IAS Research Talk by Maite Arraiza: “After the trans brain: A critique of the neurobiological accounts of embodied trans* identities”

Abstract. Transness has become a hot topic. The political work of the trans depathologization movement and allies, and trans* activists in other fields, has been accompanied by a growing, yet insufficient legal recognition of trans* people’s rights, and by a proliferation of neuroscientific and neurobiological studies on trans* identities. Following the historical trend of the scientific hunt for brain differences related to sex-gender, sexual orientation, and race, in the last three decades, particular emphasis has been placed on the search for brain differences between trans* and cis people. The idea of the existence of distinctive neurobiological traits of trans* people has social, political, legal, and medical implications. This makes the analysis of neurobiological accounts on trans* identities a relevant and timely task, even more, in this context of the rise of essentialisms, where different conceptions on sex-gender identities are in contention.   

In this talk I rise two claims: 1) The idea of two brain types, the trans brain and the cis brain, is highly problematic. 2) The question regarding embodied trans* identities is a complex one, which cannot be reduced to neurobiological factors, nor to neurobiological causes. In doing so, I critically analyze three main neurobiological theories on trans* identities to date: the neurobiological theory about the origin of gender dysphoria, the neurodevelopmental cortical hypothesis, and the alternative hypothesis of self-referential thinking and body perception. This critical review is carried out considering feminist and trans* neuroscientific, biological, philosophical, and political developments, focusing its attention on three main elements: the issue of (de)pathologization, the idea of the trans brain, and the etiology of trans* identities. Highlighting the differences and convergences among the three hypotheses examined regarding the three main issues at stake, I problematize the depictions of the trans brain departing from the findings and conceptualizations of the paradigm shifting brain mosaicism. I also challenge the biological deterministic framework in which the etiology of trans* identities is inscribed from a dynamic processual entanglement perspective. Finally, I question the complete departure of the neurobiological discourse from a pathologizing framework.     

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Dre. Bookmark the permalink.

About Dre

Andrea is Maria Zambrano Fellow at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). He is into philosophy of science and German Idealism and does his best to argue it's not schizofrenia. Teleology, complex systems and cognition.