and FMRI studies can tell us how different male and female brains are in vivo and the one type of research that does this looks for evidence of transgender brain differences.

Transgender Brains Illuminate Sex Difference AND Sex Sameness

The short version of the rest of this section is that studies of transgender Male To Female and Female to male illuminate the fact that XY biological males and XX biological females have both between group differences and a great deal of overlap.    Here is a brief sampling of the research and results from just this year  or so alone.

These are quotes from a few different studies.

“Sex differences in FC between the cisgender adolescent groups were observed in the right supplementary motor area within one of the two SMNs (SMN-II; girls>boys) and the right posterior cingulate gyrus within the posterior DMN (boys>girls).”  1.
“We found lower global brain volumes and regional GMVs in a large portion of the posterior-superior frontal cortex in the cisgender women group than in the TTW and cisgender men groups. Additionally, both transgender groups exhibited lower bilateral insular GMVs than the cisgender women group. Our results highlight differences in the insula in both transgender groups; such differences may be characteristic of TW. Furthermore, these alterations in the insula could be related to the neural network of body perception and reflect the distress that accompanies gender dysphoria.” 2.

The observed differences in things like grey matter to white matter thickness in various regions would relate directly to reproductive and social behavior.  Not spatial or quantitative reasoning which would be the type of reasoning of a physicist. Those would also be the kind of reasoning one would need to be able to throw a rock and hit something or to throw a projectile and hunt for food.  Basic survival skill of all Hominini not unique to males at all.  

Before someone reading this dismisses the above as some wildly PC SJW thing that the left would love.  As I have written about on this blog for some reason I cannot fathom the activist transgender community does not like these findings either.  Because of an ugly history of health care providers using various arbitrary measures to gatekeep and decide if someone was trans enough to receive care.   Science does not care about PC or not PC… SJW or alt right or antifa.  Science just is.

Sex determination is more complex than XX and XY.  The problem is what happens when things don’t go to plan.  Sex determination  involvesnumerous genes and hormones and the timing of such activations. Some large variations in these processes give us intersexed people. Smaller more common variations probably give us lesbian, gay and bisexual people.  In between those we get people who are transgender or transsexual.  People whose brains tell them they are to behave as the opposite sex does.  Whatever that may be in each culture.

Research on transgender brains has opened a door to what would otherwise be too un PC to ever try.  To put people into MRI and FMRI scanners and look for fundamental differences in the brains of men, women, and XX people whose brains tell them they should be male and XY people whose instincts tell them to be female.

There are differences between male and female brains …. That have NOTHING to do with raw spatial and logical reasoning ability.

So if the only differences are things that relate to body self perception and reproduction what is with all the other differences between men and women. 

Most of those are cultural. 

·        In many non western cultures science is seen as a feminine thing to do.

·        In past decades in the US computer science was women’s work.

·        In our society we have this idea that women belong in the kitchen doing the dishes, laundry and cleaning.

o   Unless men are in the military then of course they did all of that.  

o   Then when all the men were in the military we had women like Marilyn Monroe build aircraft.

CULTURE dictates much of what we call gendered behavior.    Gender identity is merely the sense ones brain gives them that they should follow one or the other cultural role.

In our culture, western, modern culture, science is for men as much as blue is for boys. 

You mean cos-met-tology right?

Like I said I never published science as a male.   I lived as an adult male presenting male for a couple three years at university forced by circumstances to try and make that work.  Then when I moved back to Chicago I was able to be me again.  One of the things I had to do was… lets just say… I picked up generous men at a particular bar on the north side of Chicago.  (I am a transsexual. Having a high education does not negate certain realities of being like me when I lived.)

Often I would pretend not to speak English and say what little Spanish I knew and let the man fill in the blanks. 

Other times I would pick a guy who was nervously looking down at his shoes and work on him to bring him out of his shell.

At least one time I made out with someone who I was sure was a man with nice eyes … but I am now pretty sure was transmasculine but lives as a woman much of the time. (Wouldn’t know to look at them in either mode.)

Then there was a very common type of exchange.  Some nights I would simply be honest about who I was, and what my goals were IF someone engaged me in real conversation and asked who I was .

I’d give them my stage name and say I am at university studying theoretical astrophysics and cosmology.

Then inevitably they would say “You mean cos-met-tology ….right?” or something of the sort.   

So much for being on the supreme court 40 years from now.   Surely by then some of the above will not be PC anymore.


1.)    “Brain functional connectivity patterns in children and adolescents with gender dysphoria: Sex-atypical or not?” Nienke Nota et al,  September 2017 Psychoneuroendocrinology  DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.09.014 

2.)    “Grey and white matter volumes either in treatment-naïve or hormone-treated transgender women: a voxel-based morphometry study” Giancarlo Spizzirri et al