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Sexuality Not a Choice

While some people still insist that homo- (and hetero-) sexuality is a "choice," scientists disagree?according to the latest research, we're born with our sexuality hardwired into our genes.

"Our findings may help answer an important question?why do we feel male or female?" says geneticist Eric Vilain. "Sexual identity is rooted in every person's biology before birth and springs from a variation in our individual genome."

Scientists used to think that the female and male hormones estrogen and testosterone were responsible for our sexual orientation, but Vilain says hormones don't explain everything. His team identified 54 genes in mice that explain why male and female brains look and function differently.

The researchers compared the production of genes in the male and female brains of embryonic mice, before the animals developed sex organs. They found 54 genes that are produced in different amounts in male and female mouse brains, before hormones influence them. Eighteen of the genes are produced at higher levels in the male brains, and 36 are produced at higher levels in the female brains. Vilian says, "We discovered that the male and female brains differed in many measurable ways, including anatomy and function."

The two hemispheres of the brain are more symmetrical in females than in males, which may improve communication between the two sides of the brain. "This anatomical difference may explain why women can sometimes articulate their feelings more easily than men," Vilian says.

His discoveries may help identify the sex of babies who are born with ambiguous genitalia, making it unclear whether they are boys or girls, which occurs in about 1% of all births. "If physicians could predict the gender of newborns with ambiguous genitalia at birth, we would make less mistakes in gender assignment," Vilain says.

"Our findings may explain why we feel male or female, regardless of our actual anatomy," says Vilain. "These discoveries lend credence to the idea that being transgender?feeling that one has been born into the body of the wrong sex?is a state of mind."

There are lots of vitally important things that doctors don't tell you.

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