For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had an unusual partially feminine gender identity, but until recently I never consciously acknowledged it. Then, a couple of years ago I realised that, although at a conscious level I identify as male, my body language, my pattern of arousal and orgasm, and my instinctive social behaviour are all very much more like what you’d typically see in a woman rather than a man. In addition, I appear to be suffering from secondary hypogonadism (i.e. my brain regions that control hormones aren’t working correctly), and I have a “eunuchoid” body structure, which indicates that my testosterone production has been below normal all my life.
Is Being Transgendered Just One of Those Things?
Although it never became my career, as a student I excelled at both chemistry and biology, and I’ve retained an amateur interest in the sciences ever since. Most people seem to assume that being transgendered is “just one of those things”, but I resolved to use that background in science to try and figure out whether there was an actual physical explanation for it. Accordingly, I tried to discover as much as I could about sexual development in the unborn child, and the kinds of things that can go wrong with that process.
Our sex-determining chromosome, the Y chromosome, is far smaller than any of our other chromosome and only has a few dozen functional genes on it. Basically all the Y chromosome does is to tell your undifferentiated gonads to turn into testicles (without it they’ll turn into ovaries instead). All of the genetic blueprints for actually building a male or female body are located elsewhere in your genome, so everyone has the full set of instructions for both sexes.
By default the “female” instructions are what get followed during fetal development, but if there’s testosterone present, the “male” instructions will be followed instead. Ordinarily this system works quite well, and you’ll develop as one sex throughout the pregnancy (which one depending on whether you have testicles churning out testosterone or not).
An Endocrine Disruptor
What appears to have happened in my case is that the pregnancy was no different from that of any other male baby, except that partway through the second trimester, something catastrophic happened that severely disrupted my endocrine system, so that for a few weeks I wasn’t producing any testosterone. Following that, my endocrine system recovered and everything went back to normal for the remainder of the pregnancy. The result is that I was built using the instructions for male development for most of the pregnancy, but during the time I wasn’t producing any testosterone, the instructions for female development were followed instead. That seems to have happened after all my physical development had completed, but very early in the process of wiring up my brain’s permanent structure (all the things that are affected seem to be associated with evolutionarily ancient parts of the brain, which points to the period of female development having happened early on in the process of wiring up my brain).
Based on when genital development takes place and when the process of building the permanent structure of the brain begins, I was able to work out that whatever it was must have happened somewhere around 16 or 17 weeks after conception, at or very soon after the time my mother would have first felt me moving inside her. Knowing what she was like when I was younger, my immediate thought was that she must have had a depressive episode, decided that she couldn’t cope with another child so soon after the first, and taken an overdose of something in an attempt to bring on a miscarriage.
A DIY Abortion That Didn’t Take
A bit of snooping on maternity forums soon revealed that the first thing most unhappily pregnant women contemplating a DIY abortion seem to think of is an overdose of contraceptive pills. I was able to subsequently confirm that my parents were using birth control pills for contraception at the time – the high dosage first generation ones. There was also something otherwise completely inexplicable that happened later in my childhood, which makes me think she must have been hiding a guilty secret along those lines.
My mother passed away in 2010, and in a way I’m glad that happened before I discovered any of this, because I would have been angry with her and she didn’t deserve that. She did her best to be a good mother to me and to all her other children, and I don’t hold her responsible in any way for what happened. I can’t blame my father either. He lost 3 brothers during his childhood and then his first wife died on their honeymoon, so I can understand why he became so obsessed with the idea of having a large family.
Brain Sexual Identity and DES
One further thing that made me think an exposure to artificial female hormones is the cause of my conditions was reading in the book “Brain Sex” about a pattern of behaviour commonly shown by teenage boys whose mothers were given treatment with a drug called diethylstilbestrol or DES in an attempt to prevent miscarriage . The boys in the study were typically very shy, socially withdrawn, had low self esteem, were regarded as sissies, bullied, ostracised by their peers, with no ability to fight back when attacked and no interest in sport. The authors of the book described it as “feminized behaviour”, and my teenage years matched it so closely it could have come straight out of my school report!
The main hormonal component of the contraceptive pills my parents were using is norethisterone acetate, a progestin, whereas DES is an estrogen. What estrogens and progestins both have in common is that they are female hormone derivatives, and are basically completely incompatible with masculinity. Both types of hormone have the ability to disrupt testicular hormone production at quite modest doses, well below those commonly used for medical treatment for women.
DES was for many years used to chemically castrate men suffering from hormone-sensitive prostate cancer, while progestins are commonly used for chemical castration of sex offenders and transsexuals. If they also suppress testosterone in a male fetus, then any use of them during a pregnancy of a male child carries a risk of creating a baby who developed as the wrong sex for part of the pregnancy. This is what I think happened to me, and to the DES sons.
For nearly two years I’ve been trying to find out as much as I can about DES sons, reading their personal accounts of how they’ve been affected and chatting with them online. Among the ones I’ve had contact with or whose life stories I’ve read, there seems to be a very high incidence of both intersex-related genital abnormalities and gender dysphoria. As a group they seem to commonly experience many of the same problems I have (a genital abnormality, feminized behaviour as a teenager, low testosterone and problems with hormones, gender variance). The key difference is that on the whole they seem to be far more psychologically female than I am (which is exactly what you’d expect, considering that their exposure was for a much larger part of the pregnancy than mine). I think it’s quite likely that for most of them, their testosterone production was completely suppressed and they were developing as female throughout the time their mothers were on the drug!
DES and all other estrogens were withdrawn from use in pregnancy 30 years ago, however, treatments for prevention of miscarriage, based on progestins rather than estrogens, continue to be used to the present day. One of these involves a progestin called hydroxyprogesterone caproate, given as a weekly intramuscular injection of either 250mg or 500mg, starting 16 weeks into the pregnancy – just around the time I think my hormone exposure occurred. The difference is that this treatment continues to be administered for the remainder of the pregnancy. If this drug does suppress testosterone production in a male fetus, then it’s hard to imagine a treatment better suited to creating as baby with a male body but a female brain! I’m fairly sure that if you gave an adult man 250mg per week of this drug, his testosterone production would be seriously impaired. Why wouldn’t the same happen to a male fetus?
Females Affected Too
In this article, I’ve only been looking at the effects of artificial sex hormones on a male fetus, however it’s likely that, under the right circumstances, a female fetus could be affected too. This could happen if the external hormone mimics the action of testosterone (e.g.progestin induced virilization), or if it disrupts endogenous hormone production in a way that causes excessive androgens to be produced (hyperandrogenism).
Postscript: This article was published previously September 2013.
Thank you endlessly for your effort, time, and research.
I’m a father and my wife is 11 weeks away from birthing time (if timing remains normal), and our last boy needed a cerclage and this one we await we chose to monitor the situation and they gave us an option of vaginal progesterone capsules. Since we were avoiding the cerclage unless the time arrived where it looked like the safest thing to do.
Last night for me was very hard and restless. Tossing and turning all night long. In that light state of dream versus sleep, I had continuous warring while hearing the word “progesterone” and “affecting baby” as if a massive WARNING was taking place. It was nightmarish and when I could actually wake this morning I began this research which led me to you.
We will be stopping this medication immediately particularly since he’s in stage of brain development and genital development right now.
Thank you for your hard work and dedication.
I want to start by addressing any parents who might be reading this to say please do not worry about your child’s future gender identity. Just be supportive and love them and you can’t go wrong. It is understandable to not want your child to face bigotry and harm, but there are countless transgender and gender nonconforming people who are healthy, happy, and living their best lives. Be strong, love them, and take care of yourself along the way.
That said, I really appreciate this article. I myself am a transgender man (FtM) and my mother had critically low progesterone levels when pregnant with me. Her doctor actually told her that I was going to be a miscarriage, but when she came in for the follow up a week (or more, not sure on exact details) later, they discovered my heartbeat was still there and started her on progesterone. From a political point of view, I think attempts to understand a causation are unnecessary, as there is nothing immoral about gender nonconformity therefore it needs no justification. But from a scientific point of view, I do think it is fascinating and hope more research comes out on the subject.
when I was 7 weeks pregnant the ultrasound showed the baby’s sac was nearly open so my obgyn prescribed vaginal ovules of Progesterone (commercial name “Geslutin”) for several weeks.
My son, now 7 years old has always see himself as a girl and the above description ( “The boys in the study were typically very shy, socially withdrawn, had low self esteem, were regarded as sissies, bullied, ostracised by their peers, with no ability to fight back when attacked and no interest in sport”) matches exactly with my son. I didn’t have DES treatment but a very high dose of Progesterone. Deep inside I’ve always suspected of progesterone and just now I found this article an a ton of information about this topic.
Do you know other cases where the main treatment was progesterone?
I’ve chatted online to a trans woman whose mother was given Gravibinan, an injected form of hydroxyprogesterone caproate (a progesterone-mimicking synthetic hormone with feminising properties, which is still being given to pregnant women, and I think must be continuing to cause trans kids to be born). The reason she knows is because her mother worked in healthcare, so was more clued up about what medicines she was being given than most people would be.
I’m sure there’s a much stronger connection between the use of these drugs and people being born trans than is generally appreciated, it’s just that very few of the people whose mothers were given them know anything about it. The problem is that these drugs tend to be used in emergency situations, and the mother often isn’t told anything about what it is she’s being given (or if she is, she has a lot else on her mind and it doesn’t register). That makes it very difficult to establish exposure later in life, since medical records usually aren’t retained for more than 20 years or so. Usually it’s only where the mother has a medical background that people know. The situation with DES is actually a lot better than with newer synthetic hormones, because there was a big cancer scare surrounding DES in the 1980s, and many doctors did do the right thing and informed their patients who’d been prescribed it.
To the writer- Wow! Please allow me to pick up my jaw from the floor. This is by far the most fascinating article I’ve read in decades, the last one was in rolling stone Magazine about vaccine vaults from the 60’s or something with HIV in them. Okay, I’m 20 weeks pregnant, recently had a cervical cerclage, this is where your cervix is sewn because it dilated too early, my doctor has just prescribed progesterone, I told her I needed a week to think about it, but due to my meditations I’ve decided to look up progesterone and transgender and your article came up.
You are doing God’s work by sharing your experience with the world and saving millions.
I’m sorry that your sexual development was interrupted but you are contributing to the positive evolution of your species with your research, and with sharing your truth. I will pray for you and your family and I hope you maintain strength, tenacity and fight, You are a great human!
Thanks! Sorry for not replying earlier, I must have missed the comment notification somehow.
Another story altogether, but I’ve also read about HIV being a disease accidentally created by medicine. In the article I read, the author looked at the vaccine theory, but explained how it isn’t really consistent with the way the disease appeared and spread. Instead, he pinned the blame on the reuse of syringes by doctors carrying out mass vaccination campaigns in the 1950s. Apparently syringes were in short supply, and the same syringe would often be reused thousands of times! This gave the monkey virus SIV (the parent virus of HIV) the opportunity to repeatedly reinfect people, and become better and better adapted to a human host, until it could establish an enduring infection – HIV. Once it had evolved, transmission via syringe reuse then infected large swathes of the African population with HIV, and led to what would have otherwise remained a rare disease turning into a pandemic.
Anyway, I hope you’ve had no further problems with your pregnancy. As for being sorry about what happened, one thought I’ve had that’s a little bit mindblowing is that this is the only way I can actually exist! If I’d fully developed as male, I’d be a completely different person than the one I am (just an average guy like my brother), but if I’d fully developed as female, I’d be a completely different person too. My main regret is not knowing about it earlier, I think my life would have been a lot happier and more interesting if I had.
I have 4 children and when pregnant with my 1st son I had injections of progesterone for the first 18 weeks of the pregnancy, twice a week. My son has struggled through his life with anxiety, stress and has come out at 27yrs of age as transgender. I have just recognised the likely connection between the drug and my son being transgender and feel now incredible guilt and sadness that I caused him this difficult and stressful life, because of my selfish desire to have a baby. I feel incredibly sad to find this out.
No reason to feel guilty. Your physician recommended the course of injections, and you obviously had no idea these treatments could cause your son trouble later on.
I’m very sorry to hear about the difficulties your child is experiencing. Don’t blame yourself for what happened. There’s a massive regulatory bureaucracy in place that is supposed to be ensuring that all medicines are safe and effective, so it’s only reasonable to expect that they are. Unfortunately, something has clearly gone badly wrong with that regulatory process, and it makes me wonder how many other medicines don’t actually work and are poisoning people instead of making them better!
Does this theory relate to synthetic progesterone only? I am in my 12th week of pregnancy and was prescribed Cyclogest (natural progesterone suppositories) as my doctor was concerned about my ability to maintain the pregnancy due to a short lutesl phase. I am going to discontinue these now regardless but I am now concerned about the effects Cyclogest may have already had on the fetus.
Catherine, please understand the information provided on this website cannot be construed as medical advice for or against a specific treatment. We present research and personal accounts. Before making changes, please learn as much as you can about the topic and consult your physicians, perhaps other physicians, other researchers.
Thank you. I just wanted to clarify whether High was referring to all progesterone treatment, including natural, or just synthetic progesterone. I understand that this is a theory and cannot be misconstrued as medical advice.
While a fascinating article, it is full of conjecture. For instance, without any medical or familial substantiation whatsoever, the author claims his mother ‘must’ have tried to abort him, or have taken some form of progesterone, while pregnant.
Please ask these questions of your physician, not a layman.
Well I did establish that my parents were using birth control pills (the first generation high dosage kind) at the time I was conceived, and according to my Dad there were no medical problems during the pregnancy that would have warranted DES being prescribed. Nonetheless, I’ve got many of the same psychological and physical effects that seem to very commonly go with DES exposure in natal males (very shy, socially withdrawn behaviour, low self esteem, no interest in competitive sports, being bullied mercilessly and socially excluded as a teenager, hypogonadism and eunuchoid body structure).
Having observed people’s behaviour throughout my life, it appears very much to me that I have the female version of certain behaviours. (in particular, female courtship behaviour, a female pattern of arousal and orgasm, and female movement and posture). I’ve also got what’s sometimes called tertiary hypogonadism – my hypothalamus (the brain region that controls hormones) is regulating my testosterone production to too low a level.
On the other hand, I have a science/engineering type brain, and there’s no way I could ever function socially as a woman. The fact that I have fully male genitals (no hypospadias or signs of failure of labioscrotal fusion) also shows that I had typical male androgen levels throughout the first trimester.
That combination of things rules out most if not all of the conventional causes of intersex, since they all tend to act throughout the pregnancy. The explanation for all this I eventually came up with, is that my pregnancy was an otherwise unremarkable one of a male child, except something happened quite early in the process of building the permanent structure of my brain (which starts about 16 weeks after conception), that catastrophically disrupted my endocrine system and meant that, for a few weeks, my testicles stopped producing any testosterone. My testicular hormone production then recovered, and returned to relatively normal male levels for the remainder of the pregnancy. This led to the odd situation I appear to be in, of some of my brain development occurring as female and some as male.
The only thing that could do that is something that acts highly specifically as a chemical castration agent without many side effects (since a nonspecific poison would have killed me or left me severely disabled). That basically narrows it down to synthetic estrogens or progestins.
A pregnant woman normally first starts to feel her baby moving inside her around the 15 to 17 week mark. Given my mother’s history of depression, and some of the quite over the top things I remember her doing when I was a kid, the thought I had was that maybe she was suffering from postnatal depression (she became pregnant with me just 3 months after my older brother was born). Perhaps, instead of being overjoyed when she felt my first kicks inside her, she decided that she couldn’t cope with a second baby so soon after the first, and took an overdose of something in an attempt to end the pregnancy.
Birth control pills would be the obvious candidate. I did some snooping on some maternity forums, and an overdose of birth control pills seems to be the first thing that unhappily pregnant women contemplating a DIY abortion often think of. There was also something that happened later in my childhood, that makes me think she had a guilty secret along those lines.
But you’re right, I’m unlikely to ever know for sure, and the possibility remains that something happened during the second trimester that my dad didn’t remember, that led to a short course of DES being prescribed. The main reason it was so important to mention birth control as a possibility is that, if it is what happened, then it shows that the problem of causing female brain development in biological males isn’t limited to DES, but is something progestins can do too (progestin is the main component of birth control pills). If so, then it’s a very big problem, since progestins were never withdrawn, and remain in widespread use in hospitals and doctor’s clinics all over the world. This would explain why more and more trans kids continue to be born, even though DES was phased out 40 years ago!
Yes, I think it’s the synthetics that are the problem. When synthetics were first developed, doctors, scientists and everyone else seems to have assumed that, because they bind to and activate hormone receptors similarly to the natural hormones, their biological effects would be more or less the same. However, there are two important differences that I know of.
Firstly, in addition to stimulating hormone receptors, the natural (or bioidentical) hormones all act as raw materials from which other hormones are made. This is particularly important for progesterone, which occupies a key spot in the hormone biosynthesis pathway. The synthetics don’t act as raw materials for anything, instead thy either get excreted unchanged, or broken down by generic toxin-destroying enzymes in the liver. It’s a lot like the difference between saccharin and sugar, both of them activate sweetness receptors, but only one can perform the biological functions of a carbohydrate.
The second difference is that synthetics can be quite strong inhibitors of important hormone enzymes such as 5-alpha reductase and 3-betahydroxysteroid dehydrogenase. Again, this appears to particularly be a problem with the progestin class of hormones (although it’s not a well documented property of synthetics, so it may just be that more research has been done into enzyme inhibition by progestins than with other classes of synthetics). In our trans HRT group on facebook, we’re speculating that this causes depletion of neurosteroids, and could explain why trans women placed on progestins often become severely depressed and suicidal. In an unborn baby, some of the same enzymes inhibited by progestins also cause congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) when they’re deficient. CAH is well known as being a cause of intersex in female babies, and what I’m thinking is that fetal exposure to progestins (and maybe other synthetics) may give rise to a kind of chemically induced CAH, which would lead to masculinization of female babies (even though the progestins used in pregnancy today don’t have any direct androgenic effects).
Some forms of CAH (in particular the 3-BHSD type) can also be a cause of intersex in male babies, and of course progestins in general are good inhibitors of testicular hormone production (the archetypal progestin, medroxyrogesterone acetate, is one of the most popular drugs for chemically castrating sex offenders), which is an obvious route for them interfering with normal male development.
Bioidentical hormones are chemically identical to the hormones that occur naturally in your body, so are processed and metabolised in exactly the same way as your own hormones. As long as their level is kept within the range that would normally occur at that stage of your pregnancy, I don’t see why they would cause a problem. So I wouldn’t be too concerned about taking bioidentical progesterone. That’s only my opinion of course; as Chandler says, we’re not medical professionals, so can’t offer medical advice.
Thanks Hugh. Makes total sense. I came across this article (can only access the abstract myself though): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3652903 – “Effect of natural progesterone treatment during pregnancy on fetal testosterone and sexual behavior of the male offspring in the mouse”. Was the level given to the mice outside of the range normal for their pregnancy perhaps? Or was it administered beyond the first trimester? It’s really difficult to find much research on natural progesterone’s effect on the fetus. Interested in your thoughts.
My mother-in-law took DES when she was pregnant with two out of three of her kids, my husband being the exception. My sister-in-law had issues with her uterus and wasn’t expected to be able to have kids. Thankfully, she had one girl. My brother-in-law had four kids. The weird thing is, two of the grandchildren are transgendered, one we suspect is gay, one is a bi and one is CIS, straight. Are there any studies on how the drug can affect the third generation, or if there is any link at all?
There’s a known link to hypospadias in the sons of DES daughters. In this study:
of DES grandsons in the Netherlands, the incidence was found to be more than 20x higher. This study:
found an increased risk too, albeit quite a bit smaller (around 2.5 x), A big problem with studies of this nature is that hormones are so widely used in women’s medicine, that by now it must be difficult to put together a truly unexposed control group. That probably at least partly accounts for why some studies are finding a greatly increased risk of hypospadias, and others not so much. In any case, there does appear to be a definite increased risk for hypospadias in DES grandsons, which is important as far as your question is concerned, because hypospadias is a marker for abnormally low prenatal androgen levels.
If DES grandsons have an increased incidence of hypospadias, then it seems reasonable that they should also have an increased incidence of other things that are thought to result from low prenatal androgens, two of which include: developing a female gender identity, and developing same-sex attraction. I don’t know of any actual studies proving a connection to those things in the grandsons, but that may just be because they’re a lot more difficult to measure than something like hypospadias, which usually becomes apparent at or soon after birth.
After my mothers first miscarriage when she was pregnant with me they gave her DES to prevent another one. It resulted in my having PAIS Partial Androgen Insensitivety Syndrome. Oii-usa.org How do you get doctors to stop doing unneeded unwanted Plastic surgery on babies like me?
You might not actually have PAIS at all, it may instead be that your mother was commenced on DES very early in the pregnancy, resulting in your testosterone production already being heavily suppressed during the critical period for genital development (weeks 7 to 12 after conception). If this happens, it’s likely to result in highly anomalous genital development, which could look very similar to what happens with PAIS. Later in life, many of us (even where exposure commenced too late for it to affect our genital development) suffer from hypogonadism, or chronic below normal male testosterone production. This can result in you developing a “eunuchoid” body structure (where your bone structure and physical proportions end up more like a woman’s than a man’s), which, once again, could look a lot like androgen insensitivity.
I think doctors often hand out PAIS as a convenient diagnosis when a patient with intersex-related anomalies shows up and they can’t identify the cause. It’s a rare condition, rarer than CAIS, which itself is only around 1 in 10,000 births. I found a paper in which the researchers gene tested people who’d been given a diagnosis of PAIS, and only around a quarter of them had any identifiable fault with their androgen receptor gene. That suggests it’s being way overdiagnosed, and the majority of people with a PAIS diagnosis actually have some other form of intersex. In your case, since your mother was given DES, I’d say the chances are you’re completely genetically normal, and it’s entirely because of the DES that you have an intersex condition.
Im not a DES son… I think, but i know my mom did take some medicine while she was pregnant of me. She had renal colic and high blood tension. I am transgender and I think this have something to do with my identity. Tell me your thought about it plz, thanks.
It’s highly likely that members of the progestin class of hormones can do the same thing, since they are also female hormone mimics, and also act as chemical castration agents in adult men. Unlike DES, progestins were never withdrawn from use, and some are used during pregnancy even now. Other drugs I know of that have testosterone suppressive effects in adult men and are used during pregnancy include corticosteroids, opioid analgesics, and the two epilepsy drugs phenobarbital and phenytoin. There’s certainly a possibility that any of these drugs could interfere with testosterone production in a male fetus, and thereby interfere with that person’s brain masculinization.
Hi Just wanted to say that you are spot on the money. From my own research what I think needs to be done is more research on the dose of EDCs or estrogens/progesterone that will terminate a newly conceived fetus. The abortion pill or the morning after pill that a lot of females take is set to terminate a female fetus. To terminate a male fetus I suspect that a does many hundreds of times lower is required.
Male births world wide are slowly decreasing. If a female that has just conceived comes into contact with environmental estrogens I believe that a single small dose is enough to terminate any male fetus. The closer to conception the smaller the dose required. The younger the fetus is the weaker it is. As it has no defences of its own yet. It completely relies on it’s mothers defences. Of course mother has no defences against EDC’s as the body considers them hormones. So why would it fight it. It wont. Other than try to regulate amounts to maintain homeostasis.
have you been to the groups
firstname.lastname@example.org; des tran (email@example.com)
I have a young son with gender identity issues and my doctor prescribed progesterone during my first trimester for repeat miscarriage. My first thought in analyzing his situation was the progesterone was the cause. I wouldn’t have not taken it since I ended up with a wonderful son who is dearly-loved. But there should be a discussion by the docs to the Mom about the timing of using progesterone. In my case I’m wondering if I may have continued its use past what my doc recommended just to be sure. I can’t remember for sure. But it would have been nice for the doc to let me know the importance of using it only as directed. And the possible consequences of doing otherwise. I researched it thoroughly at the time and saw nothing problematic. I have been researching the possible link between gender and progesterone use for 6 years and yours is the first writing I’ve found. I would like to suggest you add a survey for moms in my situation so guage the numbers out there. Thanks for your efforts on this.
hi I am transgendered woman and I think my mother took the DES but after researching the topic I can see no positive connection. maybe we, transgender , are just a naturally occurring phenomena? i just saw on Nova in a tribe where 1/90 men are born without penises but at the age of 12 y o due to the second wave of testosterone the penis develops. it is so common that at first they are raised as girl then one day they come to school as boys with no problems with other children. this says so much about their culture. take care RAchel
Juanita, Did you ever hear from or find anyone else? I have four sons. Only one of them has gender identity issues and he is the only one for whom my doc at the time put me on large amounts of intramuscular progesterone injections. I am convinced that this is not a coincidence.
Carmen & Juanita,
I am additionally interested in the progesterone/gender identity connection. I had intramuscular progesterone injections through both of my two successful pregnancies (following 3 miscarriages without the injections). My first child, born male, is transitioning MtF after years of gender dysphoria. My second child, born female, is also now “gender nonconforming”. I have suspected that the hormone treatments I received during both pregnancies played a part in the gender dysphoria of both children, but can find little data to support this theory.
I was relieved to see these questions raised about the possible link between progesterone and gender dysphoria. My four year old daughter is adamant she is a boy and has been declaring this since the age of 2. I was prescribed progesterone early in my pregnancy and have also been diagnosed with PCOS, which means my body has higher testosterone levels than normal. I wish there was more research on this, instead of focusing the debate around so much hate and descrimination against people with gender issues.
Hi. May I ask your sons age now? I had progesterone injections for the majority of my pregnancy over 30 years ago. My son is very intelligent, lacks motivation, suffers depression but more importantantly can’t seem to feel emotion…..almost asexual. Wish I could find some studies on this.
Thank you for writing this. I’m a DES son and post-op transwoman, and will check out your links as I have time.
“Phearless Phemme”, yes, it’s highly counterintuitive, but whether you develop as male or female is entirely determined by hormones, not by whether you have a Y chromosome or not. Given that fact, whenever a pregnant woman is given external hormones, there’s an obvious risk of causing abnormalities of sexual development in her unborn baby. DES has been shown to cause female development in biological males in a wide range of bird and mammal species, so it should come as no surprise that it does the same in human beings too!
It’s not just DES either. There’s a condition called progestin-induced virilization, in which the medical use of artificial sex hormones in pregnancy is known to have resulted in babies being born intersexed. DES is an estrogen, and considering that estrogens and progestins are used for contraception and to treat all manner of medical problems in women of childbearing age, I think it’s important that the public knows about the history of abnormalities associated with these substances.
Since writing the above article for Hormones Matter, I’ve started a petition asking the FDA to own up to what synthetic hormones can do to an unborn baby:
I’d ask anyone reading this to read it, and if you agree, sign. If it gets up to 100 signatures, I’ll try to find a way of delivering it to the head honcho of the FDA!
P.S. I’ve seen the trailer for “The Disappearing Male”, and heard all about endocrine disruption caused by BPA, pthalates etc. I’m not buying it. If there were a genuine problem with these substances, we wouldn’t be hearing about it (or at the very least, there’s be a concerted media campaign from industry groups to downplay the problems).
On my facebook page is a note about Michigan’s Firemaster disaster, in which a mixup at a chemical factory led to a truckload of Firemaster, a highly toxic flame retardent, being delivered in place of a feed additive called Nutrimaster, to Michigan’s largest manufacturer of cattle and poultry feed. Rather than own up to what had happened, the state authorities initially attempted a coverup, and more than a year passed before the truth came out. By that time, most of the poisoned poultry, meat and dairy products had already entered the human food chain. Millions of people were needlessly exposed to a highly toxic chemical as a result of their government’s attempt to protect the company responsible.
The mixup happened in 1973, right around the time the problems with DES came to light, and the number of people affected (around 10 million) was about the same number as were exposed to DES too.
I find it quite an inspiring story, because the state authorities were ultimately caught out when a farmer took some of the contaminated feed to a laboratory outside the state to be analysed. Although the expose came too late to protect the people of Michigan, the fallout from the incident meant that the chemical involved (PBB) was banned shortly afterwards, along with a whole slew of other toxic chemicals. Today the world is a much safer place, all because of what that one farmer did!
Sex hormones in the womb seem like the most logical explanation for all sex-related variances, such as homosexuality, intersex conditions and transgender identity. Indeed, if this were the case, the “born this way” theory would be definitively proven true for gay and trans people who are often accused of choosing their orientation.
Another thing to consider: synthetic estrogens like dioxins, PCB’s and BPA are now permeating the environment, exposing all fetuses to some level of estrogen. (BPA was first developed in the 1930s as a synthetic estrogen before being used as a hardener in plastics. It was tested by the same man who developed DES).
These endocrine disruptors can have disastrous effects on both males and females by lowering the male birth rate and promoting reproductive cancers. If you haven’t already, check out “The Disappearing Male” documentary. Scary stuff.
The facebook page DES (diethylstilbestrol) Info has a fair bit of information about DES sons, and here’s some links from it:
There’s a couple more DES son’s stories in the “Recent posts by others”, and several more that appeared on the timeline in the first half of June (which should still be there if you page back far enough through it). When you start looking at the life stories of a significant number of DES sons, a pattern quickly starts to emerge, of genital abnormalities (particularly cryptorchidism and micropenis), problems with fertility, low testosterone and endocrine problems, and gender variance, often to the point of full transsexuality. There are lots more similar stories in the DES sons yahoo group (which unfortunately appears to be out of action at the moment), and I think it’s highly likely that the entire population of between 2 and 3 million DES sons worldwide have been similarly affected. After all, it’s pretty much what you’d expect to happen if you expose a developing male fetus to the equivalent estrogen content of half a million birth control pills (which is what happened when mothers were given the standard “Smith and Smith” treatment for prevention of miscarriage)!
There’s almost no published research into DES sons, and I think that’s because all the bodies who would normally conduct that research (regulatory authorities, pharmaceutical companies and medical organisations) were all implicated to some extent in the DES disaster, and would have a great deal of explaining to do if the truth of what happened ever became public knowledge!
This particular article confirms a suspicion I’ve had that these prenatal hormone exposures can do a great deal more to you psychologically apart from just making you transgendered. If (as appears to be the case with me), you’ve got a brain that’s partly developed as male and partly as female, then I think that your different brain regions tend not to work together very well – particularly if you try to make yourself fit better into one gender category by suppressing all the non gender conforming parts of who you are! This, I think, can manifest itself as all sorts of seemingly non gender related psychological problems such as depression or ADHD, or in some cases more serious psychological disorders too.
To my knowledge, Drs Kerlin and Meyer’s work is the only serious attempt to look at the gender related effects of DES exposure. I joined the DES sons group a couple of years ago, and looking back through the message archive, they mainly seem to be people who stumbled on the group by chance after discovering that they were DES-exposed. In other words, as a group they’re probably fairly representative of DES sons as a whole, and the results Dr Kerlin reported on completion of his study are scientifically valid.
As far as I’m concerned, if being prenatally exposed to one artificial hormone can make people transgendered, then it’s highly likely that other artificial hormones can do the same thing too. Although I’m unlikely to ever be able to prove it, for a variety of reasons I’m fairly sure that what happened to me involved contraceptive pills and not DES. The main hormonal component of these is norethisterone acetate, a progestin, and progestins are still in use today as a treatment to prevent miscarriages. This is why I think making people aware of what happened to me and to the DES sons is so important, it shows both that pharmaceutical hormones can interfere with sexual development in the unborn child, and that the problem isn’t limited to DES but is likely to be a property of artificial sex hormones in general (and perhaps corticosteroids too).