Harry Benjamin Syndrome – Brain Defined Gender

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June 14, 2011
By Echo Brooks / TRT Online Columnist

Gender is defined by the brain, not just the genitalia.  Occasionally the genitals do not match the sex the brain has been assigned. Harry Benjamin Syndrome is a congenital intersex condition that develops before birth, involving the differentiation between male and female. This condition is thought to occur in approximately 1 in 500 births. It is impossible to diagnose HBS at the time of birth causing babies to be raised as the incorrect gender. Since most people are unaware or content living in the gender their genitalia has assigned for them, it is impossible to know exactly how many people are affected by this syndrome.

Harry Benjamin Syndrome, much like Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease, is a condition of the brain. Essentially it is a biological variation in human sexual formation. Dr. Benjamin believes that genetic and hormonal irregularities cause the brain not to match the genitalia. While genes and hormones are playing a significant role in diagnosing those with HBS, no specific cause can be defined. After an egg is fertilized initially during reproduction, it divides into three sections, each responsible for a different part of development; the skin, nervous system and brain in one, bone blood and muscle in another, and the internal organs in the last. Since each section is essentially developing independently, it is not unusual that fluctuations or imbalances in the mother’s hormone levels could have a different effect on each section of the developing embryo. While the developing brain may be responding to an increase in testosterone, the internal organ section by not be. The end result could be a brain that develops as male while the genitals develop as female or vice versa. Dr. Benjamin believes the brain is the part of the body that is likely to be correct, and the body which has been incorrectly altered. The brain, in its complexity is what drives the body. It also requires significantly more development during the embryo stage and is less likely to be altered significantly by subtle changes in hormone levels of the mother.

Harry Benjamin Syndrome is an intersex condition, not a psychological condition. Treatments for those with HBS include hormone replacement therapy as well as gender reaffirmation surgery. The term reassignment surgery would be incorrect in this instance, as those with HBS are simply having surgical procedures to correct the mistake their bodies have made. While a less common and more controversial intersex condition, Harry Benjamin Syndrome is finding its place in the texts books and the medical community. In addition to chromosomes, hormones, genitalia and reproductive organs, it is now known that brain structure also contributes to the definition of sex. This knowledge allows for a much larger variation in intersex conditions and less stigma attached to those once merely thought to be suffering from mental conditions regarding their gender.

“The recent discoveries about the brain’s sexual differentiation on people with transsexualism could open a door to see this condition in a different way that we see it today. First, from the medical view transsexuals could be reassigned to their true sex and not be seen as mentally disturbed people. Second, the medical insurance would be obligated to pay for all medical expenses for the sex reassignment as it happens with other cases of intersexuality. The legal system would have to treat transsexuals in the same way they treat people with other intersex conditions. The rest of the people may change their attitude towards transsexuals and even religious institutions would stop seeing it as a sin. The fascinating consequences of the “biologication” of transsexualism in all the domains of life are difficult to value. Louis Gooren.

The information found herewithin can be found on Transsexualism, a form of intersexuality at www.figinternet.org/mod-subjects-viewpage-pageid-5.html.

Echo resides in northern New Jersey with her wife and the two youngest of their five children. You can visit her blog at
dysphoricallyspeaking.blogspot.com or send comments and questions to dysphoricallyspeaking@gmail.com.