Thanks to the reality of transgendered people, we have modern equivalents of the legendary seer Tiresias
, who lived life both as a man and a woman. Here’s what one of them, a female-to-male neuroscientist, had to say about the differences (from majikthise
As a transgendered person, no one understands more deeply than I do that there are innate differences between men and women. I suspect that my transgendered identity was caused by fetal exposure to high doses of a testosterone-like drug. But there is no evidence that sexually dimorphic brain wiring is at all relevant to the abilities needed to be successful in a chosen academic career. I underwent intensive cognitive testing before and after starting testosterone treatment about 10 years ago. This showed that my spatial abilities have increased as a consequence of taking testosterone. Alas, it has been to no avail; I still get lost all the time when driving (although I am no longer willing to ask for directions). There was one innate difference that I was surprised to learn is apparently under direct control of testosterone in adults —the ability to cry easily, which I largely lost upon starting hormone treatment. Likewise, male-tofemale transgendered individuals gain the ability to cry more readily. By far, the main difference that I have noticed is that people who don’t know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect: I can even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man.
This is but one report, but it is fascinating to hear. I wonder how much of these changes can be attributed to the testosterone and how much are the result of a full embrace of the new gender identity. I guess one way to find out would be for Ben Barres to allow someone to double-blindly alternate his testosterone therapy with a placebo, and measure various aspects of personality during the different time periods. Of course, you could administer hormones to non-transgendered people and measure personality changes, too. You might have trouble getting approval from the human subjects committee, though.